What I learned my 1st year being a Mommy

Family Lifestyle Portraits in Orange County by Kate Noelle.

I knew my life would change post-baby, but I never knew the significance of what that meant. My world was flipped upside down, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.  Now, with a blink of an eye, a year has passed; and Hayden went from being this tiny little baby to a toddler on the move. Where did the time go? Sometimes, I look back and I’m slightly impressed that I survived.

Being a mom comes with a laundry list of struggles, but with every struggle are a dozen or more incredible moments that outweigh all the craziness.  This year has made me stronger and more patient, but most importantly has taught me a lot about myself. Here are some of the key things I have learned over the past year:

1. All the Google searches, articles, books and YouTube videos did not prepare me for the massive change that was going to take place in my life!

When I was pregnant, I did an obnoxious amount of reading, Googling and YouTubing.  If there was a book or blog to read or a video to watch; I was all over it. As we all know, babies don’t come with instruction manuals and I was well aware that everyone only wanted to talk about the good stuff. I was determined to know it all… the good, the bad and the ugly.  I felt like (and still feel like) the more knowledge and information I gathered the more likely I would have control in an uncontrollable situation. I researched the sh*t out of every pregnancy topic, symptom, baby item and all post birth/baby topics. I felt like an expert.

Hayden is here!
Hayden has arrived!

Then the baby came, and I quickly realized I knew nothing! In the thick of it, I didn’t remember what chapter 7 of the random baby book said to do.  I had to react, respond and use my instincts.  The biggest take away I got from all of my research was the illusion that I had some control when in reality once the door closed to the car and we started driving home from the hospital, Aaron and I released every bit of control to the tiny human we elected to rule our world for the next 18 years.

I could have skipped 99% of everything I read or watched and honestly only read one book. The Happiest Baby on the Block was the bible to calming my baby.  Everything else was basically useless, however, the fact that I took the time to research was the first indicator that I wanted to be the best mom I could. So, I still continue to read and watch every video. I take away what I can knowing that this mom thing is so unpredictable; and every baby is different.

2. The juggle is real!

Having a career and being a mom is hard. There have been many moments where I had to choose between both and a handful of times where I made the mistake of putting work first. I thought I was doing the right thing for my family, home and more importantly my daughter.

I rushed back to work after only taking two months off.  I have regretted that decision every day since I went back. I had a situation where I walked in the house after a long day to find out that an employee, I worked with at the time, made a huge mistake which effected over 100 people. I had to find a solution immediately. People were counting on me! It’s my responsibility as a leader! After hours of working things out (victory me!), I realized I forgot to acknowledge my baby who was in the room the entire time. I felt awful!

Hayden and I at Angel Stadium
My 1st family/work event as a new mom!

Being someone who has sacrificed so much for work, it’s weird to now feel guilty about these choices. This transition and transformation from my career being number one to now Hayden being my first thought is not only strange for me, but I think alarming for people around me both personally and professionally.

Becoming a parent is hard and having work life balance (especially during the 1st year) is stressful, draining and frustrating. You cannot prepare for the physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion of motherhood, but when you throw a demanding career on top of it, it’s hard to explain the level of pressure that is placed on you not only from others but yourself.

3. Grab and go doesn’t exist anymore!

Getting out of the house is not simple anymore. It takes twice as long to get anywhere because on top of getting myself out the door, I have to get the baby ready, in some situations my husband too, and put together all the stuff needed to take care of Hayden outside of the house.  Why do babies need so much stuff? **EYE ROLL**

When I went back to work, mornings were the worst and frankly SUCKED!  How do you get ready with a baby who wants to be held and cries when you put her down? Thank goodness I bought the chair! (I bought every one of my working mom friends this for their baby shower gift once I discovered this amazing secret! It saved my life and stopped me from going insane!)

The infamous chair!

I would put her in the chair and bring her in the bathroom with me. As I sang to her like a lunatic, I would frantically get ready. It was the only way, the first few months, I had even a shot to get out the door looking remotely acceptable for an office setting.

I will say this has gotten easier, but I do miss the days when I could take my time getting all dolled up. Now, I have perfected the art of the 5-minute face and have mastered blow drying and styling my long blonde hair in half the time it took pre-baby.

4. Sleep is for the weak!

This took on a whole new meaning when I had Hayden.  In my college years, I could go to school all day, work in the afternoon, still have enough energy to go out with friends afterwards and repeat it the next day. Surviving on a measly 4 hours of sleep wasn’t a problem.  It was almost an artform.

In the first few months of having Hayden, I prayed to get a few consecutive hours of sleep.  I was one of the lucky ones who had a sleeping baby. Yeah me! But…I was also one of the lucky ones who wanted to breastfeed my baby which kept me up every three hours either pumping or feeding.

Shush..don’t wake the baby or mommy!

When I went back to work after maternity leave, I was up all-night pumping and counting ounces to make sure I had enough milk to get through the next day. You get so used to this new normal that you literally become a walking zombie.

I will say this got easier as months passed. I developed a routine and Hayden and I grew to develop some type of normalcy. And then BOOM… one day I got a solid 8 hours. Don’t get too excited because right when I was ready to take my victory lap around the block to celebrate, Hayden started teething and team no sleep returned again.

The sleep now comes in waves. Certain weeks are fabulous and others not so much, but it does get better. The best advice I can give on this topic is to remind yourself when it’s bad that it’s just a phase.  You will get to sleep again, I promise!

