1 Year of Motherhood: Your Questions Answered
Now that Margot is one (she’s already 13 months! – can’t believe it!), I wanted to answer some of your questions on my first year of motherhood. The past year was such a blur – so hard but also so magical. I miss how tiny she used to be but she’s so much fun now. A lot of work but so sweet and so fun! One of the questions you asked the most was what it’s like being a working mom, so I’ll touch on that, but just wanted to say that being a mom is hard whether you work outside the home or are with your babies all day. And just because something works for me doesn’t mean it’s right for everyone, and really, I’m still learning. We’re always learning. I just wanted to share my experience since posts like this helped me so much when Margot was a newborn.
When did you realize you wanted to have a baby?
I always wanted to be a mom but (and I hope this makes sense) as I got older and more settled in my life and career, it felt father away and I thought less about it. Not in a negative way, but it just seemed like it would be such a huge shift, and it was. Since we got married one month after my 35th birthday, the plan was to start trying right away, knowing it would likely take a while. I took a positive pregnancy test less than one month after our wedding.
Was the love immediate or gradual?
It took about an hour or two. When I first met her, it was more surreal than anything. It was so hard for me to process that there was a real human being growing inside my body, so my pregnancy was more surreal than magical. Even 9 months in, I’d ask Conor if it felt like there was a real baby coming. He’d look at my huge stomach, laugh, and say yes. It was just so surreal to me! I expected labor to take forever and it all happened so fast (read the story here) but once we went to our room and had a moment to be together as a family, it hit me and I started sobbing. I was in love.
How did you process relinquishing your own schedule and time to another person? How long until you felt like yourself?
Life sort of stops at the beginning so that’s a huge change. I didn’t feel much like myself but expected to slow down, and it gets easier. Margot hated the car for the first 8 months or so and I couldn’t take her anywhere which was really, really hard. The hardest part (for me) is not being able to plan anything weekends because Conor never knows when he will have showings, so I have to plan everything around naps, but it doesn’t feel like a big deal.
Can you talk about your expectations vs. reality?
I’ve spent a lot of time around babies since I started babysitting when I was 13 and nannied in college. All babies are different, and going into motherhood, I didn’t have that many expectations because I didn’t know what our baby would be like. I didn’t expect how hard things would get for her/us, and it was really, really difficult for both of us.
How did your relationship with your mom affect how you mother?
This is a really good question, and I appreciate you saying you understand if it’s too personal to answer. I want to share my answer here for those of you who, like me, had a “difficult” relationship with your own mother. There’s so much about parenting I haven’t gotten to yet since Margot is only one. I carried a lot of anxiety and guilt about that relationship because my entire life, I was told I wasn’t enough and that everything was my fault, starting when I was a small child. I went through some really awful trauma and verbal abuse – things no child should ever experience. She’s probably the least empathetic person I’ve ever met while I am extremely empathetic. She seemed to enjoy being mean (she joked about having a “mean gene”) and that’s just not who I am.
After a lot of therapy before our wedding, I learned a lot about myself and about her, and how different we are. I knew I wouldn’t have to “try” to be a good mom, but I was scared of what being a mom would bring up for me. I’ve never really been a part of a loving, nurturing family. I definitely put extra effort into building Margot up, even at this age. Every day, I tell her how much I love her and that she’s kind, smart, strong, and a good friend. I’m sure things will come up as she grows up, but I plan on raising my daughter with love and support, and will do my best to be there for her the way I hoped someone would have been there for me when I was growing up.
What are your relationship dynamics post-baby?
Right after Margot was born, we were closer and happier than ever. Conor and I both fell for her hard and fast, and had the sweetest few weeks together as a family of 3. Months 2 or 3 to 9 (it’s all a blur now) were so hard on us and had less to give one another at the end of the day. Hours of screaming night-after-night took a toll on us and on our marriage. As we started to settle into a groove, things got so much better. We’re both able to give more to each other now, and to ourselves (that’s key!), which allowed us to get back to us.
