5 Lessons from My First Year as a Parent


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! lll 1 year badge

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. pinterest mom

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.motherhood-quote

  1. 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.this too shall pass
  2. 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!

    'My god, he's insane.'

    Sometimes I wonder if Rachel thinks this about me.  Ha!

  3. 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.phase moon cartoon
  4. 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.mom stretch mark
  5. 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.

Reflections of a New Mother


Six weeks ago today baby Rachel entered this world!  So much has happened in those six weeks, so in a way it seems like a long time, yet in another way it seems like no time at all.  I know all new parents say this but it really is hard to imagine my life without Rachel now that she is here.

The last two days have been pretty rough (although the past two nights have been great), so I thought it would be therapeutic to share some of my reflections on motherhood thus far.me-and-rachel-penguin

  1. Being a mom is incredibly hard.  I always knew it would be; I was never naive enough to think this would be a walk in the park or all fun & joy.  Of course not.  But you just can’t understand how truly difficult it is until you do it.
  2. Motherhood is full of extreme emotions.  On any given day I cycle between extreme love, joy, devotion, fear, anxiety, frustration, & a whole gamut of other emotions.  This is all totally normal of course but it is exhausting at times to feel like an emotional yo-yo.
  3. That being said, the extreme joy & love truly do make up for all the more “negative” emotions.  I always worried that moms said that just because they felt they had to but it really is true.  Trust me, I’ve had moments when I’ve wondered if I made a mistake in becoming a mom.  And I’m sure I’ll have more of those moments for the rest of my life.  But the point is those are just moments.  They don’t last forever.  me-and-rachel-fire
  4. Taking care of yourself is absolutely imperative to surviving motherhood.  This is just one of many reasons that being a single mom (or dad) is clearly not how parenthood was designed.  I’ve quickly learned that it’s essential that I eat a reasonably healthy diet, drink plenty of water, spend some time outside, listen to music, take a shower, read a little here & there, & generally do all the things that help keep me sane.  My mantra these days is “You cannot pour from an empty cup.”  In other words, Rachel needs a healthy, sane mommy & that means I need to take care of myself every bit as much as I’m taking care of her.  Which feeds right into my next point.
  5. Being able to take care of myself is largely dependent on my husband’s support.  I know every mom says this but once again it is so true: I’ve never loved my husband more than when I see him with our daughter.  When he changes her diapers, pushes her stroller, wears her in the baby carrier on his chest, & cuddles & kisses her my heart truly melts.  Furthermore, when he does the dishes or the laundry or cooks me dinner I want to kiss his feet.  Parenthood is definitely meant to be a two person job.  I never doubted that but now that I’m living it I can attest that it is 100% true.daughter quote
  6. Moms are the most giving people in the world.  I can’t say thank you enough to all the wonderful ladies who have reached out to me for encouragement & support over the past six weeks.  Y’all know who you are & you’re all amazing.  I hope someday I can encourage other new moms the way so many of you have done for me.  Seriously, THANK YOU!
  7. Breastfeeding is hard.  Like woahhhh.  To be honest, it’s actually not been physically painful the way I feared it would be.  However, it is still very demanding, both mentally & physically.  While I was pregnant I set two breastfeeding goals.  My ultimate goal was/is to make it a full year, but I will be perfectly satisfied if I make it to six months.  My minimum goal was to make it to six weeks, & I’m happy to say that as of today I’ve fulfilled that goal.  Woohoo!  I haven’t made it this far without a TON of support & encouragement though.  It’s truly been a team effort in so many ways!  There have been so many days when I’ve wanted to throw in the towel & I’m sure there will be more of them, but knowing I’ve already made it this far will hopefully continue to encourage me on the difficult days.breastfeeding-cartoon
  8. Being a mom with anxiety & OCD tendencies is hard.  Thank goodness for a fantastic husband, a great mom, some dear friends, a wonderful therapist, & Zoloft.  And music.  (I switched from Prozac to Zoloft about 3 weeks ago at the suggestion of Rachel’s pediatrician because Zoloft is considered better for breastfeeding.)  Even if you don’t have a history of anxiety or depression or any other mental health issue, don’t be afraid to seek help as a new mom.  I think EVERYONE could benefit from a few sessions with a good therapist & no one more so than us frazzled, sleep-deprived new mommies.
  9. As much as I love Rachel now & am enjoying many things about the newborn/baby stage, I still very much look forward to her being a little older.  I know most moms say they miss the baby stage & often yearn for those days, but I seriously doubt that will ever be me (at least not often).  I’ve always said I prefer older kids & teens, & I still think that is true for me.  Trust me, I am not rushing anything.  I am enjoying (most) of where we are right now.  But there is a part of me that still can’t wait for the day when I can have real conversations with her, even about the hard stuff like death, sex, war, etc.  Yes, I’m crazy, I know, but I really do look forward to that day.  I also can’t wait to take her on hikes & to concerts & share the joy of all of those things with her.  It might make me weird, but I don’t think it makes me a bad mom to say that I will probably love being a mom even more as she gets older.motherhood-quote
  10. There is absolutely no room for comparison in motherhood.  I’ve said it before & I’ll say it again: motherhood is not a competition.  Some moms breastfeed, some use formula, some do both.  Some moms make beautiful baby books, some don’t.  Some moms decorate a perfect nursery, some don’t.  Some moms co-sleep, some don’t.  Some moms wear their babies, some don’t.  And some babies will sleep through the night or learn to walk/talk faster than others.  The point is none of these things makes one mom better than another.  We are not competing against anyone.  Some moms seem like they have it all together while others of us are just happy we took a shower & did a load of laundry today.  As for me, I’m never going to be the mom who pretends she has it all figured out.  I think the world could benefit from more candidness.  The truth is my house is frequently a little messy (& it was like that long before I became a mom; I just have a better excuse now), I’ve shaved my legs a grand total of twice since I gave birth, & sometimes I hate breastfeeding.  I’m not “perfect” but I’m doing the best I can, & that’s all any of us can do.  At the end of the day if mom & baby are healthy & happy that’s all that matters.  Everything else is just details.
  11. Being a mom really is the best thing I’ve ever done.  End of story.  🙂

