All the pregnancy preparedness books in the world are still no substitute for the real thing. I realized very quickly that I needed to let go of my idea of what a perfect mom was supposed to be. Not only did I reject societal pressures to be Super Mom, but I shed those chains gleefully. Here are the five habits I had to get over in order to have a happier, healthier life as a parent.
5. Saying No
I'm a bit of a social butterfly, so it was odd to add this word to my vocabulary: NO. In the wake of the physical and emotional changes motherhood brought, I knew I had to get used to turning down party invitations, not volunteering for projects and no longer being a pillar of strength for everyone around me. Learning to let go of the guilt was difficult, but I still feared the repercussions this would have on my relationships. Thankfully, I also learned that those who truly love and support you will not abandon you just because you said "no."
4. Superficial Things
Nothing puts things in perspective like bringing a life into the world. All of the sudden, the little things seem comically small and you wonder why you ever worried about those things at all. Yet sometimes I still put a magnifying glass to trivial concerns and would work myself into a tizzy over them. The first superficial thing to go for me was caring about my appearance. Once, I opened my door and the UPS man made a joke about me wearing pajamas in the afternoon. I responded with, "I'm sick and have a colicky newborn." He paused and replied with, "Did I mention those are very nice pajamas?" Wise man. I'm caring for and raising a human; who cares if I wear sweatpants?
3. Mistaking Pride for Bravery
Along with 10 percent of Americans, I have an invisible illness. Actually, I have two: Lupus (an autoimmune disorder) and Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (a connective tissue disorder). Even after I learned I would have a high-risk pregnancy, I was bound and determined to still live a normal, active life. I wasn't going to use my illnesses as a crutch. My bull-headed approach proved quite dangerous when I entered motherhood. After I took a nasty fall when home alone with my then five-month-old son, I knew I had to admit I couldn't do it all. I had to constantly say to myself, "If you need help lifting something, ask. If you can't work anymore, don't. If something hurts, stop." It sounds silly, but that mantra helped me break a decades-long habit.
2. Being Embarrassed
This is one I actually learned to get over quite early on my road to motherhood. In the second trimester of pregnancy, I let my shyness, modesty and embarrassment override my better sense of judgement. At the time I was working as a server, so it wasn't uncommon for me to end the night in discomfort. One day in particular I had sharp pains when trying to use the bathroom. I wrote it off as possible hemorrhoid issues. I also told myself that I was probably overreacting and that the blood was barely more than what I would call spotting. As it turned out, I had a ruptured uterine cyst and a subsequent infection that led to a pre-term labor scare. Thankfully everything was okay and they caught it in time. Now I'll gladly enter the TMI zone if I think it's medically relevant because a little embarrassment is not worth risking my health.
1. Being Easily Intimidated
Some of you ladies may already have a strong, mama bear instinct, but some of us just need a little extra encouragement. On a routine trip to the pediatrician's office, I brought up that my son was pulling on his ear a lot and seemed to be in pain after naps or whenever he was horizontal. My concerns were quickly brushed off because I was just experiencing "first-time mom jitters," and that was that. Fast-forward to a few weeks later when we're in the ER and the doctor is telling us our son had a severe ear infection and, by the look of it, had it for a while. Hell hath no fury like a mother of a sick baby. Never again will I let myself be dismissed or quieted by anyone when it comes to the health of my child. My advice? You have to dig deep, listen to what your gut is telling you, and be outspoken about the issue.