mother's week : that wild and wonderful first year

The first few weeks of being a mother of a newborn are so fleeting, amazing and crazy all at the same time. It's often sleepless nights, sweet baby snuggles, big cups of coffee, showers when you can get them and this magical time of getting to know this tiny little being that you may have been lucky enough to grow inside of you or blessed to have adopted. It's figuring out how to nurse or bottle feed, changing newborn diapers, first baby baths, learning different baby cries and the challenge of putting clothes on a little one that most likely prefers to be naked (at least if they're anything like my boy). 

The first month of my son's life flew by in the blink of an eye. When we were in it, it felt like we were moving in slow motion, but perhaps that was the broken up sleep schedule. My first lesson in motherhood was that time takes on a completely new meaning. You count the days, then weeks, then months of life with your baby, and it all goes by so stinking fast. My heart aches when I think about the first few months of my son's life. I tried so hard to be present and drink it all in, but at the same time, I was just plain exhausted and purely blissed out in love, which lead to spaced out mama brain moments and just staring off into space sometimes. 

Today, I'm dedicating this post to the first year of a mother's life with her baby and the amazing mother's who let me photograph that precious time. You're all rock stars in my book and those babies of yours just stole my heart!

Love and Light,

P.S. Below is a little more about my first year as a mother:

Photo by the ever talented and dear heart, Tara Polly

Below are 5 lessons I learned in the first year of my son's life. And because I try to only give advice when it's asked, especially mama advice, you can check it out if you'd like or just go on with you day. Either way, I think you're awesome! I could write a novel of things I learned, but these are ones I often find myself repeating or returning to. I'm not perfect and I make mistakes, but I'm living a great life and raising a great little boy, and these are some things that have made my life simpler in the best way and best of all, made us all happy. And just a disclaimer, these are all such personal choices. They're things that I've shared with other friends with babies who asked me for help and advice I was given from rock star mothers in my life. I firmly believe we all do what is best for our babies and I totally respect that what worked for me may not work for you and so on. 

1. Nursing: One of the first things I had to figure out after Finn was born was nursing; getting to know this little one, how wild cluster feeds are, taking notes to make sure he was getting enough milk, as well as how to plan ahead to avoid milk let down in the middle of the grocery store and how any babies cry will make that happen. I was determined to nurse and in no time we were rocking, but not without a few bumps in the road that I'll save you from hearing about. Overall, nursing was such a great experience and so dear to my heart. It's such a personal choice and I respect whatever other mothers choose to do for their babies. My son naturally weaned himself from nursing a few months past his first birthday, and that was really bittersweet. On one hand I was thrilled to be free from watching what I was eating, pumping when I was away and those darn nursing bras, but then I was so sad to lose that special quiet time with my baby who is always on the move. Finn wasn't a very snuggle baby, he was always trying to get somewhere and do something, which is very much a part of his personality to this day, so when we stopped nursing I dealt with some sadness for sure.

2. Baby Proofing: Another great lesson that a friend of mine shared with me is that you can either "baby proof" your world or "world proof" your baby, let me explain. You can "baby proof" by protecting your baby from everything and anything with plastic doodads from the baby store, keep them off dirty floors, cover all of the corners of your home and world with padding, and altering their world to fit their needs and so on. Or you can "world proof" your baby be mindful of what your baby is around, let them play under tables, teach them what they can and cannot get into and so on. I'm not going to say which is better, because as mothers we all do what we personally believe is best for our family. For me and my husband, we wanted to teach Finn about the world and not cover it all in plastic, antibacterial soap and such. We went with a mixture of both ideas while slightly leaning towards our baby fitting into our world rather than baby proofing it. Once he started crawling we let him play on dirty floors which some believe helps with the baby's immune system development (Dr. Gray, my microbiologist husband, really pushed for this, while I quietly winced at the thought but trusted in it), we did cover our light sockets, but then we waited on baby gates and let him scoot around the house to his hearts content. We also took a more philosophical approach to this and while we of course paid attention to Finn's everyday needs, we didn't make everything about him. We all worked as a team, baby included, Team Gray! To this day we still work as a team, and Finn knows that he's responsible for his actions and that his parent's needs are just as important as his own.

