As a (very recent) first-time mom, I've been learning by trial and error. Even with nine months of preparation, I'll admit that I often find myself fumbling through motherhood.
I quickly realized that no matter how many books, blogs, and community forums you read, nothing can really prepare you for the reality of being a mother. That can be both a lovely surprise—like the indescribably powerful love and bond you feel for your baby—and also a challenge. For instance, when baby is crying for an hour straight and nothing you do seems to help.
From the moment baby enters the world, and perhaps even before, you'll likely be inundated with advice from well-meaning friends, family members, and health care professionals. And in many instances, the advice from one will directly contradict that of another. Such inconsistencies can leave your head spinning.
The first few weeks of my daughter Vivian's life were incredibly challenging. I'm sure every first-time mom feels that way. Not only do we have to get comfortable with the responsibility of caring for a tiny, fragile human who can't communicate with us, but seemingly everyone wants to tell us how to do so. But who do you trust?
The three days I spent in the hospital after giving birth, a very sweet nurse told me that I needed sleep and she'd take Vivian to the nursery for a long stretch during the night. After the physical and mental stress of delivery, I complied. She told me that if the baby doesn't wake to be fed, she'll be fine for a few hours.
At our first pediatrician visit, Vivi had lost more than 7% of her birth weight. The pediatrician was concerned that she wasn't eating enough, and directed me to nurse her every 2 hours day or night and supplement with formula. She told me that many women cannot produce enough breast milk, and that I was probably one of them.
I felt defeated. I later called a lactation consultant, who reprimanded me for using formula and gave me even different feeding instructions. We went back to a different pediatrician a week later, and, surprise surprise, even different instructions. Not to mention the differing opinions shared by friends and family members.
By this time, I was frustrated and full of self-doubt. When I should have been enjoying time with my newborn, I was overly stressed and desperately seeking answers from everyone... everyone but myself.
With that said, I'd like to share a small piece of advice with other first-time moms and moms-to-be: trust your instincts.
Once I calmed down and listened to myself and my baby, I figured out a feeding routine that works for us. At Vivi's last pediatrician appointment, she had gained weight like a champion. It was the little boost I needed to remind myself that, in many cases, mommy knows best. Of course I consult the pediatrician with questions, follow recommended guidelines for her safety and well-being, and listen to experiences from other mothers I know. The difference is now I am learning to trust myself.
The next time someone offers me mothering advice, I'll graciously accept it as that—an offer. If it doesn't feel right, then it's not right for us. During this adventure of raising a child, will I make mistakes? Undoubtedly. Will I have days of frustration? Of course. Will baby and I be just fine? Absolutely!