My Half-a-Year Survival Guide

Leon is six months old today! How has time gone by so fast?! He ​can now sit unassisted for a few minutes at a time, roll back to front, and scoot forward like a worm by using his face as leverage. He gets so many comments on how smiley and muscular he is — I don’t have any comparison material, but I’ll take their word for it that he’s a pretty cool dude.

Also, as of today, Leon has been exclusively breastfed for six months. Based on how tough the first few weeks were, I’m honestly surprised we made it this far. I’m proud of my body for pulling through when my mind assumed it wouldn’t. Literal blood, sweat, and tears, but so worth it. He’ll start solids in a week or so, and while I’m excited to be there with him for his next big step, I’m also a little bummed that feeding him will take more effort than “Step 1: Whip out boob.” On the other hand, it will also be cool to feed him the stuff we eat. Those diapers though…

In celebration of my favorite six-month-old turning…well…six months old, I’ve compiled a list 10 things I’ve learned so far that I didn’t hear from another mom or read on a blog. Yes, another one of these posts — bear with me. Note that I’m not claiming to have any sort of sage wisdom from the few months I’ve been a mom (cue laugh track); this is more or less just Victoria’s Half-a-Year Survival Guide™. Drink. it. in.

  1. When you get home from the hospital, it will probably feel like a nonstop fire drill for a few days. I didn’t have time to unpack at first because Leon cluster-fed for five hours straight the first two days after we got home (side note: this is not uncommon, so if it happens don’t freak out — newborns can be stressed too, but you’re comforting to them). When I’m stressed, I tend to nit-pick the tidiness of the house to an extreme degree — so combine throwing stuff around in a rush to stop the screaming newbie and being strapped to a couch for hours at a time…and I was stressed. Stuff was everywhere. It was awful. But don’t worry — eventually your baby will go to sleep long enough for you to unpack, and after a few weeks you’ll figure out what you need to have out in the open for easy access vs. stuff that can go in a cupboard. Your house will probably never look as clean, but at least it won’t always look like you just stumbled back from the hospital and are operating on a total of three hours of sleep.
  2. If you have a c-section, the absolute best thing you can do is get up and walk. I credit the majority of my quick recovery on the fact that I was walking to and from the NICU eight times a day after my surgery. You’ll feel no younger than 100 years old shuffling around the hospital hallways, but you’ll recover faster the more often you move. I know it’s hard and it sucks, but trust me — even though it seems like you’ll always be in pain, you won’t. (Obviously if you’re in serious pain as opposed to just “stiff with a side of pain,” lay back down and press that beautiful “Call Nurse” button.)
  3. After you have a baby, poopy diapers become currency. Don’t want to do the dishes? Barter for changing the next blowout. Think that actress is Jessica Chastain? You better be sure because you just bet the next three diapers on it.
  4. Yeah, you once used to shut the bar down, but not any more — now you make sure you’re home by 7:30 p.m. lest you deal with a screaming overtired crybaby (literally). You now guard bedtime with your life. Leon’s a terrible sleeper, so for us it’s the difference between two wakeups per night and getting up every hour. Just kidding! For us, there’s no rhyme or reason to how often he wakes up. Sometimes we do everything right and he’s still awake every hour. But in theory, bedtime is sacred.
  5. While we’re on the subject of sleeping, you’ll surprise yourself with what you’ll try just so you can get more sleep. There is an entire industry dedicated to ripping off new parents by promising them a better night’s sleep. And guess what — you’ll buy every single accessory, gadget, and outfit in an attempt to get an extra hour or two of shut-eye. You’ll go to bed every night thinking that surely this will be the night he sleeps longer than three hours at a time. You’ll call the doctor thinking something’s wrong, and when you find out everything’s fine, you’ll try the Magic Merlin and the Rock’n’Play and the swaddles and the white noise and an early bedtime and a late bedtime and some crazy voodoo prayer to the sleep gods before giving up and just letting your baby sleep in his swing every night. Which leads me to…
  6. The baby will eventually win. This is what I didn’t understand until Leon set me straight. I had heard this many a time before, but I wanted to add it to the list because I just didn’t get it until I became a parent. I thought, Jeez, just don’t let your baby do that thing you don’t like. Clearly you need to have a backbone and not let the baby walk all over you — you are the adult, after all. I wish I could go back and slap past-me. The baby will always win. Babies are stubborn and can outwill you. You’ll be less stressed if you just embrace it. Seriously. At this point, I think parenting is mostly about just doing what works until it doesn’t work anymore, and then figuring something else out. There is no long-term strategy.
  7. People used to tell me that modesty would go out the window once I had a baby, to which I would always reply, “Well, you don’t know me.” I’m still fairly modest, but not nearly to the extent that I used to be. I’ll usually go to another room if I’m in mixed company and Leon needs to eat, but I don’t think anyone should be forced to eat under a blanket or in a public restroom. Granted, I was a little self-conscious when I met some of Minh’s coworkers for the first time and Leon would pop off from eating to babble at them, but whatever. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with whatever approach you take. Just don’t let some old stranger lady bully you into covering up because she can’t handle some sideboob in her peripheral.
  8. Your time management skills will change. You now have thirty seconds to shower and three minutes to cook your meals for the week. I’m joking, kinda. It’s tough, but wearing your newborn in a carrier/sling/etc. will get you through most of these activities for the first few months. I didn’t discover the magic of our Infantino until Leon was a couple weeks old, and it was a game-changer. You can now go to the bathroom without the baby crying. You’re welcome. For everything else, you’ll just figure to divide each task into chunks.
  9. You are now hyperaware of your own mortality. And I’m not just referring to the fact that I now have to think about wills and backup guardians and stuff. Even though I was a baby almost three decades ago, being around another wee one makes me feel like those 27-and-a-half years just zipped by. At this rate, I’ll blink and I’ll be a grandma, then a great-grandma… It’s kind of scary that it’s going so fast.
  10. If you have a moderate to large gap between you and your younger sibling, you may have “flashbacks” to when they were a baby. I hadn’t been around a baby in the 20+ years between my brother and Leon, but suddenly I’m hearing noises that remind me of my brother and catching myself almost calling Leon by my brother’s name.
  11. I see the ladies in my mom Facebook groups post about this quite a bit, and while this is just my opinion, I feel it’s worth sharing. Baby setbacks/success doesn’t equal adult setbacks/success. By that, I mean that a lot of these moms are so worried that their baby isn’t rolling or grasping a toy properly or whatever, and while I totally-totally-totally understand being worried (and I can’t say I wouldn’t be either), I also believe that even if your baby’s motor skills/speech/etc. are behind, it doesn’t mean that s/he can’t be a happy, successful adult. Note that I’m not saying not to seek out a doctor or whathaveyou if you’re worried. I just mean that there are plenty of perfectly well-adjusted adults who took their time at the beginning. Minh was a troublemaker in school and today he’s one of the most successful, happiest people I know. And on the flipside, I was “talented and gifted” as a kid and today I consider myself more or less average. So if it’s possible, don’t stress out too much at this stage. I’m sure I’ll need to take my own advice at some point, but for now, I’m going to enjoy this little man’s personality and all the fun that comes along with it.

I just realized my list has 11 points and not ten. See, that’s what happens when you’re sleep deprived.

Anyway, that’s all I’ve got. Happy half birthday to my sweet baby boy!

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