I’m not sure this song totally fits with the post but I discovered it last week & I’m in love with everything about it so I’m going to share it anyway.  (Yes, I’m still listening to “heavy” music.  Thankfully Rachel seems to like it!)  Check out the lyrics below:

I’ve always been a fan of the night life
‘Cause it’s the only life I had
Expressing my mind with paper & a pen playing my guitar
‘Till my fingers bled on the carpet
Maybe I wasn’t like all the normal kids
I was born just a little bit different
I tried to fit in, I got sick of it
I tried to fit in, I got sick of it
You say I’m just a loser in the background
I can never seem to get it right
But I’m learning my worth is more than your word
You told me I would back out, I would break down
I’m not even putting up a fight
But I’m learning my worth is more than your word
It wasn’t easy being rejected by the thing I wanted so bad
To be accepted, to be wanted
To wake up & say this is gonna be a good day
Maybe I wasn’t like all the normal kids
I was born just a little bit different
I tried to fit in, I got sick of it
I tried to fit in, I got sick of it
You say I’m just a loser in the background
I can never seem to get it right
But I’m learning my worth is more than your word
You told me I would back out, I would break down
I’m not even putting up a fight
But I’m learning my worth is more than your word
More than your word
I was born a little bit different
I was born a little bit different
I was born just a little bit different
I was born a little bit different
I was born a little bit different
You say I’m just a loser in the background
I can never seem to get it right
But I’m learning my worth is more than your word
You say I’m just a loser in the background
I can never seem to get it right
But I’m learning my worth is more than your word
You told me I would back out, I would break down
I’m not even putting up a fight
But I’m learning my worth is more than your word
I got sick of it
I got sick of it
I tried to fit in, I got sick of it
I tried to fit in, I got sick of it

The Great Mommy Dilemma


Why, hello, 3:00 a.m., I never thought we should be so well acquainted.  I worked the past three nights & apparently my body is still stuck on night-shift mode which happens occasionally.  Honestly, I’m not sure why most of the world so resents being awake at 3:00 a.m.  It’s really a very nice time of night, though I suppose less so if you’re stuck in the dreaded 9-5 world.

Anyway, tonight I woke up just before 1:00 a.m. & haven’t been able to go back to sleep since then.  Naturally my mind is whirling with questions about life because that’s basically what my brain does any time it’s awake, regardless of what time the clock reads.  Tonight’s topic was inspired by a recent conversation at work in which a new coworker asked me if I had kids.  My response of course was no & I’m not sure if/when I ever want them.  This of course was met with the typical raised eyebrows & quizzical glances which it always inspires, particularly from other women.  I’m used to the reaction but it still bothers me a bit.  In the twenty-first century, is it really still so odd to imagine that a woman could have a uterus, yet have no real intention or desire to use it?  I know, I know, everyone says I’ll change my mind someday.  And I very well may.  But supposing I don’t . . . Is there really something WRONG with me for not wanting to have children? 

childless-by-choice-260x182

From a biological perspective, I suppose it IS a rather odd choice.  After all you don’t see very many childless females in the animal kingdom.  (I’m sure there are some obscure examples, but for the most part females in the animal kingdom, mammals anyway, are rarely childless.)  The biological imperative is to procreate to ensure the propagation of the species.  And yet I seem to have been born without a particular urge to do so.  As a woman, the world views this with a certain amount of suspicion.  Perhaps they are justified in doing so.  But I must say it’s rather unpleasant to be on the receiving end of this suspicion sometimes.

