The one thing no one tells you about becoming a mom

I wish someone had told me. It’s like the world’s best kept secret. Maybe no one tells you the real truth because then maybe people wouldn’t have kids. But I’ll let you in on the secret…

Motherhood is really. Fucking. Hard.

I knew becoming a parent would be tough. I knew babies weren’t easy and you didn’t get much sleep. I knew about colic and the 24/7 care that babies required.

But I didn’t know it would be this hard.

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Truly, I didn’t expect it to be like this. Maybe knowing it wouldn’t have helped anyway, in the way that something someone tells you doesn’t have the same weight as personal experience.

I’m past my ninth month of sleep deprivation. I can count the nights I’ve gotten more than 6 hours of sleep in a row on one hand. Add this into newborn colic, infant illness, teething, baby mood swings, being on call every second of every day, and zero time for self-care, and it is turning out to be one hell of a year. It was a year I wasn’t prepared for, and didn’t see coming. It’s been hard. So hard.

But here’s the other amazing truth about being a mom… it is the best thing ever. Admittedly, I don’t always have this opinion at 3 am when I feel like crying and inwardly pray to my baby “Please, oh please, just go to back to sleep.” I might not feel this lovey dovey when he’s fighting his nap and I want to cry because his 30-minute-to-the-t nap time is some of the only time I get to myself during the day. But when I call my friend in a desperate attempt at adult conversation and pour out my aching, tired heart, and she tells me that sometimes it’s hard to make that connection with a difficult baby, my immediate and heart felt answer is “But I love being a mom.” And truthfully, I do.

It boggles me that even as broken as I had felt in that moment, my honest response was still one of love. I had surprised myself. I’ve never loved anything more than my little boy and the path of motherhood I am crawling walking on. I’ve had my lowest days as a mom that I’ve ever had in my life. But I’ve also had my highest. Having that realization was enough to get me through that day.

I just needed someone to tell me that it was going to be okay. That I was okay. That I am doing okay. I guarantee that every mom everywhere needs those words at one time or another. Babies are so hard. We don’t know what they want because they can’t tell us, and in between the cries and hours of rocking them alone in the dark, it can be hard to remember that we are everything to them, and that they aren’t doing it on purpose.

The next day was more than a new day and a fresh start for me. It was one of the best days I’ve had as a mother yet. It was full of giggles and hugs, a long nap for both of us and my son’s wet, open mouth “kisses” on my cheek. Those unexpected hours make up for the many dark ones. I wish I could capture that light I felt in a glass ball so that my heart could remember it during the heavy hours. Good days or bad, time passes so quickly. I would have to agree with everyone that always tells a new mom “Enjoy these moments, they go so fast.” Dark nights might feel like an eternity, but as I’m here almost a year later, I can testify that they pass in the blink of an eye.

So to all the tired, dark-circled, hungry, lonely moms out there: It’s fucking hard. I know. But you are enough. You are doing so well, and you are a really great mom. I wouldn’t lie to you, would I?

I’m a stay at home mom—did I ruin my life?

I recently read an article that is making the rounds on Facebook. In it, the author pens how she has regrets about becoming a stay-at-home-mom (SAHM). Don’t get me wrong, I understand that with every decision, there are regrets, and also realize that being a SAHM isn’t for everyone. However, I was a little floored at the depth of some of these regrets. The ones that surprised me most were that she felt she was letting down the feminists that paved the way for women to hold careers equal to men, and how her kids viewed her as doing nothing with her life.

While I couldn’t disagree with her more, I am not picking on the author—I am guessing that many SAHMs have also felt this way. This woman has been the only one I found to voice it. She also writes some other regrets that could have been paraphrasing my thoughts, namely concerns about not using her degree and becoming out of touch with the working world. These are two of the major concerns I had, and still have, when I made the decision to leave my career. Reading this article not only left me flabbergasted, but also left me starting to doubt if I had indeed made the right decision when I chose to stay at home.

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Although I can’t explain why, one morning later that week I woke up proud as fuck to be a stay at home mom. My brain must have rewired itself while I slept to give me a bolt of confidence, but I suddenly embodied a much braver and more confident woman. I didn’t recognize her at first because I don’t get to see her that often, which is a real shame, but there she was, unbridled and fiery. Why the hell would I feel bad about my decision? I elected to accept the most challenging career of one’s life: raising a child. Oh please, it’s not that hard you might say. I would answer that you probably didn’t stay at home and try it out then.

