As of today, you have been a mother to a crying, pooping, sleeping, (and yes, occasionally) smiling baby Blue for 1 week. You have lost sleep, your keys, absolutely no weight, some of your sense of humor, and a fair amount of your mind...but you and Neal are continuing to trudge through. Neal has one more week of paternity leave, but you are already sick with anticipation over how you will make it through the day...every day. Your biggest fear...what if he starts crying and you can't get him to stop? August 2013 Ally thinks that's pretty funny because she knows that he has already been beaned in the head with a cell phone (which is 100% your fault), gotten choked on food, and fallen off of a bed onto a concrete floor (again, 100% your fault). But that's your concern right now and it's absolutely valid. The past 375 days have taught you a lot. The learning curve has been steep. The nights have been long and sometimes they have been incredibly short. Let me share with you some insights from the past year...then maybe you will actually be able to sit back and enjoy the ride.
- Jess will give you a copy of The Happiest Baby on the Block. Just watch it. Quit being all "I don't know if we are really going to have a baby...I don't want to get my hopes up and then lose him." You are having this child. And he is going to be a little beast from 4-8 PM everyday so study up. Then, perhaps, you will not daydream of driving away...far, far away.
- Speaking of driving away...you should do that much sooner. You should not wait until Neal goes back to work before you give yourself an hour to walk through Target alone. Or even to sit in your car, in the driveway, and listen to country music. I know you are soaking your 20 million stitches in salt water 4 times a day and pumping breast milk another 8 times a day and trying to prepare dinner not from a box the rest of the time, but seriously...step away. It will make it less tempting to strangle your husband with breast pump tubing.
- Speaking of strangling your husband with breast pump tubing...you will have a much finer appreciation for how hard a marriage can be. You will feel the least attractive you've ever felt, you will be exceptionally annoyed every time you have to put on a pair of maternity shorts because nothing from life before fits (you probably need to go ahead and buy 6 more pairs of those black yoga pants you've been living in for a week), and you will butt heads over your very different parenting styles. It will actually be liberating when Neal goes back to work and you can do it your way all day, every day. And there has yet to be a time when Blue is crying and you are unable to get him to stop.
- It may serve you well to find a highly qualified babysitter. You will be starting him in daycare right after his first birthday, but it promises to be a flood of tears....for both of you. And you will be that mom that they whisper about in church...the one who gets called back to the nursery every single Sunday.
- You will beat yourself up about your inability to feed him breast milk after about 10 weeks. It's not worth it. It really wasn't worth all of the stress, worry, exhaustion, and aggravation for the last 4 weeks. He will be formula-fed for most of his first year and he'll be fine. His immunity will be fine and you'll start making his baby food around 6 months, which is how you'll make yourself feel better about the breast feeding thing.
- Stop worrying about your business...about your clients. Everything will derail...sometime around November. The train will shoot right off the tracks and land in a dense jungle for about 7 months. You'll lose clients and orders and creativity. There will be a 10-gallon bucket of tears cried over whether you should scale it back or shut it down. In the end, you'll do both, only to bring it back up and start it rolling again...because it's what you love and there is enough room in your life for more than 1 love.
- Baby Blue is incomparable. When you see babies younger than him and they are eating table food, speaking in complete sentences, and performing in Circque du Soleil, it does not mean Blue is destined for failure. It may mean a lot of other things (all of which have nothing to do with you), but it is not directly proportional to where he is developmentally.
- You should probably avoid introducing him to your iPhone. Also...remote controls and power cords. Trust me.
- It's worth a second bullet point to, once again, say do not strangle your husband with the breast pump tubing. Neither one of you really knows what you're doing, but you both have superhuman parental instincts. Trust those and trust each other. And trust that it won't always be this hard or this exhausting. Try to laugh more and hug more. Show Blue that he has 2 parents who love each other unconditionally. This will be the hardest year of your marriage. But in one year from today, you will watch your baby boy shove shredded cheese and chicken down his gullet and you will lose your breath just thinking about how far he has come. And how you did it together. It won't always be 4 oz bottles at 3 AM. In the grand scheme of things, that's just a blip. And August 2013 Ally doesn't really even remember it now.
- Enjoy the ride. You will always be anxious over changes and developments, but don't forget to appreciate where he is at this very moment. Because it's going to get harder. No matter where he is developmentally, this is the easy part. You will think things are hard at 4 months...wait until he's 8 months. You will wish he was more mobile, until he starts digging through the trash and reaching for the toilet brush while you are getting dressed. You will want him to eat what you all are eating, until he has to learn how to chew by choking on some bites. This moment is always going to be the easy part. Love it.