My son’s first birthday has been full of opportunities to reflect and reminisce about where we were from pre-pregnancy to the present. That reflection and sharing stories with other moms and pregnant friends have led me to these takeaways from year one.
Go With the Flow
My birth plan was to deliver naturally without pain medication, with no restrictions on my movement or food and beverage intake, using the tub in my hospital’s birthing center for labor. My son decided that my womb was just too hospitable and needed to be induced ten days after my due date. Bye-bye birthing center, hello labor and delivery.
Once I got the Pitocin, I was restricted to the two feet around the hospital bed to extend the monitor wires and only have clear liquids. There was no walking down the hallways, no laboring in the tub, heck, and no using the toilet. After 12 hours, I got an epidural.
While things didn’t go according to any plan we had discussed, the experience of birth taught me that you have to adjust on the fly. Learning to breastfeed, returning to work, pumping, sleep training, and so much more have all taught me the importance of adaptability.
No One Asked You To Be a Hero
I needed the epidural probably two hours before I got it, and it was my midwife who suggested it. I was being so thickheaded about sticking to my plan that I was letting myself suffer more than necessary. No one was going to give me a medal for delivering without meds. And no one thought less of me for needing it.
I’m not advocating for or against an epidural, but instead listening to your body and not forcing yourself to endure more pain or stress than necessary.
I also struggled with breastfeeding for the first few days. I spoke with a lactation consultant in the hospital, but none of the advice was making it into my sleep-addled brain. We were having a ton of trouble, and I needed to reach out for professional help sooner than I did. I should have asked for a consult when my husband was with me to increase the chances that the advice would stick. I was afraid of being too needy or “annoying” someone with these questions.
If you need help, ask for it! You are not an inconvenience, especially to the people paid to assist you.
Take the Help
Especially in those first few months, if someone offers to visit and bring lunch, let them! Don’t worry about how you’re still in your pajamas or how the sink is filled with dishes. If your loved ones ask what they can do to help, have them hold the baby while you shower, change the baby’s diaper while you get yourself something to eat, or even do your dishes while you’re nursing.
The people in your life (especially parents themselves) have an idea of your struggle and want to help you. Let them.
Take Care of Yourself
Prioritizing self-care has never come easy to me. If given an out, I would always push off the investments into my physical and mental well-being. But I found that in pregnancy and beyond, I have felt the NEED to care for myself.
Whether it’s a long walk with the baby or going to the salon for a haircut, it’s important to find the time, short as it may be, to make sure you aren’t neglecting your well-being for the perceived sake of your family.
Take Care of Your Relationships
My husband and I were in a long-distance relationship for years before we were married. In that time, we heavily relied on strong communication skills to carry us through to our next in-person visit. Those skills weren’t needed again until the end of my pregnancy and have come in handy since our son was born.
The well-being of the infant was the highest priority, but taking 15 minutes after the baby went to bed to talk about our lives and the world around us was crucial.
And it’s not just your significant other. Those non-romantic relationships with your friends and family members need some attention, too. Even if you only have time to text your best friend to talk about your favorite show or catch up with your cousins while the baby’s sleeping at Thanksgiving, these relationships don’t disappear when you have kids.
Figure Out What Work/Life Balance Means To You
I firmly believe that there is no “having it all” but that we each need to find a balance that works for us. For some people, it might mean adjusting the settings for your work email on your cellphone, so you don’t check it at home, and for others, it might mean telecommuting or adjusting the hours you’re in the office. Be flexible with yourself while you figure this out.
Choose Function Over Fashion
When purchasing clothes for myself post-baby, I constantly thought about the need to nurse and pump. How accessible am I in this outfit? And I’d like to think I did a pretty good job, but I wasn’t always thinking about those things when it came to the clothes I was choosing for my son.
I bought adorable summer one-piece pajamas online, and when I got them, I realized there was no diaper access. I would need to take the entire outfit off every time I changed his diaper.
These are the mistakes you quickly stop yourself from making again. I’m constantly checking how easily I can get my son into and out of something, steering clear of white, and don’t even come at me with a hand-wash-only outfit.
Find Your Village
We’re all familiar with the term “it takes a village to raise a child,” but we don’t all live in cozy, close neighborhoods like in years past, so we need to make our village.
Whether it’s a group you find through Facebook, MeetUp, La Leche League, or parent friends at work, this village that you create can be a source of support, ideas, reassurance, and sanity. Other moms are an invaluable resource, and you will find ways to learn from them.
Forgive Your Childless Friends, For They Know Not What They Do
You’ll inevitably be talking to a single coworker, making small-talk, and they’ll mention how tired they are because they couldn’t stop binge-watching the latest Netflix hit. While your inner voice may say, “Oh really, YOU’RE TIRED? My child woke up three times last night and spit up on my pajamas at 3 a.m.!” — don’t say those words out loud. You were once naive and young and well-rested, and you probably said something well-intentioned but foolish to a parent.
But with that being said, when interacting with these friends, make sure to stand up for yourself if you need to. Establish boundaries, and don’t feel bad for saying no to an activity that won’t work for your family that day.
The Days Are Long, But the Years Are Short
When I was home on maternity leave, I would count down the hours until my husband got home from work, but as soon as I was back at work, it felt as though I had never been home at all.
The one benefit of being out of the house all day is that it helps me cherish those few moments I have with my son during the week. So I try to put the phone down and watch my son discover the world around him. Reading books at bedtime is one of my favorite ways that we bond.
There may come a time when my sweet boy isn’t a sweet little boy anymore and is not very keen on spending time with his mommy. So I’ll try to enjoy the days where he lights up when I come home from work while I have them.