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5 Mom Surprises After Baby's First Year

Photograph by Getty Images

At my son's birthday party last September, I celebrated more than his first year of life. I also celebrated my first year as his mother.

Year One of your child's life has a lot of high and lows. By the end of it, you are transformed and elevated from newbie to trained mom. In high school terms, you aren't a seasoned upperclassman just yet; more like you are no longer a wide-eyed freshman. Watching my son develop from a 12-month-old to a rambunctious 2-year-old has been such a delight—and a learning experience.

Here are some things no one will tell you about the second year of motherhood.

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1. You will be a more confident mother

My confidence as a mother has grown tremendously. I know my child well and understand that he is in a state of constant evolution. I trust my instincts much more than I did that first year rather than obsessing about milestones posted online. When he turned 12 months and didn't start walking, I didn't immediately assume something must be wrong—many kids his age were already walking. He walked at 15 months but, not only that, after a few weeks he was running too. Lesson: be careful what you wish you for!

2. They will love you back

My son was never one to cry because I was absent, even though I spent my first year home with him. To be honest, at that time I wasn't quite sure how he felt about me. These days he lights up when I walk into a room in a way that is different from his first year of life. It's abundantly clear now. The moment he sees me, he drops everything to come greet me when I come home from work. Seeing him demonstrate love and affection is one of the best things from this second year.

3. You not only love them, you like them

Let me explain: We all love our children. I knew this little person was meant to be in my life from the moment we locked eyes. But now I also see his personality shine through more and more. I see a tenacity in him that reminds me of myself and a joy for life that he most definitely got from his father. Seeing personalities shine through is one of the best things from the second year. You realize, you not only love your kid, you really kind of like him, too.

4. Criticism doesn't upset you as much

I started off feeling like I had to know everything, so any feedback was difficult for me to absorb. Now I am more able to discern between feedback that affects me because I'm insecure about a certain issue and feedback that comes from a person who just doesn't understand my parenting style. We all have different ideas about how to raise children. You just have to do what you and your partner think is best and tune out the outside noise. We are all just trying to do the best that we can.

5. The second year is filled with (mostly) adorable milestones

All the sudden one day, our son began mimicking what we did. It's adorable. He also developed his own opinions and has favorite things, like his security object, certain music and particular books. He dances when he hears music. He "reads" books on his own (in baby talk). Sure, he also has the occasional tantrum when he doesn't get what he wants, but I remind myself he is trying to exert his independence—and that it's a healthy part of his development.

Don't get me wrong, I still have an insane amount of worry but also an insane amount of love. I still wonder if I'm doing a good job balancing motherhood, my career and the intense desire to make sure I do everything I can to leave the world a better place for my son. As my boy approaches his 2nd birthday, I am filled with happiness over how much he's blossomed.

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Of course, as all mothers know, milestones can be bittersweet. I don't have it all figured out. That's fine by me.

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