Lessons from my first year of motherhood

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Can you believe it? Alexander Richard Royce is turning 1 this Sunday. Oh dear oh dear, where did the time go. I’ve been thinking back a lot to the time just leading up to his birth and sorta feeling wistful. After you’ve had kids, you begin to miss the incredibly mundane shit of your old life. Parenthood is so fundamentally weird, it’s amazing to me that so many people do it. But it’s also a time of extreme personal growth and discovery. I’ve learned a lot of things I hope will help other parents just starting out.

It gets better.

It’s what everyone tells you in the first couple months. First you have to get through the first month, then the first three months, then the first six months, etc… There’s always obstacles to overcome. But your baby doesn’t stay tiny and helpless forever. Alex is now a robust young lad. He can climb up and down the stairs without help. He actually climbs on everything and back down and we haven’t had a fall yet. He engages with the books we read him. He can play the glockenspiel (you know, sorta). He can hold his own bottle and feed himself food. He has a sense of humor and makes us laugh. Our jobs as parents are so much different now than they were when he was tiny. Yesterday I was tossing him on some pillows and tickling him and he was shrieking with laughter. When you get to that stage, it’s so fun and rewarding. We know Alex now.

You have to take it one day at a time.

In the beginning, when we’d be winding down for bed, I started to dread the next day. Alex was tough to figure out at first and when I was alone with him for 8 hour days it was terrifying and isolating. Eventually I learned just to take it one minute at a time. He’s fed and freshly diapered? OK. That’s good enough for right now. Then I would take it an hour at a time, and then a day. I still take it just a day at a time. Some nights he goes down for bed at 6:30pm, and doesn’t wake up for a feeding until 4:30am. Doesn’t sound ideal, but it’s better than the nights when he wakes up at 9:30, and then 11:15, and maybe he just doesn’t go back to sleep for hours. I take those small comforts and sustain myself on them. I know not every day will go well, but it’s just a day, and the next day will be different.

It’s weird the stuff I tolerate now.

Just a couple weeks ago I was putting Alex to bed by myself because Alan was out working late. I fed him some supper, diapered him, dressed him for bed, read him books and was giving him a bottle in the dark, our bedtime routine. And then it happened. He vomited all over himself, and me, and the chair, and the floor. I had no idea what to do but I had to do something so I laid him in his crib and even though he was an absolute mess and upset, I was calm. I smiled at Alex and reassured him that it was fine. I peeled my shirt off and threw it on the floor. I undressed him and put him in the bath. That’s the kind of scenario I would’ve dreaded thinking about finding myself in. When it happens though? You just go with it. I’ve dealt with monster poops and being puked on now more times than I can count.

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Being a working mom makes me a better mom.

I know lots of women feel this way, and I know lots of women feel completely whole as a full time mom. This is something I struggled with. I felt guilty for wanting to get away, but just being a caregiver was not fulfilling for me. I had a longer maternity leave than most women in America, and that was valuable in getting to know this little guy, but it also meant that returning to work was something I really wanted and was ready for. Now the time I spend with him feels like better quality. We play and giggle together. I feed him his dinner. I’m happy to cuddle with him in the middle of the night for feedings. Part of it is just the passing of time and feeling more comfortable as a mom, but it’s also that I get to be creatively fulfilled now. And I like that I can do a coffee run and it’s not a whole thing.

Take lots of photos and video (don’t necessarily share all of them).

I mean hey, it’s your life, your kid. Share what you want. Since having a baby, I LOVE seeing other peoples’ pictures of their babies. But I personally feel self conscious about spamming my feeds with pictures of Alex. This year my Instagram has seen a lot of him, admittedly, but I always tried to accompany photos with an anecdote, or, when I posted a video, it had to be a GOOD video (like this video of him taking his first steps or this one where he sees the kitty after a nap.) But I can’t recommend enough taking a ton of photos and video for yourself. You will forget a lot about this time, and especially the little details. And take selfies (or better yet, selfie vids!). Of you and your kid. He likes to see himself and you’ll appreciate them later on.

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Make time for #SelfCare. Seriously!

Since having a baby I have discovered (or rediscovered rather) that I fucking love being pampered. Massages, pedicures. Boom. Before the summer, I was getting a massage every 4-6 weeks. My body was broken from carrying, delivering and caring for this big baby. In weeks and months before he was born I was getting prenatal massages and pedicures. You do what you can to make yourself feel human, because motherhood definitely beats you down in the beginning. Doing something for yourself, even if it’s running errands without the baby, is healthy. TREAT YO SELF. And dad deserves a break too. Any time Alan expresses a desire to go hang out with friends or whatever, I support that. Parents still need to have their own lives. We have to recharge ourselves.

