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21 truths you'll learn in your first year of parenthood (and no other way)
Think you're prepared for parenthood? Maybe you are, in some ways. But there are some things you'll only learn by living through that first year of parenthood. - photo by Karen Banes
No matter how prepared you are for parenthood, there are some things youll only learn as you go through that first year. Here are some of them:

1. Sleep is underrated

Sleep is much more vital to your wellbeing than you realize. Most new parents are sleep deprived, and honestly, we feel foggy-brained and bordering-on-getting-sick a lot of the time.

2. Babies cause a special kind of sleep deprivation

If youre already a bad sleeper or you work night shifts, you may think you know tired. But theres a difference between having to quiet your mind or wait until the end of your shift to sleep, and not knowing when you're going to get a good night's sleep again.

3. You are way more resilient than you know

You will live through the sleep deprivation and everything else the first year of parenthood throws at you. It will be challenging, but youll do it.

4. There are a LOT of sacrifices involved

From the outside, it looks like new moms are just out there living life like anyone else, with a baby in tow. Theyre not. Theyve usually given up a lot, from their social life and income to their bladder control.

5. You underestimated your parents

For years, you thought parenting was just something people did. Now you have a new-found respect for your parents, and maybe some understanding about the things they got wrong.

6. Everyone has an opinion on how you should raise your child

And they dont mind sharing it. In most arenas, youre highly unlikely to attract unsolicited advice from total strangers, but it happens often when you have a baby.

7. Theyre mostly wrong

Nobody knows your baby like you do. Advice other people give you is based on their own babies. Every child is different.

8. Nursing a baby is hard

Just because breastfeeding is natural doesnt mean it always comes naturally. Be patient and ask for help if youre struggling. La Leche League is an international organization offering support and advice to nursing moms.

9. Your body needs time to recover

A good guideline is nine months to go from conception to birth, and another nine months to get back to your pre-pregnancy shape and fitness levels, or close to it. Your body may never be the same again, and thats OK. Your body has accomplished an awesome thing.

10. Other parents are a lifeline

Having genuine, caring friends who are going through their first year of parenthood too is invaluable. This is important for new moms and dads. New dads have a lot to learn, and hanging out with other dads can help.

11. Some other parents arent helpful

We all know a few parents who are super competitive and a little smug. You dont need to hear about how little Tommys sleeping through the night and saying mama already.

12. Some common wisdom is useless

Sleep when your baby sleeps is a good idea, but often impractical. She may sleep in her car seat or stroller while youre driving or shopping. You may need to catch up on chores while she sleeps.

13. Your relationship has cracks

They all do, so dont worry about it. Accept that parenting a newborn will put your relationship under strain like few other things will. Youll argue. Its not a disaster. It completely normal. Manage the conflict as best you can, and know that it will pass.

14. The media misrepresents parenthood

As does society in general. Its messy and noisy and rarely pretty. It certainly doesnt look anything like those magazine spreads when some celebrity couple introduces their new little miracle to the world.

15. Everything is a phase

This is the main thing I wish Id realised sooner. Id stress over one thing obsessively for a week. Then the next week my baby would move on to a whole new stage.

16. Every baby has a thing

They dont like cars, baths or bright lights. They wont nurse if youre talking to someone, or sitting in the wrong position. They nap at the wrong time, or not at all. You just have to deal with it, and remember the point above.

17. Most things are nothing

New parents who show up at the emergency room because their baby hiccupped are the stuff of sitcoms, but we all worry way too much about little things that dont seem quite right. Its OK to get these things checked out. Just remember that all new parents fret about things that are probably nothing.

18. Babies have a great sense of timing

If theyre going to throw up, or fill their diaper to overflowing, it will usually be just after youve bathed them and put them in fancy clothes because youre going to a family gathering and you need to leave right now.

19. You will accomplish less than you planned this year

The myth is that you can do it all, have it all and keep it all together. You cant. Caring for a baby is ridiculously time-consuming. If you have plans to finish school, set up a business or run a marathon this year, go easy on yourself. Youre achieving a lot just by parenting this new human. You may not reach all your other goals right on schedule, and it's OK.

20. Nothing can prepare you for parenthood

Reading the books and going to the classes is great, but you cant learn everything from a book. Its not what I expected is a common response to new parenthood.

21. You have a bigger capacity for love than you imagined

Your baby will prove this to you. Not all at once, but over that first year, and then over your whole lifetime.