After one year of parenthood, it is pretty hard to imagine life any other way. In my mind, life is divided into life before Donovan and life after. For me, motherhood has completely altered my life. In so many wonderful ways. It kind of blindsided me and it still hasn’t quite sunken in how much I am grown and changed. What I do know is that the first year of being a mom has been one of the most challenging, thought-provoking, earth-shattering, emotional, and wonderful years of my life. As I reflect on what this year has meant to me, I thought I would share my big take-aways.
Parenting is not one-size-fits-all
I read a lot of books before Donovan was born. I wanted to know what the best practices were for parenting. I quickly learned that there are a million ways to raise your child and plenty of philosophies to align with. Just ask any parent what their favorite baby item is and you will get fifty different answers. Parents have opinions about everything because some things work for some babies and some don’t. Some brands are better to some people and what some parents see as a must-have, just isn’t important to others.
So where do you begin when you are faced with tons of well meaning, yet conflicting advice? Well, for starters, you should listen, because you never know when you might hear something helpful. And, of course be gracious because other parents only want to make your experience better by learning from their errors or tried and true methods. But, don’t take it all as gospel. You have to find what works for you. Pure and simple.
Most importantly, remember that there isn’t really a right and wrong. Parenting isn’t a competition to see who is the best parent and who does everything right. We are all lucky to survive, so don’t poke fun at what works for others. This job is hard enough. And, take all advice graciously, yet with a grain of salt.
Oh the things I said I would never do…
Just never say never. It is the kiss of death. Co-sleeping. Cloth diapers. Breastfeeding past one year. I never saw any of that coming.
Your schedule does not always work for baby
This one came as possibly the largest shock. I read a book that talked about getting your baby on a perfect sleep, feeding, and waking schedule. I loved the idea of structure and a formal plan. Oh, how I was wrong. I guess all of the best laid plans go out the window when you are sleep deprived and you have a screaming baby in your arms.
I learned that sometimes what you think will work, just doesn’t. You have to listen to your baby and be ready to adjust. Or else, you will be adding extra stress and unnecessary pressure to your already chaotic life.
Trust your gut
Sometimes things will not feel right. You won’t be able to put your finger on it. It’s that feeling that just won’t quit. Always remember that you know your baby best. You know what normal looks like for your child and you are the best person to observe changes. The first year is filled with subtle changes and little fevers and runny noses. When you feel that something is wrong, always trust your gut. And don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
Being less selfish was easier than I thought
Before children, I always thought that I wasn’t ready to be a parent because I wasn’t ready to give up my freedom. Sleeping in, going out, lounging on the couch, drinking coffee and wine, daily workouts. But, the moment we decided to get pregnant and I slowly began to cut out caffeine and alcohol, I realized that the things that I thought I would miss really didn’t compare to the new person in our lives.
Don’t get me wrong, I miss the sleep and I miss the ability to do whatever I want whenever I want. But, I wouldn’t trade that freedom for the world. Nothing compares to the happiness that Donovan brings to our lives. Slowly, some of that freedom returns as your baby gets older. And someday, I know we will look back and miss those baby days and forget all about the things that we had to give up.
How do they grow so fast?
Seriously. It is absolutely amazing. And, horrifying because you realize how quickly these moments that you desperately want to cherish are simply slipping through your fingers. And all those Aunts, Uncles, and Grandparents who said that “they would grow up so quickly right before your eyes” were completely and totally right.
Why does everything freak me out?
I would not consider myself an anxious person. But once Donovan arrived, I suddenly began in to worry about the most unlikely and improbable scenarios occurring. I knew that these worries were unwarranted and slightly over-protective, but I just could not imagine anything happening to my little guy. And, suddenly the world seemed like such a dangerous place. The car ride home from the hospital sent me over the edge because I realized that everyone was texting and driving or speeding or being reckless.
I have never been a huge fan of the news, but I had to stop watching. Everyday there are children who are abducted, killed, lost, injured, neglected and I just did not need any new ideas added to my worrying mind. I also developed a new appreciation for my own parents. I now understood the worry and anxiety I put them through when I didn’t call like I said I would or when I was late coming home at night. I guess there are a lot of ways that you find a new appreciation for you parents after becoming one.
Life will never be the same
My favorite quote about parenthood is from author Elizabeth Stone. She said, “Making the decision to have a child – it is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.”
Once Donovan arrived, life changed in a million ways for the better. Possibly the best was the new love that Doug and I found in being his parents. And just like all parents, we want what is best for him. We want him to have a perfect and wonderful life and we want him to be happy. But, we all know that life is never that simple and that we all face struggles and challenges. We don’t want Donovan’s life to be free from hardship, because it is in those moments that he will grow and become the man we hope he will be. But, it won’t make watching him struggle any easier. In those moments our hearts will hurt and we will want to protect him, but we know that it is just part of life.
In the meantime, we look forward to the many ways that watching Donovan grow up will bring us joy. And, at the same time, we will be thankful for each day that we have with our little guy. We certainly can wait to see what is to come, because we know that he will be all grown up way faster than we care to admit.
From Me to You