The First Year of Parenthood
What My Daughter Has Taught Me, so Far
My daughter’s first Birthday is in a few days, and this got me thinking about the past year and how she and I have grown together. It felt appropriate to share a few of the more significant things that I have learned on this journey.
If you take your baby out without a change of clothes in your bag, their nappy will probably explode.
I can’t speak for everyone, but 99 percent of the time upon going out I would have a spare change of clothes for my daughter and never needed to use them. On the very rare occasion that this was not the case, the nappy exploded. It is safe to say, I only made this mistake a couple of times.
Your parents never had all of the answers.
When I was a little girl I wholeheartedly believed that my mum knew everything. I thought that she could answer every question in the world and I just wanted to bathe in her fountain of knowledge. Now, it is scary to realise how little I know as a parent. This little human is going to think that I have all the answers when, in reality, all I have are questions.
Bodily fluids are somewhat less gross when they come from your child.
For the most part, people do not like bodily fluids. Especially those that come from other people. I worked as a carer for a while so a lot of things like that didn’t really bother me, apart from phlegm. I had this completely irrational almost-fear of it and when I was pregnant. A genuine anxiety I had was that I wouldn’t be able to stomach cleaning any from my baby. How wrong I was. Since then the amount of phlegm, vomit, urine, and whatever else I have cleaned up is vast, but none of it bothered me. (I mean, when she vomited on my face it bothered me a little, but I’m only human).
There will always be people that disagree with your decisions, but that doesn’t mean that you are wrong.
“You should breast feed.”
“Why aren’t you letting you baby self soothe?”
“You really shouldn’t be using a dummy, you know?”
“Baby led weaning is better for your child.”
When you have a baby, you will receive countless amounts on unsolicited advice. People will criticise you because you bottle fed, or because you didn’t. Because you didn’t use cloth nappies, or because you let your child have a dummy. Just because other people disagree with how you are doing it does not mean that you are wrong. Yes, there are people that think you are, but there are also people doing it exactly the way you are, too. There is no "right way." You, as a parent, will make decisions that suit you and your baby and that is the most important thing. As long as your child is healthy, happy, and developing, who can really say you’re doing it wrong?
Being a parent will change you, but it doesn’t have to change everything.
From the moment I first set eyes on my daughter, my life changed. My outlook on life changed, my priorities changed, my routine changed. Through all these changes, there are aspects of myself that remained the same and I am so glad. Another irrational fear that I had when I was pregnant (and there were plenty of them) was that having a baby would turn me into this complete mumsy person, and I would no longer enjoy the same things or have the same interests. This, of course, was completely untrue, and it doesn’t make me any less of a good parent. You don’t have to be vanilla, or a good baker, or a total domestic Goddess to be a good mum. You can maintain your joys whilst sharing new joys with your child.
Although, it did change certain parts of my personality. I would say before I had my daughter I was relatively laid back and carefree. As much as I would like to pretend that this is still the case, that is so far from the truth. I worry about everything. Although I do worry less now than I did when she was a newborn, so we’re getting there.
You shouldn’t give up on your dreams, or any part of yourself that is fundamental to your being.
Yes, right now everything revolves around your child and they are top priority. Yes, it will be that way for a long time. However, one day they will grow up and leave home and have a life beyond you, so you need to have a life beyond them too. I’m not saying neglect your child to follow your dreams, no, no, no. I am saying do both. I didn’t achieve as much as I would have liked to before my daughters birth as I had her relatively young, so now I am studying from home and pursuing the career that I had always wanted (writing, naturally). Making time to develop yourself does not make you any less of a parent.
You are capable of being so strong.
I never realised the internal strength I had until my labour, and every moment after it. Now after countless sleepless nights, trying to figure out what every cry means, keeping this gorgeous little human alive, and one particularly unpleasant stay in hospital, I realise that I am strong because I need to be for her.
Mess is inevitable.
I consider myself a very tidy person generally, but that is a side of myself that I have had to bid farewell to, for the time being. My daughter can now crawl and has developed an intense curiosity for everything (especially everything that she shouldn’t touch). I still keep my space tidy, but I have come to accept that it can’t be that way all of the time.
Pure, unconditional love does exist.
From that first moment of meeting her, I have been completely and utterly in love with this little human. Yes, I get frustrated sometimes but that is for her, not with her. I get frustrated when she’s upset and can’t yet tell me what’s wrong, because I want to make it better. Being a parent can be hard sometimes but even in the difficult moments that deep, strong love is there, and that is what gets you through it.
Before my pregnancy I wouldn’t have chosen to have children. It was never in my plan. Every day I thank myself for changing my mind, and I thank my daughter for teaching me more in the last year than I had learned my entire life. I cannot wait to grow with her.