While I don’t decree that it is the only job that women have to at least try, I do decree that it is one that should be valued equally to others. This is one of the reasons why I was so prickly when reading the article. I’m not letting down our former female voices who fought for our equality, but doing them proud by making a choice. Feminism is about the ability to choose anything, and be anyone, you want to be. For me in the near future, it is being a mom. And I would make the comparison of mothers to childcare providers (one is paid and one is not) to stress the importance of child-rearing, but even childcare providers and, to a degree, teachers, are often looked at as little more than snot wipers, or in the best case overlooked entirely as to how important their profession is.

If we don’t teach our children to value what SAHMs do as an important contribution to society, then how will we ever change this stigma? Being a SAHM should never be expected of a woman, but should be seen as a valid and elemental part of the workforce. What more important job is there than raising our future generation to be healthy and well-adjusted children? SAHMs do a lot, and are an equal part of the partnership of a relationship.

As far as returning to the workforce, I have no doubts that it will be significantly challenging for myself if/when I go back one day. I could try to pursue some degree-using activities to keep my resume current, but even if I choose not to it is a shame that my alternative career will be looked at as wasted years by a boss at my next interview. Just because I traded keyboards for diapers and meetings for food-flinging food introductions doesn’t mean that I am a less qualified candidate than someone else. If you are arguing experience year for experience year then yes, obviously, I would lose out there. But quality? I don’t lose that just because I get peed on more often than you do.

For me, all of this boils down to being able to be confident in myself and my decisions. No one will ever agree entirely with every decision you make, but the decision you make is right for you. My choice is valid, and it doesn’t matter what anyone thinks. Aaaahhhhh I feel a sense of freedom in making that statement. It feels good to be free. And isn’t that what feminism is all about, anyway?

Here’s how to win at motherhood…

Now that I’m settling into my role as mama (or “mamamaaaaaaa” as my baby may or may not intentionally call me) and getting more sleep than I’ve had in the past 8 months, I’ve had a lot more time for rational thinking. I mean, if rational thinking still exists when on a sleep deficit and caring for another individual 24/7, then I’m as rational as it gets right now. Anyway, so a lot of my thinking has been reviewing how I’m caring for my son. Am I doing the right thing? Am I playing the right developmental games? Is he eating enough? Pooping enough? Has he tried enough solids? Endless unanswered questions build as we draw closer and closer to the Year 1 marker.

So all of these accumulate into one big question, “How does one win at motherhood?”

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In the no-win game of self-comparison, I am the star forward. I compare myself to my mom friends, compare T to their babies, and compare myself to what I see other moms “doing” on blogs and Instagram. Some moms have strict schedules that lay out what baby does and when: naps, meals, and playtime are a regimented schedule that repeats daily. Other moms fly by the seat of their pants, and are completely flexible with their day to day activities: babies nap whenever, eat when they want, and play how they want. I think I fall somewhere in between (but is that the right thing to do?). I read apps and books that talk about appropriate age milestones less and less because there is a direct correlation to my worry level when I do. The less T matches the minute by minute developments, the more I freak out—unnecessarily, I might add, he always hits the milestones eventually.

And then there’s the endless conflicting advice. Pump right away to increase milk supply. Don’t pump or else you’ll end up with oversupply and mastitis. Pick them up when they cry. But don’t or else you’ll make them needy. Swaddle baby with a blanket. Don’t have loose blankets in the crib or else they’ll suffocate. Let them play in their crib to adjust to it, but don’t because then it’s associated with play and not sleep. Breastfeed to soothe baby to sleep. Don’t breastfeed to sleep. Let them play alone. Create structured play. Introduce solids at 6 months, but maybe not for fear of allergies. I got conflicting advice from every nurse, doctor, and lactation consultant I asked for months. Even the mom blogs and internet advice is in direct opposition with everyone else.

So, how do you win at motherhood? The short answer is: you don’t. The long answer is that you can’t win at motherhood, not because it is impossible, but because there is no one right way. Motherhood looks like different things to different people. It can even look different on different days. Some days, T gets three meals, three good naps, playtime, and we go run an errand or two. Sometimes just getting through the day means a lot more sitting around, a little extra tv for mom and a little more of the same ole’ toys for T, and wondering when the hell dad is getting home so there is an extra pair of hands on duty.

The bottom line is that we are all just doing the best that we can do. We are being the best moms that we can be. The new moms are figuring out how to mom. The second time around moms are figuring out how to do that, too, because now there’s two tiny humans instead of just one (but the same number of hands to “control” them with). As long as you feed, change, and be attentive to baby’s needs, you’re leagues ahead already. My best advice is don’t worry. I tell myself this often. Say it with me: I am doing just fine. My baby is just fine.