Trust me, I don’t fear having children because I don’t want to give up partying & drinking at all hours of the night.  I’ve never been one to participate in such “pleasures.”  It’s giving up my freedom to write blog posts at 3:00 a.m. & work 40 hours a week without having to come home to anyone who needs to me to take care of them 24/7 that I don’t want to give up.

I came from where

Regarding parenting challenges, it’s not the difficult conversations about death or sex or the essence of morality that scare me.  To all of that, I say bring it on.  I can’t wait to teach my children to be critical thinkers & skeptics like me!  It’s the tedious processes of breastfeeding & toilet-training & other such endeavors that scare me senseless.  Everyone says (& there is probably research to back this up) that the first few years of a child’s life are absolutely essential in bonding with the parent & forming a relationship that will last a lifetime.  Well, since I don’t particularly like children under about age five, if I have any kids I worry they’ll be screwed for life . . . And I already value any children I may have far too highly to risk scarring them so badly . . . Why can’t kids pop out at age five or six, toilet-trained, eating solid food, & ready to take on the world?  You may laugh, but I am serious!

Even on the days when I do feel more inclined to be a mom, I’m met with the veritable dilemma over how to balance children & career.  I was raised in the generation of women who were told we could “have it all.”  But many of us are finding that the world isn’t so utopian as all that.  When I look at the world around me, I’m presented with plenty of evidence that trying to juggle raising a family (young children anyway) & a full-time job is about as easy & as fun as facing a lion, a tiger, a bear, a wolf, & a shark, all at the same time, without any sort of weapon at all.  In other words, it’s hell.

modern motherhood

Perhaps I’m exaggerating a bit, but I think there are legitimate reasons why many women leave behind even the best careers to be “stay-at-home” moms.  First of all, maternity leave in America is a joke.  And second of all childcare is expensive, even for the more well-to-do among us.  Additionally there are the emotional rewards of raising your own children on a day-to-day basis . . . something that’s clearly impossible to quantify but also impossible to ignore.  How many times do I see women facing the agony of leaving their new baby behind after just six precious weeks at home?  It’s not easy to watch.

And yet I know I’m not the only woman who finds the prospect of staying at home all day feeding, bathing, & soothing a crying baby or entertaining a whining toddler far from appetizing.  In fact, it sounds downright miserable to me.  I know, I know, this probably makes me a horrible person, but I can’t be the only woman who doesn’t find babies & toddlers as ridiculously adorable as everyone else does.  Trust me, there are days when I see my friends’ pictures of their children on Facebook & my heart melts & I dream of the day when I too will share that scared title of mother.  But then reality sets in & I remember that most of the actual work of being a mom is far from glamorous.  I don’t know how many blog posts I’ve read lately from women who say “No one told me parenting would be this hard!”  I on the other hand can’t stop thinking about how hard it sounds & wondering if the rewards could possibly make all the stress worth it for me.  Trust me, I sincerely believe that most people truly do find parenting rewarding.  And I sincerely hope that someday I too will find the strength to believe the same will be true for me. 

motherhood grocery store

I often find myself wishing companies were more friendly to mothers (& fathers) of young children, & yet the logical part of me isn’t sure how practical that is.  After all, if every employee had a plethora of children, there is no way companies could afford to provide insurance for all of them.  (Of course not having our health insurance tied to our jobs would be a great start, but I don’t see that happening any time soon.)  And as much as I wish maternity leave were FAR longer, I also realize that expecting a company to pay a woman (or even just hold her job) for three to six months or more while she is NOT actually working for them is perhaps a bit much to ask.  Particularly if a woman has multiple children within a few years of each other.  Not to mention her fellow employees have to take on the burden of fulfilling her roles without any additional pay or benefits.  However, I also think it’s ludicrous to suggest that six weeks is enough time to fully recover, both physically & mentally, from having a baby, much less to actually get a firm grip on balancing the demands of said child.  Basically I see both sides of the coin & neither of them is very pretty.

motherhood not for sissiesTrust me, I am glad I live in a day & age & a society in which I have the choice to have a career or be a mom or try to do both.  Not having those choices would be a far greater torture.  I don’t really know what I hope to accomplish by writing all of this because I know there are no solid answers to the questions I’m asking.  If there are any good answers, they are certainly different for every woman.  I just wonder if anyone else is thinking about all of these things.  Very few of my college friends have kids so far, but at least half, if not three-quarters, of my high school graduating class are parents.  And most people in my family were parents at or well before 25 (my current age).  Did any of these people think about all of these things?  If not, were they better off because of it?  To all those who say I should just stop thinking about all of this so much, you might as well tell me to stop breathing.  If I had been a man in Ancient Greece, I would have been a philosopher.  For better or worse, it’s just who I am, the very essence of my being.

In the end I can’t imagine having children & sending them to daycare, at least not at a very young age.  But I also can’t imagine staying at home with them all day & giving up my career.  I suppose the answer lies somewhere in between, but gambling on trying to find the perfect balance is a risk I’m not sure I’m willing to take.

At least not yet.