What I’ve learned in my first year of motherhood

It is hard to believe, but it has been a full YEAR with Andy in our lives!

Now that the roller-coaster first year of parenting is under my belt, I felt like it was a good time to reflect on what I have learned in the beginning steps of this journey.

Andy, 10.5 months {Portrait by Studio 46}

 

1. I respect my body more now than ever before

Watching your body grow and change so drastically in such a short period of time can be a tough adjustment. For nearly a year, watching your stomach expand and grow was celebrated, but suddenly [literally overnight] the extra weight you’re carrying is less exciting.

In the early days, I was in such a daze from lack of sleep that giving a $h!+ about my jiggly midriff wasn’t even on my radar.

Undeniably, the luxury to care about such trivial things made its way back onto my to-do list. Only this time I had a different perspective. My body created another human. It nourished that little body until every piece of her had grown to perfection and she was ready to enter the world on her own. My body even provided life-sustaining nutrients for this sweet little child for another few months after she was born.

How cool is that?!

Ridiculously cool if you ask me.

So I had a little extra fluff in my mid-section (and still do). If you find yourself in this position, do what I did: buy a good pair of high-waisted leggings (favorites: for work and play). Then wear said-leggings as pants for the next year because YOU CREATED LIFE WITH YOUR BODY (which, in my opinion, exempts you from any obligation to be stylish…ever again).

 

 2. My style has completely changed

I wasn’t expecting this, but the clothes I prefer to wear now are completely different from the outfits that filled my pre-pregnancy wardrobe.

My style was already tilting towards frumpy, but now I’ve totally embraced a preference for what I like to call “uncomplicated silhouettes” (aka: I like the fabric skimming my body not hugging it 😉 ). On the bright side: These styles are so much easier to sew.

I’m not sure if this is more specific to Cesarean births (likely), but previously worn waistlines (some would call these “mid-rise” or the never-worn-by-me “low-rise” pants) are no longer comfortable for me. I happily accepted that and donated all of my jeans to a local middle school.

Also, I now totally understand the phrase “Mom jeans” and I will never, ever [again] judge my Mom for wearing them.

 

 3. Clicking “share” feels like a monumental responsibility

Let’s talk social media.

The urge to share every milestone is intoxicating (in fact, receiving “likes” on Facebook can trigger the release of dopamine). But once something is out there, it moves from being a private experience to a public/shared experience.

As someone who researches social media strategies for fun, this may sound a little wacky, BUT: my husband and I made the decision to share less when it comes to Andy. We are not opposed to sharing pictures and snapshots into our lives with Andy (and we still do), but we try to be conscious with our sharing by reflecting on why we are posting the content before we do.

I could go on and on about this decision, but it really boils down to our focus on Andy as an individual. Her accomplishments are not OUR accomplishments. While we undoubtedly helped her (and will continue to do so throughout her life) to reach these milestones, they are hers.

 

 4. Breastfeeding doesn’t work for everyone (and it really doesn’t matter)

I thought breastfeeding would be a magical bonding experience for Andy and I.

It. Was. Not.

I’ll save the drama for a later post, but needless to say: It didn’t work for us…despite lots of help from Lactation Consultants.

Looking back now, I couldn’t care less.

Andy and I worked our way through a tough season and are forever bonded – not because I fed her at my breast, but because she is a part of me and I am a part of her.

 

 5. Medication is not the enemy

Whether you get an epidural (check) or take medication for your postpartum depression (check), modern medicine is available for a reason. You do not need to suffer to prove you are worthy.

I’m not ashamed that science played a role in both my birth experience and on my parenting journey. I am healthy, happy, and proud to be the person I am.

 

 6. Prioritizing self-care for myself AND my husband is equally important

Self-care for me (sewing, yoga) looks different than it does for my husband (hockey, lacrosse, mountain biking). Before Andy arrived, we had identified the activities that made us feel like our best selves and were already in the habit of setting aside time for these activities. We vowed to continue to do this. And I think we’ve done a good job!

Pouring into ourselves allows us to be the best parents we can be (because you can’t pour from an empty pitcher, right?).

 

 7. Mama doesn’t need wine

As someone who has been sober for many years now, I was already annoyed with the number of gift suggestions for women that always involved wine or that 90% of adult socializing involves alcohol, but being a mom who doesn’t drink wine can really drive home that outcast feeling.

