(…continued from part one!)
It’s hard to know where to start when writing about the first year of motherhood. It has been such a roller coaster ride, and honestly, the beginning feels so foggy now.
I have always wanted to be a mom. Certain parts of the role intimidated me – like the giving birth part, and then the whole being responsible for another human thing. I had a good bit of experience going into it. I was a nanny to an infant for the first year after college, and I also helped a lot with my little sister (ten years younger then me). So while I knew a little bit about baby care, none of that could have prepared me for the all consuming love that is motherhood.
One of the things I often though about during my pregnancy, was how I would be as a mother. I don’t mean how I would be – like good or bad – but more – what kind of mom would I be? There was a time in my life, quite a few years ago, where I struggled with a lot of anxiety. It was confusing, often scary, and many times paralyzing. It took a good bit of soul searching to resolve, but I’m happy to say that it has been behind me for a while now.
Part of that journey involved learning how to identify things that would potentially make me anxious or worried. Of course, during my pregnancy, there were countless things to worry about! But I hoped that I was mentally prepared to handle the stresses and unknowns of parenting.
Once Cullen arrived and we adapted to our new role as parents, I honestly ended up surprising myself. I have been way more laid back and relaxed about parenting than I ever expected. That’s not to say that I don’t have bad days, and don’t get super frustrated sometimes. But for the most part, I’ve learned to go with the flow and just enjoy it.
I thought I would be the type of mom who called the pediatrician over every bump, bruise, and behavioral change. And I thought I’d be a germaphobe, a hoverer, and a micromanager of all things parenting. And while I have certainly had a few minor freak outs, for the most part I’m pretty easy going. It’s a nice change. It feels very freeing.
As far as being a stay at home mom goes, I decided pretty early on that even though the title is “stay at home” – we were going to do anything but. I know there are different schools of thought on this – some people hibernate for the first few months, and some moms prefer to keep things on a tight schedule. But I learned pretty quickly that being a control freak only led me to frustration.
I took Cullen to Starbucks when he was three days old. And every day since, we’ve been out and about – enjoying and exploring the world. He’s an incredibly social little guy, and I can tell he gets restless and bored if we’re at home for too long – just like me. We have an incredible group of friends who have become a second family this year. I can’t say enough about the bond between moms at this stage (and likely at any stage) of motherhood.
I haven’t had much alone time, or time for personal hobbies and things this year. That’s something I’m try to improve as things move forward. But honestly, I really really love being at home with Cullen, so it doesn’t really bother me. I’m planning to do another “day in the life” type of post soon, showing a bit more of what we do at this stage. Staying home with him has been the most rewarding experience of my life. I know it’s not for everyone, and that doesn’t mean that some days don’t feel very very long, but I also know that these earliest years are just a small piece of a much bigger puzzle.
One year later, I look back at photos of Cullen as a newborn, and think about those early weeks and months. I feel sad that I have already forgotten so much. One of my favorite parenting clichés is that “the days are slow, but the years are so fast” – and man, is it so true already.
I have bad days here and there. I get overwhelmed and stressed, I take it out on Cullen and Casey, and I huff and puff and think that there’s no way things will ever be better. And then I have a good day. Followed by lots and lots more good days. It’s easy to let the hard days stand out in your mind, but I go to bed every night and remind myself just how damn good the good is. It’s the kind of good you can feel in your bones.
When I was pregnant, people told me I would be tired. That breastfeeding would be a challenge, that baby clothes would be outgrown instantly, and that little boys pee in your face during diaper changes. But no one told me that the first year of parenting can involve both the brightest – as well as the toughest – times in a marriage.
I have always believed (and still do, actually) that Casey and I have a really special relationship. Meant to be, soul mates, and all that fluff. Long before becoming parents, I also knew that when we were good we were really good, but when we were bad we sure knew how to battle.
Become parents together has strengthened that bond tenfold, and deepened our relationship to levels I didn’t know existed. I can feel Casey squeezing my hand during labor. I can see him sniff Cullen’s hair when he kisses his head. I can hear him reading a bedtime story through the other side of a closed door.
But it wouldn’t be fair to reflect on this year and only mention the parts that make it into photos. Between long days, late nights, and little relief, it is easy to let things like resentment and competition creep into a relationship. We went through a few months that were really tough. But we kept working at it – determined to learn to be better. Better communicators, better spouses, better parents, better people.
While I certainly wish I could take back some of my harsher words, I know we are both much stronger for having gotten through it. I learned a lot about my husband and my relationship, and subsequently – about myself – in the process. I know there will be more challenges and hurdles that lie ahead, but right now it’s all warm and fuzzy.
And I think really, that’s the big takeaway I have at the one year mark. I could go on and on for pages about every detail of parenting and motherhood. But really, it all comes back to one thing – it’s been a pretty incredible year. Not a perfect year, but really really good.
And so I’ll wrap these ramblings up with one more thought…
My favorite time of day with Cullen is first thing in the morning. He greets me with a huge, playful smile, and throws his arms around me when I lean down into his crib. He spends the first half and hour or so of each day playing in his sunroom. I sit back and lean against the wall, still waking up from what never feels like enough sleep.
He plays independently – stacking cups, moving blocks, stacking puzzle pieces. The blue peg in the yellow cup. The red block on the windowsill. Stack, stack, tap, tap. I sit and watch him, and think about how beautiful it is to have the innocence and purity of a one year old. He knows enough to feel happiness, joy, and laughter. But he’s still naïve enough to never feel self-conscious or embarrassed. He doesn’t care that he’s in a big goofy diaper, or that he has outrageous bed head. He’s at this amazing age where he seems to only be able to soak up the good.
As parents, we assume that we are the teachers. Our job is to guide, to nurture, and to support. So that is what we do. But I realized this year that Cullen has plenty to teach me too. He has taught me to slow down, to let go, to brush off the bad, and to soak up the good.
Here’s to the first year of many!