Mom wisdom for new parents

What could be more awesome than a new baby?

If you’re secretly thinking: “A lot of things, actually,” I feel you. (As I've said previously, I didn't "take" to the early stages of motherhood very easily!)

Your baby is supposed to be the best thing that’s ever happened to you. But your little darling can turn your life (body, mind, spirit) and everything else (your identity, marriage, career, extended family) upside down — even if you did literally everything mentally and physically you could to prepare. 

It’s just hard.

So we asked Minnesota moms and dads to share one thing they wish they’d known before they had children and what was especially hard in their first child’s first few months.

You are not alone, after all. 

 

Sleep deprivation

“Try not to snap when you hear people say, ‘Enjoy this stage, it goes so fast!’ — because when you’re knee-deep in it and exhausted, it does NOT go fast. It crawls. You’re allowed to feel all those emotions and feelings, and it’s OK that some won’t feel that great. Pat yourself on the back. You’ll do great.” — Kelly Jo McDonnell, Lino Lakes

“(Learn) to sleep in two-hour increments.” — Alexis Todd, Plymouth

“When your baby is teething, you probably aren't going to get any ‘real’ sleep like you were before.” — Jessica Larson, Minneapolis

“Sleep deprivation lasts far longer than the first year of a baby's life. My girls are 3 and 5 and I'm still not sleeping all night.” — Jodie Norquist, Pequot Lakes

“Allow yourself to be crabby and tired. Yes, you’ll experience a new level of exhaustion and sleep deprivation that hits you like a ton of bricks. But you’ll also find that you’re tougher than you think. You can operate on one to two hours of sleep and still change a diaper.” — Kelly Jo McDonnell, Lino Lakes

 

Bonding

“Loving your baby is immediate, automatic and very powerful — liking them? Um, at times, not so much. It’s harsh, but it’s real for a lot of new mothers. I do not apologize for it and neither should you.” — Christie Cuttell, Cottage Grove

Intuition

“Babies do not come with instruction manuals, but, as a parent, you figure it all out.” — Megan Truenow, Kimball

“Trust your gut. You can read all the books in the world and still not be prepared. Do not let the wisdom from the experts stop you from trusting your natural instincts and doing something contrary to what you’ve read or heard.” — Sarah Frank, Waconia

“I wish I would have known that mistakes were going to be made and Baby will be just fine. I spent my son's whole first year thinking, if I wasn't perfect, I was going to mess him up for life. He is almost 4 now and doing just fine.” — Jennie Hinsz, Brainerd

 You don't need every baby item that the mass market makes you feel like you need. Keep it simple!” — Trina Greene, Farmington

Worry

“Nothing introduces you to the heart-pounding, sweaty-palms, sick-to-your-stomach feeling of anxiety like parenting. You are in charge of a tiny little life. And that’s certainly a big job. We had a rough first year with my daughter, who was admitted to Children’s Hospital twice. I learned that year what anxiety and panic really feel like.” — Kelly Plummer, Forest Lake

“No one told me I would drive to the doctor’s office more than once hoping something is actually wrong with my child so that I would know why he has red bumps, a diaper rash, spits up a lot and cries more than he sleeps — all to be told, ‘Looks great! Keep doing what your doing!’” — Christie Cuttell, Cottage Grove

Feeding

“I wish someone had told me that once the baby takes a bottle, don't take a week off from giving it to them. Now she hasn't taken one since!” — Rachel Nelson, Eagan

“My first son just wouldn’t eat. We had nurses and lactation specialists grabbing my boobs, trying to force him to eat. And there wasn’t that loving bond you and your baby are supposed to experience. When I finally got the blessing from my sister that it was ‘OK to use formula,’ I was like, ‘Thank God someone actually said it, so I didn’t feel guilty in making the decision.’ I felt like a horrible mother because it wasn’t the ‘natural’ thing to do, and there’s so much pressure about breast milk being best.

“We all want to do what’s best, but it doesn’t always work that way, so we shouldn’t feel like a bad mother for not being able to.” — Sonja Haataja-Day, Menahga

Stages

“Everything is a phase. I've figured it out by my third, but it sure would have been helpful when I thought the crying would last forever or assumed the snuggles would last forever!” — Jill Ganske, Pine River

“Just when you start to worry about something, it goes away and you have a new worry.” — Kristan Frend, Edina

“Once you think that you have understood the rules of parenting, they change the game.” — Wendy Anderson, Oakdale

“I wish someone had told me to blog or journal any chance I got because it all goes too fast and the memories are what you have left to hold on to.” — Jennifer Callahan, Mound

“How quickly time truly passes when you watch your children grow up.” — Ken Duhadway, Ramsey

“Don’t worry about keeping the house clean with kids. Enjoy your kids instead!” — Jessica Remington, Hutchinson

 

Discovery

“If you become a parent, you start a never ending journey of learning!” — Alina Madan, Maple Grove

“Parenting takes team work. My husband and I seem to never be on the same page will how to deal with certain situations.” — Allison Holen, Isanti

“Enjoy your personal reading because it will be many years before you will be able to read chapter books again.” — Julie Nelson, Columbia Heights

“I wish someone had told me how much free time I really had before — and to take advantage of it!” — Theresa Cooke, Coon Rapids

Loneliness and loss

“I wish someone would have told me to create a mama group of friends while pregnant so I'd have mama friends with little ones to have play dates with.” — Elizabeth Sharma, St. Paul

“I wish someone had told me how lonely it is to be a stay at home mom.” — Tricia Heagle, Brooklyn Center

“That I would loose a child in Vietnam. Would I still have had him? You bet your life I would.” — LaVeryn McKeever, Duluth


Sarah Dorison is the Editor of Minnesota Parent magazine. She lives in Golden Valley. Write her at editor@mnparent.com.  Kelly Jo McDonnell contributed to this report.