365 days ago, I woke up feeling great. Enormous, but great. I was 4 days past my due date and didn’t feel any closer to meeting Charlie than I had the day before, so I resigned myself to the fact that it wasn’t happening today and started planning out how I would keep myself busy. Maybe a walk in Prospect Park. Little did I know that was the last time I would ever think to myself “what fun things could I do with my entire day of free time and no responsibilities.” Little did I know that my whole life would change in less than 12 hours.
There is no shortage of advice when you’re pregnant - from your mom to the girl that works behind the counter at the coffee shop. Everyone has a personal or second-hand experience they want to pass on to be helpful, but if you take one thing away from this post, it’s that no one can truly prepare you for once the baby arrives.
Charlie turns one-year old tomorrow at 4:33am and I am feeling such a tremendous, bittersweet, mix of emotions. I feel an enormous sense of relief that we made it through a whole year and are all healthy and thriving. I feel giddily happy at the kind of toddler he has become – funny, adventurous and sweet. I feel so grateful that what I consider to be the most difficult days of my entire life are behind me, while also feeling a little sad (okay very sad) that he’s not a baby anymore. This is motherhood I guess.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the last year and what a roller coaster it’s been. So many highs and lows, sleepless nights, sleepy days, tears, smiles and amazing new experiences. These are things people can tell you about, but until you experience them first hand, it’s hard to truly grasp. Some babies sleep through the night from the start (not mine) and some babies cry all the time (mine), so not all advice is applicable, but I wanted to share the most important lessons I learned in the first year of motherhood:
It’s okay to admit you are having a hard time. You probably aren’t the only one, it’s just that no one really talks about how intense the first few weeks are. Sure, I knew it would be difficult (you’re learning to take care of another human without a guide book!) but I had plenty of family and friends who’d had babies and they seemed fine. But after a week into new motherhood, I felt like they had all lied to me. No one had told me the truth: this **** is hard. Like nearly impossible hard. I hadn’t slept more than an hour at a time, I felt like crying constantly, breastfeeding was painful and Charlie would not let me put him down for even a minute – and yet everyone saying things like “aren’t you just so in love?” and “isn’t this the happiest you’ve ever been?” No, it definitely wasn’t, but I kept it to myself. I wish I could go back and tell my new mom self that the days are long but the weeks and months are short, and that things get easier every single day. Newborns don’t give you a lot back at the beginning, but as soon as you get that first smile, it gets better and better.
- Throw out any preconceived notions you have about motherhood and raising babies . It will make things SO much easier. I never imagined that I would be a part-time stay at home mom, spending Monday afternoon at the playground instead of sitting at my desk. I never thought I would breastfeed past 6 months and tomorrow it will have been a full year. I assumed he’d be a great sleeper like me and not need to be sleep trained. I thought I would be so ready to take a vacation without him after a few months but we just left him with my parents for the first time a few weeks ago and it was SO HARD! I never thought I’d be the mom who wore leggings 80% of the time and was always covered in some kind of food or bodily fluid. I just found oatmeal in my hair from this morning and it’s 3pm as I write this. I continuously surprise myself with the kind of mom I am and it makes life so much easier.
- Make mom friends asap. I’ll never forget the moment I found the mom’s Facebook group for my neighborhood. I was sitting on the couch breastfeeding for the millionth time that day and had just finished crying about how much I loved our dog. Someone posted an announcement of the birth of her son and suggested a new moms meet up at a coffee shop the following week. Within seconds, 10 moms had confirmed. I got ready for the meetup the next week with the same jitters I used to have before a first date. Would they like me? Would I like them? What do I wear? I carefully selected my high-waisted leggings and nursing-friendly shirt and as we were about to walk out the door, Charlie spit up all over me. I stood in the doorway wondering what to do and finally thought to myself – eff it – I’m going anyway and hopefully someone else is also cover in spit-up. Thank goodness I did. I still hang out with the moms I met that day and I can honestly say I wouldn’t have gotten through those early days without them.
- Carve at least an hour a week out for yourself. I say an hour per week because that was literally about as much as Charlie, my husband, and I could manage in the early days. If you can swing more, get it girl. Charlie nursed around the clock and I would have to sneak out of the house while he was sleeping on my husband and pray that he didn’t wake up before I got home or all hell would have broken loose. BUT I cherished that hour, whether it was getting my hair cut, running an errand or just walking around the block. It didn’t matter, my hands were free and my boobs were tucked away.
- Trust that everything is a phase. This is something my mom has always said, and it couldn’t be more accurate. It is so easy to get caught up in the current phase you’re in whether its newborn, baby or toddler, or somewhere in between. Everything seems so critical and permanent and small changes feel like a huge deal, but then just like that, they’ve moved on and are in a new phase. I wish I could go back and tell myself not to worry so much, that he will eat when he’s hungry and sleep when he’s tired (after he’s been sleep trained of course…) and that this too shall pass.