Quickly approaching, ready or not, here it comes, Claire is going to be one. Like any other first time mom, I have had a year of trial and error and lessons learned. I already have a mental list of things I will do differently and things I will do the same in the future. The following are my truths and perspective.
1) I cannot even count the times I heard the phrase "they grow up so fast". They do, particularly in this first year. Claire is already more than twice the size of the cuddly eight pound baby girl I held as my first day as a mother. Milestones have come and gone. We've rolled over, crawled, pulled up and cruised. Walking will probably be any day now. It is amazing and I love every moment of her that I can breathe in and cuddle. However, sometimes I HATE hearing how fast she will grow up. Denial? Perhaps. Really, I want to focus on every moment of the present without thinking about how quickly we came to this point or how quickly everything after it will go. For now, don't remind me, please!
2) Babies will do everything they want, in their own time and in their way. It is useless to compare children in their size, rate of reaching milestones, etc. In the beginning, Claire did not want to be put down or to sleep alone. I lost thirty pounds for lack of ability to get to food and slept a max of 3.5-4 hours a night. I was exhausted, I was overwhelmed, I was starving! I did not want to trade my baby girl for anything- I just wanted her to do what I thought other people's babies were doing! I wanted her to sleep alone- even if just for a couple of hours, I wanted her to enjoy wiggling on the floor for more than a minute so I could eat a sandwich. Now, she is, of course, much more manageable in those capacities. She just had to grow, to do things as she was ready, and develop. I just had to be patient. To this day, Michael claims other moms experienced a lot of what we experienced, they just weren't as honest as me!
3) Baby solutions are not one size fits all. Every mom has a bank of useful child-rearing tips and most of us, wishing to be helpful or to share those tidbits of information they wish had been told, give advice. Sometimes this advice is solicited, sometimes it is not, sometimes this advice is valued, other times it is not. My favorite was always the store clerk, who did not know me from Adam, but still had all the answers about something that would benefit us. If it was not the store clerk, it was the random lady in line behind you at the store. I also enjoyed the extensive parenting tips from people who do not even have children, but somehow still knew exactly what I should do. Per my musings in number two, babies have their own agenda and often, the suggestions did not fit my baby. I know her. I know what she wants. I know what she needs. I always got "fill her with formula and rice cereal to help her sleep better". In my gut, I knew she wasn't hungry, she just wanted to sleep on her tummy. I knew intuitively, I am the mommy. Sure enough, the second she could roll over, she slept on her tummy and she slept better. Teething and sickness have changed that from time to time, but she has come around and I knew my baby. I did what was right for my baby.
4) I love cleaning wipes! If it weren't for that, I'd never clean anything!
5) For months, I could not watch a movie or TV show featuring the birth of a baby without tears streaming. Okay, so I still cry sometimes. I definitely can't listen to stories about babies who lose their lives, in the womb or after, or babies being harmed. Oprah did a show on pedophiles the other day. I have always been fascinated by psychology and what goes on in the minds of the insane. That interest takes a backseat now. I could not bear to listen to the offenders. Every fiber of my being could not stand to listen. I felt like my heart stopped, like I could not catch my breath and the channel was changed immediately. I am different as a mother. The world is different. I am forever changed.
5) If their diaper leaks, it is probably because they outgrew that size and need to go up a size.
6) Putting a larger size diaper on them at night helps prevent night leaks or bulging.
7) There is no shame or crime in second hand clothes! They do outgrow them quickly and no one can really tell the difference, I promise.
8) Kids can always tell the difference between your keys and toy keys, between your remote and a toy remote. Guess which ones they prefer.
9) I do not like to be away from Claire. I think I will lighten up a little as she gets older, but I get sad thinking about being away from her. Sometimes I get sad if I run late going home from work because I feel like I wasted our time together. I am getting better about lightening up, however, if Michael and I are going to go something together, I feel better about it if it is after she is asleep. Then I do not feel torn. I feel okay about being at school Monday nights because she is asleep while I am gone.
10) I just got a Dustbuster. How did I live without this up to now?! It is so easy to suck up Cheerios with this thing! I should have put this on my baby registry!
11) Claire thinks a sippy cup is a weapon. She hurls them across the room. We have at least ten different kinds and she does not have any affectionate feelings for any of them. I wonder if I should have tried them around six months instead of nine...
12) I hate it when my baby does not feel well. However, I relish how cuddly and lovey she is during that time. We stay in and love all day.
13) I hate it when I feel like my house is an awful mess and people say it is okay because I have a baby. Are they right? Probably. Does it make me feel better? Not at all. : (
14) One of the best things about being a mom is knowing that you are what makes her feel safe. I love knowing that she feels like everything is okay in the world when she is in my arms.
15) It is fun to drop things and to bang things together.
16) Contrary to what you think when your baby is brand new, you do start to feel like yourself again. A new version of yourself, but yourself nonetheless.
17) I'd tell any new mom, "don't worry, it gets easier". However, I am not sure things really get easier. I think your perspective on what is hard and what is easy changes!
18) I had terrible postpardum depression early on. I would have a really hard time (probably induced by lack of sleep and hormones) and then a day where everything seemed okay. Because of that, I always thought I could get by and do without help. Finally, I got help and I greatly regret not doing so sooner. It pains my heart to think about how I felt in those challenging times. I would not neglect myself again.
19) I am amazed at how much personality they have from day one! Claire has been stubborn, silly, independently needy and funny since day one. Now she knows when she is funny- she laughs and claps for herself when she has done something particularly silly!
20) Throwing Cheerios to the dog earns back some of the goodwill lost by upstaging her.
21) When you think you have plenty of time to do something, you don't. I promise.
22) Nursing- something I was not initially thrilled to do, something I even loathed in the early days, came to be one of the most meaningful experiences I have had as a mother. I am very proud of myself for making it this far and would do it again in a heartbeat.
23) It is okay when a baby cries a little. Early on, I took my pediatrician words to mean my baby should not cry at all or I am taking away all her security. Hopefully, I mistook him, but sadly, I thought every time Claire cried I was letting her down. Babies cry to express just about anything because they have no other means of communication. It is okay. I wish I knew not to sweat things so much. In the future, I won't.
24) Anything you think you know about parenting before becoming a parent- isn't the half of it!
25) I wish we had a play room so there could be one place where I did not have to say, "no, no, don't touch that!"
26) Balance is the most challenging feat of all. Obviously, I like to make the most of mommy - daughter time. However, it is more difficult than I thought to make time to be a wife, a student, work full time, and spend some time being myself! I constantly feel like I am neglecting one of these things. I wish there was more of me.
27) A mother can do ANYTHING with one hand. I am fairly certain I could construct a pyramid while rocking a baby and brushing my teeth. True story.
28) Cribs are edible. A fancy crib will only become a fancy teether.
29) They always know when they are hilarious.
30) I am surprised at what I miss from the challenging early days!
31) Forget the Army, motherhood is the toughest job you'll ever love.
32) Going to the bathroom by yourself is a privilege. Going to the bathroom with the door open, a baby crawling up, pulling up on your knee and giggling into your face is reality. Add a dog to the mix and voila! A true potty party!
33) Taking care of Claire makes me want to take better care of myself. After all, someone is counting on me!
There are so many more, but this is what ultimately comes to mind. I am pretty sure I should compile this list every mommy-blissful year, as a record. I would love to know what you have learned as a parent, so please leave me comments and we can share the joy!
ps- for anyone who thought, 'man, she sure has lots of time on her hands to compose this list', I did compile it over a month : )