Becoming a parent for the first time is kind of like taking on a new identity overnight. One day you’re wearing a suit, reading the Times on your way to the office, and the next you’re lucky if you’ve showered and reading Dr. Seuss.
I, like most mothers, had a vague idea of what parenting would be like, but in a matter of weeks after my daughter was born I realized that that there were some surprises that went way beyond what I’d be wearing and reading each day. Here are five things that took me by surprise upon becoming a mom:
Breastfeeding is a way of life. Pre-mommyhood, I thought breastfeeding was just another way to feed a baby. Real-life experience and research has taught me that breast milk is not only jam-packed with nutrients specifically designed for baby’s needs, but it’s also a sleep inducer, a boo-boo healer and it can calm my daughter’s fussiness. I never imagined we’d be nursing past infancy, but here we are, marching through toddlerhood with mama’s “liquid gold” on the menu.
Keeping a child occupied is hard work. I used to refer to my daughter as “High Maintenance Baby.” Ever since she was a few weeks old, she constantly required adult attention and she let you know it. It’s not easy to find ways to keep a baby or toddler occupied each day, especially when his or her attention span is just a few minutes long. And if you think your kid will be happy sitting in a playpen or swing while you go about your business, you’re probably mistaken. Accepting that I had to put my daughter’s needs first was a big realization for me. I had to learn to be okay with housework, errands or my personal needs being put on hold.
I miss working. Part of me isn’t sure whether or not I really want to admit this, given that I do not miss setting goals, meeting deadlines, or pushing paper. I do, however, miss doing a job I knew I was good at and I sometimes find myself longing for office camaraderie. My old role was very people-oriented and I loved interacting with so many colleagues on a daily basis. Especially at first, my new role as a SAHM left me feeling isolated at times, and I wasn’t always sure that I was doing a good job. However, now that I’m almost two years into this parenting gig, I can look at my daughter and feel confident that I am doing everything right for her.
I’ve become a vaccination expert. I read What to Expect When You’re Expecting, which in hindsight did nothing to prepare me for motherhood. The one thing I wish I had researched more was the vaccination debate. There’s way more to it than saying “yea” or “nay” to vaccines. As a parent, you have the right to delay them, unbundle them or forgo some of them. Our little ones are expected to receive dozens of vaccines, and such an important and integral aspect of our children’s infancy should get more attention from expectant mothers so that we are better prepared to make decisions before we enter the pediatrician’s office.
I would fall in love all over again. I never imagined I’d fall in love with anyone else after I met my husband, but that’s how I describe my feelings for our daughter. To me, she is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen and I’m so grateful that she is here, bringing joy to my life every day. She is my first thought in the morning and my last thought at night. When I lie next to her, I am warm and at peace. I am experiencing a larger-than-life, all-encompassing love I never knew existed.