"Sit down and let me teach you everything I know..."
This has been the longest and shortest year of my entire life. There were days that stretched on forever, and nights that stretched even longer, but somehow I feel like it was only a second ago that I was lying on a hospital bed, holding my breath, waiting to hear my little girl cry for the very first time.
Here I am, a year later. I go back to work in one week, and my baby will have her first birthday in 4. I learned in nursing school that a human being will never grow and change so rapidly as they do in their first year of life. I think whoever wrote that must have not had any children, because I think your first year as a parent, you grow and change just as much.
I am by no means, as anyone who has read any of my blog entries knows, a perfect parent. I don't claim to be and I never want to be. To be a mom is a learning experience and although I'm only 11 months in, I'm already pretty confident that it will continue to be a learning experience for the remainder of my life. Here is what I have learned so far:
1. You are not a bad mother if you can't listen to your baby cry themselves to sleep. You are not a bad mother if you let your baby sleep in bed with you until they're four, or start putting them in their crib at two weeks. You are not a bad mother if you breastfeed until they're five, or start them on formula at 4 weeks old, or cuddle them when they're upset, or get frustrated with them some nights and have to just put them in their crib and shut the door. Don't think about it in terms of parenting "style" or a "theory" or whatever. Think of it as how you are raising your child and screw everyone else. There is always going to be someone judging you and telling you that you are doing it wrong. They don't know you or your child. It is none of their business anyway, but remember that when you are looking at them.
2. You will find out who your real friends are when you give birth, especially if your pregnancy was a surprise. You are going to have people who you thought you would always be close to, drop you like a bad habit when your life changes like this. But, you will come to realize that this is okay, and you will find new and better friends, and become closer to your true ones.
3. It is okay to mourn your old life. Everything has changed in a very short period of time. I for one have had times where I wished that I could just get up and go. Go to a movie, go out for supper with my husband, drink a bottle of wine and sleep until noon. When I look at it on the whole though, I would rather be where I am in my life right now than hungover and childless. I would never give her back for what I had. I would never trade her for my old life. Sometimes, usually after a difficult night, I think to myself, "I am 26 years old and I'm a mother. This is not where I thought I would be at 26." On the whole though, seeing her smile at me, or reach for me, hearing her say "mom", and seeing my husband hold her is worth more to me than my old body and my old life put together. That's a lot.
4. No matter what you do, or how you do it, and no matter how amazing your child is, there is always going to be a mom that projects herself as being a better parent than you are to a child that is better than yours. She is full of shit. You are the most amazing mother to your amazing child. Even if your baby never sleeps, even if you're swearing at them under your breath at 3am, even if they don't get a tooth until they're 15 months old, or don't walk until they're 2, or won't eat fruit, or self weaned themselves from breastfeeding at seven months, or purposefully bite you or other children at ten months old. Even if you can't do anything that you wanted to do with your baby because they are not the way you thought they were going to be, nobody else can be their mom like you can. They don't want that other mother when they wake up after having a bad dream, or fall and scrape their knee, or are sick, or afraid. They want you because they think you are the best mom in the entire world and that is what matters.
This is all the depth and wisdom I have for now, but I know these things for sure. Like I said though, still learning. I'll keep you updated the next time I obtain another little nugget of truth...