You lose part of yourself, but you find a new part.

The last year I’ve gone through an identity crisis and emerged as a more confident, capable woman. Trying to settle into the new role of “mom” was unbelievably difficult. i was trying to figure out how to fit this new identity alongside my old one. I sometimes really grieve for my old life. I worry sometimes that I had a baby at a time when my career was on the rise and I lost all that momentum and now I have to fight my way back in. There’s so much anxiety that comes with becoming a mother.

But ultimately, being a mother has improved my character. I’m more patient, more responsible, more driven, creative and focused, and I genuinely love doing “mom stuff”. And I’m finding that I can take the parts of me that I love from my old life and still have them as a mom. I like being a mom with tattoos and a cool creative career. I like listening to David Bowie with my baby and dressing him in my color scheme. I liked having a weekly photo. We found a way to fit Alex into our lives instead of having to change ours.


Finally, I want to share a bit of wisdom that someone shared with me when I was seeking career advice that I think relates well to parenthood too. Because everyone wonders if they’ll be a good parent and how they’ll possibly cope with this enormous responsibility.

If you can, then you should. If you must, then you will.

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I’m Glad I Spent it With You

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Photos by kaley from kansas

My time as a stay-at-home-mom is over! (for now)

I’m sad and relieved, scared and excited. Motherhood is like that. Warring feelings at every turn. Putting Alex in daycare was an inevitability, but we always thought it’d be in November-ish, after his first birthday. When Alan texted me in July that there was a part time spot open in September at our first choice day care, I was instantly conflicted. It was sooner than we thought. I felt I was just getting this SAHM thing down pat. I was thinking about the kind of summer I was having with Alex: fun! walks, music class, swimming, the zoo, etc… I would miss that so much. But we really wanted in at this daycare. So we said yes. And besides, it was only 3 days a week. That would be a good transition. But then recently they had an opening for full time, and we took it, not knowing what my work situation would be yet, but knowing it would open me up for much more work.

I have to say, not having a job to go back to but no longer having a baby to take care of solo is like the ULTIMATE sad-Caroline scenario, similar to how I felt before Alex was born. I feel as though I lack purpose. And trying to re-enter the workforce after so long is presenting challenges already. I’m trying to remain positive, knowing that this will be a really good thing for our boy, and a good thing for mom and dad too. I don’t really think women are meant to be sole caregivers for long stretches of time. I hope you won’t judge me when I say taking care of a baby is fundamentally boring. He’s wonderful and we’ve truly had some fun together, and I don’t regret any of it. But I’m ready to get back to doing adult things, and he can play with kids his age all day… in a padded room where he can’t break anything (lol).

I got some photos taken of us to commemorate this special period in my life with Alex. He’s my first baby, the one who made me a mom, and every day my heart breaks over how much he’s becoming NOT a baby anymore. Sweet Alex. Can’t wait to keep going on these journeys with you!

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Sweet Boy

ALEX-MAY-8I have a big backlog of photos, so I thought I would do a big share. These are photos from almost two months ago (!) that I have only just uploaded. I’m delighted to report that I’m all caught up (for now).

Doing some maintenance on my ever-growing collection of Alex photos made me realize how quickly he’s growing. I could also remember specific days, and how maybe… “Oh that was a good day” or “Oh, that was a tough day.” But what stands out to me most is that those tough days are in the past. We don’t have to live them again. There are still more ahead, but each day we become more experienced too. ALEX-MAY-15

I think we’re currently experiencing the dreaded 8 month sleep regression *and* a nap transition where he’s going from 3 naps to 2. While reading up on it, I was reminded of the 4 month sleep regression he had, which then lead to a month-long cold, which caused multiple loooong wake ups every night. That was a dark period. I felt like I didn’t want any more kids after dealing with that.

