The things I learned in my first year of Motherhood
I'd always dreamed about being a mom for most of my life. I always knew I wanted to be a mom. I know this isn't the case for everyone but it was for me. However unlike most of my high school friends and many colleagues of mine in Michigan I was not even tapping the surface in my early 30's. I hadn't met anyone I was divorced at 29 and thankfully never had children prior to that and I wasn't sure when it was going to happen. At 34, made a conscious decision to if I didn't meet anyone by 40 I would start the process and I was determined to adopt, find a sperm donor and do it myself if it came down to it.
Well it just so happened in October 2014, I met my now husband and things turned a corner very quickly. We knew it was right and we were married in July 2016, got pregnant in October 2016 and had our baby girl July 2017. A whirlwind you might say, just a bit! But it was part of God's plan for me I'm sure and having Alexandra was the best thing that's ever happened to either my husband or I. I'm not saying it was the easiest by any means! I'm just saying it was the best thing. She fills our heart everyday with so much joy and I am thankful everyday for her.
Now, let me just start to write a little more of a vivid picture of motherhood and how it changed me. How my baby girl entered this world and turned our lives around VERY quickly. It's all part of this journey and worth mentioning because my husband and I were very selfish people. And I say this in a good and loving way. By all means should single people, or people without children be selfish! It's your time and I'm so happy I had so much time for me. We both loved to travel, we had our own lives separate of each other but also had a lot of fun together seeing the world, meeting friends while living in New York and living up our lives in the city. I will never forget that time. We miss that time a lot and we appreciate every memory as it made us who we are today. That being said, we miss those days, we miss our alone time, we miss traveling, we miss the simplicity if our lives waking up on a Saturday at 9, taking time for ourselves whether it was going to the gym, or spending time reading and meeting up for brunch later in the day and thinking of what fun things we were going to do that day. The options were endless.
Now is is different story in many ways. I usually wake up at 5-5:30 everyday to have "my time" that's really the only time I get to myself. I'll have my coffee in peace, I'll write, I'll stretch, do yoga or workout some mornings. Now some mornings that's interrupted when the pumpkin wakes up at 5 and wants a bottle but usually try to put her back to sleep if I can. Some mornings she won't have it and she's up. On a typical morning, however she's up by 6-6:30. So I know I have limited time to have "my time" and I try to keep it sacred. When she's up, I'll give her a bottle and she'll just sit on my lap quietly while I drink my coffee and we watch teh world go by until she's fully awake to start play time. I love my mornings. they are sacred. they are my time for just me, and when Alexandra wakes up, they are our time and I love it. I cherish mornings. Evenings I'm the opposite. I'm exhausted and usually just ready for bed by 9! My husband is a late owl, always has been and I've always hit my wall by 10-ish so its hard to find time as we really operate on different schedules however I'll address this later!
Alexandra entered the world with a fierce spirit determined to be born. Before she was born we had picked out two names as I wanted to meet her before I named her because I just wanted to feel her presence and I knew I would be able to pick a name. Well, it was just that she entered this world at 4:35 AM on Monday morning after pushing for only about 3 1/2 hours. She came fast in my opinion! She entered the world and immediately, they cut the embilical cord before I could even say anything because she had pooped inside of me and was ingesting it and therefore had to be removed immediatly and cleaned off. I watched her laying on the table crying and I had tears just flowing down my face as I desperately wanted to hold my baby. Finally after what seemed like hours they gave her to me and put her next to my skin and she quieted immediatly. Both mom and baby were safe, warm, happy. I could feel her heartbeat, she could feel mine. the world made sense again after a tempoary disruption. Feeling her next to me, her tiny hands, her soft skin, her fast tiny heartbeat I was in love immediatly. I love her so much I sobbed, and sobbed. She's what I waited for my entire life. Exactly what I imagined. A perfectly healthy baby girl. My entire heart was finally with me.
Fast forward to a few hours later when I was moved to my recovery room where we quickly learned the spirit and energy of this little life. At this point, we had not decided on a name. In fact, we didn't choose a name until we left the hospital two days later! We had a couple names picked out but we wanted to understand her energy first. And that we learned quickly!
On top of the pain of breastfeeding - which I'll elaborate on in another post - she refused to sleep. In fact, she refused to stay swaddled or sleep in the nursery like all of the other quiet and resting babies. Nope, our baby screamed. She screamed, and screamed and screamed. We had no idea what we had just gotten into. At one point amidst the chaos we both looked at each other and had a silent "what the hell did we get into" and "can we put her back in there?" lol. It was unspoken but we both had no idea what parenthood was about.
