Lessons from my first year of motherhood

FARMSUNDAY1022-15

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.

FARMSUNDAY1022-17

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.

selfies

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.

ALEX_FIRSTYEAR-806

I’m Glad I Spent it With You

motherhood-caroline(2of105)motherhood-caroline(3of105)

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!

motherhood-caroline(12of105)motherhood-caroline(19of105)motherhood-caroline(34of105)motherhood-caroline(41of105)motherhood-caroline(43of105)motherhood-caroline(46of105)motherhood-caroline(52of105)motherhood-caroline(56of105)motherhood-caroline(59of105)motherhood-caroline(65of105)motherhood-caroline(81of105)motherhood-caroline(84of105)motherhood-caroline(87of105)motherhood-caroline(89of105)motherhood-caroline(97of105)motherhood-caroline(103of105)motherhood-caroline(100of105)motherhood-caroline(104of105)

The Sweet Summer

Processed with VSCO with 4 preset

Now Alex’s nap schedule has been evened out, and when everything works out, he has two naps at 1.5 hours each, with 3 hours of awake time in between. That kind of predictability is BLISS. Having this longer time in the morning is particularly nice because it means I get to take a lovely walk with him in the peaceful morning, before it gets too hot and lots of other people are out on the paths.

Having a young kid has completely flipped my expectations about the seasons. It’s revealed things I didn’t know I liked. Having a baby in the fall, I thought, would be a wonderful experience. Part of it was, but then having a little helpless creature throughout the winter was a cold, isolating experience. I remember a lot of darkness, and it didn’t help that this last winter was so disappointingly UN-winter like.

Processed with VSCO with 4 preset

I’ve never been a lover of summer. I hate being out in the sun, in the humidity, sweating, chafing, squinting. UGH. But I really love certain aspects of it now. The green lushness of my surroundings, maybe even a humid afternoon if it’s overcast. Drinking iced coffees on a morning walk. Daylight extending late into the evening. The smell of the lake.

It’s August now, which, after our annual cabin week, is usually when I’m thinking about fall, and getting excited. Fall means a lot of different things this time around. Alex will start going to daycare in September and I’m going to start working again. We probably won’t get to take as many walks. He’ll be turning 1. All these things I’m scared and excited for will happen with the end of summer. It’s a little heartbreaking.

Processed with VSCO with 4 preset

A thing I have a real problem with is living in The Moment. I had a whole therapy session about this yesterday! When things are happening, even if they’re nice, and I can stop and appreciate them, it’s always making me think about the future or reminding my of the past. I’m thinking back to when my baby was a little smaller and less mobile, but I’m also thinking about a future where he can walk and run around. I’m thinking about how this summer is coming to a close, faster than I would like, and I’m wanting to just hold onto it for a little longer. It’s hard just stopping and appreciating the present.

How do you stay in the present? How do you stop yourself trying to live in so many different times at once?

Processed with VSCO with 4 preset

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

The Difficult Morning

The kind of morning where things are going just fine, and you registered for swimming and impulse shopped for hand sanitizer on Amazon. Everything is fine until nap time, where you do everything in the same order; (shade drawn to half mast, white noise is on. Diaper. Sleep sack. Books. Nursing.) the formula is the same every time and usually it works. On this morning it doesn’t work. Do you try a double nursing and hopefully that works. It doesn’t. So you put him down in his crib and maybe he’ll work it out. He’s been getting better at that.  You’ve got your coffee to finish before it gets cold and you still haven’t eaten breakfast (you tend to wait until naptime so you’re not rushed) and you’re exhausted because he’s been waking up 3 times a night for the last week. But now he’s crying. Wailing. Howling. You go and turn him back around and put him on his back and rub his tummy and shush him. You go back to coffee and news. He’s still crying and crying. You put a halt on the breakfast plan and try again to nurse him but it doesn’t work. You’re hot and sweaty and you know it’s only a matter of time before you lose your cool and start screaming. You check his diaper. It’s wet already. Changing it will hopefully calm him down and he will sleep. He does not. You lay him back in his crib and leave the room and are reminded how messy the house is, how messy it keeps getting, and the thought of an endless mess starts to stress you out. You want to hit something so you hit the trash can. You eventually make your breakfast while he’s still crying in bed. You start to think about how nice it must be for mothers who get to drop their baby off at daycare and go to work and not have to have this problem. You eat. At least now you’re fortified to deal with this. You take off his clothes, you sit with him on the couch and open the window and have him play with a book. After all this, he might finally be exhausted enough to pass out. You do the whole naptime routine again. You catch yourself wondering so many times during this if you really want to do all this again? Uh, talk to me in a year. They say the days are long but the years are short. But the difficult morning is the longest of all.

%d bloggers like this: