I have to just start this out by saying that this post almost wrote itself while I was rocking my baby to sleep for her first nap of the day in the semi-darkness of the early morning beside the thrumming space heater we use to keep her room warm in the winter. (Yes, winter: keep reading, friend.)
It flowed effortlessly from untethered thoughts into writerly phrases appropriate for a blog post, and I very quickly had the things I wanted to share that have each felt like little epiphanies since giving birth.
Typing out the blog post that was written so easily in my mind, though?
Quite a lot more difficult. What with a baby that then refused to nap every time I tried to transfer her into her crib, and later decided it was a fun game to practice her new standing skills by crawling all over me while I sat in her play pen with her and attempted to transfer thought to blog post, smashing her little fists and trying to eat the laptop.
…. And that was MONTHS ago.
No, I’m not kidding: that moment I described above rocking my baby to sleep, plus the intro to this blog post? I wrote it MONTHS AGO. How many months, you ask? I’m embarrassed to say. And it’s been sitting unfinished in my drafts since.
Sigh. Sometimes you just have to accept the roadblocks that be, and roll with the chaos. And that’s “things-I’ve-learned-through-motherhood:” number one.
- Find comfort in accepting the chaos of this life season. This is a season that’s supposed to be about celebrating (and surviving) all the firsts: baby’s first bath, steps, words; temper tantrum, big fall; first birthday. And it’s also a season of firsts for us: mom’s first panic attack… Haha. It’s joy-filled, but it’s chaotic and it is far from easy. I’ve never experienced more glee and contentment and simultaneous spiraling anxiety. So if the day was pure chaos and all I achieved was to reach bedtime? Mission accomplished.
- Trust your intuition. Lean into those gut feelings that push you toward doing something one way versus another in parenting (despite advice to the contrary); that horrible prickle at the nape of your neck that tells you something is wrong with your child. But also…. check in with yourself (or ask a partner) whether a scary thought might be your anxiety speaking to you instead of actual instinct. I have had to work very hard to tease out the two. That’s been one of the tough lessons, but I’m continuing to fight the good fight.
- It’s okay to change your mind. I’ve found motherhood to be sooo much about flexibility, and my ability to adapt and learn as I go. I might’ve set out to parent a certain way and found that it didn’t work, or set goals for achieving something that winds up just not being achievable at the present. For example, at first I was fairly certain I would “never” sleep train my child (and in fact we co-slept for many nights during the first 6 months of Goldie’s life), and yet sleep training ended up being the best decision for our family after she hit 6 months, and most especially for Goldie, who now points to her crib most nights and immediately relaxes and rolls over to sleep before we even leave her room – whereas when we used to rock her to sleep, she could be up for hours, eyes finally deceivingly closing… until the moment when we would cautiously try to lay her down, when they would pop open wide: an adorable ticking time bomb.
- Every baby – just like every person – is different. What works for someone else and their baby might not work for you and your baby. Try not to worry unnecessarily, and try not to judge unnecessarily.
- It’s okay to feel overwhelmed. I’ve found that most of us are – despite our social media presence.
- Go outside. It just always helps.
- Let your partner have their own way of doing things. I’m still learning to lean into this one, but again: it’s worth the internal battle you fight in giving away some control, because often the way my husband does things lets his own unique parenting skills shine, and sometimes might even be better than the way I had been doing things. Emphasis on the sometimes. 🙂
- Do things for you, but don’t feel pressured if that doesn’t look the way it used to. It’s kind of a brand new life, after all.
- Make mom friends who you can text about anything, or join an online community with a discussion board. Luckily for me, I had some friends who were pregnant at the same time as me, and we have been able to share all of the new mom moments together (albeit virtually). I’m still looking for mom friends in my area — so this advice to you will serve as a little reminder to me as well, haha. Get out there and mingle, mama!!!! (Mingle is one of my cringiest words, ugh.)
- Just like all the ‘firsts’ with a child can be fun (but also challenging!), the lasts can be sad (orrrr a source of relief!). It’s okay to feel how you feel! I have honestly felt relieved not to have to rock Goldie for hours in her rocking chair to get her to sleep for naps and nighttimes, and thus don’t feel very sad over the last time that I rocked her to bed. I know the time may come again when she needs that, and I am letting myself enjoy a less stressful nighttime routine for now. Contrarily, I cried (sobbed) in the shower when it hit me that I’d had my last nursing session with Goldie at 13 months), and I hadn’t really savored it like I would’ve if I’d been thinking about it. Mama emotions can be tough – but I think they’re all valid.
- Advocate for your child, even if you think people might judge you for it. I’ve had to do this semi-aggressively at the doctor’s office, though I was at first scared to seem like an just an overly cautious first-time mom. But when I did — it may have saved my baby’s life.
- Don’t put so much pressure on everything to be perfect. Giving your baby a magical childhood sometimes looks like letting things (and them!) get a little bit messy.
- My mood, as a mother, seeps through the entire household like honey on warm toast. I’ve had to learn to do what it takes to take care of myself and my happiness, so that I can take care of those who need me. And because I deserve it, too. **I know that lacking a support person could make this so much more difficult.** So a bonus thing I’ve learned in these 13 months is how very lucky I am to have my best partner in life and parenting in the form of my husband.
PS… Goldie loves these green rainboots, and something I will always remember about her at 13 months old is how she’ll walk over to where they sit in our entryway, pick them up, and gesture at me emphatically to put them on for her. She’s a character, and we love her so so much. Even when I end each day with a sore back from chasing after her whilst hunched over at her level like Golum. RIP to my good posture.