As my daughter Taylor’s first birthday is coming up tomorrow, I’ve been dwelling a lot over this past year and all I’ve learned from it. How much Taylor’s changed, I’ve changed, and our lives have changed. At the moment in which I’m writing this post, she is happily snoring next to me, probably dreaming about a better way to sneak into the planter again or about how delicious her last dinner was (right?). But of course, things weren’t always this simple…12 months ago I sure as heck wasn’t able to leave the house without a feeling of doom, let alone write a blog post while she slept peacefully next to me.
When Taylor was first born, I was already neck-deep in depression and stress. So much so that the added postpartum hormones took that into what I feel now was postpartum depression. I felt like I was in a complete haze, and I wasn’t myself at all. I was full of unnecessary anxiety (I couldn’t let anyone hold Taylor without hyperventilating and going into full panic attack mode), I hated leaving the house or being in new social settings, I was angry/overwhelmed/and sad, and I also needed to have a great feeling of control in my life (from organizing all of Taylor’s things to knowing absolutely everything that Taylor came in contact with). Even with the huge amount of love and help from my mother, sister, and Franki, I felt lost and depressed. It took me up until her 4 month “birthday” to feel even a glimmer of being alive again, and even then I knew I had a long journey ahead of me.
Now that I’m at the place where my body is back, my humor is back, and my brain is kinda back (those special mom-ents are sticking around I’m afraid!), I feel that I can share some of the advice I’ve gathered along the way in the hopes that somehow I can pay it forward. I can’t say it enough: being a good parent is difficult no matter where you are, who you are, or what level of life you are in. I really hope that some of this advice finds its way to you, if only to help you make it through one more sleepless night.
To everyone who has been in my corner, rooting for us…thank you from the bottom of my heart. Your kindness and love constantly continue to pull me through every slump and hold me higher through every triumph.
1) The days are long, but the years are short.
This has been probably the most eye-opening advice I’ve gotten so far. After reaching out on Twitter for advice on balancing my life, I received this from a follower, and it snapped me back into reality. Yes, this might have been the longest day ever. Yes, balancing school/baby/cleaning/cooking can seem overwhelming (and it is), but when she is 5 or even 16, you’ll look back and somehow wish it were longer. Her first year has already passed me by so quickly; it makes me want a magical pause remote just so I can savor a little more of the baby stage. Every phase has an ending, so keep your head up and find that light at the end of dark sleep tunnel.
2) Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Do not feel guilty for doing so.
This was one I struggled with constantly. Anytime I wanted to ask for a small break, some rude voice in the back of my head said, “This baby was your choice. You brought her into the world. She is your responsibility at all times.” I felt so much guilt for wanting a break that I hardly ever asked for one and that took a ginormous toll on me. While it is my responsibility to raise my child, in order for me to do the best job I possibly can…I needed to help myself too. It’s like the “crash rules” in an airplane. Help yourself before you can help someone else. Asking someone you trust to watch your baby while you shower/eat/take a walk around the block, is good for you and for your baby.
3) Just breathe.
There have been so many moments with Taylor (especially in the earlier months) that I just wanted to scream and hit a wall or sob hysterically and lock myself in the closet (which might have happened a few times). The mix of her acid reflux, lack of sleep, amount of responsibility growing, and her extremely active personality (opposite from my pop in a movie and put my feet up on the couch personality) took me over the edge often. This new life of my mine was a huge and sudden adjustment. This simple advice that I was given by my Healthy Start home-care worker, Joanna, was to “Just breathe. It’s okay to just take a step back and calm down.” It honestly worked so well. If you ever feel like you’re just about to lose it, I urge you to place the baby somewhere safe (crib/pack-n-play/etc.), go to another room, BREATHE, and re-center yourself.
4) It is okay to cry and be frustrated, but you have to stop sooner or later…and still need to decide what to do about it.
