Almost a year ago, at 37 weeks pregnant, I wrote a blog post titled: “I was scared to death having children. Here’s what changed.”
Over these last months it has picked up some traction on the internet and I’ve gotten quite a handful of emails and messages from women I’ve never met, all sharing how much they related to it and asking me, “what’s it like now?”
Being so new to the mom game I’m a little apprehensive to write this. How can you judge a marathon by the first mile? But at the risk of sounding like the person who doesn’t have any experience but still giving all the advice (a personal pet peeve of mine) I feel I owe a follow up post to those who are asking, “Is the experience of motherhood is truly as negative as the culture tells us?”
I’m new enough to the game that I feel I can’t give advice, but I’ve decided to simply share my experience of the first year of motherhood, and a few things that I’ve learned from it.
The first few months were hard.
I’m going to be honest. The adjustment was hard.The first month if Evy wasn’t sleeping or eating, she was crying. Mix me being a new (and very green) mom with an extremely discontent baby who hated being still, hated sleeping, had diet issues, and me being at home almost 24/7 after years of being able to go wherever I wanted at any time, my new life felt foreign to me. I was convinced my baby hated life and didn’t really like me either. There were many tears in the beginning. A few weeks of mild postpartum depression and many long nights where I was up feeding her and literally feeling like I was grieving as I said goodbye to a season of my life I would never get back. I really struggled to accept my new life and what felt like a massive weight: the responsibility keeping a tiny human alive. (Tip: you can learn all you want to about labor and delivery. But what you really want to prepare for is the first 6 weeks postpartum. Those are some crazy days .)
But those days passed! As Evy’s first months went by she got easier, I gained confidence to know how to care for her, and I was able to leave the house again. I picked up my photography business slowly but surely, shooting in the evenings when Steve was home and editing during nap time. The first time Evy laughed I cried, because it was like a reward after those long hard first few months. She still hasn’t been an easy child but each month she s getting easier, more fun, more hilarious, and more precious.
Honestly, I regret the amount of time I spent feeling sorry for myself for the hard parts of this first year, and for the amount I’ve complained to my family and friends. Complaining and negativity were one of the things I hated about toxic mommy culture before I had Evy and I was a little shocked at how easy it is to fall into that trap. I’ve eaten many, many words that I said in the past and I’ve been very humbled.
But also, I’ve changed. I feel like a different person than I was 9 months ago. My heart is softer towards children. I cry more easily. (Like yesterday when Steve danced with Evy in the kitchen. How many father daughter dances have I photographed at weddings where mom is crying? Were these the days she was remembering?) I’ve become the person who wants to snuggle the newborn. I don’t have the critical spirit I used to have toward parents and children. I understand the parent’s struggle in a greater way, and I have more grace for a child’s immaturity. Don’t get me wrong there are days when I fail miserably and give in to complaining but with the Lord’s daily help, becoming a mom has been a refining experience, day in and day out. I always admired older women like my mom and Steve’s mom who serve constantly, putting the needs of others above their own without complaint. I wanted to be that way! And now I see that came from years of making those daily choices to serve and give to their families. Motherhood grew their character. And it is growing mine.
A few lessons I’ve learned:
I have hundreds of daily, hourly choices and those determine my attitude towards motherhood more than anything else.
The days when when I feel lonely and trapped in my own home with a needy baby present me with a choice. What will I do with the hard stuff? Complain about it? Wish it away? Feel sorry for myself? Or accept it and find something to be thankful for in it? One thing I love to do is to find little things to make my days at home more enjoyable. I want to make it a place of beauty and peace. A place my husband loves to come to, and where I can enjoy spending time with my child. Turning on classical music, enjoying a cup of coffee and a book on the couch while Evy is napping, fresh flowers on the kitchen table, gardening, learning to make things from scratch like yogurt and sourdough bread, simple things like that, and many more, have made long days at home more fun and give me a challenge in my extra time.
A supportive husband and community of family and friends are invaluable.
