It seems like it was only yesterday that my husband Shaheed and I announced our pregnancy to the world, so it’s incredibly hard to believe that we have been a family of four for one full year.
One. Whole. Year.
I vividly remember what I can only describe as the very start of this incredible journey. The moment that I peed on the stick. There we were, sitting in our room, waiting for the results.
We were so excited!
We had finally begun growing our family.
I got huge and I loved every single minute of it. But just like this past year, my pregnancy flew by and in what felt like a blink of an eye, our boys were here! And then, our boys were one!
This past year, I can confidently say that Shaheed and I have felt every emotion possible. Sometimes one at a time and other times all at once. We had felt the highest of highs and the lowest of lows…and of course, everything in between, too. I used to think this was cliché, but I get it now.
Yes, we were so excited for our new life. And don’t get me wrong, we absolutely still are. Only now, we are also so many other things as well.
And so, with the end of 2017 having just passed and the boy’s first birthday still fresh in my mind, I thought it was the perfect time to share the biggest lessons I learned from my first year of parenthood.
Motherhood is Unlike Anything I’ve Ever Experienced Before
For someone that had baby fever as bad as I did, I honestly didn’t think that I would feel as unprepared for motherhood as I did (and sometimes still do). Seriously. Despite being around a lot of babies growing up or even playing host to my future babies for 9 months, I can honestly say that I was nowhere near ready to experience all of the things that I experienced this past year. I could have guessed it, since Shaheed did most of the pre-baby prep in our house. But I was still taken by surprise. In this short year, I laughed, I cried, I overcame, I cried again. I questioned, I conquered, I explored, I cried some more. I experienced varying degrees of sleep and also varying degrees of success. I sometimes loved my body for all that it could do and I sometimes hated it for how it looked. I remember feeling completely overwhelmed at times but also completely relaxed at others. In short, it was a year of ups and downs – and what sometimes felt like never ending loops. But the one thing that remained constant – and probably what I was most unprepared for – was the weight of responsibility that accompanied the care of my little guys. I didn’t just feel it between 8am and 10pm. I felt it all the time. 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. I didn’t, and maybe couldn’t shrug it off. And what came with that weight was a physical and mental love and exhaustion that I had never ever felt before.
Boundaries Are Not Just Important, They Are Necessary
Perhaps these feelings would have been OK had this exertion only come from my boys. Unfortunately – and at the same time also so so fortunately – they did not. For what I quickly realized as the daughter and daughter-in-law of first time grandparents, was that I wasn’t the only one adjusting to a new role. And with all of their love, support, and happiness, also came all of their suggestions, methods, concerns, and needs. I struggled with this part the most. As a new mom of twins, I not only needed the help, I truly valued and appreciated it. But as a new mom of twins, I also wanted to feel independent and more importantly – in charge of myself, my children, their routines, and their upbringing. I was on a rollercoaster again. I wish I had addressed the low points sooner, but hey, its always easier looking back, right? In the end I realized that holding my thoughts (or rather stress) in wasn’t helping anyone and I was able to speak my mind – well, most of it anyway. For me, the biggest areas of contention surrounded the drinking/not drinking of raab (a hot drink supposedly ideal for enhanced breast milk production), breastfeeding (the when, where, how often, and for how long I wanted to feed my boys), my free time (the times I wasn’t breastfeeding), the use of a pacifier, the progression to solid foods (when, how much, when to encourage and and when to stop, and who does the heavy lifting), and how I wanted our entire family to respond and react to all of my boys’ coos and cries. This sounds like a long list but it really wasn’t so bad – and there definitely wasn’t any issue a lot of the time – but with hormones running high, I found that it was better for me to set up some ground rules. That way everyone could be on the same page – especially when the rules changed.
Personal Time is Crucial
For me, personal time didn’t start the minute my boys were done feeding or stop the minute they started again. In fact, my personal time had almost nothing to do with them because well, it didn’t really exist until they were sound asleep for the night. As you may have guessed then, I didn’t really have any for a long time. I thoroughly believe that personal time should be personal time. It doesn’t necessarily have to be time spent alone…but it does have to be time spent doing what I want to do. So in the early days, I will admit that I didn’t take too kindly to others when they told me that I should x, y, or z when the babies were sleeping. I may have chosen to do those things myself, or even if I had been asked if I wanted to do those things, but I definitely didn’t appreciate being told to do them – especially since I already felt like I had very little me time to begin with. You would be right to guess that I struggled with this again. But I also struggled with choosing me time over us time, or tidying up the house time, or researching something for the boys time. I sometimes (okay, maybe more than just sometimes) got caught in a whirlwind of moving and doing that I forgot about me. But it’s okay, because I found me again. It took me seven months, but I got there. Well, here, because part of finding me was also finding something I was interested in. Something just for me (and now, you too)!
