When I was pregnant I had all these preconceived ideas of how I would raise Luci, how breastfeeding would go, and what our days/nights would look like. While I shared these thoughts with women who were already mamas I am sure they were silently chuckling to themselves as I do now when new mamas make similar plans for their littles.
While I am no expert (and believe me, I screw up daily) this year has taught me so many lessons about myself, and having my daughter has forced me into lessons from God I have been ignoring for quite some time. There are many things I have observed as a mama in the first year that I have sat in for a while debating how or when to share my thoughts. Our little recently turned one and as I reflected back on a chaotic first year, I decided the best way for me to really reflect is to share my feelings on my experiences so far. The amazing thing about motherhood is that just as individual as our littles are, so are our experiences with them. This is what the first year of ours led me to:
1. Mean girls isn’t just a movie. I debated how I would write this part of the blog post most honestly out of worry for the reaction from other women. Pretty sad, right? The vaccine debate, if you use essential oils, co-sleep, medication or not… OH MY GOSH. If you want to watch grown women attack each other just tune into a thread discussing this in any facebook moms group. Ladies, REALLY? Aren’t we all supposed to be at a stage where we are empowering each other and cheering each other on? Instead of attacking each other because Susie takes a different approach than you, try seeking to understand her decisions before you assume she’s a tree hugging hippie who thinks modern medicine is the devil. At the end of the day if you don’t agree with another mamas decisions you know the best part? You don’t have to make the same ones with your kid. Do you, boo.
Maybe I am wrong, but I don’t believe most mothers go into decision making for their child thinking “how can I screw them up, put their health at risk, or put other kids at risk!?” Everyone is trying to do what is best for their little. Lets give each other a little grace. At the end of the day we are all wiping poopy butts, getting puked on, and trying to remember the last time we washed our hair.
2. Nothing goes according to “plan”. In fact, my entire plan for Luci went out the door the day I went into labor with her. I wanted a natural birth for the health purposes for Luci. I ended up being induced. I battled supply issues for months until at 9 months postpartum I found a lump I needed a biopsy on that was interfering with my milk production and my journey of providing our little breastmilk stopped. I cried, felt guilt, fear, and like a failure as a mother.
We walk into motherhood with all these thoughts for how we are going to raise our children, how we are going to be as parents, and what that looks like for us. At the end of the day as mamas we need to prioritize our mental health and come to terms with the fact that sometimes, our plan has to change. This was one of the most humbling lessons in my first year.
“Im never going to lose my patience with her” I said…until she got 8 teeth in one month.
“Ill never let her watch TV in the first year…” I said…until she was clinging to me and I needed to cook dinner or take a shower.
The best plan I have learned to stick to is to not have a plan but to have priorities or “non negotiables” instead. We have a priority of providing the best available nutrition to our little whenever possible. Did she watch TV today? Yep. Did she get a well balanced meal in? Yep… then that’s a WIN. At the end of the day you need to set your priorities and let all else go. Don’t sweat the small stuff.
3. There is always a new phase, and every one of them has its own set of struggles. We recently were in church when they were speaking about parenting and the phases that come with it. It hit close to home because at that time we were in a tough phase with Luci not sleeping through the night and were praying for the “next stage”. We were reminded that there will never be another time when Luci is 6 months again, there will never be another “first tooth” with her, and so on with many of the firsts that occur with our littles. Cherish them and the difficult moments because they are just as difficult for them as they are for us. As cliche as it is, they really do grow up so fast. Be kind to yourself, embrace the challenges, and remember that they are learning through this as much as you are.
4. Don’t compare. I had another mama look at our daughter with a funny face when she noticed she wasn’t walking at 11 months and immediately notify me that her daughter walked at 9 months. Good for you Martha, your kids a freaking genius. I used to google “when does baby get their first tooth” and other developmental milestones in the first few months. The reality is every kid is going to develop at their pace and while you can work with them to support their development, you are not going to make their tooth come in any faster. Relax girl, Some kids are early, some kids are near the end of the “range”…at the end of the day all of our kids are going to eat their booger.
5. Don’t apologize. We are strict about the quality nutrition our daughter receives her first several years of life. Is she going to learn what sugar is at some point? Yes, of course she is. She will probably have some morning donut dates with her Dad just like I did growing up. It is one of my favorite memories. She also is going to know that is not a normal occurrence and that veggies matter. I used to feel bad about the decisions we have made. I used to explain myself if someone didn’t understand why we choose to avoid antibiotics whenever possible or acetaminophen. Honestly? Im done explaining myself. I am not sorry for the path we have chosen and I don’t feel guilty about it. Guilt is usually a sign that we are having an internal struggle with our own decision about something. We explain ourselves at the cost of others feelings or thoughts. Why? Unless you really don’t believe you are making the best decision, you do not owe anyone an explanation for your parenting decisions. Stop apologizing for trying to do what you feel is best for your child.
The biggest things this past year has taught me is to be a little kinder to others and have a little more faith in the harder times. My daughter has softened my heart, forced me to let go of my rigidness and given me a confidence and fearlessness I was afraid to have. But most of all, she has given me a love I have never felt before her, and for that I am so grateful and excited for every new phase to come.
My best (unsolicited) advice for any Mama in their first year is set your priorities and let go of the plan you have in your head. There is always a new phase and each one brings its struggles, do your best to be present in these moments and pray through the harder times. Don’t apologize for your decisions, you don’t owe anyone an explanation. Lastly, don’t be the mean girl, most of us are really just a hot mess with some dry shampoo.