My son is now 6 months old and on one hand, it seems like time has flown by and he is already so big.  On the other hand, it feels like 6 years has passed sometimes; I’ve been through a gauntlet of experiences and emotions.  Regardless of how I feel the time has passed, I have learned a lot.  I wanted to share 6 lessons I have learned in the past six months.  None of these lessons were delivered in a beautifully wrapped package on my lap.  Some of them slapped me in the face.  Some of them planted themselves in my path like a rogue child playing a non-consensual game of leap frog and tripped me up.  I learned some of them after trial and error led me to one final option.  One thing is for sure.  Learning new things is hard.

1) Your relationship with sleep will come to a screeching halt, but you will quickly find yourself in a rebound relationship with caffeine.  A lot of people say that it’s not good to replace one relationship with another so quickly.  But when you’re so tired that you’ve stopped blinking for fear that you won’t be able to open your eyes again, Mama’s gotta find a solution!  I stopped breastfeeding 2 months in because it was not working out for me, so inhaling copious amounts of coffee and green tea was not affecting the baby.  I needed energy to keep Ben entertained, fed, and clean; to tend to my relationship with my husband; to perform well at my full-time job; and to keep up some sort of correspondence with family and friends.  I’ve been drinking so much coffee in the last month that I need to find a groupon for teeth whitening and practice keeping my hands steady.  My fine motor skills may have taken a nose dive because of the shakes, but more importantly, I’m awake.

2) There will be a time when you will walk by a mirror and gasp.  But not in a good way.  Recovery from pregnancy and childbirth is tough and your body is jam packed with hormones.  I, like many new moms, felt like I looked huge for a long time after delivery.  I was still wearing my maternity clothes and all I wanted to do was tell my elastic waistbands to hit the road.  I felt depressed getting dressed in the morning.  (But let’s be honest, I didn’t actually start getting dressed into any clothes other than pajamas until after maternity leave.)  So here I am…a weepy, hormonal, elastic-waist-band-pajama-clad, showering-every-3-days new mom…and I end up catching a glimpse of myself in the mirror.  That moment stood still.  The baby’s cry faded out so I could hear that awful inner dialogue whispering: “what have I become?!”  And then I snapped out of it to notice that there was spit up dripping down my t-shirt and my dog was at my feet lapping it up.  Gross!*Please note that this picture was taken when my son was about 6 months old and I was feeling gross.  I did not allow pictures in the first couple of months, as documentation of my appearance at that time could have scared you so much you might have swallowed your gum.

3) Your relationship will be tested. My husband and I had a healthy number of disagreements before having the baby, so we were not one of those cutesy couples that held hands while wallpapering the nursery, expecting to be a dream team of parents.  But we felt pretty prepared and we talked about our upbringings and what was important to us as parents.  However, there’s no getting past the fact that you will look at each other at some point and wonder: “why the hell did we think we could do this together?”  But that’s normal!  It’s the sleep deprivation and the hormones talking.  Or maybe it’s the mutual feeling that neither of you feel like you know what you’re doing that sparks the bickering.  Whatever it is, you will start to be nicer to each other after you settle in a little and realize you can’t do it without one another.  And hopefully, one of you is mature and takes on the responsibility of apologizing quickly.  That person is my husband.

4) You will curse in front of your baby. When I was pregnant, the only thing that changed about me was that I stopped drinking alcohol, tried to eat organic, and started to get round.  If I stubbed my toe or someone cut me off in traffic, I still let the four-letter words fly because I didn’t picture my baby in there with one hand on his hip and the other wagging a finger at me scolding my behavior.  He couldn’t understand yet.  And I promise I will stop right before he begins enunciating those words himself to prove what an awful role model I am.  When my pregnant self would curse in front of my husband, though, he would look at me sideways with his eyebrows scrunched with worry and disapproval: “you know, our baby can hear you.  You shouldn’t do that.”  Of course, I would reply empathetically… “Would you leave me the hell alone?  Let’s see if you would be a saint if you were carrying this thing around!  Now get me some ice creeaammm!”  Yes, I know what you’re thinking…he’s a lucky man.  Once the baby was born, my patient, wonderful husband tried his hardest to remain that way.  But one day several weeks in, plagued by fatigue and the baby and my crying, I caught him.  As I was coming up the stairs to assist him with our wailing son, I heard him say in a desperate voice: “when are you gonna cut me a f*@#ing break?” I practically skipped into the room and yelled: “I heard that!”  I held my hand up for a high five with him–maybe because I was comforted by the fact that neither of us was perfect.  But he left me hanging.  I guess he didn’t share the need to celebrate the fact that that day, we were both bad role models.

5) You will be harder on yourself than you should be. Give yourself a break!  Seriously.  I was so hard on myself in the beginning that a dark cloud could have been following me around.  Total Debbie Downer.  It was important for people to remind me that it is normal to feel insecure, anxious, and depressed, but that I was doing the best that I could.  I had to accept help, take naps, get back to yoga, and be open about my feelings of postpartum depression to break this cycle.  You can’t stay on a gloomy island by yourself as a new mom.  You have to try to increase support in any and all ways and remember you are not the first one to feel this way.

6) Things will get better.  And this is coming from a cynic.  It’s easy for me to say this now because my son is 6 months old, but in the beginning it was hard for me to see the light.  This lesson is my attempt to throw a lifeline out to all the new parents in the thick of the first few months and to appreciate my own family’s progress.  You will start feeling like you know what you’re doing a little more.  You will get used to your family’s routine more.  You will start to have a little more time for yourself to do things like shower and brush your teeth.  You will sleep more, even if it still doesn’t feel like enough.  Here’s a rule of thumb…you will know that things are getting better when you start to laugh at the things that used to make you cry.