The First Year: What I Learned

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Rocco Boone’s first birthday, checking out his presents.

It’s been one year since our little man arrived.  Hard to believe that much time has passed but then again, it’s hard to picture him not being here with us.  My friend Kate asked me to write about what I’ve learned in this first year of having a little guy, being a mama, living as a family of three.  I’d say my first lesson came before the baby was even here because that pregnancy stuff can be crazy. So here’s my list…

1.  Don’t freak out.

Seriously.  You’re having a baby.  Keep calm and keep that fetus calm.

Taking in our little guy.

This one honestly came natural to me.  I was in a good place mentally and physically and I was able to really enjoy all of the changes.  I read enough to be informed but didn’t read so much that I worried about every ache in my belly or every drop of coffee I ingested.  And this should carry through my child’s entire life (at least that’s what I’m hoping for).  Relax!  When I get stressed, my baby gets stressed.  When I am calm and hold him up against me – he melts.  This power is in all humans so when I get depleted or stressed – my husband, my baby, and my home all suffer. There’s going to be a lot you read and a lot of people who share information and advice with you that will stress you out.  Ignore it all and enjoy that baby.

A sunny afternoon with my little man.

2. Figure out how to not freak out.

For me this means to focus on myself.  Get enough sleep (and when I don’t, ask for help so I can).  Get dressed, do my hair, and even put on make up almost everyday.  Spend time talking to other adults about adulty things like politics, the weather, and sometimes – how awesome it is to be a mom and how much I love my baby.  Cook meals of yummy food.  Dance in my living room.

Getting ready for the day with a sleeping baby.

That’s my short list of how to keep me sane.  I have to remember this list in times of need.  When I complete most of the items on this short list it is so much easier to stay calm and be happy with my life and my baby.

Dinner date with my boys.

3.  EVERYTHING gets better with time.

This was my first official mommy lesson.  And I think it will ring true for the rest of my life.

A very sad Rocco Boone.

When Rocco Boone was first born everything came very easy.  I know we were lucky.  He breastfed like a champ, slept beautifully, and he was just a content little guy.  Within a few weeks though I noticed him getting uncomfortable after feedings.  I started to question my diet, my milk, everything.  I started researching baby gas and wanted to fix it so. bad.  I didn’t want to see my baby sad and uncomfortable.  I hated to hear him cry.  The one thing I researched that helped was info on fast let down that Kate shared with me from the Kellymom site.  I started block feeding and it helped a little. We started using probiotics and colic calm and within a few weeks, everything was good again.

Bicycling out that sad, sad gas.
Giving this boy a post-bath massage.

The same thing happened when my supply went down after returning to work.  He became uncomfortable, didn’t sleep as well, and cried a lot.  I got so discouraged and confused.  I saw a wonderful lactation consultant (so happy I asked for help) and things got so much better.

My first Mother’s Day.

The list of difficult times goes on.  Countless night feedings, sleep deprivation, sleep regressions, and everything else…  There were some hard times.  My point is, the more I stressed about stuff, the worse they got.  Rethinking the issues and keeping a positive outlook helped again.  But really, time healed it all.

4.  Boobs are magic.

Do I really need to explain this?  Rocco Boone has been rescued by my boobs countless times. And if you’re breastfeeding you totally get it.  These things feed you, comfort you, put you to sleep, treat infections and illness, soothe a bump on the head.  The list goes on.  We both got the flu a couple of weeks ago and all RB would ingest was breastmilk.  The flu sucked but even with puking and diarrhea, he stayed hydrated and happy the whole week.  Crazy, huh?

And now that he’s one I’m noticing a change in him.  He seems aware of when he wants food and when he wants psychological comfort.  It’s huge to see how he changes his demeanor when he wants that comfort.  He looks more intently at me and sometimes zones out. He lets me play with his hair and rub his face – things he never lets me do when he is hungry.  I’m so happy to be able to provide him with that time and help him figure out what he needs.  So yes, boobs are magic.  Just ask Rocco Boone.

Nursing on vacation.

5.  The internet is my medicine.

I would have never thought this would be the case.  While I was pregnant I was really careful to not read too much.  There is so much negative information that new parents eat up because it seems easier to latch onto what we should be scared of.  So I decided to only look stuff up if I thought there was a problem.  Because my pregnancy went smoothly, I ended up not reading that stuff and just stayed positive and healthy.

A little clean up in the sink.

Once RB was here, I again chose not to read unless we were having trouble with something.   The biggest issue we had was gas, which I honestly kind of laughed at sometimes.  The worst part of his days were hiccups and farts.  It sounds like a pretty good life to me.  But… there were times when those cries felt like an eternity and it didn’t seem so funny.  So I took to the internet and found mom’s groups on Facebook and blogs and websites that I could scour for information.  What helped me the most was hearing from multiple moms dealing with the same issues.

Relaxing with my sleeping baby.

Quickly I realized no matter how much I liked our pediatrician, she was only one woman.  The internet gave me access to so many women all at once and it was easier for me to see trends and treatments.  But when I found information that I didn’t agree with, I just had to ignore it.  I found a couple groups of natural/holistic/crunchy mamas and used the Leaky Boob’s facebook page and that really helped me, and they continue to.  They’ve pushed me to see past some of the more traditional paths with unnecessary meds and interventions.  But be warned – over reading most mom’s sites is totally bad for your health.  Find the people you trust and respect and stick to them.

One of our favorite things to do together – swimming!

6.   Love on your husband.  

The first couple months of our son’s life were pure bliss.  Nothing else mattered  but that baby and the three of us.  We toted him around on date after date.  We did late brunches and dinner dates and looked longingly at our baby just as much as we did at each other.

One of those relaxing dates.

Then something happened.  Work and school became more of a reality.  Our son needed (just a little bit) more of a routine, he needed more attention, slept a lot less, and the daily grind just started to take over some more.  There was less time just hanging out and cuddling with our baby and each other.  And I realized one of the most important things we lost was that intimacy.

Our first alone date for our anniversary.  RB was four months old.

So now – and I still struggle with this – the best thing I can do is touch him.  When he gets home from work, when we’re sitting on the couch, when we’re listening to music, when we’re falling asleep in bed.  Just a hand hold, a hug, a dance.  All of our stresses melt away and any animosity I’ve built up dissipates.  Because nothing we’ve experienced is bad enough to keep me mad at him.  And I still need reminders of how good it feels to be with him.  Nothing is more important to me than the happiness of the three of us.

Our first family date.  Valentine’s Day with a 5 day old RB.
Chilling on the couch.

I’m sure this list could go on and on but this is what I choose to focus on still to this day.  This past year has been a whirlwind.  It’s shown me some of the highest highs and the lowest lows.  But the lows passed quickly and the highs continue to grow stronger.

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7. And when all else fails, take a bath with your baby.
Amanda blogs at In The Heights. She is amazing.

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