Five months later, finding time for me is still something I’m working on. Only now, I know how important it is. And only now is it beginning to become a priority. There will be days of course that I won’t get the time I want, and that’s okay. Because those days are not my every days anymore, and with each day that passes, I know what I want just a little bit more.
Success Takes Many Forms…and Sometimes It’s Just a Feeling
It probably doesn’t sound like it from this post so far, but my first year was full of success! I don’t say this to brag, but to prove it’s possible with twins! With each success that I/we had, I felt more energized, more enthusiastic, more confident. These successes were not just limited to the babies – which was amazing – because it felt like the sweet cherry on top of my ever-growing mountain of ice-cream. That’s how good it felt when something worked out!
I am not ashamed to say that on the baby front, I celebrated each fart and poop with the excitement of a hockey-fan watching her team win the Stanley Cup in a seventh-game overtime! Because when my little guys were constipated, or red in the face from working so hard, it really felt that good to see them at ease. We actually celebrated their poops so much that we made up multiple songs to help them along! You think I’m joking. I’m not. We also got to celebrate milestones such as focused looking, grasping, roll-overs, sitting, standing, first words. Don’t forget first teeth, first solid foods, being able to eat finger foods on their own, or hold their own bottle. But the best, and I mean the best thing I was able to celebrate was when my boys hugged or kissed me. I would say that it was only for the first time, but really, it was every time. It’s a success that surpasses all others and it gets me every time. And when I think back to starting things over, it always stops me dead in my tracks!
I also felt personal success. This was less exciting and frequent but equally as important. I found success in breastfeeding – not only in the ability alone (which is huge), but also in terms of feeding twins, at the same time, and sometimes in the car! And with that, I also found success in not feeling like a failure when things didn’t go as expected, like having to stop breastfeeding at five and half months. I found success in still finding time (if only little) for friends, for hobbies like reading and writing, for showering and brushing my teeth (yes, every day), and for getting outside and trying new things. But the biggest success of mine was truly acknowledging what my body was capable of doing. It created, it hosted, it delivered, it fed, it held, it comforted, it supported. It loved, it cried, it jumped for joy, it fought for life. Had I lacked any one of these abilities, I wouldn’t be where I am today – or who I am today. So sometimes, even though my body doesn’t look or feel like it did before (not yet anyways), I know its a heck of a lot stronger and for that I am grateful. Because these boys ain’t so light anymore!
I Am My Children’s Best Advocate
Or rather, my husband and I are our children’s best and biggest advocates. This is not to say that we don’t have family that love them as much as we do or wouldn’t do anything and everything for them like we would – because we most certainly do – it’s just that we are around them most. And because of that, we know what is best. And truthfully, even if we didn’t, the decisions on how we choose to raise our kids are ours, because they are ours, and that is enough. So if I could offer just one piece of advice, it is that everyone has an opinion, and thought most of those will come from a place of love, in the end, you have to do what you feel most comfortable with. I learned this one early – and to be honest, it’s probably what helped me get to where I am today.
A Village Helps Raise A Child, But A Tribe Helps Raise A Mama!
I didn’t think I needed a Mama Tribe until I found one. And then, I immediately wondered how I had made it this far without one! Because despite having two babies literally attached to my body almost 24/7 – or even a house full of visitors most nights – I learned that motherhood could be very lonely. Loneliness didn’t greet me at the door one day, it slowly crept into my home, my life, and my body. It was there – not as something good or even something bad – just as something there, hovering in the background. I experienced loneliness when all I could think about was babies – and baby related things. Though everyone around me was here for the babies, none of them were thinking of them the way I was. Mothering – in this particular moment in time and space – was mine only. That made me unique. And that sometimes made me lonely. But then I met a group of mamas – both online and in real life – that made me less lonely….much less lonely! Because even though they weren’t in my house right beside me, they were experiencing motherhood for the first time (or for the first time in a long time) along side me. And that was huge. Because just like that, they understood everything I was going through. The highs, the lows, the in-betweens…the yester-days, the to-days, the every-days! So to my Mama Tribe, thank you. Thank you for helping me get through the first year – all the laughs, cries, and freak-outs included – and if I didn’t tell you already (and you too), you are an amazing mom. You are doing a GREAT job, and you – simply you – are enough!
Phew, you made it through. That was a long post. But remember that feeling, because if you switch out the word ‘post’ for ‘year’ – you would be where I am. And maybe you are. A survivor of the first year. And despite all the many ups and downs, it feels great to be here. And as cliché as it sounds, I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Not even more sleep – and that’s saying a lot.
Of course, I am just one part of our parenting duo… so if you want to know how dad felt this past year, click here to read the experience of what he calls “the year his life began”, because maybe just maybe, he experienced it a little differently.
Spoiler Alert – he did.