I've found that if you ask a mom what her first year of parenthood was like, she will look at you and chuckle to herself before sharing her story (or she'll just end it at the chuckle and let you draw your own conclusions.) That laugh is part defense mechanism, part retrospect, and part earned sympathy for her past self. I asked a group of my mom friends how they got through their first year of motherhood and, while I asked online, I could almost hear their answers prefaced with that rueful "Ha."
In many ways I knew I had it easy when I had my son. After all, he was healthy, he didn't have reflux or colic, and I could usually soothe him. You know, eventually. That's not to say that it wasn't hard as hell, though. In fact, I went to bed every day completely exhausted. But it wasn't until my second child was born that I realized just how difficult an infant my first had been. My partner and I joke that if our easy-going second child had been born first we would have thought our son was possessed. Since we had nothing to compare him to, though, we just assumed his more challenging behaviors were normal. Ha.
I got through most of that first year of motherhood by rolling with the punches and being as kind to myself as possible. Here's how some other moms were able to muddle through:
"The staff members working for YMCA Childwatch are directly responsible for the retention of my sanity. Even on days that I didn't have the energy to work out I was able to drop them in Childwatch and shower alone."
"Real talk: my friends. My mom network. We were all first time moms, muddling through and doing our best. I would have been lost, and I don't know how people do it without a network. Date nights were a priority, too. Husband and I would go out once a month (still do), and talk about the baby (still do, but now there are two kids and they aren't babies anymore) but we got out and away and recharged. And also, I bought my first Keurig and that helped a lot, too!"
Coffee, wine, sleep, and ice cream. Also a helpful husband!
"To be honest I coped with my first year of parenting so poorly that I'm still kind of ashamed to talk about it. I had severe postpartum depression and while I know that a lot of the shame I feel is for things that were far beyond my control, and can be blamed on chemical misfortunes, I still feel bad that I either don't remember or feel negatively about my beloved child's first year of life. I'm working with a therapist and I think I'll learn to 'forgive' myself eventually, but I'm just not there yet."
"I don't remember much of it. We had a friend move in with her baby who was only two months younger than mine. I was in charge of both babies while she worked... it was bananas."
It's all a blur, I can't remember!
"Accept any and all help, and don't feel guilty about it! My mom was here a lot and my husband was very hands on. And when my sister-in-law offered to sleep over and take care of baby all night so I could sleep in the guest room, my first instinct was to say, 'Oh no, you don't have to do that!' But I took her up on it and it was fabulous!"
"Four words: Stay-At-Home Dad. For real, the families that have two working parents that first year, I think, must be superheroes. It was so much harder to add the second working adult to our household than it was to add the second child (both of which we did in a one-month period)."
Friends. Mom. And honestly, working out and meditation.
"We moved to a new state when my son was 2-months-old. It was really, really hard. I had an online moms group that was great and two of the moms from that group lived in my new city. I made it my job to find mom friends in my new city so I didn't feel so alone. It turned into a regular play date, and I'm still friends with some of those moms six years later."
"One hour at a time. And my mom. OK, and husband and his mom, too. And advice from far-away friends, because it's really hard to make nearby friends. I wish somebody had told me to join a mom's group while I was still pregnant. I would have loved having the support of local moms right away!"
I got through my first year of parenthood by having the perfect child who was perfect in every perfect way. No, seriously. It's actually true.
"To be honest, I loved every minute of my first year of parenthood. It flew by. I was good at it, I had the best mom friends, and I felt like I had the perfect stay-at-home-mom life. (And my husband was a huge help at night and on weekends.) But my first year of parenthood of two kids was a totally different story!"
"I was newly 19 when I had my daughter and it was pre-internet. I was a waitress and had no family support. I was naive and so young. Many people said to me, 'Oh once you have a child your life is over,' and I took that to heart and gave all of myself to her and my full-time waitressing job. I watched TV shows about parenting and took books out of the library. The vacuum cleaner quieted her. I didn't really have friends left as they were busy with college and teen fun. I've literally no idea how I got through it."
My husband. He was, and continues to be, my rock.
"Regular girls' nights. Being able to kick back with my friends was better than therapy for me!"
"Having a lot of good shows to marathon watch when I had to be up with the baby because my baby thought night was day and day was night. I really should write to the creators of The Office and Orange Is The New Black."
"Friends at all hours of the day and night. Just chugging through with the hope that it must get easier or people would never have more than one on purpose. Also, Tiny Tower — the only game app I spent real dollars to buy fake dollars to advance my game."
Writer's Note: when I asked the question, Jane just responded with this GIF and, honestly, I think we've now found the International Parenting Mascot.