Ever since Reya turned one in January, I had been meaning to share my thoughts and experiences of one year of motherhood. Since Mother’s day was just a few days ago, I thought I would sit down and recollect the peaks and valleys of this new life of mine.
And it is an absolutely new life for me. The day my baby was born, a mother was born too. It has not always been an easy journey. Motherhood has stretched me and grown me, and I will share with you my honest and uncensored feelings about some of the more challenging aspects of being a new parent too. Nevertheless, as deliriously exhausting as it is, this new phase of my life has been indescribably rewarding.
I have accompanied this blog post with some of my favourite mama-daughter photographs that Reya and I have taken together.
Nothing can prepare you for it
I’m a researcher and I loved to gather as much information as I could about what motherhood would be like and what it would feel like. And yet, nothing could prepare me for what it was for me. Everyone’s experience is unique, every child is different, and every mother is different – but even some of the more universal advice you get about parenthood – it feels completely different to hear it vs to actually live it.
You cannot raise a child without first raising yourself
I loved the term “to raise a child” because to me, it means the raising another human being to their full potential. That is the greatest responsibility of parenting. In order to lift another person to their full potential, we have to lift ourselves into ours first. Mothering Reya has invited me to look closer at my life, my potential, and what I need to raise myself so that I can invite her to do the same.
I’m still me but my life is completely different
I’m still me. But I’m a little buried under this new life of mine. I often heard descriptions of motherhood and how powerfully it changed them, how it made them realize they were even more capable of love than they ever thought possible – truthfully, that has not been my experience. I don’t feel that much different. I’m not surprised or shocked by the amount of love I feel for my daughter. I always knew it was within me. But I am at times startled by just how much my life has changed. Nothing about my life looks the same. Nothing about my day looks the same as it did pre-babies.
From a life to indulgence to responsibility
I feel like life before baby was all about indulgence. Indulging in the things we liked. Indulging in each other. When you takie on the tremendous responsibility of another human being’s life, it changes a person. You feel the weight of that every day. It changes your life. It changes you. After having Reya, indulgence was replaced with responsibility.
That being said, the gift in this, was that she made the most simple things that I once took for granted, into a luxury. A long hot shower is luxurious to me now. An uninterrupted cup of coffee. Sleeping for any length of time. Grocery shopping. A hug from my husband. Time to write. Meditation. The simple things. I enjoy and appreciate them so much more now.
Adulting is not just an option anymore
I think I did a pretty good job at “pretending to be an adult” before I became a mother. Adulting was more or less an opt in or opt out experience. When I felt like it, or was inspired to do it, I could do it. But when I didn’t feel like it, I could revert to just doing what I needed to getting by. Binge watching TV shows. Eating out. Taking unsolicited naps. Sleeping in.
Once you become a parent, you have to have your things together. You have to be adulting 24/7. Binge watching shows, napping, sleeping whenever I want, leisurely eating out, uninterrupted private time with my husband – these are all things of the past – and I struggle to remember the last time I did any of them.
Cleaning is my life now
I’ve always loved living in a clean, minimal space. Before having a child, cleaning was something we did once a week on a weekend to maintain this.
Now cleaning takes on a WORLD of it’s own. It’s something I do every day, multiple times a day, sometimes all day. It’s something I have to stay on top of constantly, or it will quickly escalate out of control. Luckily, pretty early on in this transition, I made the decision to enjoy cleaning and housework, and I’ve found lots of little routines and hacks that make my life easier.
Preparation and organization is key
Organization is something I enjoyed and did at leisure. It was something that made my already pretty smooth life, even more streamlined. Now, organization is an absolute necessity. Without it, my day just crumbles. Organization is what allows me to confidently meet my babies needs. Organization is what gives me a chance to meet my own needs. I have lots of systems and routines in place now to keep things flowing smoothly! Motherhood has made me a more organized and prepared person.
It is a privilege to watch a human being grow
What a great honour it is to witness Reya grow into the little girl she was born to be. I am in constant awe of her personality, her energy, her attitude, her mannerisms, her character. And every day, it solidifies and strengthens a little bit more, and every day I am introduced to my daughter over and over again.
Children don’t listen, they observe.
For the first year of her life, my baby didn’t talk, and yet we still communicated. I quickly realized that she watches me. She is most receptive to not what I say, but what I do. This bought a great deal of awareness into myself and what kind of person I am being around my daughter.
Motherhood springs you into action
I bought my baby to life. But she bought me to life in so many ways. I’ve always been a very internally driven person. Almost all the things I enjoy are quiet, introspective, creative activities. I’ve really appreciated the many opportunities motherhood has given me to get my hands dirty, to be active, to go out and in the world and do.
It’s a 24/7 job
You cannot compartmentalize motherhood. It consumes you and it becomes you. 24/7. The end of the day is just the beginning of the night. There are no days off. Not even hours off. Or minutes. Not even when you’re sick with a stomach flu and throwing up every 15 minutes all night, with your baby clinging to your feet.
