10 Things I Don’t Want to Forget About My First Year of Motherhood
BabyC turned 1 a few weeks ago. I have been in denial about this milestone. I’m still calling her my baby, even though she is acting every bit a toddler. It is bittersweet for me, this crossing of threshold from baby to toddler. I will be a mother for the rest of my life, but this first year of motherhood has been so full of joy, sometimes found in surprising places, that I don’t want to forget any of it. But already, it feels like such a blur. How many moments have passed when I have paused and told myself, “don’t forget this one!”? How many times have I felt so overwhelmed with love that I have wished I was a poet or a painter so that I could distill the way this baby girl makes me feel, so that I could somehow conjure up the feeling again, next year or decades later?
So, before I forget, there are a few things that I want to be sure to remember about my first year as a mother:
1. The way BabyC looked at me with instant recognition the first time I held her. Whether it was my voice, my smell, or my touch, she immediately relaxed in my arms and looked up at me, confidently. Me? I was a wreck. This picture says it all. I didn’t look good in any of the photos that were taken that day. I was physically and emotionally exhausted. I was full of relief that we’d all survived the delivery, and I was overwhelmed at the sight of my baby. Despite everything she had just been through, BabyC just looked calm and collected and happy to be with me (just look at her!). She gave me confidence in myself as a mother.
2. BabyC was brand new to the world, but she knew what to do. She started rooting for the breast within a minute of being in my arms. There was not a lot of time for me to second-guess the way I was holding my baby or if she was getting latched correctly. She had an innate sense about what she needed and who would provide it for her. Again, this gave me confidence in my ability to nurture her – it was, after all, what she expected of me. It also made me feel like I could trust her to tell me what she needed. I just needed to pay attention to her signals, and she would tell me what to do. (This is of course way over-simplifying things, because I second-guessed myself plenty in the days that followed, but these first few moments with my baby filled me with confidence.)
3. Nothing makes you slow down like becoming a mother. BabyC asked me to slow down over and over, and I learned that it was foolish to argue with her. I learned to include milk production and sleep in my tally of productivity for the day, or to stop trying to tally at all. This was not just at the newborn stage either. Even now, BabyC reminds me to slow down when she starts hanging on my leg and whining while I’m trying to do the dishes. Slow down, come down to my level, and give me a hug. Play for a few minutes. You’re just getting a little too productive there, mom. The dishes can wait.
4. That warm, fuzzy feeling of milk letting down. The surge of oxytocin when we sit down to nurse always brings me back to a place of connection with my baby. If you’ve never experienced this, it is sort of like taking a shot of good whiskey in the middle of the day, but without the sting or the resulting impairment – just a feeling of warmth, relaxation, and of not wanting to be anywhere but right where you are.
5. The relief of successfully soothing a baby. BabyC would sometimes get so overwhelmed with the world that all we could do to calm her was to wrap her tightly against our chest and start moving – walking laps around the house or bouncing on our exercise ball. Her cries would slowly grow quieter and less urgent, and she would relax and let herself melt into the warmth of Mama or Papa.
6. The wonder of watching my baby sleep. Is it wrong that during those first few months, second only to nursing, I enjoyed BabyC the most when she was asleep? When she was awake, I might get a brief smile or a couple of minutes of playfulness, but that could turn on a dime, and she could cry for the next hour. When she was asleep, I knew that she was comfortable and content. She was so peaceful, and I could let down my guard and just breathe her in.
7. The way BabyC studied things intently. You could watch her trying to figure out the world, often with a little puzzled look on her face. BabyC reserved judgement until she had watched someone or something for a long time. She would frown and her lower lip would quiver if she was uncertain about something. She did not coo or smile for strangers. But when she decided that something made her happy, she expressed her pleasure with a full-body wiggle.
8. The pure joy BabyC had when she learned a new skill. I tried hard to watch and observe her, to see how she would react before I responded. Sometimes she was nonchalant – “yup, this is what I do now” – but sometimes, she would grin and look proud. Either way, she wanted to practice her new skill over and over. When she learned to roll, she wanted to roll all the way across the room. When she learned to say “apple” a few weeks ago, she practiced it, again and again, as she fell asleep and when she woke up, for an entire week.
9. The honesty of a baby. BabyC does not try to hide her frustration, anger, fear, or sadness. She only smiles when she’s happy and hugs when she’s feeling affectionate, but those smiles and hugs are the very best.
10. Being a mother to a baby is hard. Very hard. Why don’t I want to forget this part? Because I hope that we have another child someday, and I want to be able to give myself a break right off the bat. Plus, I want to be able to continue to relate as more of my friends have their first babies. On second thought, I don’t think I will forget this one, because I’m pretty sure that being a mother will continue to be hard as we move through toddlerhood and beyond, but the reasons why will evolve. Is it worth it? Absolutely. Before becoming a mother, I did not know that my heart could hold so much love or that I was capable of such selflessness.
What do you want to be sure you remember about your first year as a parent?