Thursday, July 19, 2012

Reflections: My First Year as a Mother

I love watching my baby sleep.  Each night, I sneak into his room and find him curled up on his stomach, his little rear end in the air, his legs tucked under him.  He looks so sweet and scrumptious, and I have to resist the urge to reach down and squeeze that little bum or those pudgy little hands.

Oh how I love him.

He is almost one.  It's so hard to believe.  A friend of mine had a baby a few days before Noah, and she recently wrote on Facebook that this has been "the best year of [her] life, hands down."  I thought about her sentiment and wondered if I could echo it.  I wasn't sure that I could.  This year has been overwhelmingly good, but it has also been overwhelmingly challenging.  I've always known that I wouldn't be a perfect mother (I mean, honestly, who is?), but although my brain knew that, I think my heart secretly hoped that I would surprise myself.  Maybe, after my years of waiting for a baby, I would somehow be an enlightened, wise, infinitely patient mama from day one.

I wasn't.  At all.  And reconciling the disparity between the mother that I hoped I would be and the mother that I actually am has been humbling and at times painful, but ultimately so worth it.

The months of Noah's colic were long and very very hard.  There were times when I held my bawling baby in my arms and I bawled myself, asking him over and over, "Please stop, Noah.  Please stop."  I felt guilty when people who knew of our long wait for Noah would say to me, "I bet you are just loving every single minute of this."  Because truthfully, I wasn't.  There was much of the experience of new motherhood that I loved--but I didn't love the hours of screaming and the feelings of inadequacy, isolation, and exhaustion.  Did that make me ungrateful?  Did it make me an awful mom?

There were times when I watched other young mothers at church with their babies all snuggled up and sleeping soundly against their chests, and I wondered, "Why won't my baby cuddle?  Why does he have to be so hard?"  It was difficult not to feel jealous when I heard about other babies who took long naps or who sat contently in their swings and watched their mamas work on projects.  It felt unfair that my baby had never sat in his swing or under his mobile for more than five minutes without crying.  I loved my baby desperately, but it turns out that I was still a little selfish.

As Noah got older, he got quite a bit happier, but I still wasn't perfect.  I loved being a mom, but I didn't always love being a stay-at-home mom.  Without the structure of my job, with its set deadlines and regimented schedule, I couldn't seem to force myself to use my time wisely.  I constantly felt mad at myself for it.  It had nothing to do with Noah--I loved him to bits--it was me whom I was frustrated with.  Some days I spent too much time on my computer and didn't interact with him enough.  Some days I didn't prioritize prayer and scripture study, and then I got snippy with him when he wouldn't stop crying and grabbing my legs while I was trying to make dinner.  Some mornings, when he woke up at 5:00 a.m. very grumpy and very whiny, I lay on my bed and felt sorry for myself instead of getting outside for an early-morning jog.  Looking back on this year, I know that there were lots of times when I was self-absorbed and a far cry from the mother that I'd hoped I would be.

And yet, in spite of all of those weaknesses, there are a lot of things that I did right.

I took good care of my little boy.  I snuggled him close, my arms around him, my head resting on his soft hair, as I fed him bottles.  It was the only time of day when he was still, and I took advantage of it.

I told him I loved him every day, a hundred times a day.

When I felt like I didn't know what I was doing, I stayed up late reading books about babies--sleep books to help him get the rest that he needed, mothering books to make sure that his development was on track, and food books to make sure I was feeding him properly.

I kissed him all over his little face before each and every nap.  In his tired, almost drunken state, he'd press his face against the bars of his crib, his mouth half open and grinning as I got down on my knees and smooched his nose, his cheeks,  and his forehead.

I let him feed me with his dirty little hands, nibbling on his sticky fingers with dramatic sound effects that inevitably put him in fits of giggles.

My baby loves me, imperfections and all, and I adore him.  I am amazed by how much he has grown and changed this past year.  How is it possible that he has gone from a squishy little newborn to a spunky little toddler?  How is it possible that just a year ago he couldn't even lift his head, and now he runs around the house?  His physical and mental changes have been so astonishing and so visible that it is sometimes difficult for me to recognize that someone else in the picture has also changed.  Though I look very much the same as I did a year ago, I have changed perhaps just as much as Noah has.