It’s such a big adjustment and so easy to lose yourself, and until you get through all that, it can be hard to show up the way you normally do. It’s also so important to make the time to date your spouse, and even though we still did things for each other, it was harder to connect for a while. Another thing I found to be very important is to each give one another some solo time. Just the other night, our friend invited Conor out for drinks and when he got home, he thanked me for giving him that time and told me to plan something for myself. We could (and should) have been better about that in the earlier months but what matters is that we found our way back. My mother-in-law is great about offering to help with Margot so we can get some time together when we’re not working, but we should really get a sitter for date nights!
Are you a super-anxious parent? Do you sterilize everything and have a routine or are you more go with the flow?
I am a worrier and have always been that way. I worry about Buddy and Margot but I’ve gotten better and have learned to let go. The thing that’s hard for me is that there are times i’ll overreact but had I not, things wouldn’t have gotten better. Had I waited to see if Buddy’s “rash” went away years ago and hadn’t insisted on sending a photo to the vet and rushing him in, he wouldn’t be here. I definitely run on the more anxious side (in my head) – not toward Margot? I do not sterilize everything, didn’t read any parenting books, and our routine isn’t that set (bedtime happens within an hour or so period?). I’ve learned to let go a lot since becoming a mom. Sometimes she has a little sugar and if she’s fussy, I break the whole “no screen time before 18 months rule” and that’s ok, but the worry is unreal.
What was the hardest and how did you cope?
Sleep and what we think was colic or a dairy allergy. The ONE thing I said I cared about was having a baby who slept through the night by 3 months. Margot didn’t sleep through the night until maybe 10 months and screamed (it was so bad and felt like torture for all of us) before bed for months. It crushed us. She still wakes up from time-to-time but bedtime is easy now and she sleeps pretty well!
How long did it take you to feel like you knew what you were doing?
11 months / still figuring it out. I definitely feel like I get her and really know what she wants, but I struggle with trying to get it all done. Time with Margot, getting her home in time for naps, time with Conor, time with friends, work, working out, my blog etc.
Do you have any 1st year regrets?
Yes. I felt so guilty for not switching her to a hypoallergenic formula sooner. We think that’s why she screamed and threw up as much as she did, and I was really upset that I didn’t figure it out.
Do you and Conor parent equally? Does one do more research / make more choices?
Conor is a very involved dad and we divide a lot of hand-on parenting duties. I’d say those are split pretty evenly. We try to do mornings and bath time together, and there’s lots of covering for each other so we can each get things done nights and weekends. We have coffee and play with Margot in the morning, and we give her a bath and read books together at night. When it comes to doctor appointments, ordering clothes, gear etc, that’s all me. According to Conor, I have a lot of opinions and ideas on every aspect of parenting and they all sound good to him. I’m not a big researcher and didn’t finish one baby book, but I talk to friends with babies, have spent a lot of time around babies, and will look things up as they happen.
How work is going as a mom?
It’s actually been great! At first, I was worried it would feel hard being away from Margot, but as much as I love her, I really do love getting to do what I love (career-wise), too. After two months at home, I missed work. There’s this crazy mix of loving your baby and wanting to be around them all the time, and wanting to do things for yourself and in my case, my growing company, too. There’s definitely some guilt, but it’s a good balance and I am so lucky that I work from home a few days a week, so even though she’s with our nanny, I get to see her.
Stay at home parents are superheroes. It’s such hard work and I honestly don’t know that I’d be very good at it.
I’m with Margot in the morning before work and the second our nanny leaves, until she goes to bed, and of course, on weekends. The hardest part is not having enough time to do everything I want to do. I used to love working out after work but now I want to be with Margot, so things had to shift. Fitting my blog in is HARD. It has and always will take a backseat to time with family.
Are you meeting other moms?
Not really, but I’m also not trying to meet other moms. I am lucky to have a great group of friends who all have young babies within a few months or a year of Margot. I know this can be really difficult, so if you’re struggling to meet other moms, I’d recommend checking out some baby classes or mom groups.
