If you can believe it (I certainly can’t) today is my sweet Juniper’s first birthday. This year has been the most wonderful year of my life, and I don’t just say that because of my funny, smart, clever, and kind baby girl.
Having her in my life has been a wonderful catalyst to make all kinds of changes in my career, attitude, and personal life that have made me such a more content person. A happy mommy is a good mommy!
There are a lot of transition times you go through in your life. When you go away to college. When you buy a new house. When you get a new job. When you get married. But I’d venture to say that none of those transitions is as earthshaking as the transition to being a parent. It is a whole new world!
When I look back at the person I was on the morning of June 21st, 2014, I barely even recognize her—not that I’ve “lost myself” but it’s just that I’ve grown and developed so much more rapidly in a year of motherhood than I have in any other span of 365 days. I’ve been wanting to write down a list of what this year has taught me. I’m sure the memories of this first 12 months will quickly fade as we move onto the next steps of parenthood, so I’m writing these down more for my lackluster memory than anyone else’s benefit.
Happy birthday my sweet baby girl. Thanks for completing me.
1. I can survive (and even thrive) on a much smaller amount of sleep that I previously thought possible—college all-nighters have nothing on the first year of parenthood.
2. Sacrificing things for my child has been easy. It’s not always fun, but it’s easy.
3. No one—not my parents, not my friends, not my pediatrician, not the random lady in the grocery store—knows how to parent my child better than I do.
4. Speaking of pediatricians, finding one we could trust was vital. It took us five different doctors to find someone who we meshed with, but he ended up being one of our most important advisors and advocates, so I’m glad we did the work to find one who our beliefs aligned with.
5. I think “sleep when the baby sleeps” is crap advice. I was too worried, stressed, and anxious to sleep in those first few weeks. The idea of “I should be sleeping right now!” weighed too heavily on my mind to actually be able to fall asleep (ironic, right?). Instead, I like “rest when the baby sleeps”. Sit down. Put your feet up. Watch an episode of your favorite crappy TV. Sleep is good. Resting is almost as good (and a lot less pressured).
6. Babies are people, too. Juniper deserves all the respect I would give to an adult.
7. I’m glad we weren’t quick to put Juniper into a personality box. She’s developing into her own person that is more nuanced and multi-faceted than anyone I could have “created” by forcing things on her.
8. I don’t regret a single nap Juniper took on me. And I don’t remember any of the things I had to put aside to clear my schedule to let her nap on me.
9. I am created to be the parent to this child. And that fact makes me capable of parenting her.
10. Baby teeth are sharp.
11. Baby nails grow at an alarmingly fast rate.
12. Everything is a phase. I just repeat that whenever we are going through a particularly rough patch. Nothing lasts forever.
13. My breasts are magical, wonderful, incredible things. I have never been as in love with my body as I am now.
14. Speaking of postpartum bodies, I just don’t care. I have more important things to worry about than my stretch marks.
15. Speaking of just not caring, different people have different priorities (in parenting, and in life in general), and that’s not only okay, it’s absolutely wonderful. What a boring world we’d live in if everyone was exactly the same.
16. My husband is the best man on the planet. Yeah, I know your guy is great, but literally, there is no possible way he is better than mine.
17. The media and society treat fathers terribly. They are not fumbling idiots. Every father I know is a loving, capable, compassionate parent, and I wish TV, movies, advertising, and marketing reflected that reality.
18. Most babies aren’t fragile. Some are, but most aren’t.
19. Your baby might look absolutely nothing like you imagined. I was convinced Juniper would have a big mop of dark hair like me. She has red hair.
20. I have to take care of myself to take care of her. No, I can’t fit in a two-hour gym session anymore, but I can fit in a 10 minute walk and a glass of freaking water. And I have to fit it in, because she’s counting on me.
21. I love babywearing. I know it doesn’t work for some people, but it’s magic for our family.
22. Every baby has something. They won’t sleep. Or hate car seats. Or scream when their diaper is changed. Or all of the above. Every baby has something. And it’s okay. You aren’t doing anything wrong.
23. Babies can’t talk, but they can communicate. Especially if the parent is listening.
24. There are no “good” or “bad” babies. And I’d like to permanently abolish those terms, please?
25. I only feel confident in my parenting when I follow my gut. Learning to trust myself was the best thing I ever did for parenting.
26. When I’m short on sleep, every little thing makes me feel overwhelmed.
27. Crying is good. It lets the boo-hoos out.
28. Asking for help is really hard for me. But after I’ve done it, I feel like a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders (like when I had Craig call my Mom at 2am the day after we got home from the hospital because I thought I was going to die from anxiety).
