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The Art of the a Mother's First Year

Being a mom is a really, really beautiful thing. It's also immensely difficult. While I was pregnant with my first and only child, I was fortunate to know some women who had become mothers just a bit before me, and these women were unbelievably honest about what those first few months and even years of motherhood were like for them-- the cry-out-of-sheer-joy moments, the cry-out-of-what-have-I-done moments, the I've-never-been-so-alone moments, the I've-never-been-so-connected moments, the is-this-exhaustion-ever-going-to-end-moments, and the completely-indescribable-love moments. Had I not had those honest relationships with other mothers, I'm not sure I would have been as able to relish the good moments and see the light at the end of the tunnel during the hard ones. And, boy, are there some hard moments in that tunnel. It has become a part of my mission to provide mothers of young children with support and space to process all that is wonderful and difficult about motherhood, and how those two things can be so beautifully wrapped together. In light of this, I would like to provide a little blog post of 8 things I didn't know until I became a mother:

8. Likely for the first time in your relationship, you will have a vastly different experience than your husband or partner.

This is one thing I was not expecting, and it started during pregnancy. It is normal for a mother's experience to be largely different than the experience of her partner, and this can create huge amounts of anxiety and tension. Not only are we caring for a new life, we are asking questions like: How could my husband/wife/partner not understand how I feel right now and what I am going through? And, many times, we are left to grapple with the frightening answer: they may never understand your experience, and you may never understand theirs. And, that's scary, especially because that is likely unchartered territory in that relationship; and, it's also okay, because both experiences are beautiful and we can each learn something from the other, we can each grow from conversations about our experiences. Invite each other into your experience of caring for this new life, without expectation for how the other will react or understand, and have conversations about it. Meet each other where you are, acknowledge when you don't or can't understand, and still work to give each other what you need to get through it. It's hard and beautiful for both parties. Honor that in each other.

7. The first year may feel like one really, really long day.

The lack of sleep, the nap transitions, the Wonder Weeks leaps, the breastfeeding, the bottle feeding, the transition to formula in whatever capacity is best for you and baby, the transition to solid food, the short awake times, the night feedings, the developmental milestones, the many doctor's appointments, the vaccines, the rushed showers because the baby is awake again, the first plane flights and car rides and traveling to see family, and the list goes on and on. There is SO much that happens in that first year. It can feel like you're sprinting, for, like, a year. It will all run together and it may just feel like one really, really long, beautiful day. They say "long days, short years," and BOY IS THAT TRUE. It's important, especially in that first year, to set markers: look to get through the first 6 weeks, then focus on what's happening between then and the 3 month mark, the 6 month mark, the 9 month mark, the 12 month mark. There is so much that happens in each of those time frames, there is plenty to focus on. Once you hit each milestone, life will get incredibly easier. Celebrate that, each time. Pretty soon, you'll be at the year mark, looking back, and wondering where all that time went (and feeling like superwoman, by the way).

6. Finding other supportive, open moms to journey with is one of the best things you can do for yourself.

I can't stress this enough. Join a mom's group, meet every mom at the park that you can, go on walks with each other, bring coffee to one another, go out and get a meal together every now and then without the kiddos. Be open, be honest about your joys and struggles. There may be no other person in the world that can relate better than other moms around the same stage. It's a wild ride, and we need each other.

5. Time away from your little one may not feel relieving for a while. Take it anyway.

It is quite normal to be completely over-ridden with emotions when you're away from your little one. For me, it was always the "Is he napping well?" or "Is he doing to go to bed easily when the babysitter puts him down?" or "Is he eating/drinking well?"-- mainly because all of these things greatly impact night sleep, and I have been a functioning zombie since day one. Take the time away anyway, even if it's in small chunks. You will be better for it.

4. This little one may feel like one of your biggest anchors of consistency in the midst of change.

Now, this is a bit ironic. This little human has produced an immense amount of change in your life. The first year is constant change. But, in the midst of all of that change, this little one will anchor you, possibly in a way that nothing else ever has. You may feel an immense amount of purpose and calm looking into your child's eyes while you're simultaneously reeling from change and exhaustion. If that is true for you, relish how much this little guy or girl anchors you and choose to put your focus there, not on the wild, reeling, constant change. Because, in the end, the changes will slow (not stop, but slow), and you will still be anchored.

3. Having a child is a huge exercise in managing complicated logistics.

Nap schedules, feeding schedules, bedtime schedules, awake time schedules, bath time schedules. Sometimes I feel like I could manage the logistics of a large company after being a mom. Can I get an Amen?!

2. Most of the time, the first year falls much more on the Mom than on the Dad, and you may resent that every now and then.​

This is a truth that can be so, so hard to handle. I will speak from my own experience: when pregnant, I really thought that my husband and I would share the nightfeedings. We're one year in and that still isn't a reality. Little did I know that, while nursing, if my husband fed our child, I would have to be awake to pump. Or, that my little guy would get energized the second that Dad walked into the room, even it was 3AM. Or, that as a product of myself being the one on maternity leave, I would know our son's cues backwards and forwards, and my husband would struggle with it, simply because I had been given more time with our child in the beginning. And little did I know that the many other moms would hear these things and say: normal, normal, normal, normal. No one ever told me that until I was in it. It may not be everyone's experience, but if it is yours, I will say to you: it's normal. And it's time-limited. It's exhausting, but try to focus on these being some of the sweetest moments.

1. Emotions. The emotions you experience in that first year are big and real.

You will feel so much joy, and fear, and lack of control, and trying grasp for control, and aloneness, and togetherness, and bonded in a way you never thought was possible, and sadness, and love, and everything good. These emotions all pass. Remember that. The good, the bad, it's all temporary, and just for a moment. And things will stabilize, and you and your partner and this new little life you've welcomed into your family will figure it all out. And the beauty and love will always surpass the difficulty-- and sometimes you need to remind yourself of that when it feels like it doesn't. It's all so great and hard and beautiful.

Morgan is starting a mothers support group in Glenwood Springs in January. Interested? Contact her at 970-948-4415 or morganwarth@luminositycounseling.com.

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