Tomorrow is the day, the day that marks one full year of my baby girl's life and my experience with parenting. I remember the days when we were thick in the newborn fog, and this day felt so far away. Not that I ever wanted to speed things up, it was just so hard to comprehend what life with a 1 year old would be like when we were in the thick of beautiful & overwhelming newborn / new parent life.
So tonight, before I wake up to my big, beautiful one year old (cue all the feels), I want to take some time to document some lessons I learned in my first year of motherhood. Because Lord knows there was a lot I learned!
1) Always put a new diaper underneath the old one before you take the old one off. No matter how quick you think the diaper change will be, just do it. It's when you forget that the changing table will get covered in pee. Along with you & your baby.
2) An uninterrupted 5 hours of sleep will do you wonders when you're a new mom. Especially when you are recovering physically and still having surges of hormones flood through your body. You may not be able to get that at first if you're breastfeeding every 3 hours, but whenever you can, give yourself permission to prioritize a 5 hr chunk of sleep. Accept help from your husband, because trust me, he'll benefit from you getting extra sleep, too.
3) Speaking of breastfeeding, it's HARD. There is a ginormous learning curve, generally for both mom & baby. There can be a variety of issues and challenges to overcome in those early days. An educated, patient, kind and encouraging lactation consultant is worth every penny.
4) The mom tribe is real and incredibly helpful. We may each have unique experiences, but we can relate and encourage one another. When you're a brand new mom and everything feels overwhelming and high stakes, there's nothing more comforting than a mama who has been there. Don't be afraid to reach out, chances are any mom is more than happy to provide support to another mom.
5) On the topic of support, don't fall into the belief that only mom friends can support you. Don't forget about your friends who are not yet moms. They can support you, too. As a matter of fact, I think these friendships can be particularly special. It can seem "easier" to build or maintain a friendship when you're in the same stage of life. When you're not, it can require more intention to support and empathize with one another when you're facing different circumstances and different challenges. Intentional friendship is a strong and beautiful thing.
6) The best advice I ever got was "don't tell yourself the hardest part is over." Caring for a newborn can feel overwhelming and intense, it can be easy to fall into believing it's the "hardest" part. The truth is, challenges arise in all seasons of motherhood. The key is to see the gold in each phase, and when you're faced with something that feels difficult, remember that it's not permanent. Difficult times come and go, it can feel consuming in the moment, but it will pass.
7) Speaking of the difficult times, it's the difficult experiences that build your confidence as a mom. The second flight we took Hannah on was 5 hours long, and I almost didn't get on the plane because my anxiety was going through the roof. Everything felt scary about being stuck in a small space with an unpredictable baby. But you know what? The next flight we took was only 2 hours, and it felt like a breeze. The anxiety I got before our first 2 flights wasn't even present for this one. It's the hard times that build your confidence, remember that.
8) I used to think there was nothing that could come close to experiencing the holidays as a kid, but it turns out it's true what they say; experiencing the holidays with your child brings back all the magic & joy, and then some.
9) Growing pains are real and involved in any big change. Whenever there's a big change to your routine, whether it's becoming a mom or going back to work or anything that affects your daily life, give yourself time. You'll find your new normal.
10) It takes a village, so build yours. Find people you trust to watch your baby so you can have time to yourself or go on a date with your husband. It really is good for everyone!
11) In my one year of experience, I've become a big believer that no matter what challenge you're facing, there's someone experienced who can help. Breastfeeding probs? Lactation consultant. Sleeping issues? Sleep consultant. Feeling like you're not yourself? Go see a counselor, find one who specializes in maternal mental health if possible. There are professional resources for all areas of struggle, find them. Use them. You may feel alone and overwhelmed, but there's help. And that help can make the world of a difference. Don't struggle alone!
12) The whole "self care" thing can be really tough as a mom. Do what you need to to find time for yourself, even if that means getting up earlier before baby. But here's the other thing, while self care is important, so is sleep. Learn to listen to what your body needs, and then give yourself permission to prioritize that. If it's time to yourself, carve out some time for that. If it's sleep, ditch the alarm and let yourself sleep until your baby wakes you.
13) If you're not jiving with your pediatrician, find a new one. Trusting someone with your baby's health is a big deal, be sure to find a doctor you feel totally comfortable with.
14) Traveling with a baby may be stressful, but it's worth it. The memories you make are priceless, and well worth any extra stress.
15) Babies + food = mess. Embrace the mess! The reality is, parenting is messy. Life is messy. Learning to embrace the mess now will be worth it when the mess is more complicated than food that can be wiped up. I'd rather my daughter feel perfectly comfortable bringing her mess to me than feeling like she always has to be perfectly put together to get my approval.
