5 Lessons I've (Re)learned in My First Year of Motherhood
Today holds a very special place in my heart for two reasons:
- It’s Earth day, and if you know anything about me or the principles I live and run my business by you know I’m “earthy crunchy” or “crunchy granola” as my friends like to call me (and I don’t argue with them because I love this about myself), and
- One year ago today I became a mom and we’re celebrating Bodhi’s first birthday!
Normally I would take this time to commemorate all the things I love about the big blue planet we live on and what we can do to show it love in return and keep it safe, but as I sat down to write this I felt pulled towards taking a trip down memory lane (or at least what I can remember through all the sleep deprivation) to reflect on some lessons, thoughts, highs, and lows that have transpired for me over the last year as I grew into my role as a mother.
When Bodhi was born, we didn’t have a name picked out because nothing felt right before we met him. Since he arrived on Earth Day we wanted to give him a fitting name related to nature. As we combed through names after he was born my husband came across Bodhi à la the Bodhi tree, which was a name I had originally shrugged off. After reading a little bit more about the meaning of the Bodhi tree it instantly clicked.
Bodhi is such a good natured, happy, sweet, and cuddly baby boy. I always knew that motherhood would change me, but had no idea how widely it would crack me open at my core. Between postpartum and nursing hormones, sleep deprivation, and the unfathomable love I felt for this tiny human I’m pretty sure I shed more tears in this last year than I have collectively in my entire life - haha.
The following is a selection of 5 of the lessons that I've seen recurring for me over the last year since giving birth to my son. Many were not new to me but I've found myself re-learning the same lessons over and over because they are easy to forget in the hustle and bustle of life. Even if you're not a mom I'm sure at least one will resonate with you.
1. The laundry/dishes/vacuuming can wait; the only time you are guaranteed is this moment.
When Bodhi was born, Adam and I were living with his parents to save up for our first home and were gifted with incredible help from them with cooking, cleaning, laundry, taking care of Bodhi - you name it - as we began to navigate parenthood while working full-time jobs. We moved into our own house when Bodhi was about 4 months old and shit. got. real. fast. I was completely overwhelmed with running a household, working, keeping my business afloat, attempting to spend time with my family each day, and also fit in some self care. I distinctly remember feeling the waves of panic and sadness the first time I was home alone with my baby.
I am super type-A and like things very orderly in my life and my home, but having a baby has reinforced that that the only time you have is right now, in this moment, and that even though the to-list seems endless, taking time to be with yourself, your partner, your children, your pets - whoever is important to you - is significant beyond measure. If you've ever spent time with a child you've likely noticed that all they know is how to be present and live each moment as it comes and goes; they don't yet have the ability to fret about the past or worry about the future. What a glorious way to live life, right?
Becoming a mother has encouraged me to be more mindful of how I spend my time so that I can be present with Bodhi, especially in moments he is cranky and needy. This can be really overwhelming when the dishes are piling up in the sink and the laundry isn’t folding itself, but it also allows me the chance to slow down and simply just be there for him and truly enjoy his company. Some of my favorite moments this past year have been napping right along side him holding him as close as humanly possibly. I’ve cherished every second of those moments because I know they won’t last forever.
2. Honor how you are feeling no matter how shitty you feel for feeling that way.
When I found out I was pregnant in July of 2015 I was terrified, even though I’ve always envisioned myself with children one day. I wasn’t ready to have a baby; I didn’t have all my ducks in a row and felt that I had so much left to accomplish before becoming a mom and losing so many freedoms. I cried for about two weeks straight, which upset my husband and made me feel guilty for allowing myself to feel scared and sad. Little did I know this was just the beginning of the shitty guilt fairy, who is “kind of like Tinkerbell but WAY uglier and a total bitch”.
I also felt a lot of shame and judgement around being pregnant because it was unplanned and Adam and I weren’t married yet, even though I knew that in the grand scheme of things it didn't matter at all and I never feel the need judge people for being in similar situations. I was really confused by these feelings because I felt like I should feel happy and excited but I didn’t for a long time. I also didn’t really talk to anyone about this while I was pregnant because I even felt shameful for feeling ashamed of being pregnant. I also felt bad about getting pregnant so easily because I had several friends struggling with infertility and it didn’t feel fair. All aboard on the guilt train - choo choo!
Once I moved past some of my feelings surrounding shame and guilt, I was hit by another unexpected scenario - we were having a boy. Even though I had vivid dreams the life I was growing inside of me was a little girl and I fit all the old wives tale signs of having a girl, there it was staring at me on the ultrasound monitor the day after Thanksgiving - a little penis!
All my life I’ve wanted to have a daughter (and maybe someday I will) and I cried for a few days at the prospect of having a boy. I felt really bad about myself for feeling this way because we always hear people say “it doesn’t matter what the sex of the baby is, as long as he/she is healthy”, and although I knew that a healthy baby was the most important thing, I still felt a deep sadness that I was missing out on having a little girl. Today, I am elated to have had a little boy and can’t imagine loving another tiny human - he’s been the greatest gift in my life for sure.