But like all things, it passed, and now Alex is nearly 8 months, and despite the occasional hiccup, he’s quite dreamy. He’s super fun and energetic. We’re taking swim and music classes this summer, going on tons of walks, and despite the unpredictability in sleeping, he does take longer naps, which means long breaks for mom. I think back to how harried and exhausted I was in the beginning and that time is so far away. I feel 1000% more in control of my day than I did then, and that alone does great things for my state of mind.ALEX-MAY-21ALEX-MAY-27ALEX-MAY-28I’ve also learned that it takes a long time (at least in my case) to be OK with being a stay at home mom. When Alex needed me for every single thing, that was incredibly draining and demoralizing. It was also tough having such a dependent little baby while the days were dark and cold. I think I’ll have my next baby in the spring.ALEX-MAY-33ALEX-JUNE-2ALEX-JUNE-10This boy is the sweetest little thing. Despite the struggles (which become farther apart as he gets older!), my heart EXPLODES every time he smiles at me. When Alan hands him off to me at night to feed him before bed, I hold his little body and smell his head and just think I’ll take like 10 more of these please.ALEX-JUNE-27ALEX-JUNE-38ALEX-JUNE-65I never knew I could enjoy summer SO MUCH until Alex came along, and I realized recently it’s because having a baby makes everything new. You pretty much have to keep busy all the time, and go places, and try new things. And even though he’ll never remember going to the north shore or music class or checking out the neighborhood brewpub on Father’s Day, we will cherish these early days with our sweet boy.ALEX-JUNE-71

Summer Preview

It’s been getting really summery in these parts the last few days. I haven’t had to wear pants in a while — it’s glorious.

Yesterday morning I had a rare burst of energy and really felt like I should go on a morning lake walk, except it would mean interrupting Alex’s nap schedule. But Alan encouraged me to do it anyway. And I’m glad I did. It was a summery kinda morning I felt was indicative of what the rest of summer could be like. A morning walk – not yet too hot, and it wasn’t rushed. We saw boats and goslings (!) and I took a detour to check out the playground and get in the swing. I’ve almost never made it around Lake Harriet without him having a meltdown (when it’s just me; when I’m walking and talking with another person, he’s calm). Before, in the winter, there wasn’t much I could do with that. But this time I found a little bench to set up camp and I changed him on the ground and nursed him from the bench. And he finally conked out. I have a feeling I’ll have a newfound appreciation for summer now that I have a kid. I’m excited to just take my time and go with the flow and watch Alex have fun. He’s at just the right age for all this stuff too. I thought having a tiny baby through the cold dark winter was kinda brutal but this is a nice payoff.

Week in review

0504-32This week I’ve really lacked in motivation – no blogs, no grocery shopping, no cooking… I’ve hardly done anything. Just feeling really pooped. And with current events as they are, I wanted start the weekend off with something pleasant and nice.

This is really more like, the last couple weeks in review. I think I’ve whined in the past about how tricky it is to upload and edit baby photos in a timely manner, but it’s still true. Especially because picking a time to do a photo dump is so arbitrary when there’s no big events to focus on. BUT I will say that I took a few special photos this week that will be cherished (see above – books at bedtime). 0504-9A lot of people ask how the cat is doing with Alex’s presence. Personally I believe that she loves him. She’s SCARED of him, because lately he’s just super active and moves around, and he pets her (more like grabs?), but she doesn’t shy away from coming near when he’s around. She just lays down a few feet away. I think she likes being close to him. My babies.0504-11🍑0504-7Alex is also a maniac in the bath! He loves it. I wish he was big enough to just swim around in the big tub because I feel like it would be so liberating for him. He splashes a lot and relishes the water being poured over his head. We’ll be doing swimming lessons this summer and I think that will be a good outlet for him.0504-60504-260504-29Gentle sunshine.0504-33I decided to give him this little foam sword I got literally a hundred years ago (ok — 13) at Lego Land in California… Probably one of only a handful of things I’ve hung onto from my youth. Not much of a pack rat. But what can I say, I love swords. And Alex is a master of this one. 0504-150504-16As I mentioned above, Alex is extremely active these days. We got him this baby walker about a month ago and he just kinda sat in it — or walked backwards. Then one day he just figured it out, and now he’s unstoppable and it’s both a blessing and a curse. I’ve had to move all the magnets up on the fridge; we had to move the planter to the porch; and he knocked over the cat’s water glass in my office. It’s great he has the option of independence in it, but it still takes a looooooot of supervising. 0504-35FINALLY — the big milestone from this week. Solids! The very first time was baby oatmeal, and it went reasonably well. He’s most interested in the spoon. He loves to grab things. I’m wondering how I’ll ever get him to eat anything at all. We think the oats did a number on his tum, as that night he had a difficult time getting to sleep, as well as his first nap the next morning, so we switched to puréed avocado, and he seems to like that a little better. Though, he hasn’t gotten too much of it in his mouth.0504-210504-180504-20

 

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