The first year of parenting is, without a doubt, one of the most intense times of a mom's life. Between hormones and sleep deprivation and (for some, including myself) postpartum depression (PPD) things that seem easy are anything but. When I take the time to look back and reflect on the first year of my son's life, I know there are things about my first year as a mom I would change, even though I would never go back and change the fact that I'm a mom.
Despite the overwhelming and consistent joy I feel as being able to say I'm someone's (twice over) mother, there were (and sometimes still are, if you really want to get honest and personal) times I absolutely questioned my decision to start a family. I was positive I wasn't cut out for it, and started to genuinely believe I was too impatient, too selfish, and too damn tired to care for another human. I was convinced I didn't do enough tummy time or that I ruined my son because I made the decision to turn on the television for a few minutes. I wasn't at my best mentally, emotionally, or physically, so I had major self-doubt.
Most new moms go through similar experiences (I've heard) during their first year in the trenches of motherhood and, despite being completely and totally convinced they're screwing up, come out the other end of that year smiling and happy ( but probably a little disheveled, with stains on their shirt and crumbs in their bra). In retrospect, I know I did fine. My kids are well-adjusted, happy, and healthy, but that doesn't mean there aren't a few things during that first year of motherhood that I wouldn't go back and change, if I could.
My Postpartum Depression (PPD)
Nothing had a greater impact on my first year as a mother than the impact my postpartum depression made. It was constantly there; whispering in my ear that I was doing a horrible job and that I was a bad mother and that I was failing. It made me become hyper-vigilant, which only fueled a slew of other moments during my first year of mom-life that I would have rather avoided.
My Obsession With My Baby's Sleep...
I was convinced that he wasn't sleeping because of something I was doing wrong, so I did everything I could think of to get him to sleep "the right way." I watched the clock and logged his naps and his bedtimes. I fretted and cried and worried that I had done something, some huge mistake, that ruined him for sleep forever. It was always on my mind, and it was exhausting.
...And His Diapers
I was one of those people who looked at pictures of baby poop on the internet, just to make sure what was coming out of him was within the realm of "normal." I kept a log of dirty and wet diapers. I recorded how frequently he went. I swear, if I'd had a scale I probably would've weighed them.
My Constant Anxiety
I worried about everything. From poop to how to make the best breast milk and if I was pumping enough, I was constantly fretting and anxious.
My Lack Of A Support System
We lived in a new town my son's first year, so I was essentially alone. I didn't have any friends and I didn't have any nearby family members that could pitch in and help. I had no one except the internet, so it was a lonely and scary time.
Letting My Marriage Slide
Because of my depression, I completely neglected my partner. Between exhaustion, breastfeeding, and needing downtime, I was completely unavailable. We're back on stable ground now, but that first year as parents was no joke.
Losing Touch With Friends
I got so wrapped up in my kid that I let pretty much all my relationships slide. It's been almost five years and there are a lot of people I regret losing touch with.
Not Taking Care Of Myself Physically...
I put myself at the very bottom of the list of people who needed my attention. I didn't sleep or eat right or even shower regularly. I should've been kinder to myself, because there's no question that I deserved better.
I stopped doing pretty much anything that even remotely resembled self-care. I was a wreck and it impacted every other part of my life, including the way I parent. I know it's an over-played trope at this point, but you truly cannot take care of someone unless you take care of yourself, first.
My Social Media Addiction
Because I was so alone and so lonely, I spent a lot of time online. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest; I was all about all of it. I had my phone in my hand all the time. It was a tether to the outside world and I craved it. In hindsight, I probably should've just done the work to keep in touch with old friends and make new friends, but what's done is done.
The first year of motherhood is brutal and you'll most likely make some mistakes along the way. With a strong support network and proper self-care, however, you'll more than survive it and be better prepared to handle the next 17 years ahead. I promise.