Anyone who knows me knows that I research everything. I believe the more information you have, the better prepared you will be. Discovering I was pregnant meant that I needed to do a ton of research and reading to smoothly transition into motherhood. And so, I did.
Within a couple of days after baby’s arrival, I learned that no book or blog had prepared me for raising a little human being.
Here are ten things I’ve learned in my first year of motherhood. They are authentic, and candid, and what I would call, my truth. And they are the words that I wish I would have discovered between the pages of all my parenting books.
1. It actually does take a village.
This lesson is worthy of the #1 spot. When I first left the hospital after delivery, I was overwhelmed with gratitude by the way friends and loved ones circled around Aaron and I to support us in not just welcoming our baby girl home, but with whatever we needed—home-cooked meals, supermarket runs, affirmations—all of this mattered more to us than we even knew at the time. What I now know to be true, especially when it comes to parenting is, your village is probably the most important gift you can give to yourself and your baby…because when you are running on low or empty, they generously step in and carry you through, even if it is for a short amount of time.
You will need a village. Trust me, your mind, body, and baby will thank you for the extra hands and hearts.
2. Your postpartum body will be different + gorgeous + still so worthy of praise.
Give yourself a break. You made a human. No, really!
Just days after I delivered, I found myself obsessively staring in the mirror and wondering when my body would snap-back to where it once was. And then my doctor reminded me that it takes a couple of weeks for the uterus to reduce back down to its normal size after delivering a baby. I needed that reality check. My doctor helped me to be kind to my body and to fully understand that postpartum bodies are dimpled, and stretched, and sometimes, scarred, and still worthy of praise. Be gentle with yourself as you recover and remember that your body just did something truly amazing!
3. In order to make space for your new life, you must grieve your old one.
Grief. I feel like this is one of the least talked about subjects in motherhood. Maybe more people are sharing this privately with their friends or loved ones, or even their therapist, but this is a truth that needs to be told.
I think most of us prepare for our new addition without even realizing that our old lifestyle is gone forever. I knew this, but I didn’t give it a ton of thought until I was deep in motherhood. One of the most powerful things I worked on was letting go of my old life. Essentially grieving what once was. The truth is, I was now a family of three and there was no going back to just us two, or even just me. The moment I released the narrative that my old life was easier or even better is when I was able to create space for newness and could show up as the mother and partner my family needed and deserved. Welcoming this grief, although challenging while mothering, was an act of self-care for me. While there are days when I revisit the old times, I don’t live there anymore and I feel free.
4. Your baby is not like the other babies.
Your baby is one of a kind. It is important to keep this in mind, especially in those moments when you feel a desire to compare your baby’s process to their counterparts. It is easy to watch other babies’ development and wonder when your little one will start to do the things that other babies are already doing.
The truth is, your baby’s process is her own and it is perfect. She does not come with a set of care instructions that can be found within the pages of a book or even behind the door of someone else’s home. Discovering your little one’s likes and dislikes and watching them transform at their own pace is what makes motherhood exciting and fascinating. Trust your baby’s process and know that her journey is happening exactly the way it is supposed to.
5. Lack of sleep is an understatement.
Remember the part where I mentioned grieving your old life? Yeah, that includes sleep. You will never sleep the same after a baby. Not just because your baby needs you, but also because you will worry and think about your little one often. I have woken up in the middle of the night to ensure that my baby girl was still breathing. I’m not trying to be glib here. I’m just saying that worrying is a real thing, especially during your little one’s first few months of life. You have a new responsibility that will keep you up at night and it will impact your sleep schedule. The upside is, as baby gets older, you will feel more secure and will slowly get some relief.
Until then, welcome to #TeamNoSleep.
6. Their unsolicited baby advice doesn’t have to become your truth.
I’ll be straightforward here: people of all walks of life will approach you and spew out baby advice that you never asked for. The quicker you accept that this is part of motherhood, the easier your journey will be.
Babies are adorable and magnetic. People want to connect with you and chat about your new journey. Take their words with a grain of salt and remember that only you and your partner can decide what works best for your family—everything else is irrelevant.
7. The days are long and the months go by quickly.
I remember when my baby girl woke up every two hours to feed and then every four hours, and then she eventually slept through the night. The two-hour schedule felt like forever until her next schedule, and so on and so on. When I reflect back, I realize how quickly the time flew by. I now understand that each stage is temporary. Sure, many days will feel long, but the months go by so quickly that you will soon wonder where the time went.
So, cherish every moment with your little one because they will eventually move onto their next developmental stage and grow into a little person who won’t need your hands to help them eat, play or walk.
8. A trustworthy pediatrician is a game-changer.
We love our pediatrician. He was referred to us by very close friends and I must say, he was the best addition to our village.
After attending Journee’s first appointment with him, we left feeling reassured and empowered. His medical advice was individualized and he showed up in the room as a human being who was interested in us and wanted to hear all of our questions and concerns. Still, today, we feel safe with him and trust all of his recommendations.
Having a great pediatrician who is warm and trustworthy gives you one less thing to worry about in motherhood.
9. Your new mom friends need care, concern and connection.
I look back at my younger self and wonder what kind of friend I was to other women who had just become new moms. I must say, I am a bit disappointed in who I once was. Blame it on ignorance or immaturity, regardless, today I want to be better.
In the past, I would always make assumptions that new moms were too busy for me or anything else without even allowing them to speak for themselves. After becoming a mom myself, I’ve discovered the opposite to be true. New moms need care, concern, and connection. When you are in the thick of motherhood, a familiar face and an extra set of hands can bring you comfort and make you feel connected to the outside world.
The first couple of weeks after our baby girl arrived, I felt isolated and alone, even though my partner was right by my side. I was navigating a new world and that came with its ebbs and flows. But like I said before, your village helps you push through. I am not suggesting that you should surprise visit new moms, but I will say that reaching out via text and letting them know you are thinking of them, scheduling some time to walk around a couple of blocks with them, or offering to watch baby while they take a shower can be life-changing and meaningful. Old narratives of new moms “being too busy” can feel like you are distancing yourself from us during a time when connection and community are paramount.
So release those old narratives and lean into your new mom friends. They need you more than they can say or show.
To all of my mom friends in the past, “I now understand and I’m sorry.”
10. You’ve got this.
The first couple of weeks were the toughest for me. I experienced conflicting feelings of joy and sadness. Joy for having been chosen by this new beautiful baby that I was holding in my arms, and sadness for the world she was entering into. I had days of feeling overwhelmed and pressured to be the best mom, forgetting my humanity and imperfections. And then there were days of total bliss. Emotionally, it was a lot to handle at times. Especially when I returned back to work and school a couple of months later.
I had to remember that motherhood is not always easy and painless. It has its challenges, but as with all things, it gets better with time, patience and practice. I also had to learn to trust myself again. There were things that I intuitively knew and I needed to rely on in order to be the best mother for my daughter. I had to remind myself that although motherhood is different from an other experience on the planet, I could do it.
So, mama, let me be the first one to tell you: you’ve got this!