I’ve been wanting to write this post for a while. I have spent much time over the past couple months reflecting on my first year of motherhood…what came naturally and what didn’t, what were my favorite parts and the hardest parts, what I’m proud of and what I want to do differently next time. I will share some of these thoughts in this post to celebrate and to document one year of being a Mama.
Motherhood fell into my lap late, late on a Monday night. March 25th. I gazed at the face of my firstborn son. That moment was different than I thought it would be. For one, it was not right after my son was born but rather about half an hour later because he had to be checked out by NICU nurses due to the fact that he passed meconium in the womb. He was all clean and wrapped up in a swaddle. They didn’t put a hat on him. But as I looked at his face, it felt… Familiar. It was almost as if I had met him before or seen a picture of him previously. To be perfectly honest, I wasn’t overwhelmed by emotion. I didn’t cry. I felt peaceful. It all felt so right. The love I knew I had for him felt natural. It wasn’t an emotion that came and took me by surprise in a moment (which was what I expected). It was almost more of a knowing. This is my son. Arden Scott Wahlquist, welcome to the family.
Of course, in my eyes he was the most handsome and beautiful and utterly perfect baby I had ever seen. That thought would cross my mind many, many times over the next few weeks and months. I was sure that it was very possible that I had just birthed literally the cutest baby in the whole world. And I was sure everyone else would agree with me. I was also sure other moms would be jealous that my baby was the cutest baby in the history of mankind. Why wouldn’t they be??
So it goes without saying, but I was smitten and taken by love. Like how I felt on my wedding day. In a state of pure bliss, pure right-ness and completely unaware of anything else going on around me. Adrenaline rushing (with the help of some Fentanyl, of course). It was obvious and natural and at the time didnt feel unexpected or strange.
As intuitive and natural as my entrance into motherhood may have felt, that’s not exactly how I would describe my first year. The first few months were blissful overall but, just to be honest, I hit some extreme lows around when he hit four months old. There was a lot going on: a MAJOR sleep regression (like, WHO ARE YOU AND WHAT HAVE YOU DONE WITH MY PERFECTLY SLEEPING BABY), my milk supply went down (probably due to stress, no more night feedings, and just not being diligent enough to keep it up), and subsequently I had to wean Arden a LOT earlier than I originally wanted to, which was so much sadder than I could have ever imagined. It was a hard couple months.
Around when he turned six months is when some of the fog lifted and I felt a little more back to my normal self. He still wasn’t taking good naps, but I kind of just accepted that as my new normal.
And then teething happened. My oh my. Arden basically exhibited every single symptom the people said my baby *might* have. Bad diapers, fussiness, not sleeping very well, drooling like it was his job…we very much felt the teething thing, and it didn’t slow down until around nine months.
Eight months, a miracle happened: Arden just all the sudden started taking longer naps!!!! It was awesome. But then, because of said teething spells, when he was cutting his two front teeth at the same time, he started waking up multiple times a night. Every night. And the only thing that would get him to go back to sleep was a bottle and holding him. Sometimes he wouldn’t wake up when you transferred him back, sometimes he would and the process would start all over again. All of a sudden I became the kind of mom that I said I wouldn’t be because it would create bad habits–the one who rocked their baby to sleep, fed them to sleep, and basically used any sleep prop available to move towards the almighty goal of SLEEP. This went on for almost two months. The situation was exacerbated by the fact that Arden was going through major separation anxiety, so him being in his crib by himself was basically the worst thing he could think of. He cried a lot, and so did I. I was tired. He was so incredibly clingy. He burst into tears just when I left him in his room for a minute to go to the bathroom.
But then, just like before, one day he just stopped. I woke up in the morning and realized that he didn’t wake me up in the middle of the night. And for the most part, he never looked back. There would still be some nap issues, but for the most part things leveled out around 9.5-10 months and by twelve months he was back to his sleeping champ self.
Looking back, I see that Arden and I went through a wide range of experiences all across the spectrum. Let me elaborate…
– I exclusively breastfed, I supplemented, I formula fed.
– I was a proponent of crying it out, I was vehemently against it. Depended on the stage he was in. And sometimes the day ;). Heck, I still don’t know where I stand on it. But probably somewhere in the middle.
– I was very into the Baby Wise stuff (at the beginning when he slept awesome and I didn’t have to do anything to make it happen;), I leaned more on the attachment parenting side (more by necessity than choice, like during his eight month regression), I was somewhere in between (probably where I land now).
-He slept in our room in a pack-n-play next to our bed for the first three or so months, then he slept in his crib at night from then on. However, he napped in his crib almost from the beginning.
– I made homemade baby food, I used the store bought kind. He did just finger foods by 11 months but then we have recently been using them again.
-He went through every sleep regression I read about. (4 months, 8-10 months.)
-He has been the baby to wake up in the six o clock hour, and the baby to sleep in til past nine. But on average he wakes up around 7:30.
-We navigated every new development and level of mobility, as well as the transitions before the developments, which were usually harder. For example, when he couldn’t roll over from his tummy to his back, just his back to his tummy. And he HATED being on his tummy…so it made for a lot of frustration for him!
– He went from being an awesome napper all-around to a catnapper who was easy to put down originally but would wake up after 45 minutes to being VERY difficult to put down (naptime routine was long and often had to involve a walk or watching Praise Baby) to being a great napper with an easy naptime routine again :).
-He went through his first stomach bug that involved 4 rounds of cleaning up the mess and then him throwing up again all from like 9-10:30pm and then several days of bad diarrhea.
-He loved the paci for nine months then one day decided he didn’t want it anymore. Um, that was easy… And I’m going to live in la-la land where you don’t have to work to wean children off of pacifiers until the potential event when that will be the case for me.
