How would I describe my first year as a mother? Transformative. I have said it before and I’ll say it again, I have changed more in one year than in my 29 years before. No book, TV show, blog post or anything in between could have prepared me for what this first year has taught me. A piece of my heart now lives outside of my body. My capacity to love has deepened to a level I didn’t know existed…and that makes me feel both completely exposed and vulnerable, and yet confident and fearless. This new love is fragile because it’s so pure, and yet it has provided a new sense of purpose that feels solid and sound. It’s as if I’d been floating before but now I’m grounded, running full force ahead, living for someone and something other than myself. In one year, my mind, soul and body have transformed into another self that existed within me…that self being, “mom.” Learning who you are as a mother is a completely new side that doesn’t exist until you become one. It’s something to be felt, learned and grown into…with lots of unexpected hills and valleys along the way.
The first few months as a new mom are challenging. They’re blissful because WOW that’s your baby and WOAH you grew him or her and OMG he or she is staring directly into your soul! (No really, it feels that way when you first hold your baby and they gaze into your eyes). But ohh how my heart aches for that exhausted and naïve girl in those first set of photos at the hospital. That girl who has no idea she is about to give every ounce of her being – body, mind, soul – to her new baby. From pregnancy ups and downs to labor (ouch!) to those initial sleepless months that revolve around nursing sessions every other hour…it is truly the most humbling experience I have ever gone through. In an instant, your world is forever changed and your old self is no longer. The doctor puts the baby on your chest and your transformation begins.
Though I have learned countless things about myself since becoming a mother, a few stand out above the rest. They say growth takes place at your most vulnerable, when you’re living outside of your comfort zone…and each of these below is a testament to that.
^^One month after Jude was born. Mama is happy…and tired. So, so very tired.
Lose and gain a sense of self: When I first had Jude, I felt so lost. I wasn’t prepared for the amount of work that goes into caring for an infant. Feedings every hour (literally a baby is attached to your body – every hour!), barely any sleep, an extra 20 pounds heavier, no time for my career, less time to nurture my marriage and catch up with friends. It was a complete shock to my system. Alas, real life looked a heck of a lot different than the photos saved to my “baby” Pinterest board. Initially, I resented Blake for going back to work…not because I was the one at home, but because he got to leave the house – alone! He could listen to his favorite playlist calmly at his desk, walk to grab coffee on a whim, chat with coworkers. Meanwhile, I was in my mama cave giving my mind and body over to this tiny human.
After creating and running my own business for six years prior to having Jude, I quickly found out I really missed my work. It hit hard that I didn’t have the time to devote to it anymore – and it felt even more unsettling to realize how much of my identity was wrapped up in my job. I was always someone who prided myself on having a “real life” outside of the blogosphere…and now I had to truly reflect, dig deep and learn to find a sense of wholeness without it. And while yes, I could have hired help so I could spend time creating content or answering emails, my heart was overwhelmingly attached to this baby and that’s what I felt compelled to follow.
Over time, my daily schedule with a baby slowly but surely became my new normal and I started to appreciate it. I felt like I conquered the world when Jude and I had a successful trip to the mall…just so I could get a coffee and stroll him around for an hour to get out of the house. We’d spend an entire afternoon cuddling in bed and I would stare in amazement that he’s mine…realizing that simply staring at him felt more fulfilling than hitting publish on a new blog entry. Things started to shift and I could feel in my heart that priorities were changing. Blogging was important to me, yes, but taking care of Jude took the number one spot– even if that meant accepting fewer partnerships, making less money and letting go of that part of myself for the time being. Realizing this was a turning point for me. Instead of feeling pride in my work, I started to feel a different type of pride in myself knowing that I’m giving my son my all – and that being home with him makes me happy. And above all, that it is okay to shift and lean into what brings me the most joy…which is a hard thing to accept and believe when society tells us we need to be doing all the things, all the time.
Over the span of a year, I have yet to find the perfect balance of work and motherhood – and I am not so sure it exists. Everyday is different over here and a mental struggle to find peace in how much content I am producing for my blog/Instagram feed, or how much time I’m spending with Jude. Though the mom guilt can be quite a force, I try to spend time on what fills my cup each day and go that route (well, with some notice to my mom or sister who watch Jude while I get work done). Some days I get it right, others I fail miserably. But I do know I am trying my absolute best to make it all work, while still staying sane and happy.
Though I’m not giving the time or energy I used to to my blog, I am really proud that I have been able to let go of that defining identity – it took months of practice and positive self talk, day in and day out. Our work, especially when it’s creative, can feel like such a huge part of our “self,” but it has been so freeing to just be and not put emphasis on any one factor that makes me, me. This new self is more confident, purposeful and compassionate. I’m living for another person now and every choice I make has a greater effect than before. Going through so many intense stages in such a short amount of time, I feel more sure of myself than ever before. I am kinder and more gentle with myself, which is huge considering I’ve always been my biggest critic. There’s something about motherhood that softens you on many levels, and I’m so thankful for that.