And when it comes to winning, I already feel like I’ve won the jackpot every time T looks at me with those beautiful eyes and smiles that big gummy grin. And you just can’t beat that feeling.

Dealing with postpartum body image

Why do we hate how we look?

Well shit. My shorts I bought during my postpartum months last summer still kind of fit. I really had hoped that when I pulled them on today to deal with this freakishly warm winter they would fall right back down, unassisted. Instead, they stayed on my baby-wide hips where they were supposed to, even though I didn’t want them there.

I’ve lost about half the baby weight, and my body shape is changing again to what I hope is back to something closer of what I used to have. I know in the back of my mind, though, that my body will never be the same again.

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The good news is IDGAF what people think anymore—of me, my parenting style, or how we live our lives. It’s actually incredibly freeing. The bad news is I-Do-GAF what I think, which is disappointing to me. I am working so hard on staying body positive and reminding myself that it is hard work producing a human being from scratch, but when I look in the mirror before a shower I can’t help but poke here or grab a handful there, and feel disappointed in what was left behind after the baby was out. I know, I know, “It takes nine months to gain it, it will take nine months to lose it!” Seeing as how that milestone isn’t that far off, it doesn’t bring me any comfort.

I realize, too, that getting back into shape has been on the absolute back burner for me. I dove headfirst into motherhood (let’s pretend that was a choice at all) and was so excited that nothing else mattered. I was hungrier than ever due to breastfeeding, so eat I did. Fortunately, the calorie burning power of boobie magic meant that I didn’t gain any weight. In fact I lost some without trying. Awesome.

Once I was confident enough to leave the house again, I started going on many afternoon walks during the week. The 40 minutes of silence for my baby and myself kept me sane. I’m sure this helped boost some calorie-burning power, too. Just this week, I went running for the first time. Well, “running.” I tried. Negative: It was really not very far. Positive: I didn’t pee myself.

Now that I’m finding my mommy groove, I have a lot more time to process a wider variety of emotions that I am going through. All of this got me thinking: why do we hate our postpartum body so much?

I believe a lot of it has to do with societal conditioning. Women are trained to think that an adolescent-looking body (but with big boobs, obviously) is what is desirable and beautiful. Narrow hips, zero belly-fat, and stick arms might look great in couture, but is impractical for everyday life. The problem is, we start to believe it about ourselves. I had body issues before, so postpartum body issues are a whole new bucket of crazy.

Women are heavily critiqued before, during, and after pregnancy. It’s insane. Why is every female celebrity lambasted all over the internet and magazines for how much weight she is (or isn’t) gaining during pregnancy. It’s disgusting. Making a baby takes calories, and calories means eating food, plain and simple. What’s even worse is how a woman’s recovery is dissected in the media. It isn’t helpful that A-listers seem to bounce back flawlessly after pushing out a watermelon only a few months before. It also isn’t helpful that they don’t tell you about the battalion of help they had to get them back to a size that fits 1% of the population.

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How did we go from this standard of beauty…

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… to this?

When a woman’s body is actually used for what nature intended, i.e. pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding, it is all of a sudden inappropriate, gross, and repugnant. Instead of boobs being hoisted up to an impossible physiological standard, they are now low with new milk tissue.  Side rant: let’s excise this use of the word “saggy” to describe breasts. It is one of the ugliest words in existence and should never be used to describe something so beautiful as a giver of life, a mother of creation, a maker of future generations. I used to think pregnant women were walking freak shows. Now, I see no body form more beautiful.

Our focus should be on having the healthiest body possible; before, during, and after pregnancy. Let’s work together to erase having a standard at all. If you are naturally very lean with tiny boobies, good on ya girl. If you are quite the opposite, that is great, too! And in the middle? Still wonderful. Every shape is beautiful. We need to love ourselves as we come by eating right but not over, exercising, and talking positively about ourselves—whether that’s out loud or in our heads.

I’d like to tell you that I am proud of every extra inch, each heavy and low breast, and the extra inches of skin. I’d like to tell myself that truth, too. But I’d be lying. But you know what, I’m getting there. I focus on what I’m proud of. That belly housed a tiny miracle. Those boobs are feeding another human his sole source of healthy sustenance. These big thighs helped me work full time (and sometimes more) while carrying a baby, placenta, extra blood and fluids, and did it all while walking proudly (okay, maybe waddling proudly there at the end…). I might not be two-piece proud in May when pool season starts, but I’ll at least be one-piece proud. I’m working really hard on being two-piece proud, though.