What are your days like with Margot now that she’s not a newborn?
They’re so much more fun! Weekdays we have some time together before our nanny comes to watch her while we’re working. We’ll play, read books, and try to trick her into eating breakfast. She’s really not a big breakfast person and usually just has a bottle. Once our nanny leaves, we play, go for walks, and then do her bedtime routine of a bath, books, bottle, and bed. Margot usually goes to bed around 7:30 (ish) so we have a few hours to be together as a family. Weekends are so much fun and it feels a lot more manageable since she’s only taking one long nap (usually around 2-3 hours). We’ll pick a morning activity like the zoo or farmer’s market but usually relax at home and then do something after her nap.
How is Margot’s eating?
So much better! I need to write a post on this.The OT was so helpful and we’ve seen a lot of improvement!
When did you move Margot from a bassinet to her crib?
Margot was in her bassinet in our room for the first 3 months or so. I definitely didn’t feel ready not to have her in our room any more but Conor felt like it was time and eventually got me on board. We had her in the bassinet in her room for another month, and then in her crib. I can’t tell you how much I love the Nanit monitor and how much peace of mind it gave me to always be able to see her, even from work.
How did you get rid of Margot’s baby acne?
Some baby acne is normal, so if that’s what you’re dealing with, I wouldn’t worry too much. Margot’s baby acne looked painful (almost like sores on her face) so if that’s what you’re dealing with, I’d recommend a pediatric dermatologist. We saw Dr. Aggarwal at Medical Dermatology Associates of Chicago and she was wonderful – so sweet to Margot and really thoughtful with her approach. She confirmed Margot was very likely uncomfortable and gave her two medications that cleared her skin up within a few days.
Is she still spitting up as much as she used to?
The spit-up situation has gotten a lot better, but she does have a big spit up maybe once every two weeks or so. In her first few months, she spit up a ton an average of 2x per week. I know everyone says it’s less than it looks like, but in this case, it was definitely more than a few tablespoons. It actually happened a few days ago before bed, and she didn’t even cry afterward, and fell asleep on me two minutes later. I’ve talked to her pediatrician who says it’s normal, but naturally, I still worry a little bit. She seems ok though and is doing great with her weight, and it’s definitely not happening daily, so we’ll see.
What probiotic did you use?
This one came recommended by a friend, although we stopped giving it to Margot months ago.
What were the most challenging weeks/months and how did you navigate them?
The first 8/9 months were really, really hard for us. It’s all a blur and looking back it feels less awful than it did when we were in it. Fortunately, we’ve moved on and Margot is such a happy girl. So grateful for where we are now.
How did you get her to sleep through the night?
I shared Margot’s bedtime routine and a sleep update here!
Given her 4 month regression, was the SNOO worth it?
I think it would 100% be worth renting a SNOO for the first 1-2 months. Given how Margot was with sleep, I’m not sure how much it did past that point. If we are lucky enough to become parents again, I will likely just use the SNOO in the beginning. It seemed like it wasn’t easy for her to sleep without it, but I don’t blame the SNOO – sleep was just a struggle for her. I loved it in the beginning but we didn’t feel like it worked for us after the regression, but also feel like most babies had an easier time with sleep than Margot.
What are some of her favorite toys?
What keeps Margot busy and occupied so you can get things done around the house?
I don’t really get things done around the house unless she’s sleeping or playing with Conor, and even then, very little gets done. I used to put her in her activity center for maybe 10-15 minutes, but tried to limit time in there. I use this now and fill it with a few toys. It’s so easy to open and close but usually only buys me a few minutes. Things basically don’t get done when she’s awake.
Have you started routines like swimming, going to the library, and music classes?
We tried to start swim class but the available times were always during nap time or while I was at work. It’s so hard to plan around naps so Margot’s time with babies is time spent with my friends and their children. Now that her wake windows are a bit longer and she’s down to one nap, we’re going to sign up for a class or two.