-In general, he actually never really got attached to any one thing. Switching from the normal bottle to a sippy cup was a breeze, as well as switching from formula to whole milk. He doesn’t really have one blanket that he prefers–he just wants SOMETHING to cuddle with when he sleeps. He has overall been an easy baby in this department.
-He spat up SO MUCH as a little baby for several months. Like every other mom ever, I’ve been spat up on countless times, peed on, pooped on and thrown up on.
-He’s had an easy-going personality, he’s had a very passionate personality (which is where we have landed now:).
-he’s bumped his head dozens and dozens of times, and received many bruises on his forehead as a result. He’s bled in his mouth a few times as a result of biting his tongue or cutting his gum on a fall. But he’s never seriously injured himself. That will come later;).
Those were just some of the many different experiences we have had this past year. I laughed a lot, gushed over how cute he is a lot, cried a lot, wanted to quit, persevered, got lots of help and support from family, and took approximately 347,900,281 pictures. Ok maybe that last one was an exaggeration… ;).
I went through many ups and downs and had to adjust my methods and mothering approach MANY times as he changed throughout the many stages he went through. I learned so much about adapting when needed and going with the flow. I was humbled, over and over and over again. I became very dependent on God’s grace to get me through each day. And I loved it all.
Now for my personal favorites and “least favorites”…
–Favorite stage: this is a hard one, because each stage comes with good stuff and hard stuff, but I gotta say the newborn stage. Like, the first three months before he was any kind of mobile and when he slept like a champ all the time. It was just so sweet and special to me. I love when he fit so perfectly on my chest and would sleep on me wherever.
–Least favorite stage: This one is hard too. In general, about 4-7/8 months was really hard in a lot of ways. Teething, separation anxiety, frustrated cause he can’t crawl, bad napping, having to switch to formula, etc. There were definitely many good parts too — like I loved when he could sit up on his own around six months. It provided a few weeks of relief from all the fussiness because the newness was a distraction. But, at least in my memory, those few months were the fussiest and most demanding of any of the stages in his first year.
–Favorite memory from first three months: oh goodness, all the sleeping and cuddling he did on me ❤️. Like him sleeping on me in the shade while I lounged in front of the ocean on vacation in Alabama. Pure bliss.
–Favorite memory from months 4-6: all the laughing he did. It was so fun to figure out how to make him laugh and to start really interacting with him more.
–Favorite memory from months 7-9: gosh, it’s hard to remember… But probably when he first started crawling. It was such a fun and new thing. There was lots of time with family during this season too, with Thanksgiving and Christmas.
–Favorite memory from months 10-12: when his obsession with balls started to surface:). It was the cutest thing ever. He also started really saying words around this time and, of course, started walking, which was a lot of fun!
After the first year of this journey, I am proud of where I ended up. I was not at all easy or smooth, and I am still very much a novice at motherhood. But what I can say is that I am somewhat of an expert on Arden (at least, more than anyone else!). There came a shift at some point during the year when I realized that following a book or even trusted advice was not the answer. Arden would not be put into a formula. I had to figure out MY baby and become a responder to his needs. And once I made that shift, we were all much happier and thriving. It took bravery and humility to admit that what worked for other moms that I trusted and respected just wasn’t always going to work for us. And that it’s okay. In some ways it would have been much easier if that was the case because I could have just followed a formula and it would have turned out great. But I would not have learned or grown as much.
The memories of his first year bring such varied and strong emotions. Times when I was so happy and in love I could die. Others when I cried at the thought of ever having more children. Things I went through that make me feel stronger and braver than I ever thought. And, memories that fill me with such guilt it brings me to tears.
However, with all the ups and downs I have come out on the other end a more confident mother. I’ve learned that it really does go by fast, that I love holding my babies while they sleep every once in a while (but I also love the freedom of being able to just put the baby down awake), that I don’t love to cook and that it’s okay, and now when I see a blog post or pin on Pinterest about subjects like getting your newborn to sleep, crying-it-out, discipline (and things of that nature), I just skip over it–I don’t need Pinterest to teach me how to be a good mom. I’ve learned that I need help from community. I’ve learned to trust my God-given instincts, the Holy Spirit’s guidance, and my husband. Note to self: Joey was almost always right. I’ve learned to not always trust my emotions.
I’ve learned to not be afraid to cry out for help. When those dark, lonely feelings creep up, to call or text a friend. Get out of the house, whatever it takes. Eat something. I spent way too much time feeling lonely when that didn’t have to be the case.
Comparison is never going to be life-giving. I’m learning to spend the energy that I used to spend comparing on praying for and supporting other moms.
I’ve lost myself, found myself and lost myself again. Learned about myself, learned more about God’s character and learned more about Joey. God bless Joey. I could not have done it without him.
So, if someone were to ask me what I might do differently this next time, here’s what I might say: I will pray more, approach motherhood with more bravery and confidence, trust my instincts, and work harder to establish a good breastfeeding relationship early on to set me and the baby up for more success. I want to try to not “watch the clock” this time around, especially early on, but rather simply respond to my baby’s needs. I spent way too much time counting the hours I gave to Arden in the middle of the night. This time, I will embrace my role more and offer my time as a gift without counting or complaining. (To the best of my ability. Because God knows I’m one of those people who loved writing out and documenting every detail of those first few weeks. I’ll find a balance.)
Arden love, we made it through the first year! I am very proud of you and am so happy that you seem to be thriving now after all the turbulent changes. Thank you for being a great baby who was willing to give me a second chance over and over again ;). You are so special to me and I will treasure this first year of being a mom, the first year of your life, forever and ever. I love you, bud!