In a few weeks, my firstborn child will have her 1st birthday. I have reflected quite a bit about this past year — about things I wish I had known or done differently, what I will or won’t do if I ever have another child, and what I might tell another person if my advice was solicited.
In truth, these thoughts are more of a reminder to myself for when I’m racked with guilt or feeling like an inept parent that I’m doing the very best I can, and that is enough. Here are the things I wish I’d known about my baby’s first year before I was in it:
1. Newborns = Not the most fun ever.
I wish I would have known that lots of other moms feel this way too. It’s difficult enough being four seconds postpartum (and everything that comes with that), but then having to be joyous at all times at all hours of the day about being a brand new parent to a brand new human is a lot to ask for. I personally asked myself, “What have you done?” many times in the first few weeks. That thought would lead to guilt, which would lead to feeling bad, which would turn into a vicious cycle. If there ever is a “next time,” don’t feel bad about feeling every feeling, whether positive or negative — they both come with the territory. Your life just changed in probably the most dramatic of fashions. Cut yourself some slack and feel away.
2. The baby will get fed.
By breast or by bottle, whether it’s breastmilk or formula or even a combo, the baby will get fed, and they will grow and thrive. Whatever you decide and for whatever reason you decide it, don’t waste a moment feeling guilty about your choice. The baby will get fed, and that’s all that matters.
3. “The moment my baby was born, I felt…”
I was waiting for “the moment” when my daughter was born. That moment when the doctor would hold her up and I would cry and be filled with this overwhelming sense of joy and love. Well, she came out, the doctor held her up, and I felt only a sense of relief that the labor and delivery were over and that she was healthy and happy. It was late and so I told myself, “Yeah, you love her, obviously, but you are really tired. You’ll have ‘the feeling’ tomorrow.” But as tomorrow came and went, and the next day, and the next day, I began to wonder what was wrong with me. There must be something wrong with me. The truth is there was nothing wrong with me. “The moment” comes at a certain time for each person. It doesn’t mean that you are less of a mother if it doesn’t happen immediately.
4. “It gets better!”
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard this over the last year from well-intentioned, caring individuals, especially during those first few months. Heck, I’ve said it to others. And while the truth is it really does get better, something about that statement has always bothered me a bit. It’s kind of like when people tell you that it will be okay. I’m not doubting that the end result will turn out okay, but in this current moment, I’m not thinking about that. I’m thinking about when it will get better, how exactly it will get better, what I have to do or not do to make it better, etc. So I’ve committed to myself to no longer saying “It gets better!” to other newly minted parents. Instead, I’ll put in a word of encouragement or offer my support in some way.
5. Help ≠ weakness.
I’ve asked for help more this year than I have in my whole life. Needing help does not mean you are weak. It doesn’t mean that you don’t know what you are doing. It doesn’t mean that you aren’t fit to be a parent or that you are less than. Again, once more for the people in the back: Needing help does not mean that you are weak. So ask for it. If you see someone who might need help, offer it up.
6. Time is not infinite.
Your baby’s first year goes by so fast. That sounds so trite, but it is still so true. So take it in the best that you can. Take in the good times and the bad times. Take in the times when you are so tired that you can’t function or so frustrated that you can’t think straight. Take in the times that you are filled with so much happiness you might burst. Take it all in because you can’t get that time back.
7. Make peace with it.
A year later, I’m still in the process of making peace with lots of things. I’m making peace with the fact that my life is different than it was a short time ago. The days of taking off and doing whatever I want, whenever I want, are no more. I’m making peace with being a working mom. It is what it is, and it’s something that I have to do for my family. I’m making peace with the fact that my body may never look the same again. Enough said about that one. It’s a process, but I’m making peace with it.
Like most moms, I have struggled at times during my baby’s first year. But what’s important is that I’m learning to roll with the unexpected struggles and self-doubt. And from what I’ve heard about the terrible-twos and threenagers, I’m going to need to keep on rolling.