29. Caffeine is okay. But fresh air, lots of water, and good food are a better way to keep me energized.
30. My pets are wonderful, adaptable, sweet creatures. And I try to remember at least once a day that they were my first babies.
31. I’m so happy I wrote a journal the first few month’s of Juniper’s life. It was just one or two sentence a day in a Word doc, but between the lack of sleep, the hormones, and the tiny human who needed 24/7 attention, it’s all a bit of a blur.
32. Photos are wonderful. Videos are even better.
33. If you are prone to comparison guilt like I am, Pinterest is where joy goes to die. Especially as a parent.
34. On the other digital hand, a smart phone, Amazon Prime, and the Amazon app are life-saving with a kid. You have no idea how many 2am orders I made with a baby in one arm and my phone in the other.
35. Breastfeeding hurts. They will try to tell you otherwise (and make you feel like a failure because your nipples feel on fire), but at first, it will probably hurt. And then it doesn’t anymore. Not even a little. If you can make it through the pain, the other side is wonderful.
36. My body is totally different, and probably always will be. I am back down to my pre-pregnancy size, but none of my pre-pregnancy clothes fit. Pregnancy changes a body, and not just by making it bigger.
37. I can now accomplish about 30% of what I could in a day before having a baby. That’s taking some getting used to.
38. My reproductive choices are no one’s business but my own (and my husband’s). And choosing to share pieces of those choices with others does not give anyone complete rights.
39. Emotionally and physically recovering from childbirth is something we don’t put nearly enough emphasis on in our society. An entire human being that was living in my body left it. It takes time to recover from that.
40. I draw my strength from being outside.
41. The dishes can wait. So can the laundry. And the lawn doesn’t have to be mowed. It really doesn’t. I’ve never looked back and thought, “Wow, I really wish I did that load of laundry instead of playing with my kid.”
42. Everyone has parenting advice, almost all of it comes from a good heart. The ability to thank people for their compassion and moving on is one of my greatest parenting achievements.
43. Resentfulness is a terrible, horrible, nasty emotion (for both the resenter and the resentee). Speak up. Fix the issue. And move on before it become a festering, infected wound that no antibiotics in the world can touch.
44. It takes twice as long to get anywhere with a baby. We just take the amount of time it used to take pre-Juniper and double it. Sometimes (rarely), things go perfectly and we’re there insanely early. More often than not, we have to go back twice because we forgot the diaper bag. And then forgot to put diapers in it. And then we have to do a diaper change on the way there.
45. A baby changes everything.
46. A baby doesn’t have to change everything.
47. I really don’t care who sees my boobs. Other people seem to really care if they see my boobs.
48. You don’t need even half of the stuff all the “must have” registry lists tell you you need.
49. It gets easier to leave your kid with someone else.
50. Cloth diapers are way easier than people think they are. Really, they aren’t that big of a deal.
51. My empathy and sensitivity is a wonderful gift that allows me to tap into what my daughter is feeling. Sure, it means I cry at dog food commercials and parades (anyone else cry at parades? just me?), but it also means that I’m a wonderful voice for Juniper’s emotions.
52. If you’re worried if you are going to be a good parent, you’re going to be a good parent. The act of worrying is symbol enough.
53. I think flexibility is the single most important trait in parenting. I’m still working on it.
54. A good, comfortable pair of slippers is a good idea if you plan on doing a lot of babywearing/bouncing (which you probably will).
55. “All that matters is that the baby is healthy” isn’t entirely true. Your labor and childbirth matter. You don’t want to be carrying emotional and physical scars into parenthood, so get educated to empower yourself—no matter what kind of birth you want. Stop putting yourself last on the priority list.
56. Speaking of childbirth, not everyone has a traumatic experience. I actually enjoyed giving birth. And not just the part where I got to meet my kid—all of it.
57. When you need to learn a lesson, life presents you with a teacher.
58. Approach everyone as if they have something to teach you, even if it’s just a lesson in exactly who you don’t want to be.
59. There is no way to know what it’s like to have a child until you have a child. You might think you do (I certainly did), but until you are on this side of the fence, you just don’t know. It’s like asking a person who was blind from birth what it’s like to see the color red. They just don’t know. And there is no way for them to know.
60. Parenting advice on Facebook (in any form—memes, groups, pages, friends) is often total and complete crap. Proceed with caution.
