First Year of Parenthood – My Commentary

Memorial Day Weekend 2018 | https://www.roseclearfield.com

As we’ve approached and then celebrated Tommy’s first birthday, I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting on Tommy’s birth and the past year and wanted to put down some of my thoughts. I’ve been posting Tommy updates all year, so it’s not like you don’t know what’s going on with him. But I try hard in these updates to limit my own commentary. I talk more about this concept here. I stand by this notion because I don’t want to look back on my updates and just see my own thoughts, not real details about Tommy.

But I’ve also stuck with this plan for writing updates because it’s safer. Talking about Tommy’s milestones and preferences is fun and easy. Talking about my perspective and emotions is real, raw, and vulnerable. Sometimes it’s uncomfortable and/or I know that I’m making other people uncomfortable. However, that doesn’t mean that it isn’t worth putting out there. So here we go.

I have been more tired in my life, but I haven’t been so foggy.

I wasn’t a believer in this concept until I became a mom. But the “mom brain” thing is real. I’m not sure if it’s some combination of general fatigue and the reality of parenting or what. 0-3 months was the hardest stage for me and definitely came with the most fogginess. Having people tell me that the baby cuddles make it all worth it didn’t help and just frankly wasn’t true for me. Tommy has never been a huge snuggler, and adoption made the bonding process different. 3-6 months was much better. It’s just kept getting better from there, as has the whole fogginess factor.

With that being said, I still get worn down more easily than normal. I often stress Tommy’s well-being when I’m working to keep our family from getting overscheduled. But it’s for our own benefit, too. Jake has a stressful job and works about 50 hours a week, including two weekends per month. If we’re scheduled straight through every weekend, we start the next week on zero. So we don’t do that.

It hasn’t been the most overwhelming stage in my life, and I don’t feel like I should pretend otherwise.

By the time Tommy was born, Jake and I had been married 10 years. We’ve lived in three states and had four residences, three of which we did or still do own. We’ve been through most of undergrad and all of our post-undergrad schooling together (a master’s in special education for me, medical school and residency for Jake). During medical school, I worked full-time and went to school part-time, all far away from our immediate families.

Additionally, during the six months leading up to starting the adoption process, the following things happened:

  • Most of our good friends from residency finished their programs and moved away.
  • Jake got really sick which involved leaving his duties as best man for a wedding very suddenly, us driving straight back to Milwaukee from Minneapolis, and him spending several days in the hospital.
  • I found out that I failed my final IUI and had my paternal grandma pass away on the same day, actually within the same hour.
  • In the midst of my grandma dying and failing my last fertility treatment, Jake and I had a big trip planned and were closing on a new home. We left town 24 hours after my grandma died and closed on the new house 24 hours after we got back. For the three months after that, I managed both homes, driving back and forth 45 minutes each way almost every day, while we got settled into one and got the other one ready to rent.

I don’t share any of this in a “poor me” way or to evoke sympathy. I share it to put things in perspective with the process of us adjusting to adopting a child. It’s been a rollercoaster, no doubt. We had eight days between when we first read Tommy’s birth parents’ profile and when Tommy was born. Meeting his birth parents, meeting him, and bringing him home happened in just five days. And then we had to hit the ground running with a newborn and haven’t stopped running since.

I don’t know that I’ll ever feel fully adjusted to the reality of adoption. If I do, it’ll take years. I have shared a fair bit about the emotional side in my adoption posts but don’t feel in any way ready to talk about it on more personal terms beyond that any time soon. And this process has still been so much less overwhelming than any of our other major life transitions and than everything that happened during the last six months of 2015.

I feel like going from 1-2 is going to be harder than 0-1.

I may be 100% wrong about the adjustment from 1-2 being harder than 0-1. It’s taken a long time to feel like I have any sort of rhythm at home with one kid. It’s hard to imagine how I’ll ever have that with two kids, especially when they’re little. Even when you do get to that point, then the whole routine shifts again because now one is teething, becoming mobile, potty training, etc.

I feel like everything is going to be different with the second adoption.

A lot of people have not been so nice about the fact that all things considered, Tommy’s adoption went very smoothly. We didn’t spent a lot of time in the adoption waiting pool, and the adoption process involved very little drama or delays. Also, Tommy is a super chill guy who has been very healthy and is extremely happy go lucky. For the entire past year, people have made me feel guilty about his disposition and general well-being and given me a “why did you get to have such a smooth adoption” attitude on a pretty regular basis.

Let me be clear that I do not live under a rock. I fully understand that most couples wait a lot longer than we do to adopt a child and that the process is a lot more stressful. I also fully understand that many babies are much more difficult than Tommy. Our smooth adoption and Tommy’s disposition are not things that I take for granted. Ever. However, I still feel like it’s all going to bite me in the butt and everything will be harder the second time around. Of course, it will be different because every adoption is different. But also tougher, in every way possible. There’s no way to know any of this for sure, so we’ll see.

I still struggle with my infertility past and don’t think that I’ll be able to start moving on from it until I feel like my family is complete.

One of the toughest elements of having a kid after years of infertility is that people think that everything is okay now. Somehow your infertility past just disappears and you have no more concerns about growing your family. This notion is at best, naive, and at worse, downright offensive. I realize that there’s a huge stigma toward infertility in our society and that people want to avoid talking about it at all costs. Not talking about it doesn’t make it go away.

The idea that everything is okay now that you have one child is also ridiculous because most people want to have at least two kids, if not more. I have not ever had dreams of having a huge family and am not devastated that I’m not birthing five or six of my own children. But I do still want at least one more child and know that I may still be waiting a long time for him/her, which is not something I’m dealing with very well.

And yes, having one child is 100 times better than not having kids. I don’t lay awake at night wondering if we’ll ever have kids and if not, why I have such a strong desire to have children. I have been able to move past that and start living for Tommy and his future. This still doesn’t mean that infertility doesn’t hurt or that I’m at peace because I feel like my family is complete.

It’s really important for me to not overshare or brag about my family and also not to complain about them.

One of my biggest pet peeves in when people have wanted something for years and then as soon as they have it, they turn around and shove it in everyone’s face. When you’ve waited for years to get married, have kids, buy a house, go on an amazing vacation, etc. and you’ve been avoiding your Facebook feed or steering clear of whole groups of friends, why would you immediately post about it on social media all the time? This is such a ridiculous notion to me. How do you not recognize that there are still people out there hurting? I’ve never wanted to be that person.

I’m also not okay with sharing a lot of pictures of and personal details about my family online in general. I’ve been very conflicted about sharing any pictures of Tommy or making my monthly updates public. Ultimately, I do because I have shared so much about our infertility and adoption journey. I don’t think that we’d be where we are today without a lot of prayer, and I want people to know how we’re doing. But I don’t want to be an oversharer or bragger. I work hard to share carefully and in moderation.

Coming from an infertility background, it’s important for me to not be a complainer. We all know parents who complain about their kids. All. The. Time. Most of the complaints stem from the reality of having kids, such as that toddlers get into everything all the time or that you do a lot more laundry. I don’t want to be that person, even on tough days. Shannon of Rosyscription had a good post on Mother’s Day in which she touched on this topic. I wