My baby girl is now one.
I’ve been thinking about the day for a while now and can’t believe it’s actually come and gone. This has been the quickest and most rewarding year of my life. It wasn’t all roses and sparkles, but I learned so much with all the good and bad that came my way.
Among the most important things I learned…
I am strong. Did I wake up everyday of this first year feeling strong? Heck no. Did I wake up a majority of the days feeling strong? Probably not. No matter how I felt most days, I know in hindsight that underneath the layers of worry, anxiety and exhaustion, was a new woman who in many ways was stronger than she had ever been. Even though there were days when all I wanted to do was stay in bed or go back to how things were before I had a baby, I had the strength and resolve to get up, take care of myself and my child and make the most of that day.
It’s not a sign of weakness to ask for help. To me, one of the signs of strength is knowing when you need help and asking for it. Just because you’re strong, doesn’t mean you have to carry the weight of the world on your shoulders and do it all alone. In the first few months after Cecilia was born, I thought I could (and I tried) to do it all myself. Raising a child is hard. Doing it on your own is even harder. I have a wonderful husband who is amazing with our daughter, but at the beginning, for whatever reason, I had a block when it came to asking for help when I needed it. Maybe I thought I’d look like I couldn’t handle being a mom or that I wasn’t cut out to take care of her full time. In my opinion, if you have someone that can help, ask them to do so. Having someone “take over” for a little bit so I could recharge my batteries, gave me new life and energy to be a better mom.
You may feel lonely, but you are never alone. I don’t remember where I heard this saying, but it rings so true once you become a mother. There were so many days in those first few weeks of Cecilia’s life where I felt utterly alone. I finally reached out to some mom friends and found out quickly that what I was feeling was completely normal. All of the things I was experiencing – anxiety, lack of sleep, exhaustion, you name it, had been felt by millions of mothers before me and once I knew that, I felt better knowing I had other people in my corner and didn’t have to walk this unknown and scary path alone.
Joining a mom group is one of the best things you can do. This times one million. I know I’ve talked about Stroller Strides a ton here, but honestly joining was one of the best decisions I’ve made. All of the moms there just “get it.” If I’ve had a bad night or morning, I don’t have to go and explain every single thing I’m feeling – they’ve been there, they understand and they have empathy. The great thing about Stroller Strides is not only is it a great workout with your baby, but it’s also a playgroup for kids and mom’s group with monthly “Mom’s Night Out.” I’ve become close to so many moms through Stroller Strides and I honestly don’t know where I’d be without them.
There are always brighter days are ahead. Bad days happen and unfortunately most of the time they happen in bunches. The important thing I’ve learned is that brighter days are always ahead even when you think they’re not. Babies go through phases and the most important thing to remember is that they’re temporary. There were some bad days where I completely lost it and then afterward felt guilty for getting so angry. I know now that on those bad days, no one was judging me more than I was judging myself. You can’t do things perfectly, but there is always the next day to do things better.
A mother’s love knows no bounds. This one is a biggie for me. I looked at my child while she was eating lunch the other day and started crying because the enormity of my love for her just completely overwhelmed me. I feel awful saying it, but when Cecilia was born, I didn’t feel that crazy, boundless love that people always described to me they felt when they first met their baby. I loved her, of course, but didn’t fall head over heels immediately like I thought I would and it scared me a bit. When I met her I was broken and exhausted. I hadn’t slept for almost 48 hours, I hadn’t eaten a meal in almost 36 hours and I had just pushed for two hours while on oxygen because I had a fever and her heart rate wasn’t bouncing back after each contraction like the doctors and nurses wanted. I can’t really pinpoint the moment when I became crazy in love with her, but I’m there now and that’s all that matters. I would move mountains for her and could have never imagined how in love I’d be with her.
Breastfeeding is hard. The first month of breastfeeding is awful (or at least it was for me). I got an incredibly painful infection about three weeks in and never thought a year later I’d still be nursing and enjoy it. I think I cried everyday for a month about breastfeeding, but I’m so happy I stuck with it and didn’t give up like I wanted to.
Happy tears are normal. I should probably say semi-daily tears can be normal when you’re a mother, but happy tears are a frequent occurrence in my house. Most of the time the tears flow because I take a step back and realize how much I freaking love my kid, but I also cried when she took her first steps a few weeks back because I was so proud of her for doing it.
Hell hath no fury like a protective mama bear. I went CAH-RAZY the first time Cecilia got pushed at the playground. The feelings shocked me so much that I just scooped her up and left in tears because I couldn’t handle all of the emotions I was experiencing. Of course, I know that things like that will happen, but the first time it happened was ROUGH. I wasn’t prepared to feel that way, but the protective mama bear in me came out with a vengenance. Seriously – you mess with my child, you mess with me! 🙂
Strangers (and even friends) can be mean – don’t let their hurtful words bother you. The things that strangers feel are okay to say to parents/babies are jaw-dropping. I once had a woman at the farmer’s market call my 6-month-old “fat” and said “she must not miss a meal.” Seriously?!?!?! Would you go up to an adult and say that? No, so why would you say it to a parent or child???? This isn’t the only time a stranger has said something rude to me about my parenting or my child, but I have now come up with what I think are witty retorts to let them know that their comment was rude and that my child and parenting is none of their business. It’s hard to forget the hurtful things strangers say (see “protective mama bear” above), but I know now that I need to because they don’t know her, they don’t know me and what they say should have no bearing on how I raise my child.
Being a parent is a constant learning experience. This was only my first year of parenthood and I know each year will bring new lessons, challenges and experiences.
For all the mothers (and fathers!) reading this, I would LOVE to hear the most important things you’ve learned since becoming a parent. Please share!
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