61. Juniper’s emotions are just as real and valid as mine are. Even if she’s just upset over the fact that she can’t pull the cat’s tail. Just because we think it is trivial doesn’t mean it is trivial to her.
62. Parenting doesn’t end when the sun goes down. Nighttime parenting makes up almost as much time as daytime parenting (go figure).
63. Being able to make our schedule fit around Juniper instead of the other way around has been a huge blessing. I know a lot of families can’t do that, but I’m so thankfully we could swing it.
64. The word “beautiful” encompasses so much more than just pleasing appearance.
65. Be the person you want your kid to become. It’s the only way they’ll learn how.
66. Bumps, bruises, scrapes, and scratches are all part of childhood. And it starts early (like, really early). Don’t worry, they heal fast. And learn even faster.
67. I consider providing emotional support for Juniper to be my most important job.
68. Bath time can be one of the best times of day to connect with a baby. Put your phone away and enjoy it.
69. Speaking of phones, babies love them. Even if you don’t let them play with them. I think they pick up on the fact that it is important to you, and want to experience it, too.
70. The first time I realized that Juniper understood what I was saying was one of the craziest moments of my life.
71. To be a good parent, I have to be a happy and fulfilled person. You can’t quarantine toxicity. It’ll infect everywhere—even your relationship with your kid. I became a better parent when I got my life in order.
72. The more stuff you have, the more stuff you have to put away once a baby is mobile. Purge, baby, purge.
73. I’ve asked the question, “What’s in your mouth?” more times in the last year than I have in my entire life previously.
74. I can’t be the perfect parent everyday, but I can be a good parent on most days—and that’s perfect to Juniper.
75. Traditional gender roles are worthless. Unless they work for your family. Then they are awesome. But don’t let them dictate your parenting style.
76. Questions from strangers go from “Is she sleeping through the night yet?” to “Is she still nursing?” to “Is she walking yet?” to “When are you having your next one?” throughout the first year. “It’s none of your business” is a perfectly acceptable answer to any of them. It’s also perfectly acceptable to just be happy with your baby being in the present.
77. I really like coffee. Coffee does not like me.
78. The fridge and the dishwasher are some of the most exciting baby toys on the planet.
79. Speaking of toys, babies rarely play with actual toys. The most entertaining “toys” are things that aren’t toys at all—spoons, boxes, cups, knives, rusty nails—really, whatever you don’t want them to play with.
80. Things that were once important to me are no longer important to me. Things that were never important to me before are now really important to me.
81. Every parent thinks their kid is the smartest/cutest/awesomest. And that’s exactly the way it should be.
82. Your kid will never love you as much as you love them. And that’s exactly the way it should be.
83. When babies first start walking, they look like a drunk college kid.
84. You never know when something your child does is the last time they’ll do it. There will be a last time they crawl. A last time they asked to be picked up. A last time they blow a raspberry.
85. You also never know when a baby is going to do something for the first time. They don’t know how to do something until they do.
86. Messes aren’t a bad thing. Embrace messes. Messes mean learning is going on.
87. Emotional support is as much of a basic human need as food, clothing and shelter. Spread love far and wide (to your baby and beyond). You can’t love someone too much.
88. Becoming a parent gives you a new perspective on everything. Movies that you once loved will become harder to watch because of a parenting storyline you never recognized before. TV shows that depict abandoned or abused kids? Forget about it.
89. Grandparents are wonderful, incredible, amazing people.
90. So are aunts, uncles, and cousins. In fact, family in general is pretty awesome.
91. It might take months or even years to feel “normal” again after having a baby. And that’s taking into consideration that your definition of “normal” will change dramatically.
92. Googling baby-related stuff is inevitable, but also dangerous. I can always find at least one internet person who’s neighbor’s cousin’s best friend’s baby died from a runny nose.
93. The word “bittersweet” was created for parenting. Every milestone is a combination of joy that my kid is growing up and sadness that my kid is growing up.
94. Patience is a virtue. Parenting can help you cultivate it or can smother it, depending on how you approach it.
95. Don’t feel guilty about needing you time. We all need it. Even your baby needs some independent baby time. Take your time, enjoy it, and come back refreshed.
96. Good parenting mentors are invaluable.
97. A baby’s laugh is pretty much the best sound on the planet. And I’ll do just about anything to make it happen.
98. Raising a baby is nothing like they show in movies or on TV.
99. Each month keeps getting better and better (although, I’ve heard that the teenage months are a bit of a regression).
100. I think love for a child is the most wonderfully painful thing I’ll ever experience.