Reflections on My First Year as a Mom

I’ll always remember how I felt when we decided to get pregnant. I had been in French Polynesia and was leading a full month of whale swim tours. Humpbacks come to the islands to birth their young and to mate, and I was in the water with them every day for 30 days straight. It seemed like everything was brimming with life and fertility on that magical little island.

The daughter of the family we work with had just had a baby. Even their pet cat had kittens while we were there. I had no question in my mind that the time was right.

The Universe agreed, and nine months later, we had our son.

Sometimes I still miss being pregnant. I loved celebrating each milestone, photographing the experience, and feeling him kick. It was a beautiful time when it felt like the special bond between F and me was just ours. I look back on my birth experience fondly, too. It’s funny, I didn’t expect to enjoy those times so much.

Then postpartum rocked me. I struggled with breastfeeding and postpartum depression, and there are so many things I would have done differently if I could rewind.

But I can’t. And I know this is a common experience with other moms. The baby months are tough, and it’s a gut punch feeling like I can’t go back and enjoy them again. Even if I could do it over, I certainly would not press rewind.

But I am grateful for every difficult moment. I am thankful I got this opportunity. Nothing has made me grow so much.

Motherhood is an Initiation

Before I got pregnant and was figuring out if I wanted a child or not, I asked friends and acquaintances about their experience. I needed all the dirt before I made my decision.

What one friend said sticks out the most; “It’s not for everyone, and it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done.”

It’s true. Motherhood is an initiation. It’s constant surrender. It’s finding out what person emerges from the depths of low sleep, caring for this new helpless soul, and finding your new self in the process.

Motherhood is constant discovery while letting go. With each week that passes of my son’s life, he becomes more and more independent. His personality shows a little more. There have been points during this journey when I just wanted to pause time – right around 9 months and 12 months old being two of them. We had fallen into a rhythm that seemed so perfect. A new aspect of him was coming through and it was so much fun to witness.

But things keep evolving and changing. We go through sleep regressions and being sick, too. I’ve learned not to hold onto anything too much, because the good and the difficult always pass, both quickly and slowly.

My constant companion is this little boy. One day he’ll move on and have his own life, and that is hard to imagine, but also how I’ll know I have succeeded. For now, he needs me every moment. He doesn’t want to be put down, and if he falls he wants me to pick him up. Sometimes he comes over to me and puts his head in my lap for a cuddle, sometimes he pulls my hair and tries to blow a raspberry on my face. He keeps me guessing, and probably always will.

But he won’t always want me to be there 24/7. Sometimes not being able to pee without a companion feels tough, but him being a teenager who no longer thinks I’m cool will be even tougher.

One thing that’s becoming crystal clear is that this little heart of mine — this part of me that I grew — is out in the world now. One day, someone will hurt his feelings and it’ll hurt me, too. I’ll see him make mistakes and I’ll have to watch knowing I can’t fix everything for him. I’ll see his first heartbreak – at least I hope he’ll let me in on it.

I just want to be the mom who he wants nearby, who he confides in. I want to be the cool mom who he wants around his friends. I hope I do well enough to be the one he calls when he needs advice.

Every day I question if I’m doing it right, because you never really know. I just try to lead with love, but I also know I’m imperfect, and my parenting will be, too.

My Purpose is Clear

There’s only one thing that matters in my life now, and that’s my family. Work keeps me motivated and driven, but when I pause and really consider what the aim and direction is, it’s whatever this little boy needs.

I didn’t have this sense of purpose before. I thought I did, but it was never as strong as it is now. He’s all that matters, and honestly that’s scary.

Beautiful, but fucking SCARY.

I don’t think anything in life has been this tough and high-stakes yet, but I am so Earth-shakingly grateful for this little being in my life. I have no question that it was meant to be. If I could have picked any baby off the shelf to be mine, it would be him.

I’ve come to realize that the tough parts of his first year weren’t happening to me, but for me. Sometimes you have to hit rock bottom to evaluate what’s working and what isn’t. Motherhood brought up demons again I thought I’d worked through, reminding me that we’re always growing, and that I can’t drop the things that make me feel centered.

Therapy, meditation, spiritual retreats, practicing gratitude, time for myself, and asking for the help I need are all necessary in my life. I devoted so much time to all of these things pre-pandemic, and let them all fall by the wayside. As a mom, they’re even more important now.

Keeping that critical hope and positivity instead of doom scrolling is also so much more important now.

I’m being challenged to emerge from this stronger so that I can be an example to him of overcoming hard things, healing oneself, and finding the playfulness in life.

I’ve always believed everything happens for a reason, and a perfect, beautiful first baby year wasn’t in the cards. Instead of being mad or sad, all I can do is see it as an opportunity. All through my life so far, the toughest things I’ve experienced have been what led me most to grow, and I’m learning that they don’t stop coming up. But we become better at surfing those waves if we do the tough work of self reflection and radical self-honesty.

Looking Forward

Looking back, I can see that darkness that crept up and finally tell it I’m done. I’m choosing happiness and moving on. For anyone who struggles with postpartum, I see you. It’s not easy, and it will pass.

Now I’m looking forward to each day we get to spend together, explore, and grow. I don’t get as much time to myself or to spend on the things I used to do with ease, which I honestly resented sometimes before, but I’m now reminding myself that this time is short. It’s tough, but it’s to be cherished.

I’m looking forward to play groups, seeing him walk for the first time, seeing him continue to get excited about things like fans and dogs and his favorite foods. I also know there will be fussy days and throwing food on the floor. I’m here for it all.

Over this first year, F has been sick a few times, grown to about double a normal baby his age in size, been to SIX new countries, said his first word (“that”), and developed a cheeky sense of humor. I’ve spent more time with him than anyone else on Earth so far, and I’m grateful.

He’s so in the moment and brutally honest. It’s inspiring, and as we come to a close on his first year of life, I’m holding space for the many to come with openness and curiosity.

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