An open letter to moms who struggle the first year of their baby’s life:
If you adore those early days and thrive when your baby is one and under, then disregard this note. I know many women who love that early season and find more joy than struggle. That has not been my experience and I want to share my heart and lessons learned so that if you are feeling shame or guilt, you can know you are not alone.
My youngest of three kids turned one in November. I’ve been asked which transition was hardest — from zero kids to one, one to two, or two to three. Each time was difficult and beautiful for its own unique reasons. Something that has been true for me each time though is the intensity of that first year of your baby’s life.
In that first year your emotions, hormones, physical body, and thoughts are all over the place. You don’t feel entirely like “yourself” — especially when every ounce of your being is directed towards caring for this brand-new, unique, beautiful baby. In one day you can feel extreme euphoria and love for your precious gift, then guilt and shame for wanting a break knowing other women are aching for their own baby and can’t have one, then sadness and grief for wanting just a few moments of what life was like before, and then grateful and blessed for the sweetness of the moment when they fall asleep in your arms.
As each day passes and you begin to measure growth in weeks, and then months, everything slowly starts to settle and even out again. When that big milestone arrives it is an achievement to be celebrated. This first birthday marked a massive change in myself — it suddenly felt like I was “me” again. So I am writing to encourage you today. If you do struggle, it’s okay. If you don’t feel entirely like yourself, you will again.
Here are a few things that may help you during that first year with all it’s ups and downs:
Expectation — Most of us go into motherhood expecting to run a mile only to realize that first year is actually a marathon that we could never prepare for. That first year is a whirlwind of beautiful, perfect moments, the deepest, most raw love as well as intense hormones, sleep deprivation, and unchartered territory in taking care of a baby. It’s a long, tiring run to the end of that first year and you will feel like you may never feel yourself again. For the rest of your life you will be mom, but as that first year draws to a close so many of the massive ups and downs even out and that emotional and mental space will be restored for you to re-engage with those other aspects of your identity more wholly again.
Failure — There will be moments when everything seems to be falling apart and failing. Parenting is one long journey of trying things for the first time; there is risk involved in every step into new territory. We will get it right sometimes and we won’t other times. 99.9% of the time everything works out whether what we did succeeds or fails. Once one season passes and you feel like you’ve passed through successfully, there is another one just around the corner full of the unknown and surprises, good and bad, waiting for us to risk, fail, and succeed again. All shall be well.
Self-care — During this first year it will probably feel very selfish for you to do something entirely for yourself. For your own well-being find 2 hours a week that’s an immovable, standing date with yourself. It’s always on the calendar and you can look forward to and plan for. Being a mom is all-consuming — every ounce of our being is directed towards caring for our kids whether we are focused on them in the moment or not. This time away to breathe and just be is essential to crossing the line of that first year marathon in a jog rather than crawling over it.
Priorities — Having a baby is like adding another full time job to your life. It forces you to re-evaluate all you have going on in your days, weeks, and months, whether that evaluation is conscious or unconscious. If you are able to step back for a moment and think about or even write down all the things you do and are committed to, it will help to focus on the order of priority those things. And you may find that you have room for priorities 1-5, but not 6-8. Take a deep breath and exhale those priorities for this next season. It doesn’t mean they’ll be gone forever. It just means during this first year, they aren’t as important and necessary. They can be added back in after you finish this marathon run.
After each of my kids turned one, everything shifted. Finishing that marathon was an accomplishment and energizing. You realize you are stronger than you ever thought you were. You are more capable than you give yourself credit for. And your capacity for love and grace and joy have grown exponentially. Here is a beautiful quote that always reminds me to fully engage with and embrace the season regardless of its joys and sorrows:
Sometimes I need
only to stand
wherever I am
to be blessed. (Mary Oliver)
Blessings dear friends as you see the place you’re standing in is awesome and holy and that you are not alone,
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