No matter how prepared you are for parenthood, there are some things you'll only learn as you go through that first year. Here are some of them:
1. Sleep is underrated
Sleep is much more vital to your wellbeing than you realize. Most new parents are sleep deprived, and honestly, we feel foggy-brained and bordering-on-getting-sick a lot of the time.
2. Babies cause a special kind of sleep deprivation
If you're already a bad sleeper or you work night shifts, you may think you know tired. But there's a difference between having to quiet your mind or wait until the end of your shift to sleep, and not knowing when you're going to get a good night's sleep again.
3. You are way more resilient than you know
You will live through the sleep deprivation and everything else the first year of parenthood throws at you. It will be challenging, but you'll do it.
4. There are a LOT of sacrifices involved
From the outside, it looks like new moms are just out there living life like anyone else, with a baby in tow. They're not. They've usually given up a lot, from their social life and income to their bladder control.
5. You underestimated your parents
For years, you thought parenting was just something people did. Now you have a new-found respect for your parents, and maybe some understanding about the things they got wrong.
6. Everyone has an opinion on how you should raise your child
And they don't mind sharing it. In most arenas, you're highly unlikely to attract unsolicited advice from total strangers, but it happens often when you have a baby.
7. They're mostly wrong
Nobody knows your baby like you do. Advice other people give you is based on their own babies. Every child is different.
8. Nursing a baby is hard
Just because breastfeeding is natural doesn't mean it always comes naturally. Be patient and ask for help if you're struggling. La Leche League is an international organization offering support and advice to nursing moms.
9. Your body needs time to recover
A good guideline is nine months to go from conception to birth, and another nine months to get back to your pre-pregnancy shape and fitness levels, or close to it. Your body may never be the same again, and that's OK. Your body has accomplished an awesome thing.
10. Other parents are a lifeline
Having genuine, caring friends who are going through their first year of parenthood too is invaluable. This is important for new moms and dads. New dads have a lot to learn, and hanging out with other dads can help.
11. Some other parents aren't helpful
We all know a few parents who are super competitive and a little smug. You don't need to hear about how little Tommy's sleeping through the night and saying 'mama' already.
12. Some 'common wisdom' is useless
'Sleep when your baby sleeps' is a good idea, but often impractical. She may sleep in her car seat or stroller while you're driving or shopping. You may need to catch up on chores while she sleeps.
13. Your relationship has cracks
They all do, so don't worry about it. Accept that parenting a newborn will put your relationship under strain like few other things will. You'll argue. It's not a disaster. It completely normal. Manage the conflict as best you can, and know that it will pass.
14. The media misrepresents parenthood
As does society in general. It's messy and noisy and rarely pretty. It certainly doesn't look anything like those magazine spreads when some celebrity couple introduces their new little miracle to the world.
15. Everything is a phase
This is the main thing I wish I'd realised sooner. I'd stress over one thing obsessively for a week. Then the next week my baby would move on to a whole new stage.
16. Every baby has a thing
They don't like cars, baths or bright lights. They won't nurse if you're talking to someone, or sitting in the wrong position. They nap at the wrong time, or not at all. You just have to deal with it, and remember the point above.
17. Most things are nothing
New parents who show up at the emergency room because their baby hiccupped are the stuff of sitcoms, but we all worry way too much about little things that don't seem quite right. It's OK to get these things checked out. Just remember that all new parents fret about things that are probably nothing.
18. Babies have a great sense of timing
If they're going to throw up, or fill their diaper to overflowing, it will usually be just after you've bathed them and put them in fancy clothes because you're going to a family gathering and you need to leave right now.
19. You will accomplish less than you planned this year
The myth is that you can do it all, have it all and keep it all together. You can't. Caring for a baby is ridiculously time-consuming. If you have plans to finish school, set up a business or run a marathon this year, go easy on yourself. You're achieving a lot just by parenting this new human. You may not reach all your other goals right on schedule, and it's OK.
20. Nothing can prepare you for parenthood
Reading the books and going to the classes is great, but you can't learn everything from a book. 'It's not what I expected' is a common response to new parenthood.
21. You have a bigger capacity for love than you imagined
Your baby will prove this to you. Not all at once, but over that first year, and then over your whole lifetime.