A few weeks ago, on March 22nd to be exact, my little Miss Charlotte turned one! An entire year of holding and loving and watching my little girl grow had flown by. For the last twelve months, I have spent each day learning so much about my daughter, but even more about myself and myself in motherhood.
The brutal truth about the first year of motherhood is that it is hard. No matter how much research you’ve done or how many hours with babies you have logged, being fully responsible for another life can be really challenging.
Ever since I was 4-years-old, I would answer the annual “what do you want to be when you’re older?” question from my teacher’s with the answer “a mom”. Some of the teachers would ask for a real answer to which I would shrug and say a daycare worker. The second part of the answer did change here and there, but the first and primary one never once wavered.
As a kid, I would watch out for my younger brother. I was always trying to make sure he was cared for – according to my Mom. Eventually, when my uncles had their youngest kids, I started to become a regular in their lives. I was referred to as the “built-in babysitter” in the family as I LOVED to babysit any of my younger cousins (12-18 years younger than me). To this day, I still enjoy taking them for zoo outings or celebrating “National Cake Decorating Day”. I love being there for them! And due to all this, I have always been told how I am going to make a great mother one day. I’ve been told that it will come so easily for me when the day comes because I “have the natural mothering instinct”.
Having My Own Child Changed My Life
When I discovered I was pregnant, I was so excited that my fantasy of becoming a mother was coming true. I wasn’t entire sure what to expect, but I figured I would adjust super easily due to everyone telling me, I “have the natural mothering instinct”. Being nervous about motherhood never crossed my mind.
I had become convinced over the years of being told that I would be a natural mom, that motherhood would be a breeze. I was convinced I wouldn’t have any issues I couldn’t naturally fix. And boy, I was definitely wrong for thinking that.
The First Obstacle: Breastfeeding
When I became pregnant with Charlotte, I immediately planned to breastfeed – at least for the first year. My mom, my Grandma, and some women at work thoroughly loved their experience breastfeeding and said how the bonding it brought was unlike no other. I mostly looked forward to all the money I would save by not having to buy formula.
However, it seemed like my body didn’t quite agree with my plans. My left breast clogged almost immediately after giving birth to Charlotte. This was a
For a number of reasons, I ended up having to quit breastfeeding when Charlotte was six months old. The stress of nursing had taken all the joy out of motherhood for me. I hated considering the idea of stopping but it made me a better mom once I was able to relax. You can read all about our journey and why I decided to end it six months early in my post, “Why I Decided to Quit Breastfeeding“.
The Second Obstacle: Sleep Deprivation
I went into labour at
I stayed up the entire first night watching my daughter sleep, watching my husband sleep, and not sleeping myself. It was terrible, but as an old habit, I figured I would make up for it the next day without realizing that is not possible when you’re the sole food provider to another human.
The next night, I was, thankfully, able to sleep only to be woken up every three hours to feed Charlotte. The first cry I heard, I felt paralyzed. I could barely even open my eyes, let alone get out of my bed to pick up my daughter, hold her, and feed her for an hour. Before I could even think about moving, a nurse came in and took care of all of Charlotte’s needs with some extra pumped milk that I had. She even changed Charlotte’s diaper and cleaned the pump parts for me so that I could continue sleeping! I literally have never felt so grateful for another person.
By the time we were taking Charlotte home, I felt like a walking zombie. Tim tried his best to help me during those first few weeks, but there was only so much he could do when he couldn’t even attend to her one basic need.
I Felt Like the Walking Dead
They say to sleep when the baby sleeps, but even as a newborn, Charlotte hated sleep. She wouldn’t sleep more than 20 minutes at a time unless she was being held and I wasn’t about to sleep while holding her. In the times that Tim was home and holding Charlotte for naps, the last thing I wanted to do was sleep when I had an ever-growing to-do list to tackle.
I really thought pre-motherhood that I would just get used to the sleep deprivation but it is unlike anything I’ve endured before. I thought my multiple all-nighters to finish school projects would have prepped me, but it didn’t even train me. Having your sleep so broken up and constantly disrupted takes a whole different toll on you. I became so grumpy and demotivated – I felt stuck in a rut just from lack of sleep. It became hard to even look after myself as I felt the limited energy I had went to Charlotte.
It wasn’t until Charlotte finally sleeping (mostly) through the night that I started to feel energized and alive again.
My Third Obstacle: Charlotte’s Sleep Avoidance
My absolutely biggest obstacle with motherhood has by far been Charlotte’s aversion to sleep. Charlotte earned the nickname “FOMO Baby” right after being born – a nickname that still runs strong into her second year. She hates missing out on what is going on around her and therefore she fights sleep.
The only way we could get Charlotte to sleep for the longest time was to hold her. For nap time, that meant rocking her to sleep and staying there until she woke up. For bedtime, we often resorted to co-sleeping just to get her down. It got impossible to do anything for ourselves as she was always needing us to help her sleep. We started to dread her sleep times because it meant having to lie there with her on your chest for who-knows-how-long just hoping she would get into a deep enough sleep to put her down.
I had no idea why my daughter was such a horrid sleeper. When I reached out for advice from Mom’s I knew, I was constantly told, “Yup, that’s a baby for you. She will learn on her own time”. I hated this answer. It is not normal for a baby to need this much attention to sleep, and it is not survivable for the parent.
Finding the Solution
When she reached nine months old, we finally had had enough and looked into solutions.
Now, Charlotte is an A+ bedtime sleeper! She only needs us to sing to her and is often asleep in her crib before we leave her room! Her naps are still a work in progress and pretty much depend on the day, but they are definitely way better than what they used to be.
When we first brought Charlotte home, I hoped she would be a baby who loved to sleep! Instead, she turned out to be a baby with FOMO that severely impacts her life. While I know who she gets the FOMO from (not her father, I’ll say that much), it was definitely a part of motherhood that I wasn’t expecting.
My Fourth Obstacle: Isolation
Isolation was a massive theme in my first-year of motherhood. I isolated myself due to complications with breastfeeding. The complication being that Charlotte never wanted to stop and me constantly needing to be half-dressed. Then, I isolated myself due to travel issues. The issue being that we had one car and Tim used it for work. Then, I also isolated myself due to fearing to disrupt Charlotte’s routine. She was already hard to get to sleep, having people around made it even harder!
Eventually though, all the isolation led to loneliness and zero motivation – which just led to more isolation. It felt like I was trapped in a neverending cycle of going nowhere
A year-long maternity leave is a wonderful, absolutely amazing privilege that I am lucky to be able to enjoy. But with the cold weather, no car access, and nothing around me to do, it led to some severe cabin fever.
Thankfully, once spring finally came and the snow melted away, Charlotte and I started to go on daily walks. I begun to feel energized again. I also begun to drive Tim to work more in order to have the car for the day. And I made more plans to hang out with friends and family, specifically after Charlotte’s naptimes.
It took some time for me to learn it, but I learnt that I need to worry about my own well-being just as much as I worry about my child’s. I am still working hard on getting out more as a form of my own self-care, but I realize now how important it is to my enjoyment of motherhood to take care of my mental health.
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