She only slept on my chest and therefore I wasn't sleeping and she wanted to be breastfed on the hour, every hour. I thought I was going to lose my mind. After two days of not sleeping, having the pain of just having gone through labor and my body feeling like I'd just been hit by a truck and stitched back up for repair I was a basket case. I was exhausted. I remember the first night both my husband and I were both trying to rock her to sleep he was pacing the room with her and I would try rocking her, the nurses would try rocking her and giving her a pacifier. Nope. Just screamed. Kicked, and screamed and screamed some more. She was not having any of it. She wouldn't stay swaddled and would kick her way out of her swaddle. Finally a sweet nurse came in for her shift very early in the morning and she could see I was desperate for some sleep and she took Alexandra to the nursery to swaddle her and have her sleep for probably a couple hours. That saved my life.
When she came back ready to eat, what seemed like minutes later was actually a couple hours later, I was happy to see her again and couldn't wait to cuddle her. From that moment on, now looking back, that's kind of how motherhood is day in and day out. If you get sleep, and have a little self care you're a good mom/parent. If you don't have time for yourself, don't have self care, and don't have sleep, you are an overtired and emotionally drained human that is fighting for not only your own life but fighting to be a good mom/parent. This is the cycle of motherhood. Waves that soar and your ride them until they crash onto the shore. We just ride them everyday not knowing what to expect. We hope and pray for the best and we just do our best everyday to manage them.
Depending on the day, the waves of emotions come over me. Happy, sad, frustrated, patient, excited, nervous, proud, disappointed, content, unfulfilled, overjoyed, fulfilled, the list could go on. However, one thing that remains is my unwavering and unchanging, DEEP, unimaginable love I have for this little person.
As I write this now, shes peacefully sleeping, which as a mom you wait for this moment to catch up on house work, course work, career work, personal time and anything in between. However, at the same time I have this aching, longing to just want to be with her, spend time with her and cuddle with her. As I watch her lay peacefully in her bed, like a stalker I know and its something I do ALL the time! But as a mom, or parent, you cant help it! Its that moment you can't wait for them to finally settle down to take a nap or go to bed but you just can't help but miss them and wish you could get them up and play with them at the same time. Then reality sets in and you realize you have exactly 1.45 hours give or take to get shit done! So you haul ass and get it down while she lays there peacefully.
That is just one of the moments of motherhood/parenthood that I experience daily. This tugging feeling where you have to find a balance between what you need to do to feel fulfilled as a whole person and what you need to do to feel fulfilled as a mom. Its more than that. You want the VERY best for your child and thinking of me being with her all the time is not necessarily the best for me or for her.
Now that she's turned 1 - July 24th. We have two days a week full days together. It works out great because I'm ready for those days. I have made great plans for all the things we are going to do and I look forward to those days with her. On the other days I take full advantage of when she's in daycare. She loves it, I need it to get stuff done and I really appreciate our time together more because I have that time on the days she's not with me. Not saying it doesn't still tug and pull at me for not being with her on those days. It does. Every. single. day. But what I fail to realize sometimes is the reason i'm a great mom during those times I with her is because I have time for me. Time for me to pursue my dreams and reach my goals. Having that time for me a few days a week or a little everyday fills my cup and I'm a better mom because of it. Now this may not be the case with every mom and every single mom/parent is different. I say, do what works for you and fills your cup. End of story.
Now 6 months ago was a completely different story. We were living in New York, I worked a corporate job (which I did enjoy) but my husband would drop her at daycare in the morning so I could leave early to have "my time" to workout, and I would pick her up around 6pm. That was brutal. I felt like I was missing so much. I felt like a terrible mom. Does that mean I was a terrible mom, hell no! Its just means that I needed more. I needed more time with my baby. Little did we know that something was already in God's plan and my husband accepted a job in Denver, CO out of nowhere! So we picked up our life in New York, which was not easy to say the least, and we moved across the country to Denver, CO.
Fast forward to now, August where my baby girl has just turned 1. My life has changed drastically in the past year. We moved across the country, I changed careers to a now teaching fitness and health coaching and I feel like I haven't missed a beat. I feel so full in my career, and in my relationship with my baby girl. This past year has been the most challenging, rewarding, happy, difficult, frustrating times of my life - and that's saying a LOT! During this past year I've learned more than I can even fit into a year's time frame! In no particular order of importance, except the order that these things came to me:)
1.) Patience. I've never been a patient person. In fact, I used to be a very impatient and rushed person. Living in New York I think it exemplified that characteristic! However, I've learned in my first year as a mom to not only be patient with my baby because you go through some challenging times where you cannot see an end in sight but by taking a deep breath and saying, this too shall pass I'm able to make it through those moments. Not only be patient with baby but patient with myself as a mom, an entrepreneur, a wife, a sister, a friend. Being a parent is hard work and that first year you're so drowned with just being a parent that many of those things sometimes float to the wayside to better direct your attention to your child.
