What motherhood taught me Lessons you can learn

If two years ago someone told me I would have written this blog about my first year of motherhood, I would definitely have called the person crazy. But as destiny would have it, you are about to read about the most exciting year of my life. I felt very emotional yet extremely happy as soon as I started reflecting on the past year. We were blessed with our greatest gift January 2017 at 2:45am. It was the absolute best moment of our lives and I’m sure my husband will agree. Throughout my pregnancy I thought I would have easily assimilated in my role as a mother, given that I’m a Registered nurse with experience working in both pediatrics and neonatal intensive care (NICU). I totally failed to realize that my job would only prepare me for motherhood in the unfortunate event he was born ill. The fact is I only cared for ill babies /children at work. Their well-being rested in the hands of a health team and not mines alone. Jaxen however was mine, 24hrs a day, 7days a week, 365days totally mine for the rest of my life. This reality sank in only after he was born and it was the scariest feeling I had ever felt. I knew I had my husband and family who naturally are 1 million percent supportive, but in that moment all I could think about was how I could be the best mother my son will need. Before Jaxen’s birth I was a shy, sometimes selfish, impulsive, witty workaholic among many other things. As cliché as it may sound, motherhood thus far has changed my outlook on life. I’ve learn a lot about my strengths, weakness and overall I’m more self aware. A friend once told me that motherhood is the most “chaotically beautiful” experience of her life and I share the same sentiments.

Patience keeps me sane.

I’ve never been good at exercising great patience with people or anything for that matter. I was and sometimes still is a “do it now person’,” if you don’t do it then I will do it myself” kind of girl. When Jaxen was born my milk did not come in immediately and teaching him how to properly latch was quite a struggle. I learned almost immediately that I had to be patient in waiting for my body to start producing milk, while teaching him how to latch with only the hope that my milk would start flowing. This was very hard for me. I felt like I already failed him, not being able to produce the food he needed to survive.  He subsequently developed jaundice the day after his birth and everything was now out of my control. It was through the unwavering support of my husband and the medical team that I survived the next few days without going absolutely crazy. I had no choice but to exercise great patience and calm at a time when it felt like the world was crumbling at my feet and there was nothing in my power I could do to stop it. You may also experience difficult days like I did, such as waiting for a cold to run its course, a diaper rash to heal or teething to end but, having  patience will help to keep you sane.

You do not sleep?!

When we went to our Lamaze classes, the instructor’s recurring theme was “sleep when the baby is sleeping”. This statement could not be any more far from reality. Firstly newborns only sleep a couple of hours before they start crying to be fed and changed. It is recommended to breastfeed feed every 2-3 hours, that is 8 times or more in 24hours, I sat on average 20-30 minutes breastfeeding. During his short naps I was busy trying to eat, taking a quick bath or watching him sleep to ensure he was breathing. I read so many articles aboutinfant sudden death syndromethat my anxiety and paranoia levels were through the roof. I would sit and just stare at his tiny face and marvel at how miraculous it was to carry a tiny human into the world. In the newborn phase I took naps. I will not insult the word sleep because that’s not what those were. The weeks went by and he eventually started to sleep for longer periods. I grew more comfortable being a new mother and started to sleep as well. When I was going through that phase, I thought for sure I would have a mental break down due to sleep deprivation. As a new mother you may find it difficult to sleep without feeling guilty for sleeping.  Many people said, “It’s just a phase it will get better”. It sure did. These days he sleeps for 9-12 hours at night and takes one or two naps in the day (2 hours) and I’m back to staying up late and going to bed after midnight. You do not sleep but only in the newborn phase.

I’ve become less shy and more confident.

Jaxen is a bubbly boy who smiles at anyone that grabs his attention. For his sake my shyness has been placed on the back burner. For as far back as I can remember I’ve always felt anxious whenever I had to meet new people.  I don’t like to use labels but I’m pretty sure I suffered from social anxiety which may have negatively affected how I interacted with people on a day to day basis. I knew from the moment I became pregnant that I did not want my baby to have this problem. Every single morning I prayed and begged God to not let him be as shy as I was. I became more proactive and started to actively interact with people regularly, so that I could lead by example. I now easily strike up a conversation with strangers and effortlessly talk with other parents at play groups, it’s a working progress but I’m far better than I was before. I’m confident in my role as a mother and wife. I no longer double question my decisions about his well-being and I ask my mother far less questions than I did in the beginning. I can easily offer my opinion and advice to other mothers because I’ve learned a lot since the day he was born. I’ve accepted and understand that I won’t know everything and its ok to not be perfect. When you become a mother your social life may change for the sake of your child. You will be going on play dates, park picnics, Gymboree and the list goes on. Don’t shy away from your new role. Be accepting, confident and embrace the change. Motherhood will be far more enjoyable if you do. In case you were wondering God does answer prayers! Jaxen is very sociable not shy all.

Breast feeding is hard.