It took about 10 months before I really understood that this was it, and that life was forever changed. Before that, I was still looking for a “break” here and there. A night to sleep for more than 2 hours at a time. A chance to go out and see a friend spontaneously. At around 10 months, I not only accepted that that was not my life anymore, but I also realized I didn’t really want those things anymore. I didn’t want a “break” from my baby, or my life with my baby. She is my life. And I love my 2hour-at-a-time sleeps with her for what they are. Something sweet, and difficult – but fleeting and precious.
There is something truly magical, and almost spiritual in giving all of yourself into something. There are very few things in my life that have consumed me this much.
I always have more love, patience and kindness in me than I think
There have been nights when I have been so very tired that I could barely keep my eyes open, and when they were, I was so sleep deprived that I felt like I was floating through a dream. In those nights, Reya would wake up almost every 30 minutes and cry for me. I would attend to her, and then very, very cautiously like I was defusing a bomb, extract my body away from her sleeping body. I’d pull the duvet up, and melt into that glorious moment of stillness and silence. I did it. Thank God. Now I can sleep. My eyes would slowly close, drunk with sleep. In that very moment, she would begin crying again. I would think “No. I cannot do this again. I cannot think straight. I cannot get up again. I cannot do this.” and yet the words that would come out of my mouth would be tender and full of love “come here baby, it’s okay. Everything is okay. Do you want some milk? I love you.”
I didn’t know I had it in me. But I always did and I always do.
Things change constantly
Just when I think I’ve gotten to grips with a certain routine, things change. Reya grows. Her needs evolve. The circumstances change. There’s no hard and fast rule or formula to follow that will make everything work all the time. We just have to keep adapting.
It doesn’t get easier. It just gets different.
It doesn’t get easier. You get better.
Parenting has also given me an opportunity to relinquish control. When Reya was first introduced to solid foods, she wasn’t having any of it. I was constantly anxious that I wasn’t meeting her needs. I would do my very best to prepare a meal for her, only to have her reject it completely. She wouldn’t even take one bite. And everything would end up on the floor. My entire day involved cooking, having the meal be rejected, cleaning the food off the floor, breastfeeding her, cooking the next meal – and rinse and repeat about 5 times a day (meals + snacks). It was incredibly disheartening, until I realized that, what Reya chooses to eat or not is beyond my control. I can only do my part – which is to gently offer a variety of nutritious meals to her consistently. And her job was to decide if that’s what she wanted or not. It was simple once I learned to let go.
It can be lonely
Some days I would be excited for my husband to come home and join us in all the fun we’re having. Other days I would be counting down the minutes till he would get home so that he can take over for a while so that I can take a shower. Some days we wake up in the morning, with a whole day laid out of us, and I happily dream up fun activities for us to do. Some mornings, I wonder how we are going to make it through the next 24 hours.
Motherhood can be exhausting and lonely. It’s difficult to find time for yourself, for your marriage, for friends. Sometimes I miss having conversations with adults. Sometimes I miss doing things that I want to do simply for the fact that I want to do it. Sometimes I miss the freedom. Sometimes I still feel a bit like a stranger in my new life, and I’m just trying to find my way in it – with my little friend by my side. A new normal. A new way, together.
Nothing is easy to do anymore
I have definitely struggled with not being able to do things as spontaneously or as quickly as I once would have done. I missed being able to leave the house with just phone, wallet, keys. Even just a “quick run to the grocery store” is far from simple, and takes preparation and planning. And once you do finally get there – your baby might decide to have a poop explosion, or demand to be breastfed while walking down an aisle, or have a meltdown, or refuse to sit in the stroller, or cart or in the baby carrier…or – once they are at the fun age of walking, which is where we are now – absolutely insist on running around and pulling everything down from the shelves. I read an article online that compared going to the grocery store with your toddler to going to the grocery store with a (unleashed) goat. I couldn’t agree more.
You are introduced to your mama bear instincts + strength
This is powerful and innate. Mothering Reya pushes me to the peripheries of my comfort zone. I’m her protector, her advocate, and I will do things that make me uncomfortable, if that means she will be okay. And she is my child. We have a palpable bond that is indescribable and untouchable. I tend to doubt myself a lot in most areas of my life, but not this one.
No more personal space
Not even when you use the washroom. That’s all.
I’ve become a far more productive person
Time is such a luxury to me now, and I use it well. I don’t have any to waste. I plan my time around her naps. I get more done in 30 minutes now than I did in 3 hours pre-baby.
It gives us the opportunity to re-experience life
This must be one of the most enjoyable aspects of parenthood; seeing life with a fresh set of eyes. Creating traditions that will eventually make up the fabric of their childhood memories. Re-experiencing all the firsts, all over again. Another worthy note: having a baby makes life go on fast forward. I came across a quote that said “There are just 18 summers in childhood, and this is one of them” – which really put how precious these years are into perspective for me.
There you have it, my friends. That is what my first year of motherhood has been like. And now as we step into our second year together, the experience is already vastly different. Reya is growing and so am I. She’s more independent and explorative. I enjoy her company, and it is a truly a pleasure to experience life by her side. I adore my little friend. She is magic to me.
Are you a parent? Can you relate to any of these experience? What was the best, and most challenging aspect of parenting for you?