The First Year: A Reflection
Hello everyone! I recently discovered this post I'd written about Hazel turning one in my drafts and thought I'd finally edit it and send it out there into the universe. Sure, its a few months late... but hey, I'm a disaster. Hazel turned ONE! (Edit: A few months ago)
I wanted to reflect on this momentous occasion with a blog post about the first year of having a child. I'll save all of the cliche' "where has time gone?" remarks for my Facebook photo montage and instead I thought I'd walk you through what our first year looked like.
This day was easily the most emotional day I have ever experienced. I felt relief, joy, panic, shame, horror, excitement, exhaustion, embarrassment, worry and happiness all rolled up into one 24 hour period. Here's a rundown:
Relief: Thank god that is over.
Joy: The baby's here!
Panic: The baby's here!
Shame: Taking a shower in the hospital after giving birth. It looked like a mass murder had taken place in the bathroom.
Horror: Seeing the state of the hospital bed. WTF happened in here?
Excitement: I can't wait to bring her home! She is perfect
Exhaustion: I can barely keep my eyes open. What's that doctor doing here? Is she talking about Hazel? Is this her first doctor's check? No, I heard everything you said about the bruise on her arm, I wasn't asleep... I was just resting my eyes doc.
Embarrassment: I just fell asleep during my child's first doctor visit. (this was the first of a long line of mom-fails to come)
Worry: What's that bruise on Hazel's arm? Was that there before?
Happiness: I am no longer pregnant.
This period is one that my husband and I lovingly refer to as the time I lost my shit. Weeks 1-4 were filled with great joy, but they were also filled with a lot of other, less positive emotions.
This time was very confusing for me, because I didn't sleep much. Also, my baby had colic and I had completely tuned out all advice about colic in the lead up to having a baby because all the information said only 20% of babies will have it and I thought the odds were in my favor.
This was also a time when googling became somewhat of a problem for me.
I actually don't remember much from these months.
During this time I slept very little, wept daily and had emotional outbursts frequently. There was a lot of "Should we use a pacifier/swaddle/bottle?" "Is it something I'm eating that's causing this?" "I'm calling the doctor" happening during this period.
There was a lot of talk about green poo as well. We never did get to the bottom of that one.
Month six was a time when I really came into my own as a mother. It was during this time that I was able to answer my own questions. The answer was almost always, "If you think you should, then you should."
Sometimes it was also, "Just have a glass of wine and relax. She'll live."
After 6 months I was able to let patronizing comments from bystanders roll off my back. I stopped worrying that everything would kill my child. I was confident in my abilities and I knew what my daughter wanted. Kind of. Most of the time.
Well, I wouldn't say most of the time. But I was ok with making it up as I went along.
By month 7, I was reasonably sure Hazel was not going to die from any kind of freak accident or disease. She was seeming pretty robust and had survived my husband and I dropping her a few times, so I was starting to cool it with googling health conditions every time she farted.
Also during this time, she started to really learn things. She could understand some things that I said to her and she was able to play with interactive toys. It was wonderful.
This was also around the time that I developed a fear of psychologically damaging her. My googling habit picked back up, but this time I was researching in depth how babies' brains develop and what kinds of things parents can do to screw them up.
I learned that I should never, ever yell at her, but I should sometimes use a firm voice that was serious enough to convey danger but not so serious that I would scar her permanently. I also learned that I needed to smile at her EVERY TIME SHE SMILES AT ME. This was difficult because she often thought it was funny when she pooped in my hands or pulled my eyelashes out.
I'm not going to bore you with all the things I learned during this 3 month period, but thanks to my computer's fantastic record-keeping (something I should probably start deleting), I will give you a few examples of actual phrases I googled during these months.
"How to make your baby smart"
"Why do babies blow bubbles"
"How to encourage babies to be independent"
"Make baby cuddlier" and "my baby won't cuddle with me"
"How to tell if your baby is hyperactive"
This was a fun and educational stage.
I like to call months 9-12 the illness months because during this three month period, someone in our house was sick EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.
It was a trying time, made especially more unpleasant by the fact that Hazel was going through a phase of severe separation anxiety. She was unwilling to get to know anyone outside of our immediate family and it made simple tasks like going to the bathroom and putting away laundry into drawn-out, disastrous crying episodes.
Even more troubling, the majority of this separation anxiety was aimed at her Dad. No, not in the normal way that kids scream for their mothers-- it was just the opposite. Instead, Hazel screamed for her dad any time he was in earshot, including when she was with me.
I must admit that months 9-12 were not my favorites.
On the eve of her first birthday, Hazel took her first steps. HURRAH! It was a glorious occasion. By this time, I had given up on trying not to screw her up emotionally and embraced the fact that we all mess our children up in our own special ways.
Little did I know that in one year we had come completely full circle, because it took only a few weeks after those first steps for me to start worrying about her impending death once again. You see, now that she's on the move I have to google things like "Which houseplants are poisonous?" and "How to tell if a toddler's head injury is really serious."
I expect that she'll be talking soon, at which point I will revert back to worrying about whether or not I'm negatively impacting her social skills or emotional intelligence.