The day I’ve been excitingly waiting for, and dreading, has come and gone. My baby boy turned one-year-old last week. My first year as a mother is complete.
I survived. My baby survived. And my marriage survived.
Not only was it the most rewarding year of my life, but also the toughest. I laughed every day. But cried a great deal too.
Becoming a mother, I believe, is one of life’s greatest tests. It pushes you to your limits — from childbirth to sleepless nights. It transforms your relationships. It makes you feel a love you never knew existed. It simplifies life’s pleasures. It can be absolutely terrifying. It shows you how strong you are.
So now that the party is over and my inaugural year into motherhood has finished, this is what I’ve learned:
1. Emotions increase.
When you become a parent, instantly emotions surge. The love you feel for your tiny one is overwhelming. Sometimes it can seem unreasonable. When I came home from the hospital I stared at my new baby and wanted to bawl because I loved his little hands so much.
Or you become sentimental about everything, like when you have to pack up your baby’s clothes because they don’t fit anymore. Fear, stress, sadness also tends to be amped up with a new baby. And when you mix in exhaustion and hormones it makes for one weepy mama.
2. Baby changes your marriage.
When baby comes, it can throw your marriage upside down. A baby does make you feel closer to your partner; you are a team now raising a little human. But with little sleep, lack of quality time as a couple, and high stress, a baby can take a toll on a marriage.
Romance takes a backseat when baby is permanently snuggled in between you and your partner. There is no time for movie nights or sporadic weekend getaways; baby’s needs to come first. Try to keep up regular date nights, even though this is way easier said than done.
3. Relationship changes.
Not only does marriage change, relationships with everyone else transform too. Friendships get put on hold. It is hard to hold a proper conversation without being interrupted by a tot. Girls nights out are replaced with playdates, and wine with coffee. New bonds are formed with other mothers. A friendship that can stand the test of a baby is meant to be.
4. Moms are too hard on themselves.
There is no such thing as a perfect mother, so why are we full of guilt when we mess up? Moms are after all human and get impatient, frustrated, angry, grumpy and sad. We all have off days, and babies do too.
5. Never judge another mother.
You never know what another mom is going through. Before having a baby, I couldn’t help but roll my eyes at the mother whose toddler was having a fit in the supermarket or the mom who couldn’t calm her screaming baby on a plane. We’ve all been there, so instead of judging offer to help.
6. Time flies.
When I first took my newborn out, old ladies would constantly come up to me and tell me how fast this time goes. At the time I was exhausted, struggling to breastfeed and hadn’t showered in a few days. I thought the days were going on forever. But fast forward eleven months and the time truly went by too quick. My tiny baby grew up into a wandering tot in a blink.
7. Take the time to be with your little one.
I know the house is a mess and there are so many emails to get back to. But slow down, and take time to be with your baby. Put down the phone. And actually watch and be present with them. Be it morning cuddles, watching them play in the bath or talking gibberish with them.
8. Go with the flow
I spent way too much time googling and reading about how to be a mother in my first year, from sleep to breastfeeding to discipline. Follow your gut and do what works for you and your baby.
9. It’s ok to take time for yourself and ask for help.
For the first ten months of motherhood I wanted to do everything myself. Baby took over my life and I lost the sense of the person I used to be before parenthood. I was burning out. I reevaluated what was important to me and made an effort once a week to make time for myself.
At first it felt strange to be out without a baby attached to my hip. But soon it felt liberating, and I came home refreshed and more appreciative of my little one. If someone offers to watch baby or make you a meal, take them up on it. You don’t have to be supermom all the time.
10. It’s okay not to be happy all the time.
Motherhood is complicated. We are told to cherish every moment and that this is the best time of our lives. Right now my baby is teething and has the chickenpox, my husband is sick, we haven’t had a full few hours of sleep in days, I smell like baby vomit and the house looks like a bomb went off. I can’t say I will cherish this moment. Feeling blue or upset is normal. And the more you talk about it, the more you realize other mothers feel the same.
11. The small moments are everything.
The smallest moments become the biggest achievements; like a long-awaited poop or when your newborn finally latches. The first smile or the cutest baby talk. Watching your baby grow up is amazing. Each milestone comes and goes too quickly. And it’s the small moments you remember, like the joy a baby can get from playing with a cardboard box or from a simple piece of cheese.
12. Moms are amazing at adapting.
Yes, it has been a hard first year but mothers are great at adapting; be it little sleep, taking care of a sick child or multi-tasking. What may seem daunting at first quickly becomes second nature.
13. You don’t need all the stuff.
While pregnant I had a never-ending list of things I “needed” for baby. Truth is babies really don’t need much, and everything else just clutters up your life.