16) Babies cry. Hannah was a predominantly happy baby, but she was also a huuuuge mama's girl. Which meant if she left my arms, there was a good chance the crying was imminent. I used to worry about how her cries would annoy other people or hurt their feelings. But you know what? Babies cry. Most people know that and are perfectly okay with it. But if they're not? That's okay too. When my baby's upset, my first priority should be tending to her, not managing the opinions of people around me.
17) When dealing with mama friends, learn to discern the difference between when someone simply wants to express their struggles versus when they want advice. I'm a solution kinda girl, so I love to offer ideas that may help. But sometimes, someone just wants to be heard. And if that's the case, the best way to support is to provide a listening ear.
18) Put your marriage first. It can be real easy to let parenting take priority, but here's the thing that I believe with my whole heart: giving your child a healthy marriage is the best thing you can give them. It not only gives them an example, but it affects the environment around them. Putting your marriage first is putting your child first.
19) Be present, because the days go fast. The phone and tv will be there after she goes to sleep, so when she's awake, give her as much of your attention as you can.
20) Parenting is a daily opportunity to put someone else before yourself. It's a self-sacrificing work, and it's the most rewarding work I've ever done. The love I feel for my Hannah Laine is a love unlike I've ever experienced, and getting to put her before myself is a privilege and insane blessing that I hope I never take for granted.
If you're reading this post, it probably means you've played a role in my first year of motherhood. Whether you're a friend I've texted at 1 in the morning or frantically Face Timed for mom-friend-medical-advice, or if you're a social media friend who has encouraged me through our virtual friendship, I appreciate you more than I can say. You're a part of my village and my tribe, so thank you.
I'd love to know, what's something you've learned lately? Be it something about motherhood or the current season of life you're in. You never know how sharing what you're learning could encourage someone else, so let's hear it!
This weekend, I took Hannah to the zoo with a friend & her kiddos. While hanging out and letting the kiddos run around (or in Hannah’s case, practice standing) in the air conditioned and therefore best exhibit in the zoo, the Orangutans, we ran into a couple who was there with their tiny one month old baby. As we chatted and they expressed how they just needed to get out of the house and walk around, I was immediately taken back to when PJ & I were in the exact same situation with our 3 week old Hannah.
We chatted about breastfeeding struggles, lack of sleep, and all the crazy aspects of what I fondly look back on as the newborn fog. We talked about how insanely difficult it is to latch a newborn to your boob in public when you can't even see them because you're trying to stay modest under a nursing cover. I remember those early days so clearly and so distantly at the same time, because it really was a fog. There were so many high highs, and so many intensely overwhelming and anxiety filled moments as well.
Since I have already documented my birth story, I wanted to take some time to document my postpartum experience as well. Everyone has different experiences, but for me, postpartum was by far the most difficult part of my pregnancy / birth / becoming a parent experience. It was also the part I had given the least thought to, since prior to having a child, it's very hard to imagine and prepare for what things will be like post-birth.
Immediately after giving birth, I felt like a rockstar. That epidural was clearly still working well because I was on a high, and didn't feel anything but pure joy and excitement over what had just happened. I was able to walk to our postpartum room unassisted, and was genuinely feeling like the hardest part was behind me. Little did I know that a few days later, I'd be saying I would give birth all over again in comparison to how I was struggling through postpartum.
I don't want to paint a miserable picture, because honestly, for every difficult moment there were far more beautiful moments of just marveling at the new little being in front of me. That's what was magical about my newborn fog experience, the joy was still so tangible even amidst the difficulty of it all. After a hard day, I would always look back in my camera roll (because you bet I was taking hundreds of pictures a day) and remember that the day wasn't all bad, there were always sweet moments captured to remind me of that.
48 hours after giving birth, I was sore all over my body. My legs were sore, my stomach muscles were sore, my back was sore, my arms were sore and my boobs were sore. Everything hurt! My body was recovering from just giving birth, my boobs were quite literally torn up from breastfeeding, and my arms were adjusting to carrying a newborn around all day. I remember wondering if I would ever feel normal again, which sounds a little dramatic but at this point, everything felt unknown.
When you're pregnant, you know the end result is a baby. You don't know exactly how that baby will arrive, whether by vaginal birth or C-section, whether early, on time, or late, or whether naturally or induced. But you know that baby's coming out one way or another! What I didn't realize was how much unknown would be involved in my first postpartum experience.
Would it always hurt to pee? Would my boobs always be uncomfortable from now on? Would the damage from my daughter's tongue tie ever fully heal? How long until I can comfortably walk longer distances? What's the difference between postpartum depression & baby blues? I had been put on blood pressure medication after needing to be induced for high blood pressure, and when my levels didn't go down after those first few weeks, I wondered if I'd always need to be on medication. There was so much unknown, and even though countless people reassured me that yes I would heal, and yes my boobs would feel normal one day, and yes my blood pressure would go down, it's one of those things where unless you've experienced it, it's hard to know for sure. And I'm sure the hormones didn't help with my naturally worst case scenario thinking.
