I’ve been meaning to write this for about a month now but the past month has just been so busy, not only with the holidays & traveling to see our families but also with a lot of big changes in Rachel’s life. Allow me to do a quick life update.
The second weekend in December my husband & I went to a wedding in Maryland for one of his college roommates. We spent the night after the wedding which was my first time away from Rachel overnight. Before the trip she was down to nursing only twice a day & as I had met my goal of breastfeeding her for a full year, I figured the 36 hrs or so I was away from her would be an easy way to end our breastfeeding journey. So that’s what I did!
Rachel handled this change extraordinarily well. I don’t think she’s missed nursing one bit! It was definitely bittersweet for me but mostly I’m proud of myself for accomplishing a goal that for a while I thought was going to be impossible. Also I’m excited that after 9 months of pregnancy & 12 months of breastfeeding I finally feel like I really own my own body again. How women have back to back pregnancies blows my mind. Not only can I not imagine handling a baby & a toddler at the same time but I also know I just need a little “me time” between kids, even if that is just in the form of not being pregnant or nursing for a while.
Anyhow, not only did I wean Rachel from nursing but I also weaned her off the bottle at the same time. As I’ve done with all major changes in her life (moving from sleeping in the rock & play to the pack & play, then from the pack & play to the crib, etc) I tried to make these changes as gradually as possible to make them easier on her, & I’m happy to report that she has handled them all very well. This leads me into the point of today’s post. I’d like to share some of the greatest lessons I’ve learned in my first year as a parent.
- It gets easier with time. I know, I know, a lot of people love to say parenting only gets harder as kids get older. But so far I have found that to be completely inaccurate for me. The older Rachel gets, the easier things are for me. Now maybe this is just because of the personality I have (I don’t like people being super dependent on me- hence one of many reasons why the newborn stage was NOT my favorite), but I also think it’s because of the confidence that comes from knowing all that I’ve survived so far. I find that nowadays when I face a parenting challenge it’s much easier for me to stay calm because I can think back on all the challenges I’ve faced so far & how I’ve survived all of them, even the ones that seemed impossible at the time. To me that confidence is worth so much & really does serve to make this whole parenting gig much easier.
- Everything is a stage. The old adage “This too shall pass” has never been more accurate than it is for parenting. Whatever stage your child is in, whether you love or hate it, it will pass. The older Rachel gets, the more I’m learning to embrace the positives of each stage because I know each one will pass faster than I can imagine. On tough days I remind myself “The days are long but the years are short.” That saying has brought me so much comfort over the past year. And it is so true. I feel like just yesterday I was the exhausted new mom who felt clueless & questioned everything about myself as a mom. Now I realize that our pediatrician really was right about me being the expert on my baby simply because she is MY baby- & it makes me feel like a whole new woman!
- Make changes in your baby’s life as gradually as possible. As I talked about earlier, when you’re making a change in your baby’s life, try to do it as gradually as possible. At least for me I have found that this makes things MUCH easier both for your baby & for you. For example, when I was trying to switch Rachel from sleeping in the rock & play to the pack & play, I started with naps. After she did well with that for a couple of days, I started having her sleep in it at night. But I knew she was harder to get to sleep at the beginning of the night so instead of putting her in the pack & play then, I waited till after her second night time feeding. I knew she usually went back to sleep pretty easily at that time, so one night I started putting her in the pack & play after that feeding. Then a few nights later I did it after the first night time feeding, then a few nights later I put her in the back & play from the beginning of the night. It all went much smoother than I anticipated & I really think that’s because I did it so gradually.
- Find what works for you & your child & rock it. I’ll be the first to admit that I am not the best at following all the “rules” of parenting. Obviously we need to exercise common sense to keep our kids safe, but within reason I think sometimes we have to just ignore the experts & find what works for us. Perhaps more importantly, we need to remember that there is not one right way to parent a child. What works for your friends might not work for you & what works for you might not work for them. We are all different people & our children are all different people as well, so we can hardly expect one style of parenting to work for everyone. Also, no one is perfect, no matter what their Instagram or Facebook profile might lead you to believe, so learn to forgive yourself when you inevitably don’t live up to your own expectations for yourself as a parent every single day.
- The good times makes the hard times worth it. When Rachel giggles & grins at me, which is a ton these days, it makes all the screaming fits & meltdowns from her younger months so, so worth it. I keep reading that she’s at the age to start throwing tantrums but so far she’s only had a few mild ones here & there, & most of the time they’ve been when she’s in the thick of teething. Sometimes she gets upset if I take away something she shouldn’t be playing with or if I put her inside the baby gate for a bit, but I’ve found that if I just give her something else to play with or ignore the screaming she usually calms down within a minute or so. Anyway, I’m sure she may throw some real tantrums in the coming months but I know that even then the times when she’s happy will make the hard times totally worth it.