Surviving the First Year – Three Things That Got Me Through

I used to think it was so strange how parents would continue to mark their child’s age in terms of months well past the 1 year mark. “Oh, he’s 26 months old” the sweet mom at the coffee shop would tell me. “COME ON lady,” I would think. He’s TWO.

Fast forward to my own adventures in motherhood and I totally get it. At the beginning you are in complete survival mode. Each month passing is like an etch on the prison cell wall, a mark indicating you’re that much closer to freedom…less round the clock nursing, longer stretches of uninterrupted sleep, more time for basic personal hygiene.

Declaring the number of months you’ve managed to keep your kid alive and not totally lose your shit is like displaying a much deserved badge of honor.

Each month also brings an astonishing amount of change in your baby. A tiny, helpless human will transform before your eyes and it will quite simply blow your mind and expand your heart in ways you never thought possible.

My son turns one next month, and while I don’t think there is any one way to prepare yourself for the wild ride that is your baby’s first year, there are a few things that definitely brought me perspective, peace of mind, and some much needed humor along the way:

Operating Instructions – A Journal of My Son’s First Year by Anne Lamott

Without getting into a full-on book review, I will say that Anne’s writing is unlike anything I’ve ever had the pleasure of consuming. The hilarity and raw truth of motherhood is exposed in ways that will make you laugh and cry at the same time. As a former addict and single mom, she really puts life into perspective. It gave me faith in myself when I needed it the most and a deep appreciation for all of my fellow momrades out there. The book is not a how-to, and it certainly won’t serve up any tips on parenting, but it will make you smile. Here is just one excerpt to give you a sense of what you have to look forward to:

“Last night was the first time I’ve left him with anyone besides Pammy or relatives. Even though Megan looked very sweet and kind, by the time I had driven to downtown Mill Valley, four blocks away I had decided that she was a hooker. By the Golden Gate Bridge, I had her pegged as a crack addict. But when I got home from my board meeting in the city, I was so profoundly relieved that Sam was still alive and wasn’t covered with hickey’s that I gave Megan my Toyota so she could drive home…I became convinced at one point that I would never see her again, that she and her pimp had totaled my car and left town. This morning she brought me a bouquet of flowers she had picked from her garden; she handed me the car keys and then rushed over to pick up the baby, while I stood there feeling like a complete idiot.”

Postpartum Doula – Trust me, it’s worth it

You may have read in a previous post that I did everything and then some to prepare for my baby’s arrival. This included a lot of hand wringing over a birth plan and dragging my husband to a couple’s yoga class for labor and delivery…What can I say, ‘Overkill’ should probably be my middle name. In retrospect I’m glad we decided to have a doula present at our son’s birth, but I could have never anticipated how essential it was to have a postpartum doula spend the first three nights home from the hospital with us. I know what you’re thinking – “that’s so bougie”.

Thank god a friend convinced me otherwise. When your body and brain are totally wrecked and you look like a cross between a porn star and a zombie, this person will bring you just enough sanity, guidance, and support to keep you going. Our postpartum doula gave me much needed peace of mind and taught me so much in those first three nights that I still think about and utilize now, nearly one year later. Maybe even more importantly, she set the tone and stood as an example to my husband for how to take care of a new mother so that I could have the nurturing space required to grow into my new role as caregiver-in-chief. If you’re an Austin reader, I can’t recommend Dream Baby Austin more highly. Feel free to contact me if you want to know more about what you should be looking for in a postpartum doula and what questions to ask

Get Back Into the Dating Game

I’m sure everyone who has had a baby can attest to that moment(s) when you consider divorce, or wonder why you ever decided to marry and procreate in the first place. What I’m actually talking about here is dating around for mom friends.

Motherhood will propel you into a whole new universe, complete with previously foreign objects like mom friends.

The wacky neighbor with four kids who you always thought was a little crazy might now be your go-to resource for all things breastfeeding. The co-worker you never had anything in common with might recommend the best stroller, or give you insider tips on navigating preschool waitlists. More importantly, there are women out there who will make you feel less alone and less invisible to the rest of the world that seems to go on like normal while your world has been completely turned upside down. There will be other moms who you do not bond with, but give these new relationships a try. Go on walks, invite someone over for coffee wine, and see how it goes. A few of my early mom dates with new people went nowhere, we respectfully went our separate ways, and a few have turned into awesome friendships I am extremely grateful for. The bottom line is this – make an effort to put yourself out there, even if sometimes…god-forbid…it interferes with your baby’s regularly scheduled nap time.

From where I stand now, a month away from my son’s first birthday, there are moments I will look back on with so much love that it hurts, and there are moments that just plain hurt.

Just remember that you are not in this alone, and that it’s worth taking time to explore strategies and practices that help make you feel more like you.

Or, at least, the new version of you. And while I’m extremely proud of how far we’ve come, I’m going to try my best to respond with a single digit number whenever people ask how old my kid is, if only to preserve what may be the last remaining vestige of my pre-mom self.

Post Author
Haylie Schwartz
I'm an old family friend of Alex, and when she invited me to try out a Tribe class last summer she had no idea that I was actually early in my first trimester with my first baby. I loved the class, but sadly had conflicts with work preventing me from going back. Fast forward nearly 10 months and I'm now a mom to a 6 week old boy and very much looking forward to Tribe re-opening. For now I'm focusing full-time on the babe, but I have a varied background, spanning from marketing and sales for tech startups here in Austin to most recently completing a masters in Counseling Psychology. I'm exploring what might be next for me professionally while navigating my way through new motherhood - fun and overwhelming to be sure!