Reflections on a Year of Motherhood

Or, what I'd tell my pregnant self.

We made it. We made it through the first year of parenthood. We have a one-year-old. What a year it's been. I'm filled with grief for losing her babyhood but pride in having achieved it, and fear of her growing up too quickly. I've read you only get eighteen summers with your child. I've just realised that we are already at the end of our baby's second summer, and our last with our baby. Next summer we will most definitely have a toddler. We are living in the Golden Age; the time we will look back on our old age.

This is an opinion piece on what I've learned and advice I'd give myself. However, you, reading this, must do it your way.

1. Do it your way.

Don't listen to the critics. Even the midwives and the health-visitors don't know it all. Follow your instincts and get to know your baby. Trust yourself. Healthcare professionals do not always give a balanced opinion - in fact, they simply give the popular opinion. In hindsight, I believe parents should be given the pros and cons of different styles of parenting and should make up their own minds.

You will get some parents who think you are judging them by doing things differently to them. They will think you are going against them to personally attack them. On the other hand, you will meet some very good friends who have different parenting styles to you who will mutually respect your choices and you will support each other. You do not have to keep up with anyone. You must do your own research and work out what is best for your baby. We will all have our own individual struggles. You will find no-one who does it exactly your way and that's what makes the world go around.

2. Everything is a phase.

The journey into parenthood is filled with peaks and troughs. When the going is good and your baby is sleeping through the night, enjoy it while it lasts and do not be smug! Equally, when nothing seems to be going right and you can't seem to work out why your baby is crying, take comfort in knowing it will pass. Remember that, as you get to know your baby, the tables will turn; by the end of the first year, the good times will undoubtedly outweigh the bad. I promise.

3. The people who get it, get it.

Not everyone will. Cherish the people who take a week off work and come over to let you sleep or to clean or cook for you. Not everyone will understand why you can't go out drinking with them or just leave the baby when she is a few weeks old. Not everyone will get that you can't do everything you used to do; that everything takes ten times longer and a hundred times more effort than it did before; you can't just "pop" anywhere or dash around getting things done like you used to.

Even those who have had children might not remember what it was like and might be an hour late to meet you for dinner, and get offended that you have to go ahead without them because you can't let her become beside herself and over-hungry and overtired, and that the baby comes first. Cherish those who know that they might need to fit around you a little bit while you are trying to meet your baby's needs; hold on to those who come to you and ask what they can do to help you. Be grateful for those people. They are a rarity.

4. Hold on tight.

Despite the challenges — the months of sleepless nights; sacrificing your life; putting everything on hold — this year is only one year out of your life. Before you know it, your baby is crawling or standing up and is all-but a toddler. I'd go back and do it all over again in a heartbeat, prepared this time - and probably make just as many mistakes. Just stop, at least once a day, and hold her or play with her and take it all in. Especially at the realisation that you might only do it once.

5. If you think you'll finish that novel while you're on maternity leave...

...You've got another think coming.

5. Finally:

You will never know true empathy and real, selfish love until you meet her.


Anonymous said…
that first year can be such a roller coaster! nothing ever quite prepares us, does it? I read once that you never really know what love is until you have a baby
Michelle W said…
Yes, nothing can prepare us for it!