For several weeks leading up to Maleah's birthday, I couldn't help but begin to think about how my first year as a mother went. I can definitely say I was much less prepared than I thought because, ultimately, there are some things you just can't learn/know/understand until you actually experience them. And now that I have experienced them, there are some things I'd change and others I'd do the next time in a heartbeat!
Today I'll focus on the things I would want to do differently. Also, quick disclaimer: those who don't want to know some personal details about me should skip this little post!
What I Wouldn't Do All Over Again...
1. Give up on nursing. I wouldn't really say I "gave up". The odds were just really against us! Not only did we have the normal newborn/new mommy feeding problems (exhaustion, anxiety, stress, jaundice, etc.), I had to get over pneumonia. It was easier to pump than to nurse and it worked pretty well for me to do that instead. But, as I have said many times, I was TOTALLY unprepared for exclusive pumping and did give that up when she was 9 weeks old. Now I know so much more and am so much more confident. So, if I could do it all over again - EVEN if I had to pump exclusively - I know I could do it for more than 9 weeks!
2. Leave the hospital early. You can guarantee this chick will be hanging out in the hospital until they force us to leave next go 'round. We left before Maleah was 48 hours old and it was a terrible decision. Not only did I have to return to the hospital to be checked out for a Pulmonary Embolism (which turned out to be pneumonia), but we also just did not get anywhere CLOSE to the needed amount of rest before returning home. Sure, the nurses and doctors are bugging you constantly in the hospital, but they also come and clean your room, bring you food and ice water, and - if you want - they will "babysit" for you for a little while so you can get the rest you need.
3. Return to work early. Returning to work when Maleah was 4 weeks old was out of necessity, since I was still pretty new at my job. Thankfully, though, I was allowed to work part-time until she was 6 weeks old and even after that, they were very flexible with me if I needed to sleep a little longer in the mornings! Hopefully I will be able to take a longer leave for future children.
4. Start solids at 4 months. Of course, as new parents, we were SUPER EXCITED to start Maleah on solid foods as soon as the doctor gave the O.K.! She was really interested in our food at that time and took right to it! There wasn't really a problem with starting so early, but I just think it would be easier to start closer to 6 months. I might just try to do rice cereal or oatmeal around 4-5 months and wait until 6 months for the real deal. We did a little bit of Baby-Led Weaning with Maleah, but honestly I found it to be more difficult and frustrating than making purees and she is a super-great eater (and likes lots of textures!), so I don't know that either way is better than the other - just personal preference.
5. Skimp on photos. I try to be very financially responsible. I do not like to spend a whole lot of money on... well... anything. I want to find the best deal, a great bargain, and... well... that's wonderful. Until it comes time for photos. I know now to hire a professional photographer, pay what they're asking, and enjoy the memories for a lifetime. Maleah's newborn pics were awful - only a few shots out of the dozen or so we purchased are even remotely cute to me. Thankfully we've had two great sessions with professionals since then that produced beautiful pictures, but I learned my lesson! I will, say, though, that I'm glad we didn't do the Newborn-3-6-9-12 month package. Five photo sessions in one year is just too much for me! We decided that for each of our children, we'll do newborn pictures, pictures at Easter/springtime, and pictures around Thanksgiving/Christmas. We will also do first birthday pictures, but not yearly birthday pictures after that.
6. Worry about what everyone else thinks. If we could all do this, wouldn't we all be much much much happier people!? I am the world's worst! I feel like I have to over-explain everything I say/do about parenting. That's half the reason I hardly ever blog - I don't want to hear someone else's opinions about how I am parenting my child! ANYHOO - I am learning to get over this. If anyone has met my baby girl, they'll be the first to tell you she is an extremely happy, well-adjusted, well-fed, mama-lovin' little baby girl. Apparently I have not done anything terribly wrong to corrupt her, despite what any nay-sayers might suggest!
7. Try to do it all. I tried to let go of the housework, I really did. But at some point... dishes have to be done, laundry has to be folded and put away, the floor has to be vacuumed. Honestly, one of the gifts I'd like to register for next time is the gift of a maid. I am not joking! I'd like to hire someone once a week for the first several weeks - it would be a worthwhile investment. Even now, I have to continually remind myself that I am only one person. (Prioritizing and goal setting have really helped me in this area!)
8. Lack confidence. Being a parent is hard. There are a thousand decisions to make each and every day. Sometimes I make the right decisions and other days, I am very, very wrong. But I am learning quickly to just go with my gut and that some days, truly, NOTHING I do will make it all better. Maleah cried to & from her birthday dinner earlier this week. Nothing I could do would make it better! She was just having a moment... or two. And that's alright.
I realize most of my difficulties this first year really have nothing to do with Maleah. They have to do with my perception of motherhood and about how others perceieve me. Motherhood is a strange community - we all want to support each other, but sometimes we just don't know how. I hope this helps someone else out there who struggled with the same issues as me!
I want to hear from you!!! What are some things you learned during your first months and years of motherhood?