Motherhood is amazing and beautiful and rewarding…some of the time. Other times, it’s sticky, smelly, loud, lonely, and exhausting. That first year after becoming a mom was the hardest year I have ever experienced. If it hadn’t been for a team of support, I don’t know how I would have survived. To all the mommas out there that are surviving their first year, to all those that are about to embark upon the journey of motherhood, and to the seasoned veterans that have come out the other side a little worn, a little wiser, and a little grayer…
Here’s my arsenal of 25 things that helped me survive the first year of motherhood:
The first time around I was determined to go it alone. The second time around I set aside my stubbornness and relied on these people! Who better to help my family than the women that brought me and my husband into the world? I realize not everyone has this luxury. Some grandparents are more work than help. I get that. However, for us, our parents were extremely helpful in giving me a break, sleep, extra hands to do laundry or clean up dishes, give much-needed attention to our older son, and just lend a patient, caring ear when the hormones needed to talk. If you have them, lean on them. And if you don’t, see #3.
Sometimes I overlook this gem and don’t give him the credit he very much deserves. With our first child, I was insistent on becoming Supermom. Kid up all night? No problem! Supermom to the rescue! I can survive on three hours of broken sleep each night and still function all day. I got this. Cape covered in poop like every other clothing item? No sweat! I got this. Until I didn’t. Because Supermoms need help, too. And that’s where the Superdads come in. Yes, the majority of the work falls to mom. That’s normal and natural since our child’s food source is literally dependent upon us, but don’t forget to lean on this guy, too. After all, he contributed 50% of the genes in your amazing tiny human and was your partner and equal prior to becoming parents. Not to mention, quality time with the Littles nurture a stronger bond for dad, too. If you don’t have one of these, see #3.
These are your lifelines. Mom friends. Non-mom friends. Neighbors. No matter their status, these people are your tribe. We were one of the first of our friends to have a kid, so to those without children, we were a little bit of a novelty. They brought dinners, held our baby to let us eat, checked in on us, and made us feel a little bit of normalcy during a very new and overwhelming time. Then there are the friends who blazed the parenting trail long before us. I latched on to these friends. I drank their advice like coffee and texted them at all hours for advice. Is poop supposed to be green? Is a 102 degree temperature hospital-worthy? Am I a bad mom if I leave him in the swing to use the bathroom by myself? Ok…I know I asked about poop already, but now it’s different… what about orange poop (seriously, this becomes a normal topic of conversation and something I spent a lot of time obsessing over the first time around.)
I was blessed with some amazing, patient, caring, loving, and enduring friends. They got me through a season of sleeplessness, hormones, joy, and overwhelming emotions (who knew a tiny baby could evoke so many feels?) Without these people to lean on, laugh with, cry with, and grow children alongside, I would be lost. Even though having a baby is busy and consuming, make time for these people. They will forgive you for falling off the map after having a baby, and sure, your social life will look a little different, but allow yourself the joy of having friends share in this time with you. Let them see you at your messiest. Heck, take that amazing friend up on her offer to fold your laundry while you hang out in your sweats and drink coffee while your little one sleeps. This is life. Live it with your people.
I still (with a 4 year old and a 1 year old) have people ask me how I keep up with my boys and handle their
craziness energy all day. I start my mornings with strong lattes and finish it with wine. It was a big treat during the first year of my son’s life. I planned it around his nursing schedule and just knowing I had that 1 glass of Cabernet waiting for me after he went to bed made me feel more relaxed. It’s the little things, so they say. And wine was one of those little things for me.
Coffee, coffee, and more coffee. I loved my lattes (still do!). I was good while nursing and kept my caffeine intake lower than I do now, but if it hadn’t been for the sweet, sweet nectar of caffeine running through my veins, I don’t think I would have survived those sleepless nights and functioned beyond that of a sloth all day.
- Meal Delivery
One of the greatest gifts we received after having the babies was warm meals. It doesn’t have to be fancy or even home cooked. One of my favorite meals was a rotisserie chicken and lots of vegetables that a sweet friend brought after we had our first son. I swear we ate that whole chicken with our fingers…standing over the counter…in minutes…like animals that had never been fed. It was incredible and so appreciated. One of our best friends (and a mom, herself) set up a Care Calendar for us so that anyone who wanted to help out could sign up online to bring food. Yes, we deviated from this calendar. Most people respected the calendar and realized it had been set up to keep from disrupting baby’s schedule and ours. Some deviated, and that didn’t bother us. I mean, these people are bringing warm, cooked, free meals. I wasn’t picky! I just appreciated it all!