I remember feeling much more comfortable and "myself" when I was around other people. Some people prefer to cocoon and stay isolated for a bit after having a baby, but for me I craved company and visitors. I loved having people over, and I really loved having my mom stay with us for a bit. It helped break up the routine, and socializing helped me focus on all the exciting and positive thoughts in my head. It was when the night hit when isolation and baby blues would surface, which I now know is extremely common & normal. I remember feeling a general sense of heaviness as the sun would set, like night time meant being alone with my feelings. Every night I would countdown the hours / feedings until 5AM passed, then I'd feel a rush of energy and excitement that came with a new day. Daylight would bring with it a flood of all the positive emotions, and nighttime seemed to do the opposite.
In those early weeks, I switched off between our rocker, couch and bed. I would have one breastfeeding position that felt semi-natural, and I'd stick with it for a few weeks until a new one would feel a little more natural. At some point, I stopped needing to use the hospital grade underwear and ginormous pads. Eventually, it stopped hurting to pee. My boobs no longer felt crazy uncomfortable from engorgement. I could actually enjoy a hot shower. After a few weeks, my blood pressure went back into normal range and I was able to stop taking the medication. We got Hannah's tongue tie revised, and the damage to my boobs finally healed (after 10 looong weeks). The nights gradually stopped feeling as intense.
At some point, I started feeling like myself again. And not just myself emotionally, but physically too. Both of those things took time.
When I saw that couple at the zoo, I felt so much compassion for them. I may not know exactly what they're going through because we all experience becoming parents differently, but I can empathize with the intensity of it all.
I could have sat with them and talked to them for hours, but I recognized that not everyone wants to sit and have a deep heart to heart with a stranger (shocking, I know). Instead, I looked at my big beautiful 10 month old girl, and looked back at them. "It gets better," I said.
And it does. Whatever struggle you face in the postpartum period, it gets better. Breastfeeding gets easier. Your body heals. You eventually will get more sleep. The hormones feel less crazy. And as all of those things settle down, one thing amplifies: your love for your child.
If we're connected on social media, you probably saw that our little family just got back from a vacation all the way across the country in Massachusetts. While we've flown with Hannah before, this felt like a whole new ballgame going from a 1 hour flight to CA to a 5 hour flight across the country. To say we were nervous for that first flight would be an understatement. Just ask my mom, who I called minutes before boarding saying I wanted to cancel the whole thing and go home (ha!).
The beginning of our trip proved to be the most challenging, and it ended up being smooth sailing from there. We made so many memories in the last week; as we were recapping them this evening over a takeout dinner back home, it was hard to pick our favorites. This vacation taught me a thing or two about traveling with a baby, and I thought I'd take the time to document and share them. If for no other reason, so I can look back on this post the next time I'm tempted to cancel a trip due to traveling anxiety, ha!
One: Traveling can be stressful for everyone; don't forget that applies to your baby, too.
Our flight back to Arizona was drastically different than our flight to Massachusetts. There were likely multiple factors that affected this, but I think one of them came down to being in tune with my baby's stress level, not just my own. Hannah is an incredibly happy baby. She was in a great mood when we first arrived at the airport for our flight to MA, so I didn't really think to pay attention to the fact that she may be anxious just like I was. After all, this was all new for her too, right? Even though she had been on a flight before, that doesn't make it any less overwhelming on her tiny mind and body. And it's true what they say that babies pick up on your stress, which we most definitely were feeling.
In hindsight, I can see that there were a few things I did that contributed to Hannah's pre-flight meltdown. I'm not saying it was my fault, there are lots of factors that lead to a baby melting down (like being overtired and hungry, that's enough to make anyone melt down!). But I am saying that I know my baby, and I know there are a few things she does not like. She doesn't like seeing me walk away, and she doesn't like being passed off to strangers. I walked away to go get food, and as we were boarding the plane, I accepted help from a totally well-intentioned flight attendant who offered to carry Hannah on the plane for us. In the midst of an already overwhelming situation, these were not what Hannah wanted to happen. I learned from our first flight that while I can't prevent all meltdowns, I can be in tune with my baby and try to avoid adding stress to a situation that is likely already stressing her out.
Two: If possible, keep to your regular schedule even with a time difference.
Now before I even dive into this one, I'll admit that this isn't always possible. But if it is, I 100% think it's worth paying attention to. I say this because with a 3 hour time difference, we were able to make it so our first night at home our daughter is asleep in her crib at the same time as usual, and therefore shouldn't be waking up at 3AM instead of 6AM. Win!
