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3 Things I Learned My Baby's First Year

I always had this idea of the kind of mother I would be: glowing and confident in my every parental decision. Infertility only heightened the picture I had in my head of just how perfectly it all would go once I finally attained that dream I had been fighting so hard for. I definitely idealized motherhood, imagining an angelic infant in my arms and an innate sense of how to do everything just right.

Because there was no doubt in my mind, I was going to be the perfect mother.

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Now that my daughter has reached her first-year milestone, I can’t help but laugh at that naivety. I may go days without showering, balls are often dropped, and I sometimes forget to eat for far longer than I should. Don’t get me wrong, I am happy in this way that even my years of daydreaming couldn’t have prepared me for. But I am also tired, hungry and, likely, starting to smell.

Still, I learned a lot during my first year of motherhood, because it turns out daydreams aren’t exactly accurate representations of real life. So should I ever be blessed with the opportunity to parent an infant from birth again, these are three of the more simple lessons I hope to keep in mind from the start, the next time around.

1. Outfits Are to be Worn, Not Saved

Born at 7 pounds 1 ounce, I was sure my little girl would forever be petite. I couldn’t even imagine her outgrowing her newborn clothes—she was swimming in so many of them. And so, on a fairly frequent basis, I found myself setting aside adorable outfits; saving them for some hypothetical special occasion I figured would eventually warrant the extra cuteness. Day after day, I instead opted for the same boring onesies, convinced that there was plenty of time for the dresses and sets later on. But before I knew it, she was moving up in sizes, and I was packing those adorable “special occasion” outfits away; far too many of which she had never gotten a chance to wear at all.

Never again. Now, special outfits are for whenever we feel like wearing them. During that first year, especially, they grow so fast. It isn’t worth saving an outfit you love for a rainy day, because by the time that rainy day comes, she may have already outgrown it. Sure, she may spit up all over it or otherwise soil herself, but isn’t that better than eventually boxing up an adorable outfit you never even got to see her in? Treat every day like a special occasion, and take plenty of pictures while you’re at it.

It took me about a week to stop beating myself up.

2. There Is No Such Thing as a Perfect Parent

My daughter was about 4 months old the first time I fell with her. Strapped to me in her Ergo, I somehow tripped over my own feet and landed us both on the pavement. Initially I was sure her head had hit ground, but after about 10 minutes of wailing she—miraculously—seemed fine. I, on the other hand, was a wreck; covered in road rash from sacrificing my own body to protect hers, and emotionally jarred for days. I felt so guilty for being such a klutz. What if something truly terrible had happened to her? What if I had really hurt her? What kind of parent was I, if I could just fall like that with my little girl cuddled against me?

It took me about a week to stop beating myself up. And only with time did I start to realize that these things happen to every parent. Different variations, of course, but we all trip and fall sometimes. Both figuratively and literally. There is no such thing as a perfect parent. All you can do is your very best, hoping that the falls that may come along the way are simple enough to recover from.

Since then, my daughter has taken a headfirst dive off of patio furniture, flown off of beds and put dog poop in her mouth all in the last few months alone. Apparently, kids are pretty sturdy. It’s the mommies and daddies who tend to suffer the most from these mishaps.

3. You Have to Disconnect

My daughter was about 8 months old the first time she pushed my phone out of my hand. I had gotten into the habit of browsing the Internet while feeding her a bottle, and she was suddenly expressing her discontent over my split attention. From that point forward, I began to notice her noticing whenever I was distracted by the electronic gadgets in my life. And then, I began to realize she was starting to become distracted as well—showing more interest in my laptop sitting just a few feet away than in me in those moments when I was ready to play.

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All those years I had spent yearning for a baby, and already I was teaching her that screen time ranked in priority above mother-daughter time. I felt ill at that realization, and promised myself I would do a better job of disconnecting moving forward. I don’t always succeed. Sometimes mommy has to get a bit of work done or there are phone calls that have to be made. But I do make a concerted effort to keep those distractions to a minimum, and I strive every day to spend time on the floor playing with my little love while all the electronics are out of sight and mind. Because there are moments when she deserves my undivided attention, and they learn, far too young, when they don’t have it.

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