3. Traveling: One of the best advice a friend gave me before having a baby was to travel often with your little one. To not be afraid to get out of the house, go on trips, and continue on with the life you love. Of course there are new obstacles to navigate but you figure them out. Traveling with Finn became so easy after awhile, it was second nature. We flew to California many times, took long road trips, weekend trips to the mountains and such. By the time he was one, he was a pro traveler. To this day he flies great; he knows what to do at security, asks politely for his drink on the plane and sits quietly in his seat during the flight. I attribute all of his awesome traveling skills to my friend telling me to just get out there and do it, and being patient while he figured things out. One of the first things I noticed when he was a baby, was how when I stressed out, he stressed out, so on planes I would just breathe and trust that everything would be okay and it really helped. The times I was super nervous because he was fussing always turned into a spiral of us both freaking out, until I consciously made a point to stop my side of things and just breathe. 

4. Sleep Training: I think one of the hardest things I had to learn was letting Finn cry to learn to self soothe. We never let him full on flip out cry, but we did let him cry himself to sleep for a few nights and those were the hardest 5 or so minutes to go through. It was a crucial step for us in getting him to sleep on his own. Finn was a rock star sleeper until he could walk in which he would get out of bed and start playing in his room. We sleep trained him and it was the best thing ever. I remember the first night he sleep 7 hours and I woke up freaked out that something happened to him because I slept through his feeding, but sure enough he was just fine, smiling in his crib and ready to nurse. That boy loved his sleep when we was a baby. He went through a few rough patches of sleep whenever he went through new developmental milestones, but he always returned to my awesome sleeper. I'm grateful that he sleeps well, but also thankful that another mother friend of mine recommended sleep training to me before he was born, it made a world of difference. 

5. Mama-guilt: This one is huge, it needs to be said again, ugh, mama-guilt. This is simply the worst and we mothers do it to ourselves and sometimes to other mothers (yikes!). It's feeling like you're not enough. Feeling guilty when you take time for yourself, go to work, take a shower, step away because you feel like you're about to lose your mind and so many other things. This was one of the toughest lessons I had to learn and one that I continue to be mindful of 4 years later. Being a mother is not an easy job and for me my secret to being a good mom is having my own time and making space for myself. It's enjoying my work, being okay with leaving Finn with a baby sitter and continuing to cultivate myself as a woman and artist. By maintaining my own sanity without feeling guilty, it allows me to be the best mother I can. 

5. (continued, yep this mama-guilt thing gets two sections) There are so many standards that mothers can place on themselves thinking there's a right way to do this or that, but let me tell you, there's no "right way" for everything, because the right way for you, is just that, for you. As a mother one of the first choices you have to make it to trust your instincts and get to know your all mighty gut. To navigate the world and know where your personal priorities are. You make choices that you feel are right for your baby and who cares what the other mothers are doing. It's so tough when you're nesting and preparing for you babies arrival, and you're bombarded with so many choices on things to buy, parenting methods to subscribe to, the "must have" diaper bags and yada-yada. I think it's awesome if you bottle feed or nurse, cloth diaper or use disposable, make your own organic baby food or buy what's on sale, get all earth friendly toys or thrift store finds, attachment parent, sleep train, co-sleep, crib sleep... whatever! The point is that there's no need to feel guilty for the choices you make or to keep up with the Joneses or our modern day version, the mommy bloggers. And there is absolutely no reason to judge another mother for making the choices she makes, that just perpetuates the mama-guilt. In my book, I think mothers should be giving each other high fives and telling each other, "You're awesome! Rock on!" So this is my high-five to you, you're amazing!

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