I'm sure you've been told by now that parenting will come naturally to you. That you, like every mother before you, will know instinctively what to do from the moment you first gaze into your baby's adoring eyes. And that is absolutely true, for five women (maybe six). But, for the rest of us, diving into motherhood is a tumultuous, overwhelming experience filled with joyful bliss yes, but also with bouts of doubt, anxiety, and even despair. The first three months of your baby's life are also likely to be the most emotionally and physically demanding three months of yours. Being prepared can go a long way to making this time so much easier. Here are a few of the things you may encounter on the road ahead of you.
Katherine Scrimshaw

Tired mom and newborn
Motherhood and... Vulnerability
The vulnerability you feel when pregnant is nothing compared to the outright paranoia that settles in once you have that totally helpless little bundle of perfection in your arms and it strikes you that you are the one thing standing between it and death. When my son was about a week old my husband took him out for a walk so I could rest.

Rest? Ha! I was glued to the window for the entire time waiting to spot them rounding the corner, and finally there they were. My relief was short-lived, however, when I saw a woman who was obviously violently insane lurching down the road toward them. My husband was looking right at her and doing nothing -- NOTHING! She was just seconds away from stabbing them both to death and there he was, smiling away like he didn't have a care in the world. The crazed homicidal lunatic (or innocent passer-by depending on your own personal sanity level) passed them by, of course, quite uneventfully.

Just remember, no matter how convinced you become that a spider is going eat your baby or that the little blemish on his otherwise perfect butt is some form of baby cancer, you will learn to relax in the knowledge that your instincts are indeed enough to keep your baby well.

Motherhood and... Sleep
You may get one of those babies who start sleeping through the night at three weeks. Again, there have been five such babies -- with rumors of a sixth somewhere in the South Pacific. Most likely for the first few weeks you will be awake every two hours or so. Even if you have no other responsibilities and plenty of helping hands, the lack of a good solid stretch of sleep can be devastating. It will affect your mood, your stamina, your emotions, and your ability to focus, and operate complex machinery, like the radio.

For some reason, our society treats sleep like some sort of luxury that only the weak indulge in. The truth is, sleep deprivation takes it's toll on all of us. No one is immune. So, get as much as you can and be kind to yourself when you start to fray a bit around the edges.

Motherhood and... Diet
Right now, while your little bundle of joy is still stomping on your bladder and wrestling with your rib cage arrange to have a freezer full of heat and serve meals like casseroles and lasagna. Odds are you won't have much time to cook, and when you do you won't want to. But you will be hungry, particularly if you are nursing. Growing a human being and squeezing it out into the world takes its toll physically. You will need lots of easy to prepare, nutritious food. I recommend particularly a stash of your favorite comfort foods. As for dieting, the first three months are a time to make sure you are eating well.

Give yourself time to recover physically and settle into motherhood before beginning any sort of diet. You will probably, at some point during the first couple of weeks, take a good hard look at your naked body and cry louder than your baby. Please be kind to yourself and remember that in order to make room for your baby your body accomplished some strange and magical things; organs shifted, bones spread and your hormones made their presence known everywhere. It will take a little time for your body to go back to its humdrum life of one. Wait for the dust to settle, and let a little healing happen before you start trying to whip yourself into shape.

Motherhood and... Advice
You may not have received the Diaper Genie you were hoping for. Or many offers to do your dishes, or even the free sample of diapers you signed up for weeks ago... but one thing that I guarantee you will get plenty of is Advice. It will come from friends, family and strangers on the street. Some will be good, some bad, some irrelevant and some downright weird. My advice? Just smile, say thank you, take the good and toss the rest. Even the baby experts out there disagree on the 'best' way to raise a child, it comes to a point where you just have to trust that you know best what works and what doesn't work for your baby and for yourself.

Motherhood and... Mood swings
If you find yourself overwhelmed by joy and feeling like the luckiest woman on earth that is no guarantee that five minutes later you won't be sobbing uncontrollably wondering why you ever thought that you could do this Mother gig. You aren't technically insane, just adjusting to the physical, emotional and social upheaval you are experiencing. Everything in your life has been turned on its head, you are exhausted and emotionally charged and your body is a chemistry experiment of hormones all running rampant. Enjoy the highs and weather the lows. It will settle down.

Motherhood and... Daddy
It is so easy as a new Mom to take all the care for the baby on yourself. Your baby has been part of you for over nine months. Giving that fragile little thing over to another's care (even to your partner) can feel almost negligent. DO NOT GIVE INTO THESE FEELINGS! The sooner your partner feels comfortable with your baby the more relaxed you can be about actually taking a shower now and then or maybe even leaving the house! It may seem in these early days that when it comes to caring for your infant that having it done right (meaning of course, your way) is all-important. But, trust me, if you can bring yourself to let your partner take the baby out wearing a red sweater, a pink hat and orange polka dot pants, the future rewards are worth it.

Motherhood and... Housework
If you can afford to hire a maid service, do it. If you have an abundance of friends and family you can press into service, do that. If you have neither, then do just enough to keep the rats away and forget the rest. Your baby does not care if your furniture has been dusted or if your carpet is linty.

The first three months of your baby's life are an amazing, truly magical time, and they whip by with tremendous speed. Make the most of them by asking for help when you need it and by mothering yourself a little as well. The Armed forces got it all wrong -- this is the hardest job you'll ever love.


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