A couple of weekends ago I attended a typical New Orleans baby shower for a cousin. The mother-to-be looked radiant in her brilliant blue dress, there were fleur de lis embossed blue mints, napoleons on the dessert table and, of course, mimosas and other savory treats. We were asked to write down our advice on blue cards as she started this new chapter in her life. As she opened one beautifully smocked romper after another, including one with alligators and another with crawfish, I could not help but ask myself what advice I wish I had been given. Exactly twenty-six months and three days ago, my life changed in every facet, but for the better. I expected sleepless nights, endless diaper changes and nursing challenges. However, there were a few daily surprises I wish my girlfriends, and those mothers that preceded me, would have shared in preparation for the most exciting, yet challenging, time in my life, motherhood.
Here is my top ten list of what I wish I knew before motherhood:
1. Mommy Brain: Have you placed perishables in the pantry? Arrived at the grocery store only to realize you left your shopping list at home? Left your iced coffee on the counter at PJs after you had just purchased it? If you have answered yes to one or more of these questions, then you suffer from “Mommy Brain.” Forgetfulness, absentmindedness and random thoughts are all normal symptoms during this chapter. Despite the present findings that pregnancy and child rearing actually triggers brain growth, motherhood takes a toll on your cognitive thinking. Seeking treatment? Then surround yourself with other afflicted individuals, a.k.a. mommies.
2. Your Vocabulary: Sooner rather than later, you will be speaking in third person. It is completely normal and even Elmo does so. And, do not be surprised if you begin to identify inanimate objects by their sounds during adult conversations, for example, “chu-chu” in lieu of train. Mimicking animal noises, as well as using words such as “yucky” or “boo-boo,” will also become part of your daily vocabulary. Also, you will be spelling words much earlier than you ever expected. (At the moment, the word “cake” is off limits in my home.)
3. Hair Loss: I enjoyed getting compliments about my beautiful children, as well as my luscious thick head of hair, weeks after I arrived home with my newborns. But, as soon as I could call them infants, my hair began to fall out. My husband at times joked I was competing with our furry family members. (Even though alarming, your hair should return to pre-pregnancy thickness within six months.)
4. Wardrobe Adjustments: I wish I had insight on the imminent wardrobe changes that awaited me as my waistline, and bustline, grew due to my baby bump. Dark solid colors were no longer an option. Pattern is key to disguise unforeseen mishaps, like spit up or snowball syrup, as well as a large bottle of stain remover. (As I learned during our play date with Sno Dat last month, clever moms choose “clear” snowball flavors.) You will also be hanging up your designer handbag in exchange for a diaper bag; it will be your purse for at least the first twelve months. And, tuck away your favorite pair of sunglasses as they are a magnet for those little hands.
5. Cooking Challenges: Let me introduce you to my special friend, the crock-pot. A friend of mine gave me one shortly after we were married and I am sure my face read, “Really?” However, she gave me one of the most well respected appliances in my kitchen. Some of the most wonderful homemade meals have emerged from this 1970 invention. Check Zuka Baby‘s shelf for a copy of From Your Freezer To Your Family: Slow Cooker Freezer Recipes.
6. Coffee Drinkers Beware: You know that hot cup of joe that helps you get through the day? Once motherhood strikes, forget about enjoying it hot. Solution? Iced coffee. It took me two years to accept the fact that enjoying that hot cup of coffee behind the pages of a newspaper were long gone. Now, once a week I grind my favorite bag of whole beans, let it sit in eight cups of water in the refrigerator overnight. The next morning I filter my special dark concoction over a strainer, draped in cheesecloth, and then pour it over some half-and-half and ice. Voila! I have the best iced coffee in town waiting for me the entire week that I can enjoy well into the late morning.
7. Gift Giving: I have spent quite some time researching the perfect age appropriate gifts for my little ones, but in the end, all that matters is its packaging. It seems that the most successful items during gift giving celebrations have been the boxes that have turned into forts or tables for a pretend picnic. Just this afternoon we had an impromptu dance hour on the collapsed diaper box that arrived yesterday evening. Who knew that this garbage item could bring so much laughter and smiles into our home!
8. The Look: Warning! Prepare yourself mentally for “The Look” of utter surprise when you pose the following question to your spouse, “Honey, could you watch the kids?” It appears similar to the response after casually posing the question, “Do you mind giving your second kidney to the lady I met at the grocery line?” Instead of doubting his love and excitement for the children you carried in your womb, take it as a compliment. The Look really means, “I cannot believe you do this. every. day.”
9. Nap time = Mommy time. When your little energizer bunny is fast asleep, use that valuable time for yourself. Have you taken a shower in the last 48 hours? Brushed your teeth? Eaten a full meal? Let the outside world know you are still alive and well? Use those precious moments to re-energize, nap and take care of yourself!
10. The giggles between the tantrums: When the tears start flowing, just remember, “This soon will pass.” Those moments of delight are the ones you will remember between the “I wannas” and “MINE!” The giggles between the tantrums are worth it!
What other secrets should you tell your girlfriend while they are expecting?