He has rockstar hair and a perfect tiny mouth and he looks just like his mama did when she was a newborn. I was 11 when she was born, and I loved painting her nails and changing her outfit approximately 247 times per day (her mom was so sweet to let me).
I cried like a baby when her mom texted me the pictures in the middle of the night.
Jack's birth got me thinking: what would I tell this first-time mom? Although my children are still very young (7, 5, and 2) and I know I have LOTS more to learn (just talked to my sis-in-law whose kids are entering the teenage years), here's what I've got for now:
You will at once feel like you're getting this parenting thing down, and like you're the worst parent in the world.
Do your best - and be kind to yourself. You will make mistakes. Learn from them. You will also do SO many things right in showing your son that you love him, that you love his daddy, and that you love being his mommy.
Love your body. You don't have to like it. But respect it. Even when your breasts hang from your torso like 2 pancakes. Even when your skin is covered in stretch marks. Even when your hips are too wide to fit into your old pants. Your body has done something wonderful: it has created another human being. That is a privilege.
Don't use motherhood as an excuse to neglect yourself. Eat healthy. Exercise. Put on mascara. You will probably always put your child's needs before your own, but remember that you have needs too.
You are a vital, vibrant person with passions just like anyone else. Your baby CAN survive without you for an hour, for a morning, for an evening, even for a day or two as he gets older. Right now, it may not seem like you can survive for an hour without him, and that's okay.
Your baby's daddy is also a vital person with his own needs. Take care of him. Learn what he really needs and make sure he gets that, too. Learn what his biggest hopes and fears are as a father.
You're both doing your best, and sometimes your best and his best will seem completely opposite.
No matter what you tell your son, he will grow up to be like you. Yes, he will have your best traits - your beautiful eyes, your long legs, your brilliant smile. But he will also have your worst traits (my kids got my stubbornness and my critical nature).
Act the way you want him to act when he is an adult. Teach him kindness and empathy.
You know that newborn-baby smell? Smell it again. Right now. Drink it up. Memorize it. It is the best smell in the world.
Choose to enjoy those moments when you are tired, exhausted, at the edge of what you think you can handle. Motherhood teaches us that we can do so much more than we think we can. We are so much more creative than we thought we were.
Need help? Ask for it.
Find what works for you, and stick with it. Until it changes. Motherhood is nothing like math. There is not one right way. And you will not get the same result every single time. Embrace this. Be willing to change, to adapt, to find what works as your child grows.
And he will grow so fast.
It will feel like tomorrow when you're bawling your eyes out in the preschool parking lot because you just dropped him off. And one more tomorrow and he is in kindergarten all day, calling, "Bye, mom!" as he walks away from your car looking so determined and grown-up.
You will probably cry with pride the first time he makes a goal in soccer. The first time he misses approximately three thousand pitches during baseball practice - but sticks it out til he hits one. You will cry when another kid is mean to him at school. The first time another kid hits your son at a playdate, your body will become charged with a fierce protective energy and it will be all you can do to not punch that other kid in the face. No, really.
Love your parents. You will come to realize that all the annoying things they did (and probably still do) come from a place of love. You will realize that ALL they want in this world when it comes to you is for you to grow up happy and healthy and fulfilled. They want you to have an easier go of things than they did.
Keep your old friends. Make new friends, too. Motherhood is also a sisterhood. We are in this together, and other mothers will be one of the best places to turn for advice, hugs, cookies, and wine. Do not compare yourself or your success at parenting to what you see in your friends' lives. We're all putting on a brave face, but inside we're all afraid we're doing this thing wrong. Accept kindnesses and give them, too.
Let strangers admire your baby. You don't have to let them touch him in the grocery store, but stop for a minute and let them remember what their own children looked like as newborns.
People will give you advice (you've been reading this post, right?). Most of the time, they mean well. Take it in the spirit in which it is meant. If it doesn't apply right now, file it away for later. If someone criticizes your parenting, take a moment and think about whether their comments have any truth to them. If not, punch them in the face. Actually, don't. You don't want to have to explain to your child why you're in jail overnight.
Learn to say "yes" to your child as often as possible. And learn that it's okay to say "no" when you have too much to do, when you're tired, when your kid is tired, and when you simply don't want to. Never take your child grocery shopping when he is tired or hungry.
When you give your son a bath, your socks will get wet.
Some of the things that seem like a huge deal at the time - tantrums, terrible naps, your kid eating a piece of candy he picked up in the parking lot - are really not a big deal. Will you care about it 5 years from now? Probably not. Let it go.
Nothing will make your heart ache - with pride and with a tinge of sadness - as watching your child grow.
Most importantly, enjoy. Enjoy the important things: your son calling you Mommy, Mama, even Mom. Enjoy the feel of his hand in yours. Enjoy experiencing things for the first time through his eyes. Enjoy going through this journey with his daddy. Enjoy watching your parents and brothers interact with your son. Enjoy cuddling, playing ball, singing in the car, soothing your crying baby. Just enjoy.
And remember, you are a great mom. You are doing a wonderful job.
I love you, Tay, and I'm so proud of you.