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Lessons from Parenthood

When I was pregnant, I knew everything about being a parent.

Sound familiar? I am sure I’m not alone in saying that parenthood is the most humbling thing that has ever happened to me and of all the things being a mom has taught me there is one lesson that sticks out the most: You don’t know anything. About ANYTHING.

When I was pregnant I used to say things like, “Once my baby comes, I’m never drinking again. I’m done with alcohol. There’s no reason for it anymore.”
Now? I realize that MOMMIES NEED WINE SOMETIMES. Mommies need wine probably more than any other people on the face of this planet need wine. I was so certain that I’d never even look at a bottle of beer again, let alone drink one. Me? Get tipsy? No! I’m a mother now! That’s just terrible!
Pfff. What the hell ever. It’s rare that I drink enough to catch a buzz now, but it’s happened (never when I’m alone with Nellie, of course).

During my pregnancy I judged women who formula-fed. I can remember having discussions where I would say things like, “I mean I understand if you can’t do it for medical reasons or whatever, but if you just don’t try hard enough or don’t try at all, I think that’s terrible.”
Now? I’d like to go back and slap myself in the face. I became one of those moms who chose formula. I tried, I did, but in the end formula was what was easiest, and best for me and Nellie. I wasn’t in a good enough place mentally to endure the pressures and demands of breastfeeding, so we switched to the bottle and it made me a better mom. And if a mom chooses not to try breastfeeding and go straight to formula? I don’t fucking care. Do what works for you, sister, being a mom is hard enough without you having other moms tell you what to do with your ta-tas.

I vowed never to make TV my babysitter. Now I realize that sometimes it is necessary for Nellie to watch Martha Speaks or The Cat In the Hat (which I hate) in order for me to shower, eat, pee, wash bottles, or fold laundry without her screaming at me.

I thought that there would never be a single second where being a mother would feel like work. I thought my maternity leave was going to be filled with sunshine and little bluebirds flitting around mine and my new baby daughter’s head. The reality of maternity leave was different. I enjoyed the time with my daughter, of course, but it was also a very lonely and isolating time. Sleep deprivation, getting into a routine with baby, and postpartum hormones running rampant put a bit of a damper on my fairytale fantasy. I was floored at how much work being a mother felt like sometimes.

The ignorance doesn’t stop once you become a parent, though. When Nellie was 4 months old, I decided she was old enough for some controlled cry-it-out. I lasted three minutes before I ran back in there to pick her up. I realize now that 4 months old is way too neurologically immature for a baby to know how to self-soothe. We didn’t even attempt our modified CIO again until she was almost 8 months old (she puts herself to sleep now without problems).

When Nellie would wet her diaper I would make a mad dash to change it. Now? A little pee in the diaper isn’t going to hurt her. Obviously I don’t let her go hours upon hours in a wet diaper but I also don’t break my neck to change it if it’s just wet and not dirty.

I’ve learned a lot from being a parent. I know what songs make her laugh (Hey Ya by Outkast, The True Blood theme by Jace Everett, Sinister Kid by the Black Keys), and that tickling her feet make her squeal. I’ve learned that athlete’s foot cream with Boudreaux’s Butt Paste on top of it wipe out diaper rash faster than you can say “diaper rash”. I have learned that Baby Einsten is brilliant, and that the toy that Nellie likes best is her can of Puffs. But the biggest lesson I think I have gleaned from the experience so far is: don’t get used to anything. Your baby is going to change faster than you can imagine. And remember.. You don’t know anything. About anything.

What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned about being a parent?