Luckily for me I was already in a comfortable place as the community “Sober Sally.” My avoidance of alcohol bothers others far more than it bothers me.

Yet I can’t help but notice the Mommy-Needs-Wine culture around every corner. Some say it’s masking alcoholism or our need for self-care – whatever the reason, over-simplifying the complexities of motherhood to something that can be “fixed” with a glass of wine devalues the importance our role.

{If you’re interested, here’s a brief-but-good read about Being a Sober Parent in a Wine Mom Culture.}

 

8. Babies create space in and for relationships

Andy’s presence has created both space in existing relationships as well as created space for new relationships.

Distance has slipped into some of my existing relationships. While I may not be in as regular contact with some friends as I was pre-Andy, it does not mean that I’m not thinking about them regularly, sending love and light their way, and also appreciating the space they are allowing my little family. My appreciation for them may be higher than ever before – rather than demanding my focus or energy, they are kindly allowing me to focus that energy on nourishing my budding relationship with Andy. As Andy gets older and our relationship’s foundation grows stronger, I know less of my focus will be required and I will be able to return my energy to these long-standing relationships.

Additionally, Andy’s presence has created space for new relationships. I’m not talking (much) about new people. Rather, becoming Andy’s mother has softened my edges and allowed me to connect with others [who were already in my life] in a way I wasn’t able to before. Not to say “now that I’m a mother, I get it” because I DO NOT, but becoming a mother changed me in ways I could never have foreseen – including allowing me to become closer with certain people who were already in my life.

 

 9. Parenting is a marathon, not a sprint

Over the holidays I had a few days off work. Andy went to daycare for several of those days while I stayed at home sewing. I would describe Andy’s current stage as “busy” – she teeters between entertaining herself and demanding more interactive play. It’s a fun stage, but it also requires mental vigilance – my focus can never fully be on a project I’m working on when she’s around. All that said, I took advantage of a few days to myself.

One night I was wondering aloud whether this made me a bad mom when my husband looked me straight in the face and said: “Jordan…parenting is a marathon, not a sprint.” He elaborated that there was no finish line, we were in it for the long haul, and would have [hopefully] endless opportunities to connect with Andy. We are building a life-long relationship. Sending her to daycare for a few hours so she could play with friends and maintain her routine was not something worth worrying over.

 

 10. Routines are soothing for everyone

In the early days when I was exclusively pumping for Andy, I read Baby Wise cover-to-cover…twice (it helped keep me from falling asleep during those middle-of-the-night pumping sessions). My main take-away was that Andy needed a predictable routine. We mastered the recommended SLEEP > EAT > WAKE cycle and began implementing an “evening routine” (bath > bottle > sleep).

To distract Andy (and ourselves) from the “witching hour,” we would take her for a long walk around the neighborhood before her bath. As she got older and the days got shorter (walking around the neighborhood with a baby after dark is a little too scary-movie-esque for me), we replaced walking with “dinner.”

Not only did this predictable cycle of events help Andy acclimate, it also helped US (the parents). We knew what was coming next (or how much longer til bedtime on the hard days).

 

11. It was easier to judge other parents before having a baby of my own

We all know that “Comparison is the thief of joy” and as cliche as it may sound, you know it’s true. Becoming a parent made me realize how complex this role truly is. Every kid is so incredibly different in so many ways that comparing what works for one to what works for another is bonkers.

I also realized that, as parents, we are all just trying to do the best we can with what we have and what we know. Expending energy to compare your kid to my kid or my parenting style or yours is exhausting and so pointless.

Instead, when I see a new mom, I try to make eye contact and give her the most genuine smile I can muster. I want her to know that I see her and I support her. We may walk very different paths, make very different decisions, and have very different children, but we’re doing the best for our families.

 

Andy, 10.5 months {Portrait by Studio 46}

 

What a journey it has been!

Having Andy in our lives is such a gift. I’m continuing to keep my mind (and my heart) open to what lies ahead. So far, nothing has been what I expected. I’m excited see what the future holds!

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4 thoughts on “What I’ve learned in my first year of motherhood

  1. This was the most beautifully written article yet!!! You are an amazing Mother…and an amazing young woman. I am so proud of you! Love you, Mom

  2. After reading your post Jordan, I am even more proud of you. you’ve express your feelings and experiences so perfectly. I enjoyed the reading.

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