Today is my first and biggest baby’s birthday!  He might be 6’2″ and wear a size 14 shoe, but he is still my baby.

Over the last fifteen years and five children later I realize how much I have learned and am still learning about being a mom.  And it makes me laugh to think of the person I used to be.

It is amazing to me how many different books, perspectives and opinions are out there on parenting and pregnancy, yet it still took me 5 children to figure some of this out.  There are some things I really wish I would have fully understood or known about pregnancy and newborns that I never read in a book.  And there are some things that I did read in a book, but I just didn’t really fully appreciate or believe.

This is my top 10 list for pregnancy and new moms:

#1  When you are pregnant you are not eating for two.  Really, you are not eating for two.  I am certain you will read this somewhere.  Don’t take it for granted, and don’t try to convince yourself you will do better tomorrow, or worse yet that you will work harder after the baby is born.  Gaining too much pregnancy weight is awful for you in so many more ways than just making it more difficult to fit into those pre-pregnancy jeans.  Excessive weight gain will make your entire pregnancy even more uncomfortable than it already will be.  And after the baby is born you will thank yourself.

#2  While you are pregnant you will have days (often) where you are worthless.  Some days you will feel sick, other days you will be tired, and most days you will be grouchy, forget most everything and cry – a lot.  Sometimes you will cry when you are not even sad.  This will make you angry and you will then cry more.  All you can do is accept this.  Between your hormones fluctuating constantly and the fact that you are subconsciously thinking and planning for so many other things like how to set up the nursery, your birth plan, how to keep your in-laws out of the delivery room, etc. you will be mentally and emotionally exhausted.  The only thing you can do is take solace in the fact that there will be a time again in your life when you do feel in control.

#3  After the delivery it will take some time to get back to normal.  For that first trip to the bathroom have no shame.  Let the nurse walk with you.  (It will be years before you can actually go to the bathroom in private anyway, so you might as well get used to it now.)  Depending on your delivery, walking could be very painful, you might feel faint and when you do get there be prepared for a mess.  This was one of the first things I realized I was not fully aware of.  I recall my first shower after delivery and feeling panic and fear that something may have gone wrong when I saw the vast amount of blood still coming from inside of me.  Now I know this is absolutely normal, gross, but normal.

#4  Be prepared to wear maternity clothes for quite a while after delivery.  Women who leave the hospital in their pre-pregnancy jeans are just not normal.  Don’t expect this to happen.  Even if you could fit into your pants they would be miserably uncomfortable.  Choose something soft and stretchy.

#5  Breastfeeding is hard.  Your baby has to learn just as much as you do when it comes to nursing.  Like the bathroom visit, this is no time to be bashful.  Let the nurses help you.  Let them position your breast and move things around to assist you.  And don’t assume you have it figured out.  Ask questions, ask if you are doing it correctly and always let the nurse help.  This is the most help you will ever get.  But like all good things, they are worth working hard for.

#6  Do not stock up on multiple sizes of everything you can imagine for baby.  While this sounds great and people really like to pick out baby items, clothes especially, you really have no idea how big your baby will be and how fast they will grow.  So unless you live in a place where the climate is the same year round you risk the clothing sizes not matching with the appropriate seasons.  Likewise, don’t ask for diapers.  Some brands work well for some babies and not others.  Suggest giftcards.  I know this isn’t quite as fun, but you can save those gift cards to buy clothes and diapers when you need them.  This eliminates drawers of excessive and unused clothes because they just never fit at the right time.

#7  Do not believe that you need every gadget, monitor, bouncer, swing and toy sold for your baby.  Honestly, newborn babies need absolutely nothing other than diapers, a few sleepers, a swaddling cloth, car seat and place to sleep for about 2-3 months.  And that place to sleep does not have to be a crib.  Did you know Finnish babies sleep in boxes?  Save yourself the stress and save the other purchases for afterward.  At this time you will be thinking much more clearly and have a much better understanding of what your baby truly needs.

#8  Newborns sleep a lot.  Let them sleep.  And when they sleep, take a nap yourself.  I know you have dishes and laundry to do, but that can wait.  You are still healing and that takes a lot of energy.  Do yourself a favor and take care of yourself too.

#9  Don’t feel like you have to do everything by the book.  All babies are different.  Trust your instinct.

#10  Take loads of pictures.  And be sure not to shy away from the camera because you don’t feel you look perfect yet.  You shouldn’t look perfect.  Remember, you just had a baby?  These early days are precious and no matter what you look like you will appreciate the memories years to come.