By Erika Fehrenbach Prell
Ahhh, the joys of motherhood! When talking about chapters in life, there is none more profoundly life-altering than becoming a mother. For some of you, baby makes 3 might mean you are a first time mother, which was the case for me twelve years ago. In our more recent family history, baby makes 3 was bonus baby, Lucy’s, appearance on the scene making three kids. This was an interesting experience in many ways! At the time that Lucy was born, Ethan was 10 and Liam was 7. Though I was definitely a seasoned mom, it had been a long time since I had a newborn, so, in many ways I felt like a first time mom because I didn’t remember anything! In retrospect, I was an interesting combination of the cluelessness of a first time mom with the chill factor of a third time mom, melding “I have no idea what I’m doing” with “ehh...it’ll be fine”. Lucy, good thing you are tough...lol!
Like everything in life, our feelings and fears leading up to the birth of a child are varied and individualized. And, as you may be experiencing or recall, the hormone surge required to maintain that growing life inside you may send you on a rollercoaster of ups, downs, plot twists, and irrationality. Or was that just me? And, friends, this is what is going on before that tiny human arrives! There are more articles than I can count with tips on being your best as a first time mom from taking care of yourself to sleeping when baby sleeps with every topic in between. While all that is fine, I realized that the unfiltered truth about what really happens when you become a first time mother is missing. I’m talking the unfiltered, nitty gritty, this-is-what-really-happens truth. Put the baby in the bouncy chair, settle in with your fifth cup of coffee this morning, and let’s have a real girlfriend-to-girlfriend chat!
Without further ado, the 8 Lessons Girlfriends Should Share About Becoming a Mom:
8. You are Not the First Person to Do This
Okay, my husband actually put this a little differently; when one of us started to spiral (okay, it was usually me), he would say, “dumber people have done this”. This was not meant from a place of disrespect, rather, his meaning is that humans have been having babies for thousands of years. The basics are the same...take care of your baby’s needs, protect them, and love them. The how has changed with advances in technology and knowledge. Like many things in life, keep the main thing, the main thing.
7. You Really Only Need a Car Seat
There is a common maternity legend about how the hospital only cares that you have a car seat...have you heard that one? It’s not a legend; it’s completely true as I learned from experience. My now twelve year old, Ethan, decided to surprise us by being born 6 weeks early. He did so well that he was discharged from the NICU earlier than expected, as in, he went home with me. We had nothing...no diapers, clothes (other than the hospital gifts), wipes, bottles, breast pump...NOTHING except the car seat, an early shower gift. I stalled his discharge while Adam did an emergency shopping trip at the local baby store, buying the necessities but not too much since our baby shower was in 3 days. Here’s the lesson...there is so much baby stuff out there. Yes, it makes life convenient but you don’t need every gadget and contraption on the market! Save some money and space and keep it simple. Oh...and, you can never have your baby shower too early!
6. There Will Come a Time When You Will Loath Your Partner
Truthbomb time, friends. This was the best advice I was ever given, even though I didn’t believe it at the time. I believe I laughed while internally thinking how much I LOVED this man and that I wasn’t sure I was ready to share him with this small human...and all that mushy stuff. The loathing didn’t happen until our second son, Liam, who was born 3 days from his due date and could breastfeed like a non-preemie baby.
About three weeks into sleep deprivation and solo night time feedings, I remember looking over at my soundly sleeping, snoring husband and thinking, “I hate you. I really, really hate you.” My rational brain knew that he wanted to help, and he would have if he could as he was an equal night time partner with Ethan. Other than giving him a bottle, there wasn’t a lot he could do. But, I still hated him. Sleep deprivation does a number on you in many ways. Share your struggles with your partner, and anyone else in your circle, so you don’t feel alone and can get support.
5. Ask For and Accept Help
This goes hand-in-hand with #8. Motherhood can quickly make you feel like a ship sailing alone in the middle of the ocean. It doesn’t have to be that way! Ask for help. And, guess what? Lots of people will offer to help...say yes! One last thought? If you don’t know what to ask for, the answer is food, laundry, cleaning, and watching the baby so you can nap.
4. Need a Minute? Let the Baby Cry
My mom imparted this one on me. During rational and well-rested times, the thought of hurting an innocent baby is horrifying; when you are sleep deprived and irrational, an inconsolable, screaming baby can be too much. Just put the baby down in a safe place like their crib or bassinet and give yourself a few minutes to get it together.
3. Stop Googling Everything
Google will freak you out. I’m a nurse practitioner, and I have fallen to it myself. I remember taking 3 week old Ethan to the pediatrician CONVINCED he had a small bowel obstruction; she kindly reminded me that babies and adults do not have the same illnesses and to stop reading the Google search after the 1st or 2nd result. What was the first result? Reflux, a common issue with preemies and exactly what was Ethan’s issue. Lesson? Be discerning of where you get your advice from!
2. Stop the Scroll - Comparison and Mom Guilt are the Thieves of Motherhood Joy
Similarly, the highlight reel on social media can make you feel “not enough” or “inadequate” as a mother. Or, send you down the spiral of my baby isn’t doing what that baby is doing; is there something wrong with her?!? Take a deep breath. Every child develops at a different rate. Trust your pediatrician and your instincts to realize if there is an issue. Put down the phone and enjoy the moments unfolding in front of you but don’t put the phone too far so you can snap those moments!
1. Your Life is Now Run by a Tiny Tyrant that You Created Yourself
Prior to becoming a mother, I was a major planner. Having my first baby 6 weeks early was NOT part of my plan. It was also the introduction that my life was now and forever being run by someone else’s agenda. The sooner you can embrace that chaos and unexpected plot twists are your new normal, the sooner you can start figuring out ways to cope.
You might like what we discussed in our girlfriend-to-girlfriend chat, or you might think it was a load of crap. And, you know what? That’s okay! Remember lesson #2, be discerning where you get your information from, including advice, because EVERYONE seems to want to impart their wisdom and experiences when it comes to pregnancy, birth, and parenting. These were the lessons that, when the baby made 3, I thought were the most valuable and helpful because they were the most truthful and honest. Joining the mom club continues to be the most awesome, terrifying, exhilarating, and challenging role I have ever taken on. One thing is for sure; this was the chapter that changed my life in the most and best ways. We are all better together in this, so, girlfriends...let’s raise each other up so we can raise those tiny tyrants!
Erika Fehrenbach Prell is passionate about inspiring and educating, others on their path to complete wellness-mind,body, and soul. This desire led Erika to the helping profession of nursing, and she obtained her Master's Degree as a Nurse Practitioner in 2007. Erika specialized in cardiac surgery, largely influenced by her personal experience with heart disease. While she loved working with this population, her heart's desire has always been to impact lives on a larger scale and from a proactive, not reactive, place. The universe answered when her path crossed with Jackie and SoulShine was born. Erika finally feels she is walking in her purpose and is excited for this journey to unfold.