It's a tradition to celebrate a baby's first birthday because it's considered such an important milestone for the child. Equally, we should be celebrating you reaching that first year mark too, because you've probably morphed from a woman working at one job to working in multiple roles, all while making sure everyone is fed, safe and happy while your marriage remains strong
Is it any wonder we're exhausted at the end of the night?
My son started preschool this year, and I've been a stay-at-home mum for the same period. Thinking about how far we've both come in this time, here are 12 important lessons I've learnt.
1. Breastfeeding can feel really strange at first
The sensation of the baby latching on, then having my breasts struggling to adapt, made it feel like I was having an out-of-body experience for a while. But you know what? It got better and easier – but only after I asked for a lot of help at the beginning. It's fine to work through this process slowly as you get comfortable. I didn't become an expert straightaway – nobody does.
2. My body changed
Pregnancy changed my slim body to soft and wobbly bits. I saw my body expand during the nine months with wonder and occasional apprehension. After delivery, I grabbed the loose belly skin and wobbled it around – it was wrinkly, saggy and seemed dirty. It took me a long time to get comfortable with that loose skin and new stretchmarks. Your body will change and it may or may not bounce back, depending on how much time you have to put in to the process. So stop worrying and get back into exercise when you can.
3. So many of us pretend but shouldn't
That's right, so many people who have had a baby pretends that everything is just dandy and they're coping really well. I want you to not pretend that everything's okay, and say things honestly and openly instead, without feeling it's a test where you have to get A+ as a mother. It's fine to say you lost your shit and need to cry. So sob loudly and proudly when you can't hold it together anymore!
4. I appeared crazy (to my husband)
The only person who didn't change while I had a baby was my partner. He still went to bed feeling like himself and woke up (as a new dad) feeling pretty much exactly like he did pre-baby. I, however, felt like I was slowly losing my mind because of sleep deprivation, isolation, the constant feeding sessions and endless laundry when he went back to work. An unwashed spoon that he left on the counter changed me into a screaming demon – even though he'd always done it.
5. Maternal feelings can take a while
During pregnancy, I didn't experience any maternal feelings; nor did I want to coo at my bump. It ghad me really worried. My husband, being the great guy that he is, reassured me it would come once bub was born. And thank goodness for a friend who was honest enough to tell me she felt the same. The feeling seems common, though no one talks about it. But remember – even if it doesn't happen during pregnancy, or even after the baby is born, chances are it will kick in eventually. Talk so someone about it – even your doctor – if you're really worried and need peace of mind.
6. I couldn't sleep when the baby slept
That's one piece of advice I heard repeatedly and it didn't help. Being obsessed with cleanliness, I couldn't relax and nap while the house looked like a tornado had ripped through it. It made me feel better to tackle a few chores and then have a nap. A better idea to save my sanity and get more rest would have been to hire a cleaner for as long as needed. I did get into the habit of sleeping when bub slept but it took a while – lying down on the couch with my eyes closed helped a lot!
7. My husband felt neglected
It's a given - my attention moved entirely from him to a little cute human who depended on me for everything. In my first few months, I wish I would have paid more attention to my husband, thanked him and noticed all the things that he did for me and bub, like the laundry and tidying up. I also wish I'd made time to sit with him and chat about things other than the baby.
8. I suffered an identity crisis
I faced an identity crisis three months into my first year of being a new mum. Who was I? I couldn't find or recognise who I'd been before I became a mother. The fact that I still had to be a wife weighed heavily on me, and I struggled with finding my true self, caught between two roles. It took me a long time to work it out, with many tears shed, but I did eventually create a new identity, combining Old Me, who enjoyed reading, with New Me, who still wanted to read, but now did it with a baby on my chest.
9. I lost old friends and gained new ones
I lost a couple of single girlfriends right around the time I announced my pregnancy to the world. One was in a different phase in her life and I gave up eventually when she stopped responding to my texts and emails. After bub was born, I made new friends who were in the same life phase. I found these friendships were what I needed, and made peace with lost friendships.
10. I developed ferocious maternal instincts
Remember how in point 5 I said I didn't feel maternal in the least? Well, a couple of months after bub was born I was shopping when a staff member tried to move my pram out of his way. I almost leaped through the air at the poor man! He saw the expression on my face and slowly backed away with his hands held up in defence. BACK AWAY FROM THE BABY.
11. There are good days and bad days
Some days I'm overflowing with love for my little one, other days I wish I could call for backup. Just remember the good days go by very quickly and the bad ones will not last forever. Use this as your mantra whenever someone gives you a bad look because bub is wailing (especially on a plane!) or you feel you simply can't go on any longer. In that case, try calling a friend or going for a walk – change it up!
12. It goes by so quickly
Remember, as you're worrying about whether he's been fed properly, or you obsessively check his poop, or you find yourself going for days with stained PJs, that they do grow up quickly. Use the first year to shower your baby with love: pick him up and cuddle him every chance you get. Do skin-to-skin as much as possible, and nod off smelling his hair ... with that half-read book lying next to you. Four years down a long road, those are the moments I remember, not the sleepless nights or the exhaustion.