I had big plans for the first year of my first baby’s life. In her imagined future, she’d be dressed daily in adorable, spotless outfits; I’d organize my closet in my “free time” while she napped; I’d get plenty of rest by sitting and breastfeeding while catching up on TV. Needless to say, none of this happened. My new mom dreams were dashed, sure, but it was actually freeing when I embraced the fact that there are things I can let go of trying to accomplish in that first year. I was setting the bar too high, and for what?
As an employee, I have always been of the mindset that I need to work harder to get further. I need to set reach goals and challenge myself so that I’d be rewarded financially. However, it took having a kid to make me realize that this strategy never allowed me to enjoy the moment. I was never going to take pleasure in my work, on that day, if I was always looking to a point in the future when I’d have a bigger title and paycheck.
Letting go of new mom goals in the first year of my daughter’s life enabled me to see the present more clearly, and get more out of it. If I was working, constantly, to check accomplishments off a list, while simultaneously acclimating to motherhood, what kind of memories would I be making in those fleeting first months of her life?
I wanted to update my kids’ baby books as they hit milestones, and we collected adorable pictures of them. But that task quickly fell to the bottom of my new mom “to do” list since adjusting to motherhood can be overwhelming when, like me, you’re nursing around the clock and value daily (sort of) showers.
I have no regrets about not having my newborns sit for professional photos. The shots we used for their baby announcements we took ourselves. They were candid, and real, and I love catching the glimpses of our messy life in the corners of those un-retouched frames, because they trigger memories of what it was like in the early days home with a newborn.
Also, I think it’s weird to put sleeping babies in pots.
This is a cute concept, but not one I ever executed. It looks like a lot of work, with the staging and the sign and the baby needing to be propped up somehow. Also, from the looks of my friend’s feeds, it appears that after the first seven or so months, the thrill of these monthly photo shoots is gone, or life with baby has made it impossible to continue this practice.
I didn’t want to be rude, so I would multi-task while breastfeeding my newborn; writing individual thank you notes to everyone who sent us a something for the baby. I wanted to be finished by the time my maternity leave ended.
So great, I spent my maternity leave writing thank you notes when I could have been, oh, I don’t know, adjusting to my drastically different life now that there was a child in it. With my second kid, I totally lengthened the time frame in which I felt compelled to send notes of gratitude for new baby gifts.
(And if you are reading this and don’t recall receiving a thank you card, let me take this opportunity to express my heartfelt thanks for thinking of us, six or nine years ago.)
I was so excited when the first 20 pounds flew off me in the month after giving birth. But those last 10 pounds? They were like the guests at the party who wouldn’t leave. I tried repeating the mantra that it took me nine months to gain 30 pounds, and I should expect it would take no less than that to lose them. It could take longer, and I had to be OK with that.
I so easily fooled into thinking I would win at motherhood if I could get into my pre-pregnancy jeans before my kid was a year old. Thanks society.
The truth is that even when I lost my pregnancy weight, my body had changed, and clothes just fit differently, more so after I had my second kid. I had to shift the focus from getting back into my old clothes as soon as possible, to being excited about the prospect of buying new clothes to fit my new shape.
I took my last spin class on my due date of my first kid. I was a total gym rat. I thought I’d be back to working out regularly within a year of giving birth. Best. Joke. Ever. Seven years postpartum I renewed my gym membership. And now, I never ever beat myself up if I go a few days without exercising. These days, with two school-aged children, instead of two hours of working out, I take the “anything is better than nothing” approach.
You’re never really finished preparing the baby’s room. With my kids, it kept evolving as they grew and accumulated different toys and books along the way. Plus, my kids slept in our bedroom for the first few months of their lives, so there was no point in getting their room all done in time for their arrival anyway.
As someone with a Type A personality, I hate feeling like I’m giving up. Giving my baby only breast milk for the first year of her life was a self-imposed goal of mine. Ignorantly, I felt formula feeding was failing my daughter and painting me a failure as her mother.
While I had no problems nursing her, my baby’s demand started to outpace my supply by the time she was 11 months old. I had to supplement her feedings with eight ounces of formula a day for about a month until we started transitioning her to cow’s milk. It didn’t phase her at all. I was the one who had to get over the fact that she was getting something other than breast milk. This was a perfect lesson in letting go. I can’t control everything.
No experience has taught me more about myself than motherhood. Having kids is like holding a mirror up to the worst, and best, parts of me. It’s also about recognizing what parts of myself actually need fixing. Before kids, I was obsessed with my weight and the size of my clothes; I was never thin enough. After kids, my body image issues lessened, and what came into focus was my tendency to want to control so much of my surroundings.
As I learned more about myself, through being a parent, I realized I was not totally done growing. I knew what kind of mother I wanted to be — patient, compassionate, supportive — but I cycled through phases where one trait dominated over the rest. I could be compassionate, loving my baby through her colicky spells, but I would run out of patience. I learned that motherhood isn’t an identity I would easily slip into immediately after giving birth. It is taking years (nine and counting) to understand who I am as a mother.