When we came home from the hospital, I fed her when she was fussy, changed her, bathed her and, of course, loved her. But beyond that, I really didn't know what I was doing. Maybe I didn't need to know much more, but in retrospect, I was just plain scared. Somehow my daughter and I, like millions of other mothers and newborns, each year, survived. In honor of the nine months she has been on earth, here are nine things I've learned since becoming a parent:
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1. After a few weeks (or maybe months) of borderline terror when handling my newborn, I learned that I would not "break" her by changing her clothes or her diaper. Or burping her. Or strapping her in her car seat.
2. I learned that I now have to write things down if I want to remember anything. This has been particularly difficult, as I spent a lifetime having what many have described as a "golden memory." If I'm lucky enough to remember to refer to my daily to-do list, I have to find it. And then I have to remember what my hieroglyphics mean. And then I have to find the time and energy to carry out the tasks at hand.
3. I learned that if it's not nailed down, my baby will pick it up and put it in her mouth. Even if there's a tiny piece of dirt or crumb on the floor and I can't even see it — my kid can and she will put it in her mouth. Even if it is nailed down, she might still put her mouth on it. In other words, whomever coined the phrase, "You have to watch them ALL the time," wasn't kidding.
4. I learned that sometimes babies just have dirty faces. In the past, whenever I would see young children with dirty faces or semi-runny noes, I would cringe. "My child would never go out like that," I would think. My opinion changed drastically once I became the parent of a strong-willed baby. I do my best, but as a rule, she doesn't allow me (or anyone else) to wipe her face on a regular basis. She just doesn't. End of story.
5. I learned that everyone, it seems, loves babies. And they will stop me in the store or in a parking lot, or anywhere they spot us, and they will talk to her, and talk to me about her. Even though I am a hard-core introvert, I have learned to deal with this, and appreciate the moment I am in with my beautiful and healthy daughter.
6. I learned that no matter how big, small or exciting her Christmas gifts were, my daughter's favorite part was the wrapping paper. I have heard that babies often prefer the boxes their toys came in to the actual item, but in my experience, the paper was the main attraction. After all, it can be shredded, AND put in her mouth. See Rule No. 3.
7. I learned that I can never repay friends and family for their caring and support. I have been blessed with many folks in my life who have called, visited, sent gifts or hand-me-downs, offered baby-sitting care, or given other kind words and gestures. I will be forever grateful to these wonderful people, and, despite my declining memory (see Rule No. 2), I will never forget their generosity.
8. I learned that a single mom can go back to work full time and she and her child will survive, and perhaps, thrive. I have been fortunate to have excellent child-care providers, whom I trust and my baby loves. While I loathe leaving her each day, I know she is getting great care and new experiences and a greater sense of independence. Our time apart sometimes serves me as well, giving me a change to recharge and look forward to, and relish every moment we have together. I won't sugarcoat my experience and say that I wouldn't jump at the chance to stay at home with her if it were at all possible. Working and raising a child alone is draining, if not overwhelming, but I have learned to accept our situation and make the best of it. And I am teaching my daughter to do the same.
9. Which brings me to perhaps the most important thing I've learned. When I walk into the room, my daughter lights up. Even if she is fussy, she will brighten at the sight of me. While she enjoys her baby-sitter and going on other "adventures," she is always ready for Mommy to pick her up. I know that won't always be the case. There will come a day when she won't laugh and wave and hold out her arms when I come home, but I will deal with that when the time comes. For now, I prefer to focus on how thankful, happy and proud I am of this little person who has taught me so much in such a short time.
First-time mother Amy Dulebohn is a page designer at The Herald-Mail. Her e-mail address is email@example.com.