Your friends may dwindle: Ohh this. I’ve come to my computer countless times to write about this subject. It’s something that both breaks my heart and has provided so much growth simultaneously – but isn’t that always how it goes? I wish I could count on one hand the amount of times I’ve Googled, “losing friends after having a baby” – but the truth is, it’s more than I’d like to admit. There are friends who have shown so much grace and care as I’ve transitioned into this new role as a mom, and there are friends who abandoned me when I needed them most. It’s so tough to explain how drastic the life change of becoming a parent is to someone who hasn’t gone through it – especially when they don’t try to understand your new world. Friends who I thought were family don’t know that Jude got his first tooth or that he’s so close to walking. They didn’t send something so small as a birthday text when he turned one. They didn’t follow up when I told them motherhood was often lonely, isolating and extremely challenging, as I cried to them on the phone. I was not prepared for how different my life would be after welcoming a child, and I was especially not prepared to lose what I thought were such enormous, special relationships.
Though I’ve cried a lot and felt sick to my stomach about this one, it has also given me a chance to self reflect on who I was in our friendships before Jude entered the picture. I see now that I was able to give and put a ton of myself into those relationships, and I made a big effort to stay in touch daily. Pre-baby, I had the time and the energy to give – it was easy to call and text, I didn’t have a tiny human to keep alive 24/7. But once I had Jude, friendships weren’t at the top of my priority list as I was learning to navigate my new role as a mom. During the time I wasn’t able to give the amount of myself they were used to, I was hoping that is when these friends could really show up and give more to me in a time of need. Those first few months are hard – really, really hard, they’re about surviving each day. A solid support system is a must to stay sane (…at least it was for me).
In the past year, I learned to grieve and let go of certain friendships – which was tough but helpful. It gave me room to appreciate friends that have showered me with love at my lowest, who continued to make plans so they can get to know Jude, who brought me a bath bomb and face mask “just because” they could tell I needed a half hour to myself.
I try not to take this one personally – that’s what all the articles and blog posts say. It’s not “you” – it’s that they can’t see how they fit into your life anymore, or they’re hurt and feel neglected that you put your child before the friendship. But the truth is, it’s hard for me to wrap my brain around someone who was once so close to me not caring to know my son…a mini Olivia – he’s a direct part of me. If they love me, won’t they want to know Jude? Though time has helped to heal the hurt, it’s still hard for me to fully grasp that one.
As with most big life changes, there’s an adjustment period and then that new normal sets in. Maybe our paths will cross again one day and this is just the ebb and flow of life as one friend enters a new chapter. Maybe the others will find themselves there in 10 years and call me to say, “I get it now, you really did need me.” Or maybe it’s just part of growing up and they’re gone entirely.
Time management: I was never the efficient type until I became a parent. Generally, I describe myself as Type B in organization and Type A in stress level (what a dream combo, right?! 😉 ). I have always been leisurely when it came to my work…I could take my time scrolling around the internet between answering emails or writing a blog post. I could refill my bottomless coffee in the third hour at my coffeehouse of choice on any given day. I had nothing but time to myself, working on my own schedule, so there weren’t a lot of pressing things on my list of to-do’s outside of work. Insert taking care of a baby into the agenda and boom, you can’t exactly take a conference call and change a poopy diaper at the same time…especially when your child hates to sit still and diaper changes are an actual wresting match these days, ha! Needless to say, you learn very quickly that when you get two minutes to hop on your computer, you need to USE those two minutes to the fullest. Since becoming a parent, procrastination isn’t an option in my world anymore. Being a work-from-home, stay-at-home mom means “productivity” is the key word when I get any time to myself.
On that note, I was always the type to leave my clean clothes in the drier for days on end (anyone else?). Not anymore! Two days ago my sister watched Jude for a few hours and I did THREE loads of laundry AND the dishes. I also cleaned out my closet, sorted through my old maternity clothes and edited a round of blog photos. And though my head was spinning when I picked up Jude, I had to give myself a pat on the back for all that I had just accomplished. No minute can be spared when you’re a parent! I used to think I was tired when I went to bed pre-baby…if only I knew what was ahead, ha!
You fall in love with your partner all over again: I can see this one going one of two ways. Either you and your partner fall more in love as you both care and give to a child equally, or one partner doesn’t give as much and it causes damage to the relationship. I am so thankful that Blake is truly an extraordinary and very hands-on dad. It has made me have googly-eyes for him all over again. He is so gentle and caring with Jude, and I can completely trust him to take amazing care when I leave the house. The thing is, you don’t know what type of parent your partner will be until they are one…and wow, what a significant impact that has on a marriage or relationship. It can completely change how you see someone because you now have something equally important to take care of. Becoming parents has made us appreciate each other so much more. We are both giving all we have – to our child, our home, our work and our relationship. There’s so much more to juggle now than years before, but we are conscious of ensuring we are growing together and not apart through it all. Plus, it’s SO fun to laugh together as we watch Jude’s personality blossom…we get a kick out of him and all the precious baby-isms we are experiencing right now. Babies are just the best! It’s a special time as we grow our family, and we try not to take a second for granted.
Though this list could be a mile long, those are the things that come to mind when I reflect on some of the more significant and unexpected changes this past year has brought my way. I know I’ll always be adjusting and changing, but I am so proud of who I am a year later. I grew and birthed a human! He is happy and clean and well fed! The house did not crumble! Blake and I still like each other! I sometimes still post to my Instagram feed! See? We survived that first year just fine over here! 😉
If you’re in the thick of new motherhood, I am sending a big bear hug your way. It’s the toughest, most beautiful, most complex time – and you are absolutely not alone!