Growing up in Jamaica, breastfeeding was never a controversial topic of discussion. It was like second nature, women who had babies just did it and that’s it. I saw  my mom, aunts, neighbors and friends breastfeed. Working in the Nicu showing mothers how to breastfeed their babies were a daily routine, many of the mothers easily breastfed while some struggled. I sometimes wondered if the ones who struggled were not fully committed to breastfeeding their babies. It was not until I was going through my difficult period that I understood it was nothing that I expected and definitely not as effortless as it seemed growing up. As I mentioned before my milk took three full days to come in and Jaxen did not grasp the latching technique immediately. I had to learn feeding positions; how to use a nipple shield, pumping, and the list goes on. Everything I knew and taught others to do went through the door. My nipples were sore and cracked to the point of almost bleeding. I dreaded every time I was about to feed and I sometimes cried the entire time he was feeding. I choose to breastfeed exclusively and it felt like it was all I did. It was physically and emotionally taxing because I was not going to give-up on something I wanted to do so badly. Every 2 hr-3hrs day and night I was either feeding or pumping to ensure my milk supply was adequate. I had all the help and support from my husband and relatives but this was one thing that no one could help with. Looking back I would do it all over again. Why? “Time heals all wounds”.  Eventually my nipples healed, Jaxen started to latch properly, my milk flowed easily, and breastfeeding became enjoyable. I am happy I persevered and was able to provide for him what my body naturally made to meet his nutritional needs and that’s all that mattered.

Babies are expensive

 Diapers, wipes, formula, detergent, clothes, toys, books and the list go on. From the day we found out we were pregnant, we have been spending more and it has only increased as he grows. The cost for each item may seem small but it adds up to quite a bit of money if you take the time to calculate it. Each new stage of his life comes with an additional expense. Buying clothes every few months, baby proofing the house, paying for child developmental programs and additional grocery items are all new expenses we did not have. While sleep and breastfeeding got better this one doesn’t so try to plan and save as much as you can. There are things you can do to limit expenditure when you little one come along. Instead of spending money on expensive clothes, large amounts of toys and shoes that won’t be able to fit in a couple of months, buy less expensive clothes and only things you absolutely need. I made the mistake of buying so many clothes than I needed. We also received many clothes and other gifts after his birth, a lot of which Jaxen either wore once or never wore. Invest in their social development by paying for music, swimming, art or early stimulation classes. Open a bank account and start saving for their college education. Don’t be afraid to accept help from relatives and friends who have good intentions and offer to assist. Your bank accounts will thank you.

Mom shaming is a thing?!

I did not even know this was a “thing” until I became pregnant. Everyone has an opinion on how you should or should not raise your child and if you don’t take their advice, sometimes you are made to feel bad about it. “Don’t formula feed”, “exclusively breast feed”, “don’t feed him this, don’t do that”. “Don’t let him watch see a screen”. *insert the eye roll emoji* Sometimes people will offer their opinion because they genuinely care, but I never allow myself to feel pressured to take their advice. Once I’ve discussed something with my husband and we both agree, that’s the end of the story. I follow my instincts, ask a few of my friends for their opinions and listen to my mother who has six children.  Motherly instinct comes naturally. Do what’s right for you and your baby. If you are informed and choose to formula feed go right ahead. If you want to stop breast feeding after 6 months then do so and choose the best nutritional option for your child. People will try to shame you for breast feeding too long for their standards while others may try to make you feel bad if you stop after a certain time. I cannot stress enough that the only way to get past this is to ignore unwanted opinions and do what’s best for you. If you choose to go back to work or become a stay at home mother do  so because its what’s best for you and your family and not what other people.

I started to neglect myself, but babies grow up so fast.

When Jaxen was a newborn, it felt like life was one continuous day that had no ending. I didn’t see the need to separate day and night because our lives revolved around his sporadic schedule. There were days when all I did for myself was shower and eat. Even though Jonathan did everything including changing diapers, I found it extremely difficult settle into a normal routine. From the moment he was born I began to put his needs first. This is not something I intentionally planned, it just happened. Due to my difficulty to find the right balance, I rarely go to the salon and I’ve only gotten a manicure and pedicure a few times since he was born. If you ask Jonathan he may tell you that I don’t go because I believe not one can care for Jaxen like I can. While I don’t like to admit it, he is totally right.  Now that we have a predictable schedule, I’m finding time to do things such as writing blogs and going to the gym. Don’t feel guilty to enjoy some relaxation time and pamper yourself. It’s ok to get a baby sitter (someone you trust) to go on a date and enjoy an evening out with your spouse.

I simply cannot believe that he is 1 year old already. I find myself asking, where did time go? In one year he sat up on his own, crawled, walked, grew eight teeth, says mama, dada, waves bye and loves to eat among many other things. I know things will never be the same as I will be heading back to work soon but I know that as he gets older motherhood will hopefully for the most part be a breeze.

Is motherhood what you expected it to be? What have you learn? Leave a comment below.

Xo

Colette

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