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!