Today, our daughter Nainika turns six months old. The days have been long, but the weeks and the months have simply flown by, and I can’t believe we’re already here celebrating this momentous milestone. I’ve always looked forward to motherhood, but the actual experience of raising a baby has been even more incredible than I ever imagined. There’s literally nothing more I’d rather do than spend my every waking moment with our child.
To be honest, it hasn’t always been this way–the newborn days were hard. Really, really hard. You spend nine months obsessed with this thing inside your belly, but once it comes out, you feel guilty for not feeling that immediate connection or unconditional love right away. I was constantly exhausted, my body was recovering, and the little peanut that needed me every two hours for nourishment didn’t feel or look like a real human being.
But then, she slowly began to break out of her little newborn shell and develop this incredible little personality. She began to smile. To giggle. To laugh uncontrollably whenever her Dada made faces at her. To give me shy sideway glances and naughty little kicks. Her eyes now light up every time she notices her Mama or Dada in a crowded room, and her face breaks out into an enormous grin every time a stranger smiles at her. It’s crazy how much you can already tell what sort of personality your baby will have at such a young age. I’m so ridiculously proud of how fearless, spunky, funny, and loving this little person already is. They say it’s supposed to get even better than this, but I really don’t know how we could possibly love her anymore than we already do.
It’s been six amazing, rewarding months, and I wanted to document some of the key lessons I’ve learned over this important period of time:
- DON’T BE SHY ABOUT SEEKING HELP. It’s true what they say–it takes a village to raise a child, and sometimes you just have to be recognize your limitations and give in to all the help that’s being offered your way. My parents moved into a temporary apartment across the street for the first six weeks of Nainika’s life, and I can’t imagine surviving those early days without them. My mom was at my place every single morning with fresh, homemade Indian food, and basically took over baby-rearing duties while I caught up on sleep and let my body heal. When I temporarily went back to work full-time (and ultimately decided I needed more time), we moved into my in-laws’ place so they could watch her while I was away. Not everyone is as lucky to have the sort of amazing support we do, but there are people out there who want to help you in small, but significant ways. SAY YES!
- TUNE OUT THE NOISE, AND FOLLOW YOUR OWN PARENTAL INSTINCTS. There are also plenty of people out there who want to offer their unsolicited advice and words of wisdom. While this is all well-intentioned, it’s okay to tune out the external noise sometimes and follow your own parental instincts. Sure, you’ll make mistakes, and sometimes other parents DO know better than you, but these are your mistakes to make. You’ll learn from them, move on, and ultimately become a better parent because of the errors you have made. It’s all part of this journey 🙂
- IT’S OKAY TO BE SELFISH SOMETIMES, SO YOU CAN BE SELFLESS WHEN IT MATTERS THE MOST. During those early newborn days, my husband and I would take advantage of grandparents and go on almost weekly date nights. I have no qualms about spending time away from my baby every now and then for time with my girlfriends, exercise, or just self-care. That time away from your baby is absolutely critical to feel refreshed and re-energized so that you can give your baby your all when they need you the most.
- BE PRESENT, AND SOAK UP EVERY MOMENT. This one can be challenging when I’m obsessed with trying to document every moment and let’s face it, the addiction to technology is very real. There are times where I just have to force myself to put my phone or laptop in a different room and spend time with Nainika sans-distraction. Those uninterrupted moments I have interacting with her are pure magic, and no amount of pictures and videos can quite capture them.
- CONTINUE TO LIVE YOUR LIFE. Yes, my baby is the most important thing in the world to me, but my husband and I also value our lives and independence. We continue to travel and eat out, and have found creative ways to make it work with the baby. Our travel itineraries may have slowed down and changed, but we took Nainika to Paris and had the best time of our lives. We have lunches and dinners at odd hours to suit her nap schedule, but we continue to enjoy exploring new restaurants. You CAN continue to enjoy your life with a baby, but with a new buddy in tow 🙂
- EMBRACE EVERY MOMENT WITH A SENSE OF HUMOR! I think this is the most important lesson of all, and the one that’s enabled my husband and I to survive the first six months. I owe this one entirely to my husband, who is simply having a blast with every moment of parenting. We’ve had to deal with countless poop explosions at the most inopportune moments (new outfit during a family wedding, in a brand new rental car, you name it…), and the best way to deal with it is just by having a sense of humor and laughing about it. Babies are hilarious little things and while some of the things parents have to deal with are hard and exhausting, they are MUCH easier to deal when you have a sense of humor about it.
So there you have it. Six lessons in parenting from these early months, though I can probably think of a zilliion more. We’re learning every minute, and having a blast while doing so. Would love to hear if any of these resonated with you (for those of you who actually got through my novel!). Cheers to the next six months. I can’t wait to experience them with our little darling.