2.) It's no longer about me. What I mean by this is the baby takes precedence over everyday "basic" needs like clothing, showering, having time to myself and pretty much everything. I am thankful everyday I had Alexandra when I did - at 37 because it helped me to appreciate and be accepting with this shift in mindset. I had my time to be selfish and it was fun, amazing and I'll never forget it. But now, its time to shift that focus to her - not completely to lose yourself - but to now understanding that her primary needs are met before mine. Showering is a great example! Now that I say that, I also want to stress its VERY important to not lose sight of yourself. Its important to have alone time, time to workout, time to take care of your basic needs, time to spend with friends and time to spend with your partner/spouse. Its a fine balance of making your child a priority but also making your health and well being a priority. Self care is vital to any person's health and the minute you start to lose that its a slippery slope. Yes, its definitely lost int he first few months but you slowly start to take it back little by little to a point where you find balance. I'm just getting there after a year! And it still takes work. Hang in there and be patient with yourself.
3.) Letting go of my ego. This was a hard one that actually my husband helped me acknowledge one day as we had our first short getaway without Alexandra when she was about 4 months old during thanksgiving in Florida. I was determined to exclusively breastfeed until she was AT LEAST a year old. No exceptions. I would do whatever it took. Well, just before we headed down to Florida I had gotten sick. Nothing serious but enough to cause a huge drop in my supply. I was pumping and/or breastfeeding every 1-2 hours it seemed like when she was a newborn. Clearly, this wasn't normal but I was determined the more I did it, the more I would increase my supply. Between that and trying every remedy, eating lots of oats, flax and staying hydrated I would not fail at this. Well, after getting ready to leave for the weekend, I had given all of my excess milk to the family to feed her while we were away and they suggested we maybe have formula as backup in case anything happened or if they needed it. I gave in and purchased formula. Anything organic I could get my hands on and wanted to be as close to breastmilk as possible. I ended up using Earth's Best Organic and Gerber First Start in case she had trouble with one I had a backup. Well turns out she needed it and was starving. She was taking 1-2 oz more per bottle a day and flew through the breast milk and started into the formula. I remember this so vividly. WE were driving back to get her and my husband says to me, why is this such a big deal? You are making this about you and NOT Alexandra. He was 100% right. It was my ego getting in the way because I was so determined to exclusively breastfeed. Well turns out she was just fine. Shes a very healthy baby and in fact when she hit 9 months, she just stopped breastfeeding - as you can read in my earlier post. So then my only option was pumping and formula at that point. And guess what, shes still healthy, she's happy and she's growing like she's supposed to. Sometimes you just have to let go and do what's best for the baby. We may not feel in the moment that its best, but in the long run we see that in fact it was. I'm not saying this is the case with everyone. This is my particular experience and I'm sharing in case anyone else out there feels in adequate that they were unable to breastfeed until 12 months from lack of supply, the baby decided to stop and etc. Mama, just let your baby be your guide. Lord knows we don't need added pressure from anyone else! So go with your gut! Mama knows best!
4.) Don't go at motherhood alone. keep your friends close. you family close. Seek guidance when you need it. When I first had Alexandra, my first inclination being a introvert was to keep it in and keep people at arms length. Friends would call and I'd avoid them for fear that I would have to talk about what was really going on. I went through a few bouts of mild depression and really my husband took the brunt of it until I decided to get out there and socialize with my existing friends.
Have a healthy balance and an outlet for you. Especially if you are a stay at home mom - this is very important to keep your sanity! I know the days I have Alexandra exclusively I now go on play dates, go see my friends with Alexandra and also have times when I don't take her and just keep my friend base open with other women to not lose myself. Trust me, its happens easily and if you can recognize that it will happen and be proactive with getting on an social network with mom groups, the better off you will be.
When I was in New York I made some mom friends while I was still pregnant and that was great to have them going through the same experience while I was and could talk, vent, get mom tips and etc. When I moved to Denver the first thing I did was join a few Denver mom groups on Facebook. No, this wasn't easy but I FORCED myself to go out and meet other women. I would engage on Facebook and we would set a meet up, either by someone else initiating or by me initiating a meet up. I'm still meeting with mom's and I've found on social media and found it to be a great outlet.