Motherhood at 8 months

Eight months have come and gone in a flash. Eight may seem like an insignificant milestone to some, but to me it feels like the most important number ever. My sweet boy isn’t a newborn babe anymore, and hasn’t been for a while, but every month birthday that passes yanks at my heartstrings like no other. Maybe T somehow knows he’s growing up, too, because he is much clingier lately. He’s always reaching for me. It could be that the separation anxiety phase is setting in, but I’ll stick with thinking that it is because he wants to hold onto me just a little bit longer. I want to hold him in my arms forever.

The neighbors are getting a new roof today, and the incessant banging is making the dogs bark which means that there is no morning nap to be had from T. For the first time in a while, I put him in his baby carrier to see if my movements will rock him to sleep like they used to. I breathe him in deeply. I hold his sweet head. We steal glances at each other. That feeling of overwhelming and deep rooted, primal love sets in again. I’m still amazed at this new kind of love, something I never knew I didn’t know I was missing.

These 8 months have been full of dualities. They have brought me the greatest joy and the greatest pain. The greatest elation and the greatest exhaustion I’ve ever experienced. The greatest frustration and the greatest peace. The closest yet furthest I’ve ever been from my husband. I’ve never had so much clarity in seeing my future direction, yet I still get lost in the enormity of my new responsibilities. A newfound sense of self-assuredness yet feeling completely clueless about how to be a mom.

I sweep aside his growing hair so I can kiss that sweet-smelling forehead. I don’t think I’ll ever get sick of his smell. I breathe in a little deeper, trying to imprint my memory with his scent of baby, lavender, and Dreft, so that when he is a little grown and not so sweet-smelling I can reach back into my brain and be able to inhale him again.

Women keep telling me to enjoy the moments, because they go by so quickly. I could never truly comprehend what they were talking about until now. He’s already so big. I hold back the tears when I put away [yet another] outfit he’s outgrown. I revel in delight with every new milestone he hits, every new skill he can do. I long for the days gone by of his newborn coos and milk-drunk smiles. The way he curled up just so when I carried him against my chest.

I know he has to grow up, it is the way of life. We each have many more lessons to teach each other. I guess I just never knew that the love of my life and my greatest friend would divide into two; my husband and the tiny little mirror image of him.

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I’m a SAHM, not a housewife

A recent visit to Baby T’s doctor proved what I’ve been fearing: I am judged—and looked down on—for being a stay at home mom. Since it was a new doctor my husband and I filled out forms, including our occupations. Although I put “stay at home mom, former Tobacco Control Coordinator,” the doctor’s verbal assumptions made it clear that she missed that second part. While explaining the science behind her reasoning, which also sounded a lot like lecturing ironically (or not), she directed her speech mostly at my husband, assuming that his job title meant that he understood the physiology and anatomy behind the human body and function of immunoresponse. She even went so far as to say to him, “with your job title, you understand, right?” “Uh, no,” he answered, “That’s actually not what my field is in.” His answer barely phased her as she continued, and he turned to look at me with a “Wtf….” expression.

Because of my Master of Public Health degree, I have some background knowledge of the human body. I understood more of what she was rambling on about than my husband did. When we left, he said to me “That was pretty insulting to you to assume that you knew nothing. You know a lot more about this stuff than I do.” And he’s right. I do.

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Why is it that “stay at home mom” is such a dirty word[s], and one that brings about so many assumptions—more like accusations—about a woman, her intelligence, her drive, and her priorities? It’s odd to me that a country like this one that puts so much emphasis on women as nurturers and givers and shames women who chose to not have kids, also has created a stigma about stay at home moms (SAHM). I am educated beyond the standard college degree and have work experience, and am [most days] intelligent, and yet when I say that “what I do” is be a mom, I’m met with a lot of “Oh”s. I can read the expression on your face and can interpret it, by the way, as I just told you, I’m far from an idiot.

Being a SAHM doesn’t mean that someone is lazy, has it easy, or has given up. I hate answering the question “Will you go back to work one day?” I’m sure I will one day, I say, but what I really want to say is “I’m not sure, will you ever get a better job?” But I never would, because that would be an asshole thing to say. Which is kind of what I hear when I get asked that question.

I’m a stay at home mom, not a housewife. A stay at home mom has chosen a path that she believes is best for her family. She has prioritized her role as mother above all else, and performs that most sacred of jobs, to nurture and raise her children as the sole caregiver (for most of the day. Until Dad gets home. Then the baby is all his!). Her house is messy because her job isn’t to cook and clean, it’s to stimulate tiny brains as a teacher. Her job isn’t to fold laundry, it’s to be a nurse on call 24/7, whether it is changing diapers or kissing booboos, or freaking out over baby’s first fever. Her job isn’t to look perfect with a martini in hand when her husband gets home, but even with oily hair and dark circles, she is the most beautiful creature.

