Lessons from my first year of motherhood


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.


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.


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.


How are you doing?


Good morning! Happy Tuesday! Look at that, it’s not Monday anymore. We’re gonna make it through this week, through this year, I promise you.

I’m sure most everyone can relate, but looking on Facebook or Twitter, you feel like you’re seeing the slow deterioration of society. There’s horrific deadly explosions in the middle east, there’s a sitting United States president who would’ve turned our government into a dictatorship if he were only smart enough, there’s the revelation that pretty much every woman you know has at some time experienced sexual harassment or assault. We might be on the cusp of a nuclear war, and climate change is not stopping. And Puerto Rico is still largely without power or clean drinking water. What a bummer. We’re living in bummer times.

If you’re like me, you’ve been feeling the weight of the world’s problems on your shoulders. I feel like I need to care about everything equally, because I’m terrified of becoming complacent. We’re living in a time where we get a first hand look, daily, of the magnitude of human suffering. That’s a terrible realization, isn’t it?

I just try to remember that I can’t solve all of the world’s problems. I can do what I can. I can donate to Puerto Rico hurricane relief. 

So please, make sure you’re practicing some self care. For me I practice in little ways like getting myself a Starbucks everyday. Bigger things might be a pedicure during the week or occasionally a massage. I also love when the weather gets cooler and I put on some lovely old Renaissance music (Spotify has a great playlist even). It’s peaceful and cozy.

But most importantly: Get away from the computer and go somewhere to be around regular people. You’ll be surprised at how normal things can be when you’re not saturated in death and hatred and bigotry.


The Sweet Summer

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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.

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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.

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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?

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I will follow

Split Rock, Grand Marais, Tettegouche

Today is Alan’s and my 3-year wedding anniversary! 

Alan and I were always a good team. Our conversations cover all topics, from bad movies to current events to political philosophies to how cute our baby is. Alex’s arrival has forced us to relearn a few things about how we work together, and I’m on sort of a different plane, emotionally, and that does complicate things. Sometimes we drive each other crazy. But everyday we make a choice to stay together and keep working on what we’ve built together. 

Parenthood is not easy, but I’m glad I get to do it with this guy. 

Happy Anniversary, Alan! 

One month down.

alex-2I don’t know how much time I’ll have to write this. Currently I’m sitting in my office, still in the clothes I slept in, my t-shirt soaked in breastmilk. Alex is sleeping (!) in his crib, and I’ve got the video monitor next to my computer. I’m on tenterhooks, almost constantly. Awaiting a peep or a cry. Luckily, for the time being, he seems to be out.

So I want to talk about what the past month has been like.

First of all, parenthood takes an enormous about of courage. I don’t mean to build myself up too much, but it’s true. You sort of understand before you become a parent that your life is going to change in a gargantuan, unknowable way, but there have been several times since Alexander was born that I’ve thought My God, what have I done? You don’t really think about how little you’ll really sleep, and there is no end in sight on the sleeplessness that occurs. I often contemplate that it’ll be years and years before I can get a decent night’s sleep again.

Because even though he generally will sleep all night (6-7 hours usually), I never achieve a deep sleep, because I’m on alert; always ready. When I’m feeding him at night or early in the morning, I just think as soon as this is over I can close my eyes again. Oh how sweet those little vacations in my brain are.

But there are more serious observations I’ve made, that I wanted to share with you (and parents will probably already know this).

Everything about prenatal and postpartum care in America seems designed for privileged women. In nearly every country in the world, there is state-subsidized maternity leave. In the more enlightened countries in Scandinavia, there is mandatory year-long leave for mothers and fathers. Alan got three weeks off from work, and that was pooling together the last of his PTO and sick time and some of it was unpaid. The amount of stuff I couldn’t do for myself in those first few weeks meant that having him there was a huge lifesaver. It was too painful to sit in the car so I couldn’t drive myself anywhere. I could barely walk 30 feet without peeing myself a little. They recommend taking four baths a day. Without Alan going to the store or running errands or getting me everything I needed for those 3 weeks I don’t know how I would’ve gotten by. The burden of being the only food supply for a tiny helpless infant was already so great and at times unbearable. There have been many tears out of frustration and feelings of futility when feedings became hard or long or Alex was clearly hungry but being uncooperative. Painful latching, feedings bleeding into each other… Everything about this is difficult and the fact that there isn’t more support for women in these early days is criminal.

We also got the hospital bill recently. Without health insurance, we would’ve been looking at a year’s worth of private college tuition. alex-4

Alex is a difficult baby. He’s temperamental and finicky. What works to get him to sleep one night (like mimicking his crying, which confused and hypnotized him immediately and he conked out), won’t necessarily work the next. I’m actually shocked he’s sleeping right now. I didn’t even have to put him in the car seat or his bear suit! Everything about him is unpredictable. People ask me questions all the time: is he hungry? he seems hungry. does he need a nap? is he too cold? God, I DON’T KNOW. I barely know this little guy. Most people don’t begin intimate lifelong relationships with people the first day they meet and move in with them and suck on their boobs for sustenance.

Babies are hard. Did that need to be said?

BUT. Alex is also wonderful and beautiful and he’s cuddly and he smells good. He’s got the cutest little face with no eyebrows and I even don’t mind changing his diapers. Even though I think about how I won’t be getting sleep for the next 5 or 6 years, I also think about what he’ll look like in 3 months, or 1 year, or when he’s running around on his own, with his own interests and personality. I get to raise him. I get to share with him all the traditions I love — like cutting down our own Christmas tree and listening to Charlie Brown, or going to the cabin every summer! Even when he’s being difficult, I can still somehow find a way to giggle at the way he searches for food like a little rabid wolf, or his sweet little cries (which sound like he’s trying to say his dad’s name).

So yeah, holy hell, the first month is now behind us, and I have no delusions that things are about to get easier. Maybe they’ll get better in some departments, but there will be new departments introduced every day. But, we got through the first month. I’m going to celebrate. Maybe by loading Alex in his car seat and taking him to the Starbucks drive thru for a SCM for me. alex-1

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