I still have such a long way to go until I am that wise and ever-patient mom that I hope to be someday--but I have learned so many lessons this year that I can't quite verbalize or quantify, yet I know are very real.  I am not the same as I was one year ago.

Looking back on the challenges, the changes, the growth and the joys, it's easy for me to see that maybe, just maybe, this has been the best year of my life after all.


  1. It is your love, your humility, and your ability to recognize weaknesses as well as strengths that makes you a great mother. Our babies will be ONE in just a few short weeks! Hooray!!

  2. I saw your post on my google reader this morning and when I saw the title I thought "wow, I don't think I could ever write a post for that title... how could I capture that year and everything I felt? ...and make it come out right..." Well, let me say, although I expected no less, you are amazing and you so exquisitely spelled out in words what is so often so difficult to even verbalize intelligently! Although each mother's experience is unique, I think the feelings you shared strike a common thread for many (even if they never articulate it). Love you! & love this! Life is good.

  3. Happy first year Noah and Rachel. Sister Hinckley has a quote about there being some years (moments) we would never want to do again, but we would also never want to do without. I think you are a great Mom and I love reading about your adventure.

  4. Great post Rach. It has been a year of growth for sure. I am really proud of you. You are becoming the mother that you imagined yourself to be. I am really proud of you. xox

  5. Thanks Rachel! You seem to write exactly how I feel. I wish I could express myself the way you do. I agree 100% with everything you said, and know that you are THE BEST MOM!!! I might have to steal this whole post to tell people about the last 6 months of my life! Hugs!

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  7. This is sounding so very, very familiar. The transition time to stay-at-home mom was super hard for me too, bc before when I was working or schooling, my at-home time was always just pajamas and relaxing time. I never even got dressed ever until I went somewhere, but I went somewhere everyday. And then came baby and staying at home all day, and it took me a long time to learn that staying at home couldn't mean relaxing "me time" anymore.

    Anyway, I also think one of the hardest things about mommying is letting go of the near constant guilt of what we could be doing better. With baby 2, I'm starting to learn to just let it go and be happy- enjoy my time with kids, enjoy my me time and just be happy without the guilt.

  8. I am looking forward to that first year with my own child, but also dreading some of the same problems. I need to think about this some more and make some plans over the next 6 months so that it is not such a hard transition.

  9. You are so good at putting your feelings in to words. So many times I read what you write and say to myself that is exactly how I feel I just didn't have the right words.

  10. I so admire you, Rachel, I really do. You are such a wise person and you truly have a gift for articulating just how you feel. I feel like you described, far better than I did, the guilt I was feeling the other day.

    I am glad that you shared your experience so candidly. It makes the rest of us feel more normal!

    And I wanted to tell you that since you gave me that suggestion to write down a favorite moment from our day together, I haven't missed a day. It is one of THE BEST bits of parenting advice I have ever been given (I am hoping to write a blog post about that someday if you don't mind me sharing?). I did keep a regular journal, but the exercise of really focusing on the special little moments of the day has been tremendously uplifting and encouraging to me. Thanks so so much for the idea!

    Pretty much, you're amazing. And that about sums it up!

  11. Love, love, love this! I have a sense that I will face alot of the same transitions into stay home motherhood as you did and not inevitably, I will feel guilty for it. But Im so glad I met you and that I can hopefully process some of that journey with you. And you are one amazing mama! Thank you for this post, love it!

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  14. I totally love this. I have been really trying to let go of unproductive guilt in my life and it has been crazy to realize how often I feel guilty for things I haven't done when there is so much I HAVE done. It's a hard balance for me to keep dreaming big and setting goals and yet be open to what each day has to teach me, without trying to determine what I will learn. And, I love making lists and checking things off but 3 kids has made me feel like I'm either frustrated at my list or frustrated at my kids so I haven't made very many lists lately. Ha! Anyway, thanks for being honest and awesome. Love you!!

  15. What a great post! So honest, real, and TRUE!! You are a great mom and a strong, brave person. I love you and I'm so glad that I've been able to be around for so much of Noah's first year!! But I don't think that there is such a thing as a wise and ever-patient mother. Not all of the time, at least. Even the best moms lose it sometimes, including ours. xoxo


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