Would you ever tell an in-home nurse that her job is easy because she gets to be at a home all day? No. Would you ever tell someone that is on call 24/7, even in the middle of the night, that her job is simple because she can “sleep during the day”? No, you wouldn’t. That would be asinine. Being a mother is no different. And BTW, I don’t get to nap during the day, because Baby T recharges on just a few minutes of sleep. I’m not convinced he wasn’t switched at birth and was meant to go home with the Energizer Bunny.

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Please also know that I am by no means judging moms who return to work. There is definitely a strength in that, too. Sometimes forced by necessity, sometimes because a woman is more complete with work-life balance, women who go to work and can be full-time mom off hours is another form of powerful superhero. Some days I think it would be a lot easier to go to work and not be at my infant’s constant beck and call. It might be easier to eat lunch in peace and take leisurely bathroom breaks. But I would never tell you, working woman, that it is easier, because I haven’t walked your path and would never take the presumption to say such things. So in all fairness, don’t judge us SAHMs either, ok?

No matter what your path of motherhood looks like, it’s often hard AF. If you’re not a mom, if you’re a guy, or just someone with an overinflated sense of self, just keep your opinions to yourself—not that you will, keyboard warrior.

Every day I try to not be embarrassed or doubt my decision to become a SAHM. I don’t believe I or any other woman should feel like that. Why am I even embarrassed? Because of judgy-mc-judgersons like the doctor who make assumptions about me. As strongly as I believe in my decision, there is still that nagging critical voice in the back of my mind that makes me susceptible to outside criticism. It shouldn’t matter what someone else thinks, but realistically, many of us are affected by others’ words. We hear our own self-criticisms in their voices. It can be very hard not to internalize such negativity.

What I do know is that I work my tail off every day, on very (VERY) little sleep. I am also very (VERY) proud of my occupation. It’s definitely all not cakes and rainbows, although if you ask me, it’s the best career in the entire world.

Finding my calling in motherhood: How giving birth to one love gave birth to another

I feel really fat.

You know that feeling you get about yourself when you try to avoid looking in the mirror when undressing because you know you won’t really like the visage that looks back at you? I’ve been feeling really off all day. This whole “mom body” that I am trying really hard to embrace (she grew and birthed my son, after all!) just isn’t working out today—ha, figuratively and literally. Maybe it’s the sleep deprivation, days on end of baby talk, or the day-long silences between adult conversations. Maybe it is the moon, or just one of those days.

But today is coming to a close, and I’m getting ready for my shower. I peruse social media a little—my last link to the outside world, it seems—and see women who are also small business owners and scroll through their work on Instagram. They’re talking about the power of women, motherhood, and the divine female. The strength that women possess and the sacred. I’m not sure why, but the images of mothers, births, and the curves of clay molded into generic, faceless pregnant women and nursing mothers resonates deeply with me. I suddenly feel more connected again. To other women. To their experiences. To myself.

I step gingerly into the shower, lest I slip on some conditioner that squirted too hastily out of the bottle at the last cleansing. I reflect more on motherhood, the joy it has brought, and the lessons learned. I reflect on my full heart. I reflect on my blog, my new calling, my newfound purpose. Purpose.

It was like a lightning bolt of realization struck me from the top of my grown-out roots to the tips of my un-pedicured toes. “Holy shit,” I said to myself, “that’s it!”

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It has actually been years, a decade, maybe, that I have been searching for what my true calling is. I have a lot of passions—art, writing, spirituality… shopping (does that count?)—but I haven’t been able to quite put it all together. It’s caused a lot of emotional and mental turmoil and, in some instances, depression and anxiety about who I am and who I am meant to become. No matter which path I picked, it always seems like the wrong one. Another wrong turn. Things didn’t quite work out the way I’d hoped.

In that millisecond in the shower, I realize something brand new. Something for the first time that finally makes sense. What if I hadn’t been able to find my true calling because that piece of me was still missing? What if I couldn’t find it because it didn’t exist yet? What if it took having a child to realize that the realm of motherhood is my true calling? Mind. Blown.

I couldn’t find my calling all these years because it didn’t exist yet. I didn’t have that piece of my soul yet. Now that I have that missing element, I feel completed. Whole. From my heart to soul to brain and back again. I feel peace, and almost as importantly, purpose. Purpose.

