On April 8th, 2015, after nearly 24 hours of labor, our sweet William Joseph came into this world. That means that nearly three years ago – I became a mother.
Ahhh… motherhood. It has been my life’s most frustrating and difficult endeavor to date. Every time I feel like I know what I’m doing, reality knocks me on my ass. But at the same time, nothing in my life has been more rewarding. For every moment of frustration and self doubt, there are moments of immense happiness and love greater than I ever knew I was capable.
Three years into this motherhood journey, I have learned a lot. I’ll write an updated post to this one sometime soon (probably when I’m on maternity leave) but for now, this post that I wrote 2 years ago says everything and more.
It’s rare that you can go back and read something you wrote two years ago and still feel like you mean every. single. word. But I do. I really do.
Written April 7th, 2016
I mean… what about this photo doesn’t scream (no pun intended) “I’m killing this whole motherhood thing?”
Tomorrow is April 8th, and that means, tomorrow, I will have been a mom for exactly one year. I shared William’s Birth Story with you last May, but if you’re new to the blog, or just in case you need a refresher, head >>> here. As I said in that post, the second William was placed in my arms, I knew my world was forever changed. The love I felt for him was, and continues to be, the most immense and all consuming feeling ever.
Even though the love came naturally, Motherhood, as it turns out has an incredibly steep learning curve. As one of my friends (Ivy) told me very early on, “You think you have it handled, and then they turn another month older.” For me, nothing has been more true. Motherhood has been frustrating, exhausting, and it’s been humbling. But more than anything, it’s been rewarding as hell.
It is my hope that whether you’re a mother, a grandmother, an aunt, a daughter, a sister, a friend… that you can relate to this post. And if you don’t, then take it for what it is… my experience and my opinion.
The Top 10 Things I Learned in my First Year of Motherhood
1.) I should have taken a longer maternity leave.
This is my biggest regret in my first year as a mother, and it is a big one. I went back to work, full time (from home) only 6 weeks after having William and it was way too soon… it was insane. I saw this quote from a Google spokesperson the other day, and it really made me think:
“We formerly had a maternity-leave policy of 12 weeks of fully paid and vested leave, but science better informed our decision-making in 2007… Twelve-week-olds are at a very different place developmentally than are 18-week olds, so we changed our maternity leave to 18 weeks. It just felt like the right thing to do.”
“Science better informed our decision-making.” <<< that part really got me. It actually made me cry. After I had William, I felt such immense pressure (self inflicted and otherwise) to return to work quickly that I never stopped to think if it was really the right thing to do for him or for me. Quite obviously – science says it was not, and my recent tears of guilt and regret also say it was not. The fact of the matter is that I’ll never get those formative weeks back with my son. I’ll never get a redo. But… if me saying this out-loud can stop another mother from making the same mistake – then it is worth it.
I get it. Some women don’t have a choice when it comes to maternity leave, but some women do, and I definitely did. If you do have the choice, I think it is important to know the facts, and to keep things in perspective. I wish I would have. Mostly, I wish I had someone to tell me this: sometimes in life there are more important things than grinding away at your desk and being good at your job. Motherhood – growing, nurturing and loving your child is one of those things, and anyone who makes you feel any different is – just – plain – wrong.
2.) The female body is amazing. Take some time to pat yourself on the back, and everything – well almost everything – will go back to normal.
Women are superheroes, there’s no doubt about it, and we need to give ourselves a little more credit. The things our bodies do during pregnancy and labor are absolutely amazing, and the things our bodies do after pregnancy are just as incredible – if not more. Look up colostrum <<< there’s a reason they call it liquid gold. The fact that our bodies naturally produce everything our babies need to survive for the first six months of their lives, is quite literally a miracle. From your milk coming in, to your uterus contracting up to 15x back to it’s normal size, to your hair falling out – your body goes through some crazy changes after pregnancy, but I assure you, most everything goes back to normal.
But…. I’m not going to lie… some things do not.
Personally, my boobs after breastfeeding are nowhere near “back to normal.” They’re smaller than ever, and I have the nipples of an 80 year old woman. The hole where my belly button ring used to go is now just wrinkly skin. And the melasma (the brown spots on my face <<< the ones that I try to photoshop out of every photo) is stubborn and it still has yet to fade. I’m aware that these are all small, shallow things, but for me, they’ve been hard to accept.
As women, we’re hard on ourselves. Ashley wouldn’t have had to write the post she did yesterday if we weren’t. So for me, it’s reminding myself to have a little grace, and to remember that if these little imperfections are the small price I have to pay for motherhood – then I’d take them ten times over.
3.) Breast is best – oh go eff yourself.
I’ll be the first to admit that I was on the “breast is best” train for a long, long time. The words, “Can you believe she didn’t even try to breastfeed?” definitely came out of my mouth. It wasn’t kind, I’m not proud of it, but yes, I definitely said it.
You see, when I was at home with William, I had no shortage of milk, and I had the double D boobs to prove it. But the second I went back to work, (in the office) my milk supply started dropping drastically. By the time he was 5 months old, I had no choice but to stop nursing completely. Soon enough we had to start him on formula, and you know what — he’s fine.
Don’t get me wrong, the science behind the benefits of breastfeeding is there, but breastfeeding is not for everyone, and that’s ok. I very clearly understand that we’re all fighting our own battles, and being judged by what kind of milk you’re feeding your baby shouldn’t be one of them. Which brings me to my next lesson of Motherhood…
4.) Judgy mommies are abundant and they suck.
We all know them. They’re the mommies that ask you a question about how you do something, not because they actually want to hear your answer, but because they want to tell you why you’re wrong – and how they do it. They’re the mommies who know it all. The mommies that read every article and every book. The mommies that would “never do this, and would never do that.”