- Pre-made Meals
The second time around, people assume you have it all figured out, so fewer offer to bring meals. Totally understandable, but totally not the case. We actually needed more help the second time around than the first. Maybe that’s just me and I don’t have it all together like some moms. Either way, I planned ahead and made myself a bunch of frozen meals. In my eighth month, I baked lasagnas, enchiladas, casseroles, and pastas in manageable portions and froze them in little disposable tin trays. It was a life saver down the road! I wish I had thought of this the first time around. It really saved so much time and effort. I am a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kind of girl when it comes to dinner most nights. So, this type of planning was not in my wheelhouse. I got on Pinterest and saved a bunch of ideas. There are a lot of great ideas on there – go nuts!
- Get Out
Get a good stroller or carrier and get outside! That was a huge time pass for me. Those first months are long and tiring, and the last thing I anted to do was put on real pants (see #10) or makeup and see people. We spent a lot of time walking the neighborhood in the jogging stroller. It was one of my favorite things about that first year. I would pour myself a big travel mug of coffee, load up little man in the jogging stroller, and walk for a long time. It served multiple purposes: a change of scenery and fresh air for both baby and myself, a calorie burner for me, and a way to make friends. In fact, one of my dearest friends came from one of these outings. I would not have laughed off so much stress of motherhood without her (thanks, AE!).
- Messy House
This is a big one. HUGE. I worry about everything. Worrying about what people saw and thought of my house was one of these (and still is from time to time). However, in the throes of new parenthood, throw out the stress and worry about your house. No one cares that your clean laundry is piled on the living room chair or that there are dishes piled in your sink. Friends don’t care about the last time you vacuumed or dusted. Just enjoy that baby and relax. Keep the germs at bay, and do what chores you need to do to survive, but let the rest go for now. I learned this the hard way, spending way too much time cleaning instead of resting or sleeping, like I should have been. My friends got a clean house to visit, but an absent-minded sleep-ridden friend. We all would have enjoyed those visits more if I had just relaxed and LET IT GO. If it really bothers you, hire a cleaning crew to blow through your house every few weeks. Better yet (and more affordable!), take Grandma up on her offer to dust and vacuum next time she visits.
- Elastic Waist Pants
Do I really need to elaborate on this one? I made the mistake of trying on pre-pregnancy jeans way too soon…and it was awful. Don’t do it. Just don’t. You’re officially a mom. t’s ok to sport the yoga pants without a yoga session in your future. Embrace it.
Give the hubby the monitor, pour a glass of your favorite wine, turn on some tunes and soak in the tub. Your body and mind will thank you. Not to mention, you probably forgot to shower for a few days. Dual purpose.
- Mommy Blogs
Have I mentioned the sleepless nights? Instead of tv, I turned to reading mommy blogs online. I would stumble on a post that felt written for me – something that spoke to my particular phase of motherhood- and I followed that blogger. I would laugh, cry, and search through their posts for advice. It kept me sane and gave me comfort knowing I was not alone. If you’re reading this, I see you’re wise to this one. Good for you! There are some amazing writers at AMB. Find your favorites and follow them.
- My Oldest
Obviously, this only applies to the second, third, fourth times around. Having experienced the rough first year with my oldest, I knew what to expect the next time around. They were very different babies, so that first year looked very different. But, the greatest lesson from Baby #1 was this…it’s only a season. Everything passes…and quickly. When I thought two weeks of waking every hour was going to last a lifetime and that I’d never sleep again, little man started sleeping three hours at a time….then four. It all changes very quickly. It’s very tough in the moment, and at times I wasn’t sure I would survive. I remember pleading with my youngest during his sixth month. I paced around his room, bouncing and crying, asking him why he hated me and despised sleep? He responded with wails and wiggles. It was hard and exhausting, but we survived. His older brother didn’t sleep through the night until 11 months. I had survived it once, I knew I could do it again.
- Me Time
Going to the grocery store alone. Reading a book in quiet. Getting a pedicure. Driving around solo listening to MY music at a volume above a whisper. Whatever it may be, escaping an hour or two every now and then to have time to yourself is good for everyone. I was renewed and returned more refreshed. Spending time by myself reminded me of who I was prior to becoming a mom and allowed me to return to my kids, excited to see them and rejuvenated for another few days.
- Normal Activities
Whatever it is you enjoyed prior to becoming a mom, continue those activities. For me, it was meeting friends for dinner without a carrier and diaper bag in tow; rejoining a monthly book club; working out when I felt like it and had time. Redefining my new normal with familiar activities helped me feel…well…NORMAL again.
Obviously, this one isn’t for everybody. I know not every mom out there has a blog, wants a blog, or likes blogs. For me, though, it was an outlet for my thoughts, a place to pair my interest in writing with my experiences in parenting. Not because I knew what I was doing and wanted to be a guiding light for other moms. More of a place to vent my frustrations, share the funny stories, and capture all my thoughts that I would otherwise forget or lose. I loved it, and turns out, family and friends read it and kept up with us through some of my posts. So, it was a win-win.
