On my daughter’s first birthday, my husband and I celebrated with a cupcake and champagne. Not the pinterest worthy event I had in my mind when I was pregnant but a very fitting way to commemorate making it through our first year of baby.
Out of all the lessons that I have learned from this past year, the following two are the most important for me.
Lesson 1: Forget the Rules.
Since my daughter was born, I have progressed from questioning whether every action or decision I make is the “right” decision to relying on what instinctively feels right.
Most recently, my baby girl (or should I say toddler girl?) has been waking up again in the middle of the night and is also still nursing 2-3 times a day. The lack of a consistent sleep routine really bothered me when she was 4-5 months and I would spend endless hours on the internet trying to find the perfect solution. Now? Well now, I just don’t care anymore.
You could argue that I don’t care anymore because my hopes of every sleeping soundly at night have been broken, and you wouldn’t be wrong, but it’s more than that. What has emerged over the past year is this internal voice that says this too shall pass and instead of trying to “fix it”, I will just accept it what for what it is and move on.
Same thing with nursing. The pediatrician says I should transition to whole milk, but I think nursing is still fine. Will some moms disagree with me or a parenting book tell me to stop nursing after 1? Probably. But I don’t care. I am no longer going to parent based on rules but rather what inherently feels like the right decision for me and our family.
I know this sounds simplistic but for a control freak like me who is always concerned about doing things “right”, it’s been a really great breakthrough. And much less stressful. Not easy but definitely less stressful.
Lesson 2: Marriage Will Take a Back Seat.
Whooo Lawd. *deep breath*
While not perfect, my husband and I have a very strong marriage so when I became pregnant, we didn’t realize how difficult things were going to be. Our normal ways of relating to each other as a married couple with a nurturing relationship quickly took a back seat to taking care for our daughter.
So many factors came into play but the biggest stressor for us was the lack of sleep. It’s such a cliche that the word cliche doesn’t even do it justice, but the constant exhaustion didn’t allow room for a lot of forgiveness, compassion, and mercy. Three things that are essential in a marriage.
Furthermore, pre-parenthood, my husband and I had pretty set routine of work, occasional happy hours, weekly date nights, and weekends where I would sleep in and he would enjoy 2-3 hours or quiet reflection time. The work routine, and the couple and individual “me time” stopped as soon as we came home with our daughter. Then you factor in stressful jobs (which I ended up resigning from), a lack of expectations for who is supposed to take care of the baby when or do what household task, limited date nights, not loving my body, coming to terms with motherhood, etc. added to the frustration.
I certainly don’t have the answers but I can say that preparing for a baby is more than getting the nursery ready, figuring out your maternity leave, or finding child care. Preparing for a baby also means understanding that loving your partner and loving your baby won’t be enough to shield you from real parenting issues that will affect your marriage.
The first year was full of amazing, funny, and loving moments with my husband but it was also REALLY difficult. So if you are in the trenches right now and have been giving your husband the evil eye lately, know that you are not alone and it does get better.