As we’re hurtling towards the end of the year and my little guy approaches his first birthday I reflect on the year gone by and the lessons he’s brought.
It has been a year of highs and lows, an emotional rollercoaster ride where tears have overflowed from sheer exhaustion, to heart swelling highs. Motherhood has flung my heart open so wide it hurt, in those moments a tear would escape down my cheek as if to make room. And there was always more room.
It has been a year of transition, a time of letting go, of constant adjustment, acceptance and learning to be fully present in the here and now.
I’m broken and made again with the dawn of every new day, it’s beautiful, exhausting and brutal all in one. And yet the transition has been gentle, and slow as the skin belonging to the old me is being shed and I await the new me, the Mama to emerge.
When I sat down to write this I started with a list of words that came to mind when I thought of my experience as a Mama;
Love, Intuitive, Heart Full, Exhausted, Joy-filled, Expansion, Intense, Growth, Gentle, Slow, Brutal, Broken, Peace, Self-awareness, Overwhelm, Self-Doubt, Learning, Adapting, Giving, Sacrifice, Powerful, Warrior, Strength.
But those words still do not express the feeling within. The feelings bundled into a fire, the fire in my belly that was lit with my son’s arrival and will never go out. The fire that lights the way, fuels me to be my babes protector, teacher, carer, to love him gently and fiercely, the fuel that now drives my life, and the fuel that will prepare him for the world and eventually set him free.
Here are some of my learnings from our first year together and thoughts to share with new Mama’s out there.
1 – Let go of expectations
Expecting life to be a certain way and comparing it to your reality creates frustration and will only lead to misery. So let them go, everyone will be happier for it.
Forget what anyone else is doing, or advice you’re receiving and listen to your intuition, observing your baby and follow their lead, they will tell you what they need. Every baby is different, there is no right and wrong. Tune into what you feel is right and follow that. It’s not always easy when you’re exhausted and have no time to think straight, but you’ll get there!
2 – Trust in your body’s ability to heal
I’ve learnt to appreciate my body in a way I never imagined. It will always be different to the body I inhabited before pregnancy and I’m more than ok with that. I’m in awe of its ability to create life, nurture, nourish and heal.
Nine months on, I find my body has made a giant leap virtually of it’s own accord, additional fat stores needed to grow my baby have started to reduce, tummy muscles are knitting back together, Give yourself a break, don’t rush back into exercise, you need to find a new way of moving so you can work with the body you have now. Go gently and be proud of what your body has achieved.
3 – This too shall pass
Some days will feel like an endurance test. Emotions swell to their fullest, then come crashing down. Allow them to. Feel it all, the overwhelming love, the fears and everything in between. Can I do this? Am I enough? Yes and Yes! One moment, one day at a time.
On really shitty days, repeat after me… ‘this too shall pass’, then smile and let it sink in.
4 – Ask for help
You cannot do this alone. If you’re feeling overwhelmed then ask for help. Some days having a shower and managing to eat something was my biggest achievement.
What do you need? Time to take a bath, a nap or just some time to yourself to relax then ask someone to take your baby out for a walk, the fresh air will be good for them, you can’t switch off while you can hear your baby in the next room. Ask friends or family to bring food with them when they visit, or help with housework. People love to help, but often don’t know what you need, I think you’ll find they’ll be more than happy to help.
5 – Self Care
My biggest lesson by far has been self-care is vital to my well-being. When you have a tiny human who’s depending on you, you can’t afford to get sick. I’m learning to stop pushing so hard and to be more gentle with myself.
I won’t lie self-care felt impossible, I’ve had to redefine what it means to me. I can use aromatherapy oils in my shower to lift tiredness, I can take health supplements to boost my nutritional intake and energy levels, I can breathe deeply as I feed my little guy, I can go out for a walk every day, small things that improve the way I feel. What can you do that nourishes you?
Do something every day that lifts you up, yes even when you’re exhausted, especially then.
6 – Connection
Life is amazing, and then it’s awful, then it’s amazing again. There will be days where your baby is happy and content and others where they scream the house down. In between the highs and lows is the ordinary and routine.
You can be bored yet busy, your baby’s needs are all consuming, depending on the level of support you have there is very little time to yourself. If you find yourself home alone day after day, don’t let monotony set in. Connection with women who get it is so important. It’s ok to admit to a bad day or feeling bored, we can still love our lives and our babies while feeling negative emotions. Sometimes all we need to hear is a reassuring ‘me too’.
So find a mum and baby class in your area, meet other mums, keep trying classes until you find one you and your baby enjoy.
During the amazing, take a deep breath inhaling the moment and storing it to memory. Through the awful exhale deeply, take time out to relax and destress, remind yourself it will pass, during the ordinary make plans meet up with friends, have some mama playdates. Embrace it all.
7 – Change is inevitable
Children are the best teachers for showing us that nothing stays the same. As soon as we have a handle on a situation it all changes showing us we have to adapt, forget what was to learn and flow with what is.
Let go of expectations and be prepared to change the plan. Perhaps your initial idea of returning to work at a particular time or your choice of childcare no longer feels right now your baby is earth side. It’s ok, you will find an alternative that works for all of you. The worst thing you can do is cling to an idea of how things ought to be.
8 – Stop trying to be who you were before
This is a biggie. You may lose your sense of identity as you transition into being a Mama. Friends may shift and change. Your work will take on new meaning as priorities change and the demands on your time change. New interests may emerge, so make room for yourself to grow and evolve.
9 – Motherhood will shine a light on what’s really important
Being a Mama makes and breaks you over and over again, in the most beautiful way.
If you allow yourself to break, trust the pieces will come back together, forming a better version of you than the one before as it strips away what is no longer needed. Motherhood has a way of magnifying what is really important in life.
I’m acutely aware of my flaws since becoming a Mama, I’m grateful for this new perspective and the lessons it brings. It demands that I grow as a person, that I reflect on how I communicate, on how I can be more compassionate. As a result, I’ve learnt not to judge. I’ve learnt to embrace who I am and value what I have to offer.
To love, nurture and guide the growth of a tiny human is at times an overwhelming responsibility and ultimately the biggest gift.
To the sweet soul that is my little boy I want to say thank you for showing me how to love so purely and deeply, to trust fully, but most of all for teaching me to surrender over and over again.
To the Mama’s I want to say; you are stronger, more loving, gentle, compassionate than you ever knew. On your darkest day know that you are more than enough, you’ve got this, you’re doing an amazing job. <3
I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences, did you relate to any of this? Let me know in the comments below.