As spring is slowly starting to come around to this part of the state – I can’t help reminisce to one year ago at this time when we welcomed a brand new baby into our family. Does anyone else have Timehop or look at the Facebook “On This Day” feature? I’m constantly being reminded of the early days of the beautiful and chaotic life with a newborn. Endless loads of wash, very little sleep and overwhelming love in our hearts. It got me thinking about all of the parenting lessons I’ve learned over the past year and even though many were tough, they’ve built me up as a person and even more as a mom.
I’m sharing some of the most important lessons I’ve learned from the first year of parenting.
10 Things I Learned in My First Year of Parenting
Find the Humor
It was our very first night home from the hospital, I’m guessing around 2 or 3 am – it was sort of a haze. Dane had been up a few times to feed, and it was my turn to change his diaper. He was swaddled up tight in his brand new fleece sleep sack, and we hadn’t even snipped off his ankle bracelet from the hospital yet. I un-bundled him, and to my horror – he had completely blown out his diaper, onesie, and his soft beautiful fleece sleep sack was covered. You know what baby poop is like these first few days? Yeah…I don’t think I need to describe it. I remember yelling for Casey to come help me and at the exact moment that he walked into the living room, Dane shot the biggest “pee rainbow” (what we’ve called it ever since) all over the couch. We were mortified, but couldn’t help but laugh – maybe it was the exhaustion. But you know what? It’s one of the first things that happened to me as a new parent, and I’m glad; because it taught me that it’s going to be difficult – but we’ll tell this story forever and laugh just as hard as we did the first time.
Accept Help When it is Offered
This is advice I had a hard time taking, especially in the beginning. Those first few weeks as the postpartum emotions swirled, I had mixed feelings – some days I felt like I could do it all, some days I felt like I had to do it all. Maybe it was pride or me trying to prove something to everyone else. (Sounds irrational and it is; I know that now). I kept that act up for weeks until I finally realized I needed a break or I would break. All the while my loving family members had been offering – I’d just been saying, “I’m fine; I’ve got this”. The reality is I was exhausted, navigating unchartered waters and still trying to physically heal from childbirth, and I needed help. After that initial burnout – I learned my lesson and now I never deny the opportunity for a break, because it is incredibly healthy to do so.
Cope the Way it Makes Sense to You
What I mean by this is that everyone is different and deals with postpartum and the addition of another family member in a different way. I cried a lot – for all sorts of reasons. I cried when my baby cried, I cried when I couldn’t get him to calm down at bedtime, I cry when he is sick and I can’t make it better, and I still cry when he prefers to be comforted by his daddy instead of me. I cry, and I think that’s okay. Just do what you know will be best for you.
Try Not to Listen to Too Many Opinions
Here’s the thing… there is no other child exactly like yours, meaning that not everything will work for him or her. Everyone has their tried and true cures for babies who don’t sleep, or babies who spit up a lot, yeah, yeah, yeah. What I’ve learned is that it’s all about trial and error and trying to find whatever works best for your baby AND you. Oh and don’t let the woman in Target make you feel bad for not having a hat on your baby when it’s 65 degrees out (yes, that happened to me, which of course made me feel like a terrible mom… even though I know it was irrational). And for those opinion givers: be gentle – everyone is struggling to figure it out. It’s okay to have opinions, just try to be cognizant of your audience.
Take a Million Pictures/Videos
This one doesn’t really need to be explained. I’ll just say this – life can change in an instant so make sure to document the “now” because it’ll be gone tomorrow. I’m a crazy photo-taker and also an over-sharer and I don’t really care what anyone else thinks. Go for it!
Be Kind to Yourself
I try so hard to take this advice in daily life. Sometimes I have to say it out loud, “You hold down a full time job, have a happy marriage, are raising a beautiful little boy, run a blog, a column and have a social life, all while trying to stay healthy and present… you’re doing a good job.” So maybe the baby weight didn’t fall off like it does for the “lucky ones”, or maybe you feel guilty every single time you drop your little one at daycare. Know that what you’re doing is important, and you should be proud. Remember to be kind to yourself, because you’re the only you there is.
Roll With the Punches
I’m organized. I like order (sometimes chaotic order). I prefer to plan ahead and know precisely what the day will bring. I make to-do lists and cross them off with the completion of each task. I color-code. I am a planner.
The minute I got pregnant I knew that life (at least a portion of it) was long gone. I can still keep that control at work, and even with things like meal planning and exercise… but not with our kiddo – no way. I had to say adios to “knowing it all” and had to learn that we go with the flow and learn from our mistakes. Because like I say on repeat: no child is the same and you have to do what’s right for you and your family.
Be Prepared to Get Sick… and Not Care
I think our little guy has been sick more during his short life than he’s been healthy. He’s battled through colds, ear infections, viral infections, wicked diaper rash and currently the flu. Guess what? I’ve been sick too, but when you’re a parent suddenly your needs go to the back burner and you would gladly take whatever ailment your baby has and take it on yourself so they can find good health. While it’s important to make sure that you’re not ignoring your own sickness – it just doesn’t seem to matter as much.
Find Something that is Unique to You and Nurture it
This is incredibly important, and it can be literally anything. For me, it’s blogging and sharing my journey with friends and family in hopes that maybe something I’ve experienced will help them. It’s also trying to be healthy. I repeat: trying. I know that people always say that you make time for what’s important, and while exercise IS important to me, it doesn’t always make the cut – but I’m trying and that counts.
You’re Still You, But Better
Lastly, I think I’ve learned a lot about myself and the way I handle situations, people and pressure. I found a part of myself that I never really knew existed and incorporated it into the center of being. It’s great to be a mom, and I am so excited for the future: watching Dane grow, someday become a big brother and raising a beautiful family.
I hope you found some of these tips valuable, and I know everyone has different experiences. What have you learned, and what lessons do you think are worth noting?
Have a great day!