As we all wind down our Mother's Day celebrations, I wanted to continue with the theme. Last week I talked very personally about the birth of my 1st born. Today I want to talk about life year 1 with a baby. I am so excited to feature one my clients, Rachel Pomerance Berl, as our guest blogger. A longtime journalist, she has written for The Washington Post, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and U.S. News & World Report. She is currently working on a book about motherhood.
It’s been nearly a year since I became a mom and had my world rocked and renewed by my precious Benjamin. In discussing some of those trials with Dana, we thought it would be wonderful to share some of the unvarnished lessons mothers have learned as they look back on year one. For my first guest post, Dana connected me with another one of her clients, Tina Flippo of Georgetown, who, coincidentally, just celebrated her Benjamin’s first birthday.
What are your words of wisdom about motherhood?
I'm definitely not an expert on anything – just happened to barely survive the first year. But I feel like we can all learn something from other fellow moms because when it comes to babies, there clearly are no rules. The only rule is that BABIES RULE, AND THEY SET THE RULES. We are just along for the ride...
Is it anything like what you imagined? Did you have a mental picture of motherhood?
Oh yes, I always envisioned motherhood to be this ethereal, beautiful picture of a mother rocking and singing lullabies to her sweet cooing baby. Or the other picture I had in mind was a young, cool, hip mom doing fun and engaging activities with her kids. Clearly, I must have been perusing too many Instagram posts or Pinterest photos. Because motherhood is certainly not like this.
It can be; don't get me wrong. But it is hard work, and motherhood is honestly the hardest thing I've ever been through. Many times it is a test of patience and sacrifice and a constant questioning of whether I am being a good enough mother. It’s certainly not anything I ever imagined, and everyday still poses new challenges, but mostly it's so rewarding to see my little boy growing up. I really couldn’t be more proud of how smart, handsome, talented and sweet he is.
I thought nursing would be easy, peasy from the beginning, and my milk would be readily available, and he would latch on perfectly. He would sleep well and love to be swaddled. He would maybe learn to take a bottle from daddy at night before bedtime. I would completely lose all my baby weight in a matter of weeks. And definitely, never did it cross my mind that I would be so sad during these first few months after his birth.
I clearly was so misinformed, or maybe my head was just in the clouds when it came to babies. Real motherhood? It is so the opposite of everything I envisioned. Nursing was so, so, so hard for me. I wanted to quit EVERYDAY! He started to love the bottle more than my boob, which made the whole breastfeeding journey even more difficult, so we quickly had to nip that in the bud and stopped the bottle. But he never took to the bottle again! So here we are, almost 14 months later, and he is still nursing straight from me!
So what were the other things you didn't expect?
Losing weight? Yeah, that didn't happen for a LONG time! I don't think I started to look like myself until month eight or nine, and everything still isn't like how it was. And it will never be, but I've accepted that, and I'm ok with it.
And postpartum depression … it's a real thing. Luckily, I only had a minor case of it and just after some time, it got better. But I remember feeling so, so sad and just crying so much the first few months. I felt so bad. I was supposed to be happy, and I had this beautiful child in front of me, but I just remember being in a cloud and fog and constantly having tears in my eyes. But I got through it. My mom really helped me through this period. She was honestly my saving grace during these first couple of months.
WHAT ARE THE TOP Three THINGS YOU'VE LEARNED ABOUT NAVIGATING THE First YEAR WITH YOUR BABY?
First, you can only prepare so much. You can attend baby birthing classes and do hundreds of hours of research online, but really, you just won't know what you're dealing with until your baby comes.
Second, GO WITH THE FLOW! This is something I still struggle with. It's OK if your baby needs to sleep an extra hour, and you miss a play date. It's OK if you planned to go to music time at your local library, but your baby had a massive leaky No. 2 session. It's OK if you envisioned a picture-perfect session with the Easter bunny, and he had a complete meltdown, and the pictures were all of him screaming (Easter bunnies are scary anyway...). Just learn to go with the flow...
Third, even though this whole motherhood journey is so hard, it's also so, so, so rewarding. So stay positive, stay in the moment and enjoy it! As soon as we blink our eyes, our little ones are going to be crawling, or walking, or running, and it's all going to go by too fast.
What do you wish you had known about pregnancy and new motherhood?
I wish more mothers would share the raw truth of real motherhood. I would have liked more information on nursing, and postpartum depression, and the whole recovery period as well as the whole process of weaning.
But I must admit that it wasn't until after having my own child, did I really understand the phrase “mother's love." The amount of love I feel for this little human being is so much more than I can describe or put into words. It is such a beautiful and powerful feeling.
Also, I wish that moms would not judge each other about how they decide to do things. I feel like motherhood is an unspoken sisterhood, and we're all in this together.
Which products were lifesavers, and which were duds?
I know every mom, and every baby is different, but for us, the Ergobaby and the Baby K'tan carriers were duds! We tried them so many times, but he hated it! I think he just felt trapped!
We thought our expensive Stokke Home Cradle bassinet was a dud at First. He really didn't like it the first month. But when we tried it again, he loved it. And he slept in that bassinet next to our bed well into his first six months. It definitely brought a peace of mind having him sleep next to me (when he did sleep).
Fisher-Price’s My Little Snugapuppy Cradle ‘n Swing was a LIFESAVER!!! This big swing took up a quarter of our living room space (we currently live in a condo with one bedroom and a den), and we were hesitant to buy such a big contraption, but this literally saved us from going out of our minds.
Are you considering (gasp!) Baby #2?
ANSWER-Oh my goodness, yes! I would love to have another baby (or two! Just don't tell Jason!). But yes, we will plan to try again later this year, so a brother or sister would be close in age to Benjamin.
Want to keep up with Benjamin & Tina? Follow her great feed on INSTAGRAM. She'd love to meet you.