We kept Hannah on her same sleep schedule, just 3 hours ahead. She normally sleeps from 7PM - 6AM every night, so in Massachusetts we had her sleeping from 10PM - 9AM. This worked out great because we didn't go to bed much after her, so that means we got an extra 3 hours of sleep each night. (And all the new parents are raising praise hands alongside me because that's a BIG deal!) She normally naps at 9AM and 1:30PM each day, so we aimed to have her nap at 12PM and 4:30PM to keep everything as normal as possible. Some days, that just didn't work out because we were on the go, but on those days we kept her nighttime sleep schedule the same and called it a win. Overall, her sleep was just as consistent and predictable as it is at home, and that made traveling way more enjoyable for all of us and our transition back to our regular time zone a whole lot smoother!
Three: People are kind. And if some people aren't, focus on those who are.
I don't think I can count the moments on this trip that people were exceptionally kind to us. I know there's something about a baby that softens people, so I won't expect this treatment all the time, but still! I was blown away by how kind and helpful people can be. People carried luggage for us, gave up seats for us, held elevators or doors for us, allowed us to go before them in line, complimented our baby, just to name some examples! It's easy to worry about inconveniencing or annoying others when traveling with a baby, but this trip showed me that doing that can just stress you out. Especially when you're mid meltdown with easily a hundred strangers surrounding you. In those moments, focus on your baby. The people around you are likely a whole lot kinder and more compassionate than you'd expect, and if they're not, well chances are you'll never see them again.
Four: Don't work yourself up about something that hasn't happened yet.
Ya'll, even though my baby did amazingly well on our flight home, there's still something about being stuck in a really small space surrounded by a bunch of strangers in very close proximity with a very active baby on my lap for 5 hours that sounds, well, not appealing? Ha! Just being honest here. It's not exactly on the top of my list of ways I'd choose to spend my day.
But here's the thing, the way I imagine it when I'm stressing out is almost always worse than it really plays out to be. Even when Hannah did bring to fruition some of my worst fears by completely screaming in the airport terminal and during takeoff, it still was short lived. She did not cry the whole flight, and as a matter of fact, she was quite pleasant! She happily gave the biggest grins to anyone who made eye contact, and made me so proud at how she woke up during our descend, saw I was still right beside her, and then went back to sleep through the rest of landing. She did great!
When I'm stressing out, it's usually over an imagined worst case scenario. For our flight home, I tried really hard to consciously not worry about the unknown that lay ahead of me for the next 5 hours. And you know what, I'm glad I didn't worry because our flight ended up being enjoyable! Hannah didn't cry at all, and I even was able to pass her off to PJ a few times to get some moments to myself. (Moments to yourself are few and far between as a parent, am I right?) We tag-teamed, and it went great! So my lesson learned? Don't let something stress you out until it's actually happening.
Five: It's worth it. So, so worth it.
We definitely had a stressful traveling experience on the way to our vacation, and there was a point along the way that I legitimately wondered to myself "why do people travel with kids?" But it didn't take long for me to change my tune and see that no matter how much stress the traveling aspect brings, it's so, so worth it. Getting time away from work to just make memories with my little family? Priceless. Getting to spend time with family who I hadn't seen in 14 years? Priceless. Getting to experience things I remember as a kid with my baby? Priceless. No matter how expensive or stressful traveling can be, especially when you add the element of bringing a baby and a zillion baby related items along, it is so worth it.
We brought Hannah on her first roadtrip when she was just 8 weeks old, and we almost didn't go because of all the unknown that came with traveling with a baby. As I was debating back and forth, my mom advised me with just two simple words: "Be adventurous." She always reminds me, you can't stop living your life just because you had a baby. And it's true! The adventure is always worth any stress it brings, because the adventure is so much more rich and full now that we get to experience things through the eyes of our baby girl, too.
Today, I want to talk about marriage. And before I even get started, I want to issue the disclaimer that this is not coming from a place of feeling like we have this marriage thing all figured out. As a matter of fact, I have reached out to multiple friends over the course of the last few weeks asking for prayer and wisdom regarding specific things we're walking through in our marriage. But more on that later.
We've been married for just over 3 years & we have about 5.5 months of parenting experience under our belt so far. We are by no means marriage experts, but I am a big advocate of healthy and loving communication within marriage. If sharing some things I've learned so far will help someone else strengthen their marriage, even just one person, then I'm gonna do it.
So with that disclaimer out of the way, here are 5 things you can say to strengthen your marriage. Along with some pictures of PJ & I at various points in our engagement / marriage, because who doesn't like a walk down memory lane. :)