Today I have a post from the lovely Samara for my ‘5 Things I’ve Learnt So Far as a Mother‘ series.

Expect the Unexpected

I’ve spent quite a bit of time around other people’s babies. So when I gave birth to my daughter, I was confident and I felt totally prepared to care for her. From day one I could swaddle my baby in record time, heat her bottle to exactly the right temperature, and bathe her like I’d been doing it all my life. But as proud as I am of these accomplishments, I’m humbled to say that there are some things you just can’t know until you’re in the thick of it.

Every new mom has obstacles to overcome because new things happen every day. While there’s no way to prepare for these hurdles, I can share a few of the things that’ve stopped me in my tracks. Below are 5 hard-won lessons that’ve surprised me the most in my brand new adventures as a mother.

  1. No More Blushing

I’m not very outgoing. I like to fit in, go with the flow, even fade into the background. These days, I don’t recognize the woman singing made-up songs on the sidewalk, dancing in pyjamas, and making all sorts of silly and strange faces in front of her baby. Or the woman who stopped primping in the hallway mirror or washing her hair every day. I’ve shed inhibitions! I’ve learned that there just isn’t time to be hung up on superficial things when you have a fussy infant in your arms. And the truth is, being less self-conscious feels like a gift!

  1. Sleeping Rules

There’s a reason sleep deprivation is used as a form of torture. Functioning on just a few hours of sleep for days on end is like trying to navigate a toothpick through a sea of molasses. In other words, it’s mind-bogglingly difficult. I underestimated my endurance and stubbornly insisted on doing all of the feedings myself, even in the middle of the night. Now when someone offers to help out so I can take a nap, I jump at the chance because I know I’ll function so much better if I’m rested. (In fact, I’d almost agree to let a stranger babysit if it meant I could get 30 extra minutes of shuteye!)

  1. Bragging Isn’t Cool

It’s exciting when baby does something new – smile, roll over, find her toes, curl her tongue. But trust me when I tell you that not everyone will be equally impressed by these “milestones.” If you’re gushing about your genius child, be mindful of other parents and their particular circumstances. Not all babies progress at the same rate. Some families struggle with developmental stages and don’t want to compare notes or hear your stories. That’s what your close friends and family are for. I have to remember to keep the bragging at home.

  1. Other Grown Ups Make a Difference

You think you want to spend uninterrupted time by yourself bonding with baby, but truth is, this gets old pretty darn fast. Before too much time passes you’ll be craving adult company and conversation. I learned that it’s important to have a plan in place before you start climbing the walls! I created a routine where we explore the neighborhood (I pop baby in the baby carrier and his big sister scoots along beside us). We don’t go far, but we do head to places where we see other families. After an in-depth, grown-up conversation, I find I’m recharged and eager to cozy up at home again.

  1. That Voice in Your Head is Real

The first time I anticipated my baby’s needs I was very pleased with myself, but figured it was just luck. By the fifth or so time I actually wondered if I had unleashed magical powers! But over time I realized what was happening; I was listening to, and trusting, my instincts. Hear me now: “mother’s intuition” is the real deal. Certainly, it may take a while before you start hearing (and believing) that little voice in your head that tells you “to pack an extra blanket” or “to wait another hour before going outside.”  I have learned to welcome that voice and accept it as my friend and guide.

Get Ready to Ride

It’s never a bad idea to research and ask for help when you’re learning a new subject. Certainly, with parenthood, it’s worth reading books and searching online for advice. But from the get go, it’s important to know that some situations aren’t covered in texts or blogs. Therefore the best you can do is approach motherhood as an evolving experience. There will be moments that shift in a blink of an eye or scenarios that drag on for hours. You and baby are a lifelong team, so buckle up for a ride of a lifetime!

Samara Kamenecka is a New York-born freelance writer and translator living in Madrid. When she’s not busy trying to mold her two kids into functional, contributing members of society, she can usually be found enjoying a glass of wine (or three). You can find her blogging over at Tiny Fry.

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