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I openly admit to people that I meet that the newborn period as a first-time mom was challenging and hit me hard and fast. Things move quickly when you have a newborn but it also felt like my old life came to a screeching halt.
In hindsight, she was pretty easily consolable as a newborn, but being a new parent is most certainly “on the job training.” Mom intuition? What’s that?! I was constantly troubleshooting, questioning every decision I made, and hoping for the best. I spent months preparing for this moment, and then when it arrived, I still felt immensely unprepared. Between the physical recovery, hormones, the constant weeping, pumping, and sleep deprivation, I whole hardheartedly believed that things would never change.
When she was 8 weeks old, my husband went on tour with Van Morrison for a couple of weeks (they recorded an album together if you’re a fan of Van!) and it was my first true taste of doing the mom thing “on my own.” I use quotations because I had a lot of support, so I really wasn’t alone, but it was seriously one of the most difficult things I have ever done.
A special shout-out to single moms – you are the real MVPs.
Around 14 weeks I felt like I was able to come up for air. I was able to switch gears mentally and reconnect with the outside world. She started smiling, squealing, developing a personality, and sleeping through the night. I went back to work full-time and we fell into a brand new routine.
Now at six months, she’s sitting up, experimenting with table foods, loves being around other babies, and smiles at practically anyone or anything.
As for me: still trying to figure it all out! Isn’t that how it’ll be for the rest of our lives?! We have a good routine going and my job is flexible but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t cry in my car a couple of times. I absolutely love working outside of the home but it’s hard to find a balance sometimes. Making time for myself is always an internal struggle because I want to make up for the time I’m away but I also know self-care is important both now and in the long run.
More importantly though, I’m cherishing the beautiful moments.
Sometimes the stress of going through the motions can be overwhelming but this mantra has been keeping me going lately: “keep your why close by.” And her smiling face is most certainly the best “why” there ever was.
Here are some tips that people gave me that really helped me in the first six months as a first-time mom:
Don’t refuse help. You’ve heard it time and again. Just don’t.
On that note, it’s also ok to tell guests you’re tired and don’t want company today.
In the early weeks, check to see what day of the week it is on the calendar. (I started to feel like I lost all track of time while on maternity leave and it felt weird).
Keep up with current events, even if it’s for 5 minutes each day.
Take 10 minutes to care for yourself (If this seems impossible, see point number 1: don’t refuse help or do this quickly while baby is napping). Do whatever you need to do to make yourself feel better and more productive. Makeup? Shower? Brushing your teeth? A cup of coffee? Getting dressed in “real” clothes? Make that one small thing happen.
Don’t apologize for baby. She’s going to cry and she’s going to be fussy.
Don’t put so much pressure on yourself to be “normal” again. There will be plenty of time to take baby out to the park and lunch.
As hard as it is on you, imagine how it must feel for baby, coming from this warm, dark place to a loud and wild world. Crying is her only language right now. She needs you and you are her entire world.
Join online mom groups and forums with babies in the same age group. Reading about and connecting with other moms who are experiencing similar feelings in real-time really helps. Beware though: as much as these forums can be a shoulder to virtually cry on, they can also be a place for smug, judgmental moms to argue over anything from vaccines to bottle warmers. I try not to engage.
On that same note, avoid social media when you’re feeling down or anxious. I’ve been down that rabbit hole and it never ends well.
This will all be a distant memory by tomorrow. Take a deep breath and relax. Things change so quickly every single day.