I've always hated the idea that non-parents can't possibly understand. Yet, I'll admit, there were things I didn't know before becoming a mother. As I approach the year mark of Henry's birth, I find myself feeling nostalgic. I've been reflecting on the person I've evolved into since becoming a mother and decided to compile a list of the things I've learned during my first year of motherhood.
- You will judge and be judged. The judgement doesn't stop now that you are a parent. I judged parents before I was a mom, and I still judge. Yes, I know that sounds terrible, but it's human nature. Not that I look at others people's decisions as wrong, but I take note of what I want to avoid or do differently. Likewise, I know that others look at me and scoff at some of my choices. The challenge is to trust my maternal instinct in spite of others' choices and judgments because, ultimately I am the mother.
- You are the mother. As I said above, regardless of what the research says, what other parents say, or what your parents think, you are the mother. As someone who craves approval, it is tempting to make choices that I think will gain me that approval. Yet, I have to trust that I am the perfect mother for Henry and that he was chosen to be my son for a reason.
- You have never known love like this. This one is tough. People always say it and it sounds both cliche and exclusive. Yet I get it. My single favorite moment to date is when Henry was placed on my chest for the first time. The rush of love I felt in that moment was something I never expected nor experienced before. For the first few weeks I would just start crying while looking at him and holding him because I was overwhelmed with love. I'll be honest, after the first few months, sleep deprivation kicked in and I didn't feel that same intensity. Not that I didn't love him, but I just felt too drained to feel anything at times. However, now I can say that my love continues to grow every day. I absolutely adore my son and know that I would do anything for him.
- You didn't know the definition of sleep deprivation. People always tell you that you will be exhausted as a new parent. Okay okay I get it. Well, I thought I did. I thought I knew what it felt like to be sleep deprived. Boy was I wrong. I now long for the days when I thought 7 hours of sleep was a bad night. I haven't had a full nights sleep in over a year. And, on top of it all, sleep deprivation turns you into a crazy person. It messes with your sanity and emotions. It makes you feel more depressed and isolated and it makes your problems seem bigger. I was not one of the lucky moms who gets a good sleeper. One day, I'll sleep again. At least I keep telling myself that.
- Children are the ultimate wingmen. I've never been great at making friends. Yet, what I've found is that Henry is the ultimate wingman. Not only do people approach you more often when you have a baby, but you automatically have something in common with other moms. As a result, they welcome you in. It's like being a part of a club and your child is the membership card.
- Babies are incredibly fun to shop for. Baby clothes are absolutely adorable. It's hard not to buy everything you see. My husband says it's like having a dress up doll. And baby toys are amazing. I catch myself walking down the toy aisle at Target wanting everything. I get more excited about them than Henry at this point. The other day we went to Toys R Us, and man is that place amazing! My husband, who is just a big kid, has always loved that store, but I didn't realize how cool it is. I want it all.
- It gets easier. I wish I could go back to Henry's newborn days with what I know now. I feel like I would be able to really soak it all up. I feel more competent every day. Yes, I have my moments where I feel like a complete failure, but overall I am starting to feel like I have some parts of parenting down. At the beginning everything is so new. You are doing it all for the first time, you are learning who your baby is and discovering his or her unique temperament, and it's tough. There are definitely parts of parenting that were easier initially, and each stage has it's challenges, but I still believe it gets easier with time.
- It's constantly changing. I said it gets easier, but just when you think you know what you're doing, everything changes. Each stage is different and babies grow and change so much during the first year of life, it's incredible.
- We're all doing our best to get through. I'm determined that no matter how much someone looks like she has it together on her Instagram page, she doubts herself as a mom and is just trying to get through the day. Yes, some days we feel like supermom and others we feel like the worst mom on the planet. I believe that every good parent doubts himself every now and then. We all wonder if we are going to permanently scar or damage our children with our decisions, and we all pray that we're doing at least some of it right.
- People love to compare. I cannot tell you how many times Henry has been called a big baby or some variation of that. Even I compare him to others. Everyone wants to know when your baby walks, talks, what they eat, how much they weigh, how well they sleep. It may be good natured, but I believe that comparison is the thief of joy, and we could all use a little less of it.
- People don't have baby etiquette. I was worried that people would overcross their bounds when I was pregnant. I heard horror stories of the advice people would give and how many strangers would rub my belly. Maybe I got lucky, but I didn't run into much of that. However, the second Henry got here people started overstepping. The number of people who touch your baby is crazy. Thank goodness I don't worry as much now that Henry is a little older, but I still don't appreciate how often people invade his personal space.
- It's easy to lose your identity. This. I swore up and down before getting pregnant and during my pregnancy that my husband and I would remain the priority. I envisioned us having date nights and keeping our relationship front and center. Well, not only have we not had a date since Henry arrived (we were in a wedding when he was 5 weeks old, but that is the only time we've been away from him and it wasn't really a date), but I haven't really had any me time. I feel like my identity is solely "Henry's mom" these days. My roles as a wife and individual have take a backseat to my mommy needy baby. I believe that one day the scales will shift more in alignment, but they are definitely skewed right now. As much as I want some time alone and with my husband, I also can't imagine leaving Henry with anyone. We both need each other.
- A support system is a must. I think the most challenging part of my transition to motherhood was the amount of change I underwent simultaneously. Becoming a mom, moving cross country, and shifting careers (studio owner to stay at home mom) left me feeling isolated. For the first few months out here, I didn't go anywhere. The only adult interaction I got was with my husband. Once I got over the fear that Henry would freak out in the car and started venturing out more, I made friends and the difference it made in my sanity was incredible.
- Self-care is important. I still haven't really found a way to incorporate adequate self-care into my Henry care, but I now understand how important it is. Before having him I didn't realize how much I used my alone time in the middle of the day to recuperate and recharge. Now that I am never alone I miss it. I never knew that it was something I needed until it was gone.
I thought about putting these in some meaningful order, but I decided to leave them in the order that they came to me. Through all the ups and downs of this year, I've learned so much and transformed into a mother. I still can't believe that at times. Even when I complain about my new role, I am so grateful for the opportunity. I couldn't have picked a more perfect son for me, and I am beyond blessed to be his mother. I can't wait for all that he still has to teach me.