Monday, November 18, 2013

One Year

Time is ticking. November is flying by faster than I can articulate, and my little nugget is growing every day, exploring every minute, and learning every second. Last week, we put him to bed in a pair of pajamas; last night, we could not get the same outfit buttoned. My box of baby keepsakes is getting full, and there are still so many memories I want to package forever. Everett is almost a year old, and he is hardly a baby anymore.

What has this year meant for me? Everything.

Savoring the Moment - Taking a Breath
I feel like I just finished a marathon - tired, sore, gasping for breath - but I also find myself wanting to hit the start line again, wanting to breathe the life back into all those experiences we are leaving behind. The journey, my friends, is a challenging one, but it is also remarkable. I want to see, taste, feel, smell, hear it all again. But I can't. You only have your first baby once, and no other experience can compare. 

It is easy to get caught up in time. We live in a culture that requires us to act a certain way. We are told to eat X foods, work X hours, exercise X times a week, volunteer X, give X, take X, make X. Babies require you to put on the brakes and evaluate what is truly necessary. I remember the moment I finally let go of all those expectations. I was nursing Everett, frustrated it was taking so long, and quite frankly, ready to throw in the towel. On a whim, I looked out the window and watched the snow fall softly on the lawn, and for the first time, noticed the way it kissed the golden leaves stubbornly hanging onto the trees. Meanwhile, cars rushed by on the street below the scene as commuters made their way to work.

I finally realized my world as a Mother was about just me and him, and the two of us being present and mindful in the moment, even while the rest of the world frantically continued in its everyday chaos. For what is just another snowflake to an adult is a marvel to a baby. They are looking to us for comfort and stability in this big, crazy world with all its bright lights, loud noises, and cold air. My purpose as a Mom has been to be there for him, to give him life, and to slowly teach him how to let go and navigate it all on his own. Why rush this? Why throw him to the lions before he is ready? And why put down a sweet baby to attend a relaxing yoga class, when his quiet breath can put you into deep, tranquil meditation?

Look in your baby's eyes and smile often, watch her accomplish all those firsts, because no matter how small the step, that moment was important and wonderful. Life cannot be measured in inches and ounces, but rather in experiences and memories. 

Being Confident - Embrace the Mommy Guilt
Being a mother, I find I have never been questioned more, both by myself and others. Every day I call myself a failure, yet I know each moment is a small victory. I have been judged for our childcare, judged for working, judged for not wanting to work, judged for breastfeeding, judged for using a bottle, judged for feeding him pancakes, judged for making his food, judged for the diapers I use, judged for the diapers I do not use, judged for letting my son wear a necklace, judged for dressing him in blue, judged for not exercising, judged for being too skinny, judged for using a baby carrier, judged for using a stroller, judged for him crying in the store, judged for his quiet demeanor in public...

No matter what you do as a parent, someone will accuse you of doing it wrong. However, I am confident that each decision I have made as a mother was my best, and I have zero guilt over those decisions. Never let anyone tell you otherwise, and know that if they are judging, they are probably insecure in themselves.

Build a Community
It is amazing what kids can do to your social life. Some people call us lame-os because we cannot go out after 7pm anymore, and we cannot afford a babysitter because all our money goes to childcare during the day. However, some friendships you make after becoming a parent can truly surprise you. Before we had Everett, I had a loose acquaintance through church who I saw every few weeks. I was never interested in her friendship, and always kind of judged her for being an idiot. However, after our sweet boy was born, she became one of my best friends and greatest advocates. She checks in with us on a regular basis, has unlimited amounts of advice and encouragement (when solicited), and is one of the strongest women I know. I am so grateful for her friendship, and am truly surprised at how being a parent has transformed our relationship.

Surround yourself with people who love you unconditionally, and who accept you as you are. Embrace these individuals as part of your extended family. After all, it takes a village to raise a parent.

Loving Life
After educating myself about, as well as experiencing pregnancy, delivery, and being a parent, I have learned that the human body is a miracle, and babies are the ultimate manifestation of that miracle. Part of loving your life is being confident in yourself and your decisions, but it is also about cherishing the gift of life itself. We are here, living this moment, because we are lucky enough to do so. Life is so precious - of that I will never again take advantage.

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