I could hear those clanky wheels turning in my head as I scrubbed my mama body, causing the jiggly bits to jiggle. My calling is making those connections with other moms. Pregnant women who don’t love pregnancy. Pregnant women who do, but fear losing themselves in the process. New moms who feel overwhelmed and alone in a new city, or maybe new country, with a baby that she isn’t quite sure why she is suddenly entrusted with caring for and keeping alive. Moms of infants who are months into sleep deprivation, and know there are more months ahead, but are so in love that the sleepless nights are but a negligible part of the whole (this is where I fit in).

Maybe my role is to provide a new voice, one that moms don’t often express for fear of looking ungrateful, incapable, complaining, weak, annoying, “that mom”, or a hundred other degrading words that are used to describe women who have just given life to someone brand new on this earth. I should also note that as I’m writing these exact words and feeling the well of energy bursting forth from within and up to my head and hands, the song playing on Pandora is called “Transcendence/Kundalini Rising” which [Googling] means the spiritual emergence that brings many shifts in energy and consciousness from the spine chakra upward and outward to the head chakra. That’s some deep stuff! I don’t think this is coincidence…

I feel that my purpose for you, and for me, is to share these experiences and hope that some of you will say “me too!” either inside or out loud, and feel less alone when you read my posts. I want to create for you an online tribe so that you can see that your experiences aren’t so weird and aren’t so uncommon. I’ve had readers tell me “I thought I was the only one” or “I really needed to hear this today,” and that makes me feel like I am doing some good. Even if I reach just one of you, my heart is content.

No matter how tired I am or how giving I must be, I always do it with gusto because my son is the ultimate reward and fulfillment nature affords. It might be hard to see the light through the clouds on some days, but the sun always comes back out.

Motherhood isn’t for the weak, so it’s good that you aren’t. We’re stronger together, don’t you think?

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Me and the little man

Reflections on motherhood

It’s the final eve of 2016, and it’s going how I never expected it to go. Instead of drinking my face off at a party with friends, I’m sitting in a rocking chair, holding my precious babe. Instead of turning up at the stroke of midnight when the New Year officially begins, I’m shoving Kleenex up my nose until I look like a tissue walrus, so that I don’t wake up my baby by blowing my stuffy nose. Instead of raging until the 3 am hour, I anxiously watch the clock at 8:45 pm, hoping to get to bed soon and fall asleep fast. No, New Year’s Eve isn’t at all what I had ever seen myself doing. Yet it is the happiest I’ve ever felt when starting a new year, sober and so in love with the life my husband and I created.

Pregnancy and motherhood have been unique challenges. I’ve written about my identity loss during pregnancy, my extreme difficulties breastfeeding, and the isolation and anguish that having a new baby can cause. I’ve also written about how motherhood has made me a better person, and how I wouldn’t change my new life for the world. Every new experience is scary, and every challenge overwhelming until we’re in the thick of it.

I wouldn’t say that I’ve nailed this parenting thing, but at least I feel settled in my new role. I quit my career and found my new calling in helping women just like you.

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An irrational and insane move to everyone but me, I started my blog when Baby T was just a few months old. I had found my calling, and I wasn’t going to waste a second of it. You see, when I was pregnant, I often felt misunderstood and alone. I didn’t love pregnancy, and I felt like a freak because of it. When my baby was born, I wasn’t immediately in love. Deep rooted attachment, yes, but not love. I felt even worse. I often felt judged for my decisions I was making as a mom (no visitors, hypersensitivity to germs, and choosing to breastfeed despite my pain) and once my mom and parents-in-law left, I had never felt so alone.

It took me awhile to find the support I needed in moms’ group and to allow in the support from my friends, and once I did I felt relief. My daily walks were my metaphorical Xanax, and I felt I could go on. Not that I didn’t have really fucking hard days—and nights—but at least I knew I could keep going. Those beautiful baby smiles that were just for me in the mornings and the sweet coos of my little guy weren’t too bad to receive either.

It was all of these challenging experiences that motivated me to write to you. To you, the pregnant woman who is emotionally struggling, and struggling to keep it together. To you, the new mom who can now only find solace in the two minute hot shower (even though you feel guilty as fuck when your baby starts crying when you are only halfway through it). To you, the mom who perseveres or chooses another feeding method when the pain is too much, and your nipples too chafed to go on. To you, the mom who feels like an outcast because her parenting decisions are against the “norm.” To you, the mom of older kids but still doesn’t quite fit in with the Lululemon wearing, Kate-Spade toting tiger moms—okay I have a Kate Spade diaper bag, but I swear I’m not one of them!

I couldn’t find the support when I needed it most, so I want to create the space for you. I want to create a community of bad-ass mama-jamas that can feel the best when they feel themselves. Motherhood is the most joyous, yet hardest, experience I’ve ever had.

