First off, I'd like to thank you all from the bottom of my heart for sharing and re-sharing my last post. It went on to be published by the very cool website Offbeat Families and was very positively received. Thanks for helping me get there, thus helping me continue to not get paid for something I do well, just on a broader scale. lol. lowercase. I really need to get on this "getting published" thing one of these days.
So, lately, I see a lot of my pals starting or expanding their young families. If any of you are like me, you're constantly clicking on those listcicles on parenting websites and The Huffington Post with titles like "8 things I wish I knew before having kids" and "Three Words That Changed The Way I Parent (They're Not What You Think)", "Parenting: 77 Ways You're Doing It Wrong", "This One Lady Got Her Infant To Sleep Easily This One Time. Read In Envy and Frustration". Basically, advice from people who either have really good children or no children at all, writing articles for the rest of us to read on our phones at 3 am while our youngest engages in a World Record breaking nursing session for the ninth night in a row. So now I want to share some non-wisdom, some common sense, some shit that The Stir is probably wouldn't publish because it's so duh. Parenting "hacks", if you will. I hate that word, so, I won't.
1. Get your hair cut before you have the baby
Like,as close as you can before you have the baby. Even if you have to go in there when you're in early labor, just go get a quick trim. Especially if this is your second baby. The next time you have time to go to a salon for real will be for your child's wedding. I understand now why when we were kids it seemed like every mom had the same haircut for our entire childhood. It's because she did. Don't bother with your nails. Watching your nail polish chip away with no recourse is depressing. And I dare you to try to sneak in an at-home mani while your baby sleeps. I dare you.
2. Make Freezer Meals
Working as a server for ten years, to me, dinner was a shift. A shift that either I worked or a shift that another server worked while I sat down and was served. And served in the most gluttonous sense. Course upon course, cocktail upon cocktail...I did my best to try and spend my way into gout, dropping every last penny on food and drink, never imagining a day I might actually need some of that money for silly shit like groceries. Those were the days. It seemed quaint to me that families actually sat down at home to enjoy a meal that one of them prepared. Not everyone could be a badass like me, I guess, and settle for a slice of turkey on a stale dinner roll and some leftover fries to suffice as a meal. Imagine my surprise when I was first home with Isaac and realized that if I were to be fed, it would be up to me to find and prepare food. I know, right? So, lesson learned, before I had Vivian I sat down and prepared a whole bunch of meals that could be tossed in the crock pot or just slow-cooked on the stove top during the day. Make up a month's worth. You can find recipes on Pinterest and such. If you're breastfeeding, you're going to be wicked hungry, so seriously, just do this.
3. Breastfeed If You Can
It sucks, it hurts in the beginning, you always worry about one damn thing or another, you have to plan your wardrobe around pulling your boobs out and your partner can't ever trade off a feeding with you (at least in the early days). You know what, though? It really is as great as "they" say. I've done both, and far and away, breastfeeding is more convenient. It is so much easier and cheaper than formula, you don't have to prepare bottles all damn night, you just roll over and give the baby a boob. You get used to the idea of nursing in public so your wardrobe becomes less and less of an issue. I've never felt like I was out of place nursing outside my home. I know some women are still harassed, but I have never encountered it. At least not yet. And god help anyone who does give me shit, at this point! When you have a second baby, especially, it is nice to breastfeed. It gives you time to just cuddle up with your new one, leaving your toddler to, you know, run the house and jump on the furniture and whatever else they do. I feel like if I were purely bottle feeding Viv, I would never get one-on-one time with her. Literally, never. Isaac is a demanding kid. If you can't breastfeed, don't beat yourself up. It's not a race, you're doing great anyway, and your baby is no less loved. Do not engage yourself in "Mommy Wars" or "Mom Guilt" or whatever the fuck magazines want you to engage in. You're doing great.
4. Two-Year-Olds are Horrible People
Horrible people, who, when they stop terrorizing you long enough to give you a little hug and say "I wub oo Ma-ee", are the best people in the world. Enjoy your screaming, pooping, non-sleeping infant who can't talk. They grow into screaming, pooping, non-sleeping toddlers who have opinions on everything. And I've heard that they usually become teenagers not too long after that, so...
5. Get All Your Shit Together
The following items will come up more than you know: Your SSN, your partner's SSN and your child's SSN. Make copies of your birth certificates, your lease (if you rent), and your health insurance card. You never know when you might have to send that stuff in to one agency or another, and it helps having them all in once place, ready to go. Trust me, I lost both my birth certificate and Isaac's. What a hassle.
6. Stop Googling Everything
Your baby is most likely fine, you're just going to make yourself nuts. If something really is wrong with her, you'll know. And WebMd won't be able to help you, just a real Md. Relax. They all spit up a lot, they all cry a lot, none of them sleep, they only look blind in the beginning, their ears aren't abnormally small, newborns kind-of quiver in the first few days, like they're shivering, it's normal, cradle cap goes away (put some olive oil on it for a minute and brush it gently with a baby toothbrush. Voila). These are all things I Googled, by the way. Also, when their belly button falls off, it's super gross and kind of smells weird. And no, the baby's guts will not fall out through that hole.
7. Accept Help
For some reason, when Isaac was born, I almost took offense to my mother coming around to do things like clean my sink. I saw it as an insult, in a way, like she was saying that my house was dirty (which it was, and which it remains). That wasn't her intent at all, I know now that I'm not a New Mom Hormonal Mess. People want to help you when you have a new baby. Let them. One day they stop showing up and your sink will be dirty forever thereafter.
8. They Have To Eat a Pound of Dirt
...and other conventional wisdom. It's all true. Stop sanitizing the shit out of your hands. Soap and water will do. Coming into contact with day-to-day germs helps build their immune system. In the same vein, everyone's baby falls off the couch or the bed, you're not a horrible person if that happens, just be careful next time. Babies survive a regular babyhood. The human species wouldn't have lasted long if knocking their little noggins on the underside of the coffee table were deadly. We had to survive Saber Tooth Tigers, for goodness sake. Give your kid some credit. (This is not meant to be medical advice, as they say).
9. Write Stuff Down
You'll forget more than you know.
Good luck, all! I love you and I love bossing you around. Take care of your pregnant selves. Be confident and strong when you bring that new one into the world. Hire a Doula, trust your instincts and kiss your baby. Give yourself a break when it comes to being a parent-- none of us are doing it right, but we're all doing the best we can. See anything I missed and you'd like to add?
10. The First 5 Weeks of The Baby's Life Is Longer Than The Whole First Year
It gets better, I promise. And on that note:
11. Cultivate Friendships With Other Parents, Especially Other Mothers
Having someone to lean on, advice to hear, advice to give, someone to listen to you bitch, someone to listen to you brag, someone with whom to have a glass of wine or two...these things are invaluable. It can be work, when you are mired in baby land, but it will be worth it.