I’ve been a mother for five years now, and I pretty much consider myself an expert. Don’t worry, I’m laughing hysterically at myself. Most (all) days I have no idea what I’m doing. However, there are definitely some very valuable lessons I’ve learned over the past few years. Many I’ve learned the hard way, some, a little more gently. Of all the lessons I’ve learned, these are the five that stand out the most:
1. Things won’t go according to plan.
In the words of the iconic duo Outkast, “You can plan a pretty picnic, but you can’t predict the weather.” André 3000 wasn’t lying. I am a planner by nature. I love schedules. I thrive when I know what to expect. But I’ve learned that very little goes according to plan, especially concerning motherhood.
That’s not to say that nothing can be planned and executed with whimsy and ease; it is just worthwhile to expect that some things may go awry and that planning for the unplanned is beneficial for a mom like me.
For instance, with my second pregnancy I planned to have a C-section from the start. My first had been delivered via C-section, and my second was measuring quite large (11 pounds at birth). I even got to pick the date ahead of time. With everything planned and ready for the arrival of Princess #2, I felt both excited and at ease. Around midnight on the day she was to be delivered via C-section, I woke up to use the bathroom (again), and my water broke. So while she was delivered on her scheduled date and via C-section, it was hours earlier and by an OB I only knew vaguely. As a result of her early entrance, I was able to experience the labor pains and contractions I never had with my first. She’s been surprising us ever since and reminding me to go with the flow and remain flexible.
2. Every kid is different.
I often look at my two daughters and think, “Yup, definitely cut from the same cloth!” then moments later am hit with the shocking revelation that I have never seen two more unlike children in my life. Almost three years apart, they are both the best of friends and the wildest of competitors.
Both girls love chocolate, going outside, and spending as much time as possible with their nana. They both love princesses, dressing up, and putting on makeup. But one is cautious and timid, while the other is a pit bull. One is predictable and routine, while the other is wild and ever-changing.
And the craziest part is that they change roles at a moment’s notice. My calm, cautious, cuddle bug is suddenly launching herself off a gymnastics horse or losing her mind because we started a movie in the middle and not at the beginning. My wild renegade becomes a snuggly, kissy giggle-queen and then returns to her hair-pulling, shouting, little monkey self. I have never seen two girls so alike and so very different, and it’s made me realize that nothing makes sense in the world of motherhood, and that’s totally OK.
3. Fed is best.
This is what works for me. I nursed both girls, supplementing when I didn’t create enough milk, and I stopped when it became too stressful for me to continue. I struggled with self-doubt, self-hate, and self-criticism when it came to breastfeeding. It was hard. My production was low, and I tried everything to increase it but did not find great success.
With my first, I made all of her early food at home. I bought organic fruits and vegetables, steamed them, pureed them, and mixed them in delightful combinations. I loved it. She loved it. Then she became a toddler and her palate shifted. She no longer wanted apple/carrot/kiwi or kale/banana concoctions; she wanted chicken nuggets from McDonald’s and Kraft macaroni and cheese.
With my second, I didn’t have the time or the energy to make her food at home, but I bought all the organic mushes they sold, and she, too, loved them, and then she, too, turned.
They both now live on a steady diet of nuggies, pizza, grilled cheese, and chocolate. But they are fed. It’s not always organic, it’s not always homemade, and it’s not always well-rounded, but we do occasionally slip a baby carrot or an apple slice in and they don’t notice. They even adore and devour nana’s kale soup. At the end of the day, they are fed, happy, and thriving.
4. Always. Pack. Extra. Clothes.
I keep a spare outfit in the car for each girl. I also have an outfit for each in the diaper bag. I learned this lesson the hard way when my then-7-month-old pooped through her entire outfit (and the bucket seat) while we traveled overseas. Whether it’s a baby, toddler, or preschooler, pack an extra outfit. Make room for potty training accidents, digestive issues, and food spills. In fact, throw an extra shirt in for yourself — things get messy, and no one wants to walk around covered in spit-up, spit food, or worse! An extra set of clothes hurt no one!
5. The love just grows.
I remember being worried while I was pregnant with my second: How could I love two? My heart was already so full! Where would the extra love come from? Would I have to take it away from the first? Would the second get less? How could I possibly share this love I felt between two little people? And then she was born, and the love just grew, and grew, and grew.
Sometimes I feel like my heart is going to explode with the amount of love I have for my girls. Sometimes I feel like I am going to explode just mothering two girls. I am always amazed by how the human body and human mind can grow and adapt to life’s situations. I love my babies more than I could ever have imagined loving anyone before they were born. My fear during my pregnancy, while normal and natural, was completely unfounded. The love I feel is endless, and that is the essence of being a mom for me.