To say that the last few months have been the most challenging of my life seems an understatement.
Bringing a brand new person into the world, coming to terms with the responsibility of caring for one so small and helpless, re-negotiating my own identity, dealing with breastfeeding troubles and an “unsettled,” colicky baby, navigating the shift from a couple to a family…the list goes on and on.
Oh, but the joys I’ve experienced—incomparable.
It seems such a cliché, but it’s true: nothing, nothing comes close to the joy of having a child.
Of course, I’ve experienced some of my lowest lows, too. And that has been a shock. Far from the shiny, positive image of early parenthood I held in my mind, being a mum is the hardest, most emotional job I have ever done.
I’ve taken some time to reflect on the blur of what feels like my crash-landing into motherhood, and here are some of the things I’ve learned:
>> Trying to “figure out” my baby is a futile exercise. The moment I think I have him pegged is the moment he changes the game—again.
>> I am not the mother I thought I would be and will never fit the perfect vision of motherhood I hold in my mind. That’s okay, but I do need to learn to be gentle with myself. I might not be my own version of “perfect,” but I’m doing a pretty fine job.
>> I am more selfish than I ever realized. Bathroom break? Lunch? Cup of tea? Suddenly it seems like the most difficult thing in the world to make time for the simplest of things. The number of times I’ve cried/moaned/cursed in frustration because I was hungry/thirsty/tired/bursting…
>> I am more selfless than I ever realized. I grit my teeth through the early challenges I encountered with breastfeeding. I took the pediatrician’s advice to drastically modify my diet to help soothe my baby’s colic, gave up copious amounts of daily sleep to give my baby what he needs.
>> Looking after the baby and shoving food into my mouth are often the only things achievable on any given day. Housework can wait (and wait, and wait).
>> My baby crying is not the end of the world and doesn’t mean I’m doing a terrible job of being a mother. He’s a baby, he will cry.
>> My baby’s cries sound louder to me than anyone else.
>> There is nothing in this world that compares to the smiles and giggles of my baby. When his eyes light up at the sight of me, nothing else matters.
>> It is possible to survive on very little sleep night after night. It might not feel great, but it is possible.
>> Nothing lasts forever. “This too shall pass” should be a standard mantra for any new parent. When 30 seconds of listening to a baby scream feels like a lifetime, remembering that it will pass is sometimes the only thing you can do. But it’s not only the hard times that will pass. A baby is a baby for such a short time; each moment is precious.
>> Anyone and everyone has an opinion about how things should be done. The operative word here: opinion. I find I leave a lot of them at the door these days. Mother’s intuition should not be underrated.
>> A baby is a wonderful yoga prop! I need yoga. It is not an optional extra or a “when I can find the time” luxury. It is vital to my well-being. It doesn’t matter if I can’t get onto my mat for days or even weeks at a time (though oh how I’d love to!), but what better lesson is there in staying present when you’re caring for an unpredictable, dependent being? Taking the time to just watch, just be with my baby—bliss.
Editor: Brianna Bemel