The first year with a new baby, whether you’re a first-time mom or experienced, is often joyful yet tearful and exhilarating yet exhausting. Your baby’s entrance into the world sees your personal time vanish in an instant while you try to keep up with your new physically-demanding life on very little sleep.
Your relationship with your partner is likely to suffer, 67% more likely to be exact. Add in a roller-coaster of emotions and you have a recipe for disaster.
It’s not all bad news, though, I swear. If there’s anything I’ve learned in my two short years of motherhood, it’s that motherhood is all about sharing. Sharing my time with other moms that need me, sharing the wild ride of parenthood with my husband, and sharing every bite of food with my toddler.
My good friend, Kara Hamilton, summed it up perfectly for me. She said, “As a mom, your world becomes smaller but much richer.” So in the interest of sharing, here are my top 4 tips for surviving the first year of motherhood. I’d love to hear yours in the comments section at the end.
Tip 1: Become an optimist
So many things about day-to-day life with a new baby can be frustrating or overwhelming, especially for a control freak like me.
I used to be laid-back, I swear. Then I had a baby.
I’m sure my background as a neonatal nurse contributed to my need for orderliness and routine. I was used to caring for 3-4 babies at a time- routines were a necessity! The dark side about having a ‘nurse brain’ is that it’s highly trained for anticipating the worst-case scenario. When something goes off track (our daughter starts waking more at night or shows no interest in her dinner) I assume the worst.
My pathologically optimistic Australian husband (there must be something in the water there) has made it his personal mission to rewire my brain. He continually reminds me that our home is not an intensive-care unit, that 99% of the time things really do work out just fine, and to always find the silver lining. You know what, he’s bloody right.
What you can do: Find the bright side.
Your previous “good sleeper” now refuses to nap and wakes a dozen times each night? Chalk it up to a sleep regression, stay consistent with your bedtime routine, and continually remind yourself that it will pass.
What’s the Silver Lining? Sleep regressions occur as your baby learns a new trick- like rolling over, standing up, or walking. They’re a sign that your baby is developing and growing just as she should.
RELATED: 2 Month Old Baby Sleep Tips
Tip 2: Find the lesson in everything
I’ve adopted the philosophy that every little “disruption” can teach me something. So many times during my daughter’s first year I thought, “This is it! We have the perfect routine and everything will go smoothly if we stick exactly to this schedule.” Then one day she refused her morning nap or daddy took her out and lunch was 45 minutes late. And you know what? She adapted just fine.
It was actually a good thing he shook up her schedule every now and then (please, oh please don’t tell him I said this!!)
It taught me that our baby (i.e. my life) could be flexible and handle the occasional hiccup. More importantly, I learned to not become attached to very much. Nothing is fixed in baby’s first year.
My daughter’s reflux was so bad that she couldn’t sleep while lying flat- she outgrew it.
I had a horrific time establishing breastfeeding- we got past it.
We even made it past her neon-green poop phase, that necessitated a 911-text to her pediatrician.
What you can do: Find your lessons in the “un-fun” moments.
Next time you’re covered in baby poop, spit up and other fluids you cannot immediately identify- take a deep breath and remember that everything is temporary. When you feel like your life may never be yours again (and gone are the joyous days of showering alone) remind yourself that “This too shall pass.”
Tip 3: Accept offerings
The outpouring of support we received from family, friends and random acquaintances after our daughter’s birth shocked me. Suddenly everyone I’d ever known was sending food, gifts and encouraging messages. I couldn’t believe so many people cared, and more importantly took the time to acknowledge my daughter’s birth. Don’t get me wrong, I know that I have an amazing family and wonderful friends, that’s not it. It was just the sheer volume!
But I now realize that people with kids get it. They know that during those first weeks you truly don’t have the time to change your clothes, let alone think about preparing dinner. Our good friends own a bakery and I can’t remember my daughter’s first month without remembering the taste of fresh croissants or homemade spinach pie that was regularly sent to us.
What resonates most with me is that these gifts kept me feeling connected at a time when I barely left the house. They reminded me of all the people that cared for us, even though we were too busy to think of them. It reminded me that we belonged to a wonderful and supportive village.
What you can do: Accept offerings from your village.
Answer their calls with “Why yes, we would love for you to bring by some food!” or “That would be great if you could take our toddler out for a few hours so we can rest.”
Toss aside the conventional “No thank you, we’ll be fine” and don’t worry that you won’t be able to repay the favor any time soon. Trust me…. fresh croissants are fabulous.
Tip 4: Stay Connected
After our daughter was born I barely left the house for a month. Mind you, I was healing from a c-section, having major problems breastfeeding, and my mother was visiting for 6 weeks.
Yeah, I was a bit overwhelmed.
I probably would have let myself drown in an endless sea of dirty cloth diapers, breast pump parts needing to be sterilized, and ridiculous new mom questions to ask Google. But thankfully my friends kept checking up on me.
Whether taking me out for a walk or talking me off the ledge when I felt like quitting because breastfeeding just hurt so damn much- they kept me connected. This shared sisterhood of new moms kept me sane and didn’t judge me.
Want to know if someone is truly your friend? Text them a photo of your candida-infected nipple and see how they respond. (Thank you, you know who you are.)
What you can do: Connect with one person each day.
Don’t be shy about attending a mom’s group, chatting up another mom at the dog park, or commenting in a Facebook group. And make sure to get some fresh air everyday. What makes you feel good and revived also helps your baby.
So next time the ball drops and you feel your thoughts heading toward “Well s#@t!! Now the entire day has gone to hell!”
- Take a deep breath and redirect your thoughts. Say something like “It’s not that big of a deal. We’ll get through this. Maybe I’ll even learn something.”
- Accept all offerings (especially the edible kind.)
- And remember to connect. Even if only by texting photos of your baby yawning adorably. (Hey, it’s better than a nipple photo.)
- Or just do as the Aussies do, and make a joke out of everything.
What helped you survive your baby’s first year? Tell us in the comments below.