I read this quote somewhere on someone’s Facebook page I’m sure, but it spoke to me very loudly. In the early days post-Taylor, I would wallow in my sadness about Taylor’s biological father not stepping up and the pain and stress he continued to cause…but where did it get me? Nowhere. Complaining about my stress just made me more upset, and it became a vicious cycle. So when these feelings or situations came up again, I decided to let myself feel the pain and sadness…but then I needed to figure out a solution. No pity, no wallowing for days…just let myself feel what I had to feel, then attempt to find an end or solution to my problem.
5) Breastfeed for as long as you can.
The boob is my go-to tool for a cranky Taylor. Not only is breast milk full of amazing and hard-to-duplicate nutrition for your child, but it also acts as a painkiller! Anytime Taylor was teething, in pain, tired, fussy…nursing solved it. Since it’s always conveniently there and always at the right temperature, I found that it’s incredibly easy to feed or calm her any time of day or night. Not to mention it’s helped me lose over 70+ pounds! If you’d like more information on breastfeeding click here, here, and for a mother-load (ha! pun) of information on breastfeeding click here.
6) Save money. Shop at secondhand stores.
No real explanation needed here! Babies grow incredibly fast. Bank accounts…not so much. You’d be surprised how many adorable and hardly worn baby clothes, toys, high chairs (got our brand new Graco for $20!) are hiding at your local secondhand baby stores.
7) Listen to your instincts.
If I had just one piece of advice to give, it would be this one. Your internal mothering instincts are so incredibly important when raising your child. You know your baby better than anyone. When Taylor was a newborn, I held her all the time. Not just because I wanted to, but because I had this intense feeling that I should. I was told by numerous people to, “Put her down. Don’t spoil her,” and, “You’ll need to let her have her own space sometime.”
It felt so wrong to put her down and away from me, and even when I would attempt to, she protested by crying constantly and fussing. It felt right to hold her during the day, but even more so during the night. The first night I had Taylor back at home, I laid her to sleep in her co-sleeper on the bed. She began to wheeze, breathe rapidly, toss her arms around, and cry. I picked her up, placed her back on my chest, where she calmly fell right to sleep. From then on, she and I both preferred to be closer to one another.
If that wasn’t an indication that I was right in my instinct, this next moment sealed the deal. Taylor was only 3 weeks old when she woke up from a nap on me, formed a giant frown face, and turned completely blue. Adrenaline rushed and panicked. I called 911, and we were in the hospital for the next week trying to figure it all out. It turns out she had intense acid reflux. When the acid came up it was too painful, and she didn’t know how to deal with it so her body tensed up and stopped breathing. As dramatic as this may sound, I honestly feel in my heart that without a doubt, if I wasn’t holding her, she would not be alive today. Your instincts are suited for your unique situation and your unique baby. Just listen to yourself, and both of you will be better off!
Taylor recently has been able to nap alone on our bed and fall asleep without needing me to rock her. After all the security I instilled in her over the past year, I feel that she is finally at a place where she is confident in herself and comfortable with her surroundings to be able to lay alone. We still co-sleep and will until she prefers not to, but I’ve got to say waking up next to Taylor cuddled on my arm snoring is the best feeling in the world.
Taylor has become such a little toddler now. It’s hard to believe that our first year is already coming to a close. I’ve been asked quite a few times if I could go back in time and somehow magically become un-pregnatized, would I do it? As strange as it sounds coming from a single and early 20-something female, without a doubt I would still have Taylor. Regardless of all the ups, downs, and meltdowns, she has given me such a positive purpose for my life, and I can’t wait to see what our crazy lives have in store for us next!
Blog Author: Stephanie Greenwood. Stephanie Greenwood, originally from sunny Southern California, is a student at the University of Oregon. Since becoming a surprise mother, Stephanie likes to take things one day at a time with as much snark, silliness, and humor as possible. This blog post originally appeared on Stephanie’s blog, “Those Young Moms,” and we have reprinted it here with permission.