5. I frequently feel like I am failing at this whole mom thing when in reality I am actually killing it!

Being a mom is a huge job. I have taken it seriously since the day Aaron and I decided we wanted to start trying to have a child. I have always had high expectations for myself and pushed to be the best. My competitive nature has brought much success in my professional career, however when it comes to applying this type of mentality to my ability to be a mother, it has shown to be somewhat problematic.

The Flower Fields

I have to allow myself the ability to learn, grow and fail because this is my first rodeo at this.

The second guessing is something I am still working on and is a daily struggle. Each day I get better and the praise and encouragement from my husband, mommy gang, friends, and family help me understand that I got this! There will be good days and bad days.  There is no avoiding it.  The fact that I want to be a great mom means I am winning and that’s the victory!

6. Don’t compare!

This was a hard thing for me in the beginning especially since comparing was the only way I could tell if my baby was hitting all her milestones.  Every skill Hayden developed early gave me this feeling of validation that I was doing a good job. I felt like it was my report card and I needed to make sure I was getting perfect marks.

As time progressed, I realized how unhealthy this was. It morphed from simply comparing her growth to comparing my birth story with others, my recovery, my post-partum body, my breastfeeding journey, my husband’s role and the role of other new dads, jealousy of being a working mom, resentment and the list goes on and on.

Tanaka Farms
Hayden is growing like a weed!

It can be hard to realize this vicious cycle until you step back and really analysis what you are focusing on. You never know what other moms are struggling with because you only see what they are willing to show you.  It wasn’t until a close mom friend of mine (whose baby was a few months old at the time) expressed to me that she felt like she didn’t fit in with our mom group because we all had our “sh*t together.” It was in that moment when I realized that we all compare. We create these unrealistic expectations that none of us are able to live up to.

From then on, I promised myself that I would break this habit and practice a little empathy for myself and honestly cut myself some slack.  Since that day, I have enjoyed being a mom so much more because the pressure is finally off.  Don’t get me wrong, I have to remind myself to focus on the positive and not stress when I see someone else’s baby do something before mine, but I know Hayden will get there. It’s only a matter of time and that is something I want to hold on to for as long as possible.

7. The unwanted and unsolicited advised from EVERYONE isn’t going to end anytime soon!

The second I announced I was pregnant a tidal wave of advice, stories and do’s and don’ts started flying my way.  Everyone had an opinion and still does. I wish I could say the unsolicited advice tapers off, but it doesn’t.  Everyone always wants to chime in and tell you how to parent your child.

Opinions are just opinion and I truly believe most of the advice comes from a good place

Photographed by Bridget Kenny Photography
My beautiful baby!

because these people want to see you flourish as a mother. For my sanity, I decided to handle the constant feedback with a smile and thank you while simultaneously letting it go in one ear and out the other.

In the beginning, I would try to explain my choices, but I realized I don’t have to. I am confident that I know what’s best for Hayden. My baby is my baby which makes me the expert regarding her. No one knows Hayden better than me. Learning to trust myself and my “mommy intuition” has been a huge parenting win.  Don’t get me wrong, there has been times where I needed help and guidance, but it was on my own terms and from the right sources not some random person giving their two cents.  Once I was able to recognize that everyone was giving feedback because they wanted me to succeed, it became easier to find appreciation in the fact that they were sharing.

8. It’s okay to have bad days!

You don’t get to shut off being a mom.  With work, you get to go home, take a break and separate yourself.  You don’t with this job. You are always on – 24/7! Sometimes (we all have these moments) you just don’t want to do it. Guess what? It’s normal! I never realized how normal it was until I started talking about how I was feeling with my mommy gang. This job is exhausting, and you don’t get any mandated breaks.

When you’re sick, but your baby only wants you!

Babies are unpredictable. It can be stressful, frustrating, annoying and crazy.  We have all been there on the verge of tears because your baby is crying, and you feel like a failure because you don’t know how to make it stop. This is when you reach out and ask for help!

Getting help is okay and you will be surprised at how many people are willing to help you. When I started allowing myself to ask for help, I finally felt like I could breathe. I am not letting Hayden down. I am allowing her the opportunity to have a refreshed mom while spending time with other people who love her. I made a choice to swallow my pride and allow myself a break.  We all deserve it and trust me you won’t regret taking a little time for yourself. Self-care is key!


9. It takes a village not only for my baby but me too.

My village is how I survived this past year.  I am very lucky to have some amazing people around to help Hayden and I navigate our journey together. They have been the source of inspiration, wisdom, advise, courage and praise when I needed it most. There is a list of people who make up my mommy gang and village and each person plays a special role. The gratitude I have for each of them and the love they have for my daughter is something I am so thankful for.

My village!

I need to give a special shout out to my husband.  Aaron has dealt with a roller coaster of emotions from me over the past year. I’m learning, but sometimes I forget he is learning too.  He deserves a huge thank you for his patience, understanding and most importantly for being an active participant in this whole parenting thing. I see how much you love our daughter and it make me love you more and more each day!

Also, grandparents are THE BEST! We got lucky with the most incredible ones!

10. It keeps getting better and better!

Everyday something new happens! The snuggles, the hugs, the first time she said Mama…all of these moments are so very special and make me so excited to see what she will do next.

I remember the time I went to pick up Hayden after work and she SCREAMED when I walked in the door. It was the cutest, high pitched squeal I had ever heard. Her excitement and the way she lit up was something I will never forget. I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy and felt so much love.

Outdoor Family Portraits in Orange County by Kate Noelle.
I love watching her grow!

These are the moments that make it all worth it. Being a mom is a journey and despite all the ups and downs, I love being able to grow along side of my daughter. This is just the beginning of our story and I can’t wait to see what will happen next.