I knew everything, before I realized I knew nothing.
For whatever strange reason, the older I get the more I realize I have no idea what I am doing and the more confident I am in totally winging it everyday. Parenting is humbling. Sometimes I think I've nailed it and other times I want to crumple into a ball on the floor and cry. At the end of the day, I feel like we're on the right track to raising good compassionate humans, so no regrets, but here is a list of things I wish I had realized a little sooner. These are things specific to my experience, so there may be things here that don't resonate with you, and that is cool - we all have more in common than we think, but not necessarily everything.
1. It is OK to tell people not to come over sometimes. This time is for you and the baby. Allow yourself some time to get into a routine and to settle into your new role. Definitely don't feel obligated to keep a clean house or entertain any guests. Cancel plans if you want. Order takeout. Take naps. Do only what feels good and do not feel any guilt over any of it. Don't apologize for your feelings or needs. As a former people-pleaser, this was hard for me at first, and now I think I am an expert. I can say 'no' now without the guilt, and it's not as bad as I once feared it would be.
2. The first six weeks is a rollercoaster, and that's normal. You will be so high on joy you will cry. You will be so sad and tired, you will cry. Your body will be soft and sore and messy for awhile, but it's also amazingly strong and gave you the greatest gift. Think of it gently, and treat it carefully. Understand that while it is trying to get back to a more normal place it will never look or function the same way. It has amazing resiliency, and it will be good to you if you are good to it. In many ways, I feel better now about myself and my body then I ever did previously, even though I am heavier than I used to be. I am so much stronger now, physically and emotionally and I am grateful for what this body has allowed me to accomplish. Feed it, move it, rest it. Do what feels good.
3. Get rid of the stuff you don't want right away. I have a problem with hanging onto things "just in case" I need them later. As I have learned a thousand times over, if I don't like it now, I won't like it later. Plus, baby stuff accumulates so quickly that it can overwhelm me if I don't keep on top of it. For me, a cluttered house is a cluttered mind and I can't enjoy my space at home if it is littered with junk (I can't even believe I wrote this sentence because my house is literally always a cluttered mess it seems). Purge often and ruthlessly. On this same topic, it took me a couple of years to tell people to stop buying the kids stuff. If someone wants to get the kids a present, and I can't think of something specific that they need, then I always suggest a book. The kids love books, and I do too. What I don't love are inflatables, things that have 1,000 pieces and age-inappropriate junk. I am really nice about it, and almost everyone understands that it's to keep the clutter in the house down, and I don't think I have ever offended anyone. This also allows us to use toys as rewards for the kids when they do something really awesome and exciting, and it makes it so much more enjoyable for them. Since they are not inundated with new toys and gifts all the time, when they do get something new it is very exciting and it gets lots of use.
4. Invest in a good stroller the first time. Decide what your needs are (umbrella? single/double? bike tires? travel system? cup holder?) and DO THE RESEARCH. I bought a travel system on a whim because it was on sale at Target before they closed. It was so impractical for my needs. It was difficult to steer, top heavy, had horrible tires for pavement, was bulky when collapsed and couldn't go on a trail. We have no sidewalks in our neighborhood, so it just was a total flop. I did eventually upgrade to a Baby Jogger City Select (much more expensive and worth every penny) and wish I had done it sooner. For a short time in 2015, before I bought the Baby Jogger, I knew more about strollers than anyone on the planet. I read every review, watched every video, and studied every brand because if I was going to spend a fortune on something I wanted to LOVE it - and I do. If you are in the middle of your own search, talk to your friends about what they do/don't like about their strollers, and read the Amazon reviews to get a better sense about what the general public thinks.
5. Don't be afraid to leave the house, and don't feel you have to apologize for your baby acting like a baby when they are in public. A crying baby is not a symptom of bad parenting. This one takes time and practice. There are times when you are in line at the grocery store, or on an airplane and your kid is freaking out and there is not a lot that you can do about it. The world will understand, and if they don't that is 100% their problem. Babies and small children have as much right to venture outside the house as anyone else, but more importantly the only way to teach them to behave responsibly and appropriately in public is to take them out. Manage what you can, but don't let fear keep you from going out.
6. When things are hard, trust that it will get better very soon and when you need to, ASK FOR HELP. The days are long but the years are short. It's so cliche and SO TRUE. Every time I get used to something, it changes. Remember this especially when no one is sleeping and the baby is screaming and everything seems horrible. This too shall pass, and strange as it may seem, you may wish for this time back.
7. Last, you are doing it right. Whatever you're worried about, don't. You are enough. You are doing it right. Even if you sometimes fail, or things are harder then you thought, no one is better at this than you and you are doing it right.