Motherhood has so far been the most joyful, heart wrenching, and humbling experience of my entire life. The highs are beyond that of which I could ever imagine heaven to be, and the lows feel like your heart is being crushed into a million pieces that will never be able to be put together again.
When you’re pregnant, you read a million books, thinking that you can somehow prepare yourself for this journey you are about to embark on. The truth is, nothing can ever fully prepare you for how motherhood consumes you in both wonderful and awful ways.
Until you are a mother yourself, you cannot even fathom how much joy a toothless grin smiling back at you first thing in the morning brings, or how much panic you feel when that same baby spikes her first fever and you just can’t convince yourself that she’s going to be fine, your stomach in knots thinking the worst possible scenario that could play out.
As I reflect upon this past year and celebrate this wonderful little person I brought into the world, I wanted to share all of the lessons I’ve learned in my first year of motherhood. Whether kids are a far off “someday” thought for you right now, or you are currently with me in the trenches of having young children in your home, I think you will either find these helpful or extremely relatable.
Lessons I’ve learned in my first year of motherhood:
No one can prepare you for how difficult those first few weeks will be
When you are pregnant and thinking about the days following bringing that sweet little newborn home from the hospital, you know to expect sleepless nights, washing a million bottle/pump parts, possible frustration and anxiety over trying to figure out why they are crying, and experiencing a love deeper than any other. But you can never prepare yourself for the magnitude of the sleeplessness, the desperation in how lonely you can feel at times wondering what to do with this tiny being that relies solely on you, and the entire healing process that takes place after giving birth that no one ever seems to talk about.
Those first few weeks can be filled with crazy emotional ups and downs, where you feel like you’re on cloud nine one moment and then the next wondering how you ever thought you could actually do this whole parenting thing. It’s completely normal to have these conflicting feelings, and it doesn’t make you a bad Mom if you’re feeling inadequate some days or mean that you love that baby any less. You are only human, be kind to yourself during this enormous life changing experience.
Hearing stories of something bad happening to any child will leave you feeling shattered
You’ll never be able to watch the news or listen to commercials about sick children in the same way again. Before you were a Mom you might have gotten a little teary eyed and sad, and now you will have that completely gut wrenching feeling of “what if that was my child?” every time you hear about something bad happening to any child in general. It will leave you feeling helpless and wondering how you are supposed to protect your child from all the dangers that lurk in this world.
You are no longer in control
While I probably only had a perceived sense of control prior to becoming a Mother, any thoughts of actually being in control have completely vanished for me. I used to be someone who was always early or at least on time to anywhere I needed to be. Now we are lucky if we are there within 15 minutes of when we need to be.
It’s gotten better as she’s gotten older since we’re not dealing with spit up or many explosive diapers these days. But I remember those first six months it was like clockwork that any time we’d need to leave, she’d decide it was a good time to have an explosive poop diaper and spit up all over me, requiring both of us to have outfit changes. I learned quickly that I was no longer in control, and I had to be okay with that.
You need to be flexible
Perhaps this is a result of realizing I’m no longer in control, but I’ve also learned how to be quite flexible! I use to get slightly bent out of shape if plans didn’t go as I had envisioned or if something didn’t turn out perfectly, but now I have developed a “whatever” mentality which has been pretty freeing actually. I still plan to the best of my ability, but now I’m much more flexible when things don’t go accordingly to that plan (which they often don’t these days).
For example, we were supposed to have Little Miss’s first birthday party with family this weekend and she ended up being too sick for it so we had to reschedule. Pre-motherhood, I probably would have been freaking out over having to cancel a party. Now I’m at the point where I realize it’s just not that big of a deal in the overall scheme of things. Parenting is like that, you need to roll with the punches or your ass is going to get knocked down so quickly that you won’t know quite what hit you.
It’s okay to use TV to get 5 minutes to yourself
Or 30 minutes, I’m not judging! I was that pregnant Mom-to-be that said I wouldn’t ever let my child watch TV before age 2 and now I’m totally eating my words, as 20-30 minutes of morning cartoons (typically Bubble Guppies or watching part of Frozen) has become a daily thing. And you know what? I don’t feel bad about it! If it’s been a long night with her waking up a lot, I get to drink my morning coffee in peace with her happily playing and dancing along to the cute songs. It makes me a better Mom when I get this time to just sit in the morning and relax a bit before the chaos of the day starts.
Never say never
As mentioned above, I’ve quickly learning to stop saying “I’ll never do that” when it comes to different aspects of parenting. This particularly applies to when I’m out and see other parents disciplining or interacting with their kids in a way that I don’t necessarily agree with. Pre-motherhood days, I would judge the heck out of them and tell myself the “I’ll never do that” line.
Until you’re actually a parent in that situation yourself, I’ve learned that you have no right to judge or to say you’ll never do that either. It’s easy to judge the tired, stressed out Mom you see at the grocery store when you got 8 hours of beauty sleep last night and haven’t been battling a toddler for an hour to eat their breakfast and another hour just trying to get out the door with everyone clothed and without pieces of food on their face or between their fingers.
Don’t take the opinions of others too seriously
As soon as you announce your pregnancy, everyone will start giving you their opinions about what you should or shouldn’t be eating, should or shouldn’t be doing, and how you should be preparing yourself for motherhood. These opinions will only grow in frequently and strength once that baby is actually here, so learn to take them all with a grain of salt. You’ll find one person’s strong opinion on something to be completely contradicted by the next person you talk to, who will tell you to do the exact opposite.
Since most of these opinions and advice come from a heartfelt and caring place, try to be cordial about listening, but definitely don’t take them all too seriously. Base your decisions in parenting on what your own research and gut tell you to be the best choice, and don’t fret about what everyone else is telling you.
The joy and purpose a child brings to your life is immeasurable
Sappy, but true. While I have a lot of other aspects of my life that I am proud of and enjoy, motherhood takes the cake. That child is the reason I can’t wait to get out of bed in the morning (ya know, depending on the amount of sleep I get the night before 😉 ) and the main thing that drives me in wanting to be the absolute best person I can be. Even at just a year old, I know that she’s watching me and wanting to do everything that Mommy does. It makes me want to be more purposeful about how I spend my time, and more loving towards myself so she learns how to practice self-love too.
You are insanely blessed
There are so many who have difficulties in starting their journey to motherhood, and I try to remind myself how blessed I am to be holding my baby girl every single day and that I was able to carry and grow her in my own body for 9 months. It’s sometimes hard to remember what a gift motherhood is when you are feeling overwhelmed and exhausted, but I’m convinced that the tough times need to be there so you can appreciate how amazing the simple moments of good are.
Those early morning grins as I walk into her room wouldn’t be quite as sweet if we hadn’t just been through a difficult night that seemed like it was never going to end. Perspective is everything, and important to keep in mind when tough moments in motherhood come up. Motherhood is a gift to be cherished, despite all of the challenges it brings.
Are you a Mom? What are some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned so far through your journey in motherhood?