It’s not all rainbows and home-made playdough, with pictures of happy, clean faces and tidy houses. It’s on-and-off storms, diaper blowouts, spit-up in hair, and messy houses. Not many moms want to share that side. Maybe because it’s hard to show that side, the side that makes us feel like failures, the side that makes it look like we don’t have it all together. I’m here to tell you it’s okay to not have your shit together—and to be far from it—with mom hair and yoga pants.

Motherhood is more than that. It’s the sleepy newborn smiles in the middle of the night that make it worth it. It’s the first time baby laughs for you. It’s the first time baby sits up all by himself. It’s the first time baby and daddy engage each other in pure love and joy, and your heart melts and your tears of happiness say it all.

If you have no one else to turn to, you have me. You’re not alone. You have the mothers and the mothers before them, doing the same things you are doing, facing the same self-doubt, and celebrating the same triumphs. We are all in this together.

Happy 2017 mama, let’s make this a year of parenting triumph and joy, and kick-ass while doing it.

4 things my baby has taught me in the first six months of life

My baby is almost 6 months. That’s almost 183 days, if we are being exact. He has made his first half-trip around the sun. It happened in a blink of an eye. Less than that, maybe.

The holidays always bring about a lot of nostalgia for me, and now that I have an infant, it makes it a lot worse. Like I’ll look at his newborn photos and want to cry at how fast he is growing kind of worse (maybe I let a few tears go, but don’t tell anybody).

If that wasn’t enough, his first tooth is slicing through his perfect pink little gumline and it almost sends me over the edge. I want to shake him and yell STOP GROWING UP SO FAST! But I don’t, obviously, because that would be inviting a visit from Child Protective Services. The only visit I am trying to earn is from the fat man with the white beard. I’ve been good as shit this year, so bring the good stuff.

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Where was I? Oh right, the sappy emotion-inducing nostalgia. As his half-birthday grows nearer, I can’t help but reflect on the last six months and everything I’ve learned, everything I’ve accomplished, and every way in which I’ve grown. Motherhood has a funny way of forcing you to grow up and out of your adolescence and adopt those adult ways that many of us fear but never admit to fearing. I not only birthed a son, but also immense responsibility. His little life—well-being, growth, and happiness—rests entirely on my shoulders. Okay well my husband’s, too, but I’m trying to make a point here.

I used to constantly look at the past and be depressed that those good times were over. No more excessive partying, no more meeting friends easily. No more freedom to come and go as I pleased, my whole future lying ahead of me. When I graduated college and started working, I felt like the best times were behind me. I couldn’t seem to shake the sadness and anxiety that accompanied my daily life. The present was so hazy, and forget the future—it was like trying to see through storm clouds. My emotions felt like a storm cloud—unpredictable and always threatening to give way to a downpour.

Then my angel arrived in the form of a teeny, tiny, tomato-red baby. What is it that they say about the best things coming in small packages? All of that. My sweet-smelling, adorable, poop and pee filled, little angel has changed the way that I look at life. He has also taught me so much.

He has taught me the power of a woman. I have never before been so awed at the power of a body to create, carry, birth, and feed another human being. Have you ever really stopped to think about it? That’s some powerful shit. Because my son showed me my own power, I also look at myself a lot differently. I used to hate my body. Every. Damn. Day. But today? I don’t mind that roll when I bend over. I don’t care what the other people think of me in a swimsuit at Splish Splash Baby Class. Am I still trying to get some weight down? Sure, what postpartum mom isn’t? But I’m not in a hurry, I know that extra fat is helping me to breastfeed my boy. I might actually be transferring rolls directly to him, if that is even possible. At least on his thick thighs they look a lot more socially acceptable.

He has taught me the power of love and marriage. If you ever want to truly test your marriage and its foundation, have a baby. No, really. It takes a solid couple to make it through newborn days and infant months (and from what I also assume toddler, teenage, and adolescent years). Although our relationship looks drastically different than it did before, my husband and I feel a bond that we never have before. We might bicker more, make love less, and look at each other differently, but the new way we look at each other is with adoration and awe at the beautiful parent each has become. It’s hard to watch my husband and son and not get teary, and I’m pretty sure he feels the same, although he would deny that. Damn I sound like a sobbing mess—I promise I’m not…most days.

