Lessons I Learned in my First Year of Motherhood
At this time two years ago, I found out I was pregnant. Even though initial pregnancy and blood tests were negative, something inside me felt different and somehow I just knew. Eventually the tests confirmed it, and suddenly our lives veered away from the well-planned path we thought we would be taking, and hopped on the fast-track to parenthood.
I loved being pregnant. It was so exciting to experience my baby growing inside my body, and to wonder about what he would look like and feel like once I could hold him. It was also pretty scary, seeing as I felt totally unprepared and unqualified to be a mom. I remember at one point telling my friend something along the lines of, “I can’t believe I’m going to be a mom, I barely feel like an adult!”
I’d always felt that I wasn’t a natural with kids. I didn’t grow up with a lot of little kids in my family and I thought babysitting was the most boring job on the planet. I was nervous that I would feel the same way about my own baby, and that I’d have no idea how to comfort him or entertain him. I hoped that all of that would just come naturally, but I really had no idea.
Thankfully, I soon learned that most of it would come naturally, and the rest I learned along the way. It turns out babies are pretty forgiving and don’t really care if you’re winging it!
So much has changed since Jerry was born. We’re all settled into life with a baby at this point, but it definitely took some getting used to. Here are some of the lessons I’ve learned since we became a family of three:
It’s okay to want to be more than a full-time, stay at home mom.
Don’t get me wrong, I love being a SAHM. We knew from the start that if we could make it work financially, I was going to stay home with our son after my maternity leave ended because we wanted to be the ones taking care of him. But since the beginning, I’ve craved something more. I felt this need to be contributing to the world in ways that were separate from motherhood, and I missed contributing to our family financially as well.
I felt pretty guilty about it for a long time, because I knew I wasn’t completely satisfied being home full-time, and that made me wonder if I was just being selfish. I told a few other moms how I was feeling and they assured me that it was totally normal, and that there’s no shame in not feeling “complete” as a SAHM. It helped hearing that from other moms who I look up to.
We’ve actually been really fortunate recently because Adam is home a lot with his new job, so I’ve been able to go back to work on a temporary basis! I think it’s been a great experience for all of us, and it’s definitely helping me work out how much time I want to split between work and home in the future.
I am so much more approachable with a baby.
I have never in my life talked to so many strangers as much as I have since Jerry was born! Everywhere I go, people that I’ve never met will strike up conversations with me, talk directly to my baby, or ask to hold him. I mean I don’t blame them, he’s ridiculously cute and smiles at pretty much anyone who looks at him, but it took some getting used to. I usually don’t mind it though, there’s nothing I love to talk about more than my kid!
I think about Jerry constantly.
Speaking of which, I’m sorry in advance to anyone who is already sick of hearing about my baby. It’s only going to get worse (or better, depending on how much you like hearing about Jerry) because he is almost always on my mind. I think it’s probably like this for most parents, but between planning his meals and activities, worrying about him, and getting excited about everything that he does, I don’t have time to think about much else. I totally understand now how parents can spend hours just telling stories about their kids and it never bores them!
Let the messes happen.
This is going to sound terrible, but before I had a baby I used to see other kids at church or the mall with food on their faces and shirts and think, “Sheesh, what a mess. What’s so hard about putting a spoon in a baby’s mouth without getting food all over them?” (cue every mom in the world doing a collective eye-roll). Fast forward to now, when I have a baby that refuses to wear a bib and wants to feed himself yogurt with a spoon. And lick the bottom of the bowl. And put the bowl upside down on his head for good measure.
I used to try to avoid these kinds of messes, but there comes a point when a baby’s got to learn how to use his spoon, and a mom just has to sit back and watch it happen. I’ve learned that it’s more fun to let him figure it out and have to clean up his mess, than to insist on doing it myself.
Speaking of messes…
Just a heads up, you’ll want to skip to the next point if poop stories aren’t your thing. One thing I’ve learned since having a baby is that there is no amount of preparation that will save you from a poop explosion. It is like a force of nature – you can’t prevent it, but you can try to come out on the other side with minimal damage. It’s almost guaranteed that it’ll happen when you’re away from home, the bathroom with the change table is nowhere to be found, and he’s in one of his cutest outfits!
I will never forget one particularly bad blowout that happened to us one day when we tried to go thrift store shopping. You know it’s bad when one parent has to hold the baby in the air, while the other has to wipe down the entirety of his lower body. I’m talking down to his toes. The whole fiasco ended with an entire outfit and the travel changing pad in the garbage, two parents who no longer felt like shopping, and one very satisfied baby. I will forever be thankful that there were two of us that day, that we had extra wipes, and that we’d brought Jerry a backup outfit!
Don’t judge other parents or their kids.
This should be a simple one, but before having a baby it was easy to make a quick judgement of a screaming toddler in the grocery store because I had no idea what it was like to be the parent. Now I know what it’s like to be that mom whose child is screaming in public and I understand that he could be doing it for so many different reasons. Most of the time it’s because he didn’t have a good nap that morning, or he’s cranky from teething, or it’s getting close to bedtime. And if I’m not shushing him it’s because I know he’ll stop soon, or I’m fishing a snack out of my bag for him, or I’m just powering through it so we can leave as soon as possible.
I’ve learned that parents (and kids) are usually dealing with things that no one else knows about, and it’s just best not to judge. It’s much nicer as a parent to have someone offer to help instead of making a silent judgement and throwing a dirty look your way!
Enjoy the little moments like he does.
It’s pretty tough making the switch from being focused on your own work and hobbies, to living according to a baby’s schedule. It’s a much slower paced life in some ways, and I’ll admit that sometimes I find it monotonous. I’m not always psyched to read the same book for the fourth time in a row, or spend 20 minutes spooning food into his mouth. But the more I’ve been able to put myself in his little shoes and try to see the world the way he does, the more fun I have with him. Seeing him get excited about the funniest little things makes me happy, and it reminds me to stay in the moment with him and not let my mind wander to the next thing I want to do.
Time really does go by too fast.
You hear this from parents all the time, but it’s so true! I can’t even believe how much has happened in the last year and a bit, and how much Jerry has already changed. He’s growing up so fast right before our eyes, and it breaks my heart knowing that I’m going to forget so much of what he does day to day. I’m terrible at remembering to write down memories and milestones, but I’m learning how important it is to record this stuff because I know I’ll want to look back on it one day.
The love I have for my kid is like nothing I’ve ever experienced.
When I was pregnant, I was nervous about how I would feel when I finally had my child in my arms. I couldn’t imagine the love that parents describe having for their children, so I wondered if I would feel the way I was “supposed” to when he was born. It turns out that when they put him on my chest right after he was born, all I could think was, “Whoa…there’s a baby on my chest. MY baby!” In the moment, it wasn’t an instant connection in my mind between the screaming baby in front of me and the little boy that had been growing in my belly for 9 months.
It took a couple of days for it to really kick in that he was my son. The more I got to know him, the stronger our connection grew and the more I understood the love between parent and child. Now, I understand that it’s the reason why I think about him all the time and why his smile can make me forget about my bad day. It’s why even though I’ve looked forward to his bedtime after a long day, 20 minutes later I miss hanging out with him. I can’t explain it!
I’m so thankful for the last 16 months, and everything that Jerry has taught me since he became a part of our family. Motherhood may have its ups and downs, but it is so, so beautiful.