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TODAY anchors on parenthood

Culled from their own experiences, two TODAY producers provide a one-stop guide to everything a mother needs to know about her baby's first year in "Today's Moms." In this excerpt, Matt, Meredith, Ann and Al share how they felt when they first became parents.
/ Source: TODAY books

In their new book "Today's Moms," TODAY producers Mary Ann Zoellner and Alicia Ybarbo have created a one-stop guide to everything a mother needs to know about her baby's first year. They use their own experiences and incorporate stories and advice from other TODAY staff as well as hosts Meredith Vieira, Al Roker, Ann Curry, Natalie Morales, Amy Robach and Matt Lauer. An excerpt.

Welcome to the world
Meredith: I didn’t even know who my son, Ben, was. I needed a C-section because he was a breech, and they took him from me to clean him up, and then the next thing I know they’re bringing this Nordic-looking kid through the delivery room and I actually was offended. “Why are bringing me someone else’s kid?” I said. “I don’t need to be looking at these babies.” My husband Richard said, “It’s yours.” Oh! Isn’t he cute!”

Al: While planning for labor I made mix tapes and had the camera and Deborah said if you bring that video camera into the delivery room I will kill you, so I didn’t! And then she needed a C-section at the last minute, and the doctors asked me to come over and cut the umbilical cord. I looked down an and said, what is that? Oh! Her uterus! Oh! Wow! It was like “Hey Rocky, watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat!”

Trust your instincts
Something kicks in; we all have the instinct. You should at least give yourself the option not to be afraid of it. And I think that’s the biggest thing — that fear of the unknown, that somehow you’re going to be the parent that really messes it up and years from now your kid will be on the psychiatrist’s couch because you did something wrong the first day and it was imprinted on him or her forever!

You also need to learn to trust your instincts to try to get rest whenever you can, which is hard to do, and to delegate. Like Matt, I’m somewhat of a control freak and I always felt, I’m the mom, I know what to do. Especially when you’re breastfeeding, you think that you’re the only connection to the baby. I had to allow my husband into the picture as an equal partner, and it took me longer than Richard would’ve liked. But it all works out in the end.

But then once you are a mom, there isn’t a clear road map in terms of how to be and who to be anymore, and as with the creation of any new path, the dilemma you must surmount is the fear. Right off the bat, the fear knocks you off your feet and you can’t function--you can barely express your breast milk — and you’re just kind of reeling. What I needed most was to have help getting rid of the fear, which, of course, I soon realized would go away once I got knowledge.

Knowledge is power; fear is the enemy — and what I learned was that you are not a different person when you become a mother, you’re just better, you’re deeper, you’re more vulnerable to heartbreak of loving someone more than yourself. And there’s no question in my mind that being a mother has made me a better journalist and a better human being. All of us are faced with the same problem of not having enough time, of feeling guilty while wondering if we can still be good at work while being so physically knocked out that we’re just down sitting on our bottoms wondering if we can get back up. What helped me was coming to the conclusion that if I do a good job at work and can provide for my children, they are going to grow up knowing that I made a difference — and that they can too.

I wish now that I had exercised more, but I never gave myself a chance, I wish I’d taken care of myself more, taken care of my friendships — so many things I dropped the ball on. Being a mother can make you forget who you are. Try to stay connected to yourself and your old life as much as possible, and remind yourself what a great job you’re doing!

Having a baby will challenge you more than you thought possible. I don’t see it as taking away your old life, but enhancing a new one. As I fell in love with my babies, that deep rush of bonding became the greatest roller coaster ride of my life.

Natalie: Every new parent goes through the immediate phase of being overwhelmed—not having the slightest idea if they're doing the right or wrong things, no matter how much preparation or how many baby books you read.  I remember walking in the door with Josh and thinking, Now what?  The answer: He starts to cry and pretty much tells me every two hours, "I'm hungry, I'm hungry again, now I have a poopy, okay, hungry again."

I was never more exhausted in my life than in those first two weeks. I was thinking this is what medical students must feel like when they pull all-nighters. You’re just not eating as much as you should, you’re not doing what you should for yourself, and the baby is feeding around the clock. It’s just really tough.

Yes, the first three months are wonderful and sweet and precious, but it's also a grueling, very trying time with no sleep and this all-consuming little human being who needs your every ounce of attention. I remember counting the hours till my husband would get home from work to at least give me an hour to shower and feel human again.  That said, you quickly forget about the hard times and cherish all the kisses and snuggles and "I love you’s" when your baby gets older!

Amy: I read somewhere that having a baby can be described as having your heart permanently on your sleeve. That’s the truth. You’re immediately vulnerable and you see the world as a much different place. Plus this amazing sense of responsibility comes over you the moment you see that baby — you’re the momma tiger and that baby is your cub, and you will kill anybody who

On becoming a dad
Yes, it’s a major adjustment. I had my first child when I was forty-three. The good side is that you’ve been there done that, and things don’t freak you out as much. The bad side is that you’re much more set in your ways and in particular in your lifestyle at home. All of a sudden here comes this little creature into the house who couldn’t care less about order and routine and neatness or anything like that. It was a major shock for the system.

The first time I had to take the baby out, by myself, I dealt with as if I was transporting a ticking time bomb. Did I have enough diapers? What would happen if the baby got sick, or threw up? How can I prepare? When will I stop being intimidated?  All those worries whirl through your head, but in the end you’re pretty amazed that you can basically cope with everything.