Hard-Won Year

Today marks one year since Juniper entered this world. One year since Trevor and I became parents. One year, hard-won.

I have never loved any job more than I have loved being Juniper’s mama. This past year has been the most joy-filled of my life. It feels exactly like that scene in the Grinch when his heart grows three sizes. Almost. Except, in between the heart-growing, you still feel like a Grinch. You haven’t had time to brush your teeth, you’ve got green stuff all over you, bags under your eyes, and you kind of hate everybody. The first year of life-rearing is HARD, and it doesn’t get talked about enough. Here’s what my first year of being a new parent was really like:

Birth.

Weeks 1-4: a heavy haze of oxytocin, aluminum pan lasagnas, beaming friends and family, and learning how to nurse, change diapers, and clip baby fingernails. Sleepless nights didn’t feel too hard a price to pay. Nothing did. We were falling in love.

Months 1 and 2: Visitors came less and less frequently. Meal trains derailed. Trevor and I felt oddly lonely during this stretch. My body was still recovering, and most of my days were spent nursing and napping on the couch. I was lucky if I could get one load of laundry done in a day. I felt badly about this.

Trevor was back at his job, and the stretch between 4 PM and when he’d return at 6 (“sundowning”) was miserable. We hadn’t figured out our roles with the baby yet, and we fought. Sleepless nights felt a lot less novel. Emotions came in hard, choppy waves. I went to therapy.

Months 3 & 4: My hardest months. Juniper had digestive issues and was really fussy. I worried constantly. She often didn’t want to be held by anyone but me. I felt judged for my parenting decisions. Lots of fellow moms were returning to work, and although I was grateful I could stay home, my days hadn’t found their rhythm yet. I was even lonelier. Juniper would sleep for 4 hour stretches in the middle of the day as long as she was on me, so I would cook and clean or nap or walk with her.

She hated the car, and I would be riddled with anxiety days in advance trying to plan a 20 minute car ride. Sometimes we’d get stranded 5 minutes from home for over an hour because I couldn’t take another second of her carseat screams, or she would scream so hard she’d throw up. Trevor took up ultimate frisbee 2 nights a week, and I couldn’t figure out how to ask for similar time for myself. I resented him some days.

Months 5 & 6: Relief! I clearly remember coming out of the 4 month fog thinking, “Wow, this is getting easier.” We figured out Juniper’s dietary distress was linked to dairy, so I cut that out of my diet. Nights got easier- we coslept, and she often slept through the night, or nurse-slept next to me. Car rides were still hellish, and I beat myself up for not being “back to normal” yet, either physically or emotionally. But it was summer, and instead of being cooped up inside most of the day, we spent hours outside in the hammock or on long walks or in coffee shops in Portland with other mamas. Trevor and I were communicating much better.

Months 7-12: Another huge shift in our comfort and happiness came with each month that passed. I canceled several long car trips we had planned. We took trains, planes, or more often, stayed home instead and were all three the happier for it.

My community of moms solidified, and we had weekly playdates. I asked for help from family more, and got it. I did a Whole30 and finally felt OK about my body (9 months postpartum.) I did a second Whole30 and finally felt really good IN my body (11 months postpartum). My days with Juniper found a healthy rythm. Some days I felt like Goddess Supermom, nursing and cooking a healthy dinner at the same time. Some days ended with a tornado house, mama and baby tears, and Chinese takeout. I learned to be more flexible.

For Juniper’s birthday, I scheduled a beautiful day filled with a big family birthday breakfast, a trip to the Children’s Museum, and a playdate at noon. Instead, Juni surprised us with a 4 am wakeup. Trevor and Juni munched on bacon at 4:30 am while I dozed. The museum didn’t happen, but a spontaneous library trip did. Her nap times are off, so I’m delaying her playdate and following her lead. It’s a very fitting birthday for this headstrong babe: nothing like we planned. So much harder, so much better.

2 responses to “Hard-Won Year”

  1. Sandy Wiggins says:

    These kids… they are our teachers. xo

  2. Bryan Wiggins says:

    Clear, concise, and above-all, an unflinchingly honest portrait of your year Tess. This should be required reading for any new mom.

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