They’re also the mommies who have no place in my friend group. I have a very low tolerance for bullshit and crap – and I have found that judgy mommies tend to be full of both. How to know if you have a judgy mommy in your group? A conversation with them usually goes something like this:
“What time does William go to bed? Really? 7pm? Doesn’t that seem kind of early? Are you swaddling? How on earth are you not swaddling? How long did it take you to sleep train him? My baby has been sleep trained for months… what do you mean he’s not sleep trained? Are you still breast feeding? You know what the AAP recommends right? It’s 12 months, not 5. You put him on that medicine? You really should do some research before you put him on that medicine. Are you making your baby food at home? We only make our baby food at home out of the finest, all natural, organic, pesticide free sweet potatoes.”
Gag me. Like I said, judgy mommies are no friends of mine. I have enough on my plate already, and no time to have conversations like that. If you have a judgy mommy friend, do yourself a favor and set her straight or cut her loose. It’s liberating, I promise.
5.) Your friends will change. Don’t stress about it, it’s a good thing.
Motherhood has been eye opening on the personal relationship front for me in many ways. Don’t take this the wrong way, my small group of tried and true friends is still exactly the same, and for that, I am SO grateful. But… on the changes front… Motherhood has given me a common ground with women who I previously had very little in common with. I have made daycare mommy friends, mommy blogger friends, and most importantly I have found a mommy friend in my own mother. <<< This may be the most surprising and rewarding friendship change of all. I understand more clearly now just how much she loves me, I appreciate her more, and the love she shows to our little family is beyond anything I’ve ever seen.
6.) How to say “No” gracefully.
All those motherhood books about “having it all” and “doing it all” in my opinion are a bunch of crap and lies. I’m not trying to crush dreams here ladies – I’m just telling you from personal experience. I tried to “do it all” and I failed miserably.
Between work, the blog, and trying to spend meaningful time with my family, I barely have enough time leftover at the end of the day to take a shower. Accordingly, working out, walking my dog, going to drinks with girlfriends, cleaning the house, and volunteering for charity (all things I used to love to do) now take a backseat in my life.
I’m sure my boss would love me to stay at work until 4pm every day. I’m sure my husband would love me to have dinner on the table every night when he gets home. I’m sure William would prefer it if I never went to work at all. And I’m sure my little Delta Gammas would have loved it if I was their recruitment adviser for the rest of my life — but I can’t be everything to everyone. And you can’t either.
When I was trying to do all of those things, I had no life of my own. I had to prioritize and I had to start saying “No”. As soon as I did this, my life became infinitely more enjoyable.
7.) Self care is vital.
To be totally honest, I am horrible at this. I will run myself into the ground and be in the bathroom fighting back tears before I’ll actually admit that I need some time for myself. I think it’s pretty common among mothers. We’re so busy taking care of other people that we forget to take care of ourselves. It’s not healthy, and I know this all too well firsthand.
It’s simple. We can’t expect to take proper care of our families if we’re not taking care of ourselves too. This is something I’m learning – and something that I’ll definitely be working on.
8.) You are a team.
I think this is one of the most important things I’ve learned. It’s not about how many diapers you’ve changed – or how many feedings he’s done, or how many times you’ve gotten up in the middle of the night, or how many times he’s folded the laundry. It’s not about who makes more, or who’s job is more important, or even who has to be at work earlier <<< Guilty on this one. :/
If you wanna play like that, it’s gonna be a long life.
If you focus, instead, on making each other better, on giving your partner what they need, and on being the best spouse and parent you can be – then you’re going to do well at this whole family thing. I know it sounds simple, but when you haven’t slept in 3 nights, and your baby is crying, and you have poo in your hair… it’s easier said than done.
I’m not going to lie, my husband is a rock star at this, and that has made it much easier. He washes bottles, changes diapers, gives baths, packs lunches, and more often than not, he takes William to school and picks him up as well. In our family, he’s the breadwinner, he’s my rock, he’s an incredible father, and more importantly than anything else, he’s always on my team.
I’m almost embarrassed to admit this, but I have never read a parenting book. Not one. I started Bringing Up BeBe and I started the Whole Brain Child, but I just couldn’t get into them. So you might be wondering to yourself, “How is William still alive?” Well – I have learned more about motherhood from listening to my friend Kristin, than anything else. That being said, my advice is to listen to parenting advice from everyone – your friends, your family, your peers, your mentors… everyone, and take something from each and every one of them, even if it is with a grain of salt.
Also – listen to your child. I have an embarrassing mommy moment to share with you. William’s school sends home monthly assessments to check in on your child’s development. He’s always been right on track, but this past month, under the verbal skills section it looked to me as if he was falling behind. I talked to his teacher about it, and she told me she’d watch him in class and let me know. I know it seems ridiculous, he’s only 12 months old, but this is how day cares work now. The next week, his teacher pulled me aside and told me I had nothing to worry about – William had over 25 words. “Maybe you’re just not listening for the right things,” she said. I felt like I had been hit by a train. My sweet son had been trying to communicate with me for months, and just because his words weren’t how I thought they should sound, I had missed it. It’s an important life lesson as well – Quiet yourself and just listen.
10.) If you’re trying, and if you’re doing the best you can, that is all that matters.
It is most important to remember this ^^^. So give yourself a little grace, be proud of the job you’re doing, and love your little munchkin with all you’ve got. That is what they’ll remember and that is what really matters.
Big Momma hugs and “AYYY TYYs” (William speak for HIGH FIVEs!) to all of you!