We ALL have shitty days and shitty feelings about our lives and ourselves, and even though I don’t recommend wallowing forever you have to feel your shit to work through it. When we set our expectations on something and it turns out differently than planned we're subject to experiencing expectation hangovers, which can be a real bitch to deal with, but you have to buckle down and work through it or it will linger no matter how unwelcome. I'm sure you've heard the phrase "you have to feel it to heal it" and that's exactly what I'm talking about!
Honor yourself and your feelings no matter what because that’s what will allow you to move beyond the moments of “I give up”, “I can’t do this”, or “I hate my life” and back to feeling how you want to feel. Give yourself permission to surrender for a moment and feel your shit, take a deep breath to bring yourself back to the present moment, and let that shit go so you can move on to feeling better. Sometimes this may take a day or two (or week or two) but stick with it and keep going back to those 3 simple steps (surrender, breathe, and let go).
3. Everything is temporary, or “this too shall pass”.
I absolutely adore being a mom, but no matter how much you love your child some days just really suck and everything seems like a struggle. If you’re a mom, you probably know what I’m talking about - those days where you crave just a moment to yourself for your sanity and your kid won’t sleep, won’t eat, screams in your face and will only settle when they are on top of you getting your full attention.
In those moments I remind myself that this is short lived and someday I will long for these days. I recognize how important Bodhi is to me and that and I truly want to be there to comfort and soothe him, and that it’s ok to just be present in the moment with him and get through it together. (This goes back to #1 and #2 above.)
Every moment I find myself really struggling to get through I take a deep breath and acknowledge that even though it may not feel like it, this is temporary and it will pass. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve repeated the mantras “this is only temporary” or “this too shall pass” to myself over the last year, and they honestly did help! Try saying one of those phrases out loud or to yourself a few times the next time you're feeling overwhelmed.
4. Ask for help when you need it - preferably before you reach your breaking point.
I’m the eldest of 4 children and have always been extremely independent, so asking for help has never been my strong suit. I understand now that it is so incredibly important and it is not weak to ask for and receive help. I literally tear up as I type those words because it’s taken me a long time to truly believe them and I am so glad that I do. I wouldn’t be able to take care of myself and my family if I didn’t have such a strong and loving support system to help me when I need it.
When I brought Bodhi home from the hospital I went into total mama-bear mode and didn’t want anyone around him; I just wanted to curl up in a little bubble with him forever, just the two of us. Thankfully those feelings subsided, but I had to work through the feelings of needing to do it all myself and learn to ask for, and more importantly be willing to receive, help.
Fortunately I have the most fantastic in-laws ever, especially my MIL (hi, Kathy!) who made sure I was well-taken care of totally spoiled for the first few months after having Bodhi (and honestly still does a year later). She's always stepped up to take on whatever she can to make sure that I still get a little me-time, even if it's just making my weekly grocery shopping trip alone, and I am forever grateful for that. I don't know what I would do without her, she is my saving grace. (I love you, KB!)
5. Take good care of yourself because you deserve it.
When we get busy or feel overwhelmed, often the first thing we let slip is self care because we feel pressured to do all the other things first. We convince ourselves we don’t have time to exercise, meditate, journal, luxuriate in a bubble bath - whatever it is that allows you to feel cared for and recharged. In the moments we “don’t have time”, that’s exactly when we need to to care for ourselves the most.
I used to think I was busy before having a baby with working full-time, running my business on the side, completing household chores, and fitting in self care when I could. Now that I still do all of those things on top of raising Bodhi and taking care of his every need I’ve realized that self care has to be a priority or it won’t get done, and that sometimes you need to ask for help to allow you to do so (see #4 above).
I have such a greater appreciation for my body after going through pregnancy, childbirth, and recovering from both of those amazing acts of nature. I definitely gave myself a lot of leniency with my exercise routine because although my labor and delivery went smoothly, I had a long road to recovery down under and really needed to rest and recuperate to allow my body to heal. Although I know how important exercising is for your mind, body and soul, I still struggle to regularly make time to move my body even though I am fully healed and capable a year postpartum. I also often fall into the excuse trap when it comes to making time for other acts of self care, too.
This month I let my self care routine slide to the point that I had horrible stomach pains last night (thanks, stress-induced IBS!) and knew I needed to put aside all my to-dos (again, back to #1) and get on my mat for a gentle and restorative yoga session. (I did this Sweet Surrender practice and it was divine. I also love this 10-minute Yoga for Self Care if you’re really crunched for time.)
This morning, I still have two loads of laundry waiting to be folded and a house that need to be cleaned before our friends arrive for the weekend, but you know what? I feel much more able to accomplish those tasks because I took a few minutes to move my body and quiet my mind. Also, I know I’m a better wife, mom, friend, and human being in general when I carve out a little bit of me-time, even if I can only muster it a few days a week.
If you have to literally block out time on your calendar to go to a yoga class or sit down for five minutes and reflect on your day, DO IT. You're worth it.
I could seriously go on about this for days because I am constantly learning, growing, and evolving as a human and as a mom, but since I know how short my attention span is I've probably already overloaded your brain!
If you’ve made it to this last paragraph, thank you from the bottom of my heart for reading this and for being you. I love sharing my journey and hope that you’ve found something in here that speaks to your soul. Please feel free to leave a comment to start a conversation, I'd love to swap stories and provide support if you're needing it.
I'm off to celebrate my little Bodhi Bear. Happy Earth Day!