Passionate About Pittsburgh
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On Surviving Baby’s First Year

When this is published, it will be my baby’s first birthday. I struggled with what to write to commemorate this milestone, because there’s so much to say … and so much that I can’t put into words.

Gabriel James was born at 3:35 am on September 27, 2016. To this day, I still get his birth date confused with the 26th, because I was induced the previous evening. The thing about labor is that time stops; there are no minutes or hours. Before you know it, your baby is born. And before I knew it, here we are: at ONE.

Gabriel was our Rainbow Baby. I miscarried during my first pregnancy the year before, and it took a long time to even want to try again. I had trouble bonding with Gabriel during his pregnancy as a result. It wasn’t until I was in the third trimester that I felt comfortable saying his name, talking to him, or making plans. Maybe that’s why I don’t mind wasting so much time just looking at him play and explore now.

While the big moments do stand out, like the first smile, the first time he rolled over or the first time he stood on his own, it’s the collection of little memories that stand out more. While I can’t say I have loved every minute of every day this past year – that would be a flat out lie, actually – I have loved every single day of being Gabriel’s mom.

And because Gabriel has tested me in ways I never could have imagined, if we have another child I will be much more prepared. On his birthday, as I reflect on the past year of being a new mom, this is what I would like to share with other new and expectant moms.

On Surviving the First Year

ON SLEEP:

  1. My best advice for dealing with exhaustion: ice water and a 10-minute walk and/or cat naps. Skip the coffee and sugar; it’ll only make you crash later.
  2. Sleep is the new currency for parents of babies.
  3. Don’t stress so much about the baby’s sleep. They’ll sleep when they’re tired, and when you try to force naptime or bedtime on an unwilling baby, it’s so much worse.
  4. On the flip side, few things will help your baby sleep more than an established routine. If I had to do it over again, I would’ve set a nap and bed routine by four months (note: I work from home and have a very flexible schedule, so we didn’t push a routine until later because we had the time).
  5. Speaking of infant sleep, “sleeping through the night” is a misnomer. A six-hour stretch is considered “sleeping through the night” for most of the first year.
  6. Accepting that infant sleep will suck for awhile and that it’s normal and temporary does make it easier to deal with. Truly, it’s a mind over matter kind of thing.

ON SURVIVAL:

  1. Most of the first year is survival mode, not just the first three months. Unless you have a Unicorn Baby*.
  2. Your standards of clean will greatly diminish. It’s ok. See #1.
  3. The exhaustion is real. It’s palpable. Persistent lack of sleep changes your brain function and messes with you at your core.
  4. Postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety aren’t bad words, and they don’t make you a bad mom. Talk about it or see someone.
  5. Deep breathing can quickly center you when you only have a minute to collect your thoughts.
  6. Get a crockpot.
  7. Have ready a list of chores or ways people can help, so when they ask if you need anything, you’ll know how to respond.

ON YOUR BODY:

  1. I can’t speak to C-section recovery, but if you have an episiotomy, get a donut pillow.
  2. If you have an epidural, there are multiple possible side effects. With attentive medical care, none of them are issues for most women. For example, I didn’t know I could get terrible headaches or feet the size of balloons, but there we were.
  3. Continuing from #2, epidurals can be lifesavers. After I dilated from 1 cm to 5 or 6 cm in a few hours and wasn’t permitted to move, that epidural was the Nectar of the Gods.
  4. Your sense of modesty takes a back seat to regaining normal bodily functions.
  5. It will probably take longer than a few months to lose the baby weight. Even if you lose more than you gained, your mid-section probably won’t ever look the same again.
  6. Your old clothes may fit differently from now on, even if the number on the scale is lower. See #5.
  7. If having sex is still uncomfortable a few months postpartum, talk to your OB. There’s physical therapy for that, and it works wonders.
  8. Your spouse will still think you’re attractive. I promise.

ON YOUR BABY:

  1. Newborns cry. A LOT. It will drain on you, but it’s not a reflection of your parenting skills.
  2. Don’t compare your baby to any other baby. On growth and development, weight gain, bottle v. breast, sleep, whatever. If you’re concerned about your baby, talk to your doctor. There is a wide range of what’s normal, and every baby is different.
  3. Bulb syringes should be relics. Get a Nose Frieda.
  4. An ice cube wrapped in a wash cloth is a free and easy way to ease teething pain.
  5. When baby starts on solids and his poop really starts to smell, the doggie poop bags work just as well as more expensive ones for babies. And they’re much cheaper.
  6. When your baby is hurt, you will hurt. You will feel his pain deep within you. The good news: he’ll forget what happened a lot sooner than you ever will.
  7. You don’t need a ton of toys. Babies are 3`q`S75J6Y …. Sorry. Gabriel did a drive-by keyboard swipe. Case in point, babies love toys that aren’t toys. Like mom’s new laptop.
  8. Never underestimate how quick or strong your baby is. This will lead to preventable accidents and the guilt is REAL.
  9. The sound of your baby’s laughter will become your favorite sound in the world.

ON YOUR LIFE:

  1. “Mom brain” is real. Start writing things down that you don’t want to forget!
  2. Your priorities will change. For example, if you previously had a job or people in your life that you merely tolerated, they won’t be good enough anymore.
  3. How you choose to spend free time and money will change (what are those?).
  4. Your friendships may change. Mostly because it’s a lot harder to make plans with an infant, and you’re tired all the time.
  5. Your relationship with your spouse will change, for the better I hope. Communication becomes more important than ever. Remember, you’re in this together, and you both make sacrifices so your baby has the best life possible. One sacrifice is not worth more than another.
  6. You set the example for how you want your child to behave. This goes for words, actions, emotions, behaviors, and beliefs.
  7. Being a parent makes you a better person. Hands down.
  8. Life with a baby is harder, but it is always better.

I’m not sad that Gabriel’s turning one, and I won’t miss the newborn phase. I know the fun is just getting started, even if writing this made me nostalgic. It’s been a hell of a year! Onward to the Toddler Years!

*A Unicorn Baby is one who sleeps through the night on his or her own consistently by six weeks and most of the time thereafter. A Unicorn Baby doesn’t cry much and is generally always agreeable. I’m told these babies exist, but until I meet one in real life, they remain mythical creatures. 

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