It sounds ridiculous and annoying, and yes, it’s not what we want to do when we’re going on 5 hours of interrupted sleep and can’t fit into our old running shorts and sports bras. By all means, give yourself a break and a little grace in the beginning until you feel up for working out. And when you do for the first time, forget the gym. More power to you if you’re able to. For me I wasn’t comfortable in my own body, much less my pre-pregnancy workout clothes, sidled up to the weight bench next to Meat Head Tod, struggling through a few sets of curls. Instead, I invested in at-home workout DVDs and started there. Yes, it’s another thing that might not be for everyone, but it’s worth a try. I alternated between workout DVDs, jogging, and circuits that I created for myself. I could sit the baby in a swing and workout next to him for thirty minutes, or strap him in the jogger and run around the neighborhood for awhile. He was entertained and I was boosting those endorphins.
I say this as someone who has had the “luxury” of being a work-from-home mom since I had my first son. I wasn’t ready to go back to an office, but I struggled to stay-at-home full-time. I enjoyed work, so I needed a little bit of adult thinking in my life to get me through the day. And that works for me. I will say, it’s not easy to balance at times, but in my situation, it’s worth it. Returning to thought-provoking work that I had done prior to children really helped me get through the lonely times of motherhood when I felt like there was no light at the end of the tunnel. Obviously, this was just the phase my son was in at the time and the light was there. I just couldn’t see it. As a first time parent, those tough phases seem to last forever. If I didn’t have work to focus on, I might have gotten lost in the stress and frustration of motherhood.
- Baby Carrier
This is another thing I wish I had used more the first time. The second time around it was a necessary item because I was also chasing an older child. A baby carrier is a must! I freed up my hands, could carry around my clingy little guy and still get things done. It made grocery shopping a heck of a lot less stressful, too. Nothing grosses this germaphobe out more than seeing my infant move aside the fancy little shopping cart cover *designed to keep the germs away*… and lick the shopping cart. Carriers became my best friend!
- Bouncers & Swings
Another time and arm saver….the beloved baby swing. Both of my boys loved the soothing rhythm of the baby swing. It freed up my hands a lot. I remember the first time I put my oldest in it to go to the bathroom. I had previously carried his little bouncer with me every time I needed to pee. Finally, I realized it wasn’t necessary for him to be in my sights for all 20 hours that I was awake each day. The swing saved me when they were younger, and the bouncer/exersaucer was my bff when they were old enough for that. Thank you toy makers!
Especially the mimosa kind. Hang out in your yoga pants, drink some coffee (or mimosas), chat with your friend, and let the babies drool on a quilt next to each other. These will be the greatest hours of your life when your kids are young. The days are long…so so long…and passing those hours with a friend in the same position as you is the best thing for both of you. Playdates pre-walking were my absolute favorite things in the world!
Delicious, delicious take out. Most restaurants have call in and carry out. If you’re lucky, they deliver or are available through a delivery service. Do it! No prep work, cooking, or dishes. Glorious!
- Amazon Delivery
My husband hates this one because it became my vice and I *may or may not have* spent a small fortune on impulse purchases. But…seriously… is there anything greater than Amazon? Finding EVERYTHING you need on your phone in the middle of a 3am feeding, and having it delivered to your front door within 48 hours, never laying eyes on another human being…is there anything greater? I think not. (Said unibombers, recluses, and moms everywhere!)
- Target Outings
For when you DO feel like putting on pants and can’t wait 48 hours for delivery….there’s Target. Aisles of things to spend money on, filled with moms pushing babies louder than your own, and delicious, live-saving Starbucks coffee in-store. This is what we call “Mommy’s happy place.” It’s my version of Disneyland.
- Dependable Babysitter
Not having family nearby made it tough to leave my babies when they were little. I would never have left them – and probably still wouldn’t- if it weren’t for a couple of awesome babysitters. We have three that I love and trust. If I had not found these three angels, I would never have a break or a night out with my husband. They are my heroes and the saviors to my sanity.
Shout out to a few things that didn’t quite make the cut, but were essential in my first year. Dry shampoo – without you, everyone would have known I hadn’t washed my hair or showered in three days. Baseball hat – you made me look sporty when in fact, I am not. I used you for the days when dry shampoo wasn’t enough to cut it (so days 4-6 of no showers). And finally, chocolate. Dear, sweet chocolate. Someone once told me you boosted milk production. I’m pretty sure they lied. Either way, I devoured you like I was feeding an entire tribe of starving infants.
What was in your arsenal to survive the first year of motherhood?