I truly don’t understand how women do this alone. Steve has been the most incredible, servant hearted, loving, fun, engaged dad and husband and I can’t speak more highly of him. (It’s true what you hear about falling in love with your husband in a new way after you have children). Our family absolutely wouldn’t be at the place we are without him.
We also live near his family and they have given us so much encouragement, support, childcare when we just need to get away for a few hours, and much more. I believe people are made to exist in community. Parents and children, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, living life together, helping each other. One of the reasons I think stay at home moms struggle so much is because so many of them are alone most of the week, seeing their husband only a few hours a day and on the weekends, without much of a community. It was humbling for me to realize that I couldn’t do everything myself, and to lean on others more. But that has also been a gift, learning to receive help graciously, and to realize that the support of my community is vital.
My life is not going to look like it did before kids.
Wishing that life back, or trying to force what I used to do into my current life season, only creates discontentment and exhaustion. I’ve had to say no to many, many photography inquiries this year and had to almost daily remind myself not to add too much to my plate. I can only do so much and my work as a mom is far more important to me than any career opportunity. I still am doing photography and I absolutely love it, and enjoy having a creative outlet to pour into. But I don’t have the freedom or the time to pursue like I used to. My goal for my business is quality over quantity. Taking only a small amount of weddings and portrait sessions per year has allowed me to give the best of my attention and work to my clients and it has honestly been the most enjoyable year yet. (Ps. If you see a mom online running a business who looks like she is doing it all, she isn’t, at least, not by herself.)
I’m learning to manage my time. And it’s working!
One of the things I hated about mommy culture was the message that after you have kids your house will fall apart, you’ll never have time for even basic hygiene and you’ll resent your husband for not helping you enough. False. I CAN get things done as a mom! My house is clean (most days) I exercise, spend time with my husband, take care of myself, and do things that I really enjoy. Granted the time I have for personal pursuits is very limited, but good time management allows for so much more than mommy culture claims. (The naysayers will say “just wait till you have two kids, or three!” But it is possible then, too.)
The truth is…
The good things about being a mom have outweighed the bad a thousand times over already, and I’m only in the first year. The good things are so good that I’m already ALMOST considering having another one 🙂
Recently my dad compared parenting to planting seeds and harvesting fruit and it was encouraging to me. It may take years to see the fruit of what I am planting. Years of hard work that may seem fruitless and unimportant at times. We live in a culture that wants instant results. But with parenting, it may be years until we see the reward. I think a long wait makes the harvest all the more worth it, in the end.
l’ll end with a poem I read recently online and it sums up what I am learning as a new mom.
It’s not my turn.
It’s not my turn to go where I want, when I want.
It’s not my turn to put my wants and needs first.
It’s not my turn to get butterflies on a first date.
It’s not my turn to plan a wedding.
I’ve had my turn.
It’s not my turn to leisurely enjoy my coffee with slow mornings.
It’s not my turn to explore all of my interests and hobbies.
It’s not my turn to spend my days as I please.
It’s not my turn to spoil grandchildren.
Hopefully, I’ll have my turn.
It’s not my turn to take a Mediterranean vacation.
It’s not my turn to maintain a luscious backyard oasis.
It’s not my turn to have abs.
It’s not my turn to binge-watch Netflix when I’ve had a hard week.
Maybe one day I’ll have a turn…or, maybe not.
But, it is my turn…
It’s my turn to have some sleepless nights.
It’s my turn for late-night snacks, so I don’t have to share.
It’s my turn to have my clothes stretched out by little hands.
It’s my turn to have fingerprints on the screen door.
It’s my turn to do laundry.
It’s my turn to keep romance alive amidst the routine.
But even more than that,
It’s my turn to start family traditions.
It’s my turn to memorize the perfect squishiness of chubby baby faces.
It’s my turn to let a popsicle make anything better.
It’s my turn to heal boo-boo’s with a kiss.
It’s my turn to cuddle and rock.
It’s my turn for park days and play dates.
It’s my turn for first steps, first words, and first days of school.
It’s my turn to earn my laugh lines and gray hairs.
It’s my turn to soak up the beautiful, exhausting, magic of motherhood while the turn is still mine.
As always, thanks for following along.