5.) I've never known a greater love. I love her so much its emotional to think about. If she feels pain, I feel pain. If shes sad, it makes me sad. If she's happy, she makes my heart burst with joy. Her laughter will turn any bad day into a good day. My face and lights up when I see her. Her smile, her hugs, her touch and her wet kisses melt my heart in ways I never knew could. She felt my heart beat. I felt hers. We are connected. We are one in many ways. It feels strange to say and I know. I love my husband and my family and nieces and nephews but loving a child is another level of love that is a bond that developed in you from nothing. Having a child grow inside of you, using only your body to live for the first months, relying on you 100% there is not truer form of love. Its a love that requires you to be selfless - in a healthy way - where you give, sacrifice and do everything for the best of your child. It's a miracle really. An incredible miracle.
6.) You spouse/partner cannot be forgotten in lieu of your child. I know for the first year it felt like we did in a lot of ways. I never wanted to leave her at first and had a really hard time taking time away. However, when you start to lose yourself you don't have really any energy to invest in your relationship, especially if you are exhausting yourself into your child. I'm here to tell you that is a mistake. Take time away from your child to keep your relationship alive. The dynamic changes significantly when you have a child and its more work than ever but its worth it. Your spouse, and you deserve to have your undivided attention. Work on nit for you, your spouse/partner, your baby and your family. We now have weekly or bi-weekly date nights where the babysitter is already pre-scheduled. Even if its an hour or two. The best way to connect is to actually step out of the environment and take time to just enjoy each other.
7.) This is totally random but really important for self care and really can help you go from feeling frumpy to having your S#%t together in about 2 minutes! A few beauty basics I learned to not be a complete slob everything and somewhat pull it together. These are simple, take little to no effort. Anyone that knows me knows I hate putting effort into getting ready, I find it a waste of time. In fact, before baby I did as well! A few beauty basics that are a must have; mascara, concealer, dry shampoo and lip gloss are your best friends. I keep them in my car, my purse and they are accessible at all times. The are the basic staples that every woman should have to loop presentable. You may not get a shower, but girl you still look good and are rockin #momlife !
8.) Be present with your kids. Alexandra has made me realize this more than anything else in my life. Some days its easier than others to forget about the to-do list, forget about the disaster of a house, and just be there for your child but we never get these days back. I'm reminded this a lot. Any time an older parent, grandmother or grandfather sees us walking, at the park, in the elevator or wherever, they always say, "these are the best day. enjoy them". I always think to myself, I do enjoy them. But its a good reminder, especially on those hard days to soak up every second - bad or good - because we don't get them back. Sooner than we know it they will be off to college, on their own and all we have is our memories and new experiences with our children at a different level. All good but these are wise people to say these things to new parent because they know. They too went through these same experiences and its good to have a reminder once in a while to remind us to count our blessings and to help us focus on the important stuff. not the temper tantrum that's currently happening, or the lack of sleep you are getting, or the fact that you don't have alone time. Soon it will be gone and you'll wish you had those days back so count your blessings and enjoy every second of parenthood.
9.) Listen to your gut when it comes to your child. As a new mom people LOVE to give advice. Especially other parents. Many times we also see other people parenting in a way that we feel maybe we should as well, or shouldn't. I find it best to ask my pediatrician the hard questions like what to give her when she's sick, what to feed her and when as she was learning to eat solids, when to ween and etc. I also take that advice and take it knowing I have my own gut feeling to these things and I'm learning to trust that over time. I see her. I'm with her and I know my child best. Sometimes I will ask mom groups certain questions on what to use in terms of equipment recos for strollers, car seats and etc. but knowing these are sometimes biased in some ways and also doing my own research. ALWAYS do your own research. People love to give advice and love to tell you what they are doing. That's all great. But you still need to do what's best for you and your child and many times you know what's best so trust that. Don't ever feel guilt or like you are doing something wrong because someone is doing something different. You are different than that parent. Your child is different and has different needs and understand that every child is different so trust your gut!
10.) I'm learning everyday to give myself some grace and tell myself I'm doing the best I can. Sometimes motherhood feels so overwhelming and it feels like you can't get anything done, the house is a mess, and things just keep piling up as the anxiety level hits the roof. In those moments I take a few deep breaths, tell myself I'm doing my absolute best and its okay to not have everything done. It's okay if the house is a mess. It's okay if there's work to do. I'm learning everyday to give myself grace and acknowledge the good things, notice and appreciate the good moments. It absolutely helps and does matter. Tell yourself, "I'm a great mom/parent, its going to be okay and you're are doing an awesome job."
Okay I think I've covered everything at this point after 1 year of being a parent. I'm sure they'll be more lessons along the way and I'll make sure to document them but these are just things that I've learned. I would love to hear your thoughts. What have you learned as a parent in year 1, year 2 and so on?