He has taught me how to believe in myself. There is no way to ever prepare for a baby. Period. Sure I read books, blogs, and heard the horror stories, but it turns out I knew nothing. Throw the book away and take a lesson from real life. Baby will do what babies do, and most days I am scrambling to keep up. Just when I think I have something figured out, it changes again. But I never used to believe in myself the way I do now. I’m thoroughly empowered. I know I can do this because, partly because I have to. So I do it, day after day, and excel—most days.

He has taught me love. Forgiving, patient, and whole-hearted love. There’s no point in getting upset with an infant. They don’t understand you. They can’t reason their behavior away. All I know is that if I am upset, it makes him more upset. We both escalate out of control. I figured this out early and put a stop to it. If I respond with love each and every time, it helps. It might not help this little banshee deceptively slumbering against my chest every single time he is upset, but I know he is reassured that I am there for him, I love him, and will always take care of him.

The bottom line is that I still have no idea what I’m doing. But what I do know is that I’m not the person I used to be, and for the first time, I am completely okay with that. I feel that I am better because of him. I know that I am better because of him. I have to be better for him. He needs me, and I need him just as much. In only six months, in the blink of an eye, in half of the planet’s rotation, I have learned more about myself from him than I have in the past two decades, and I couldn’t feel more blessed. Sometimes ready to lose my f—cking  mind, mind you, but also blessed.

I never thought I’d regret having my son.

It dawned on me one night when my husband and I were finally able to watch some TV in peace. Although the volume was turned down low so as to not wake the baby, we were silent because we needed to be. We needed to just “be” for a minute. No baby giggling. No baby crying. No bickering about the right way to hold or change the baby. No discussion about baby poop. Nothing. Silence. Finally.

We felt like our old selves for a minute. I looked at my husband and asked, “Do you ever just miss the old days of just being…us?” “Yes,” he answered, more quickly than I had anticipated. But there it was, the unspoken message between us. Confirmation of my own secret shame. In that moment, and often in the dark nights of endless rocking and wishing for sleep, I regretted having my son.

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It’s been a particularly hard fucking month. Baby T hit his sleep regression around Thanksgiving, making it almost 4 weeks of completely broken sleep—some nights worse than when he was a newborn. I now understand why sleep deprivation is a form of torture. I am beyond tired. I am mentally exhausted. I am physically exhausted. I don’t have it in me to be angry at him anymore. I don’t feel anything. I am broken.

Truly, though, T is a beautiful boy. I know all parents say this, but really, he actually is the most handsome baby I’ve ever seen. The days are mostly blissful. Those delightfully chubby cheeks just begging to be eaten up. I don’t even mind getting peed or shit on, he’s that cute. Metaphorically, T saves his biggest shitting on for the midnight hours. He doesn’t sleep. We don’t sleep.

Footsteps echo repeatedly down the hallway. Back and forth. Back and forth. Like a big cat pacing his pitiful enclosure at the zoo. I swear there are treads in the carpet now. My nipples are sore and pink. He is an insatiable pit of need—food, love, and physical contact.

But it’s more than the sleep. It’s everything. I don’t have time for my husband. I don’t have time for myself. I plan my entire day around feeding, changing, and sleep patterns of another human being. I don’t go out. My social life consists mostly of text messages or trolling Facebook until the tendon in my thumb hurts; it’s the only finger readily available while breastfeeding. I don’t paint. I don’t exercise. What’s left of my disintegrating muscle structure is laughable.

The biggest hurdle has been and still is losing myself in motherhood.

At first I rejoiced in my changed status. Motherhood felt like the greatest thing that has ever happened to me.

Months later, it’s changed. I’ve changed. I’ve seen how my life has changed. It’s the most drastic thing that has ever happened to me.

Talking to other moms has really helped me from falling of the ledge. Some days I feel like I’m losing my fucking mind. But they do, too. Life is so different. It’s isolating. It’s joyful. It’s lonely. It’s the greatest love. It’s the greatest pain. It’s the most impactful thing that has ever happened to me.

In the end, it’s not my son I regret, but the death of my old life. It’s hard to let go of something—and someone—you’ve been for the last decade. Every behavior and thought pattern changed. Once the immediate and blind bliss of taking care of a newborn wore off, there was a new life staring me in the face. The unknown is scary. The unknown with a child when you’re tired as fuck and feeling about the same level of alone is frightening as all hell.

Now the nights are sometimes improved. Sometimes not. I try to keep in mind that he is still a baby. So early, so small, and still so helpless. He needs me and depends on me. I am his food. I am his comfort. I am his warmth. I am his safety. I am his everything.

Even though the mourning phase for my previous life is just about over, the dawn of my new life breaks. I realize it’s impossible to regret him. I can’t regret him, because he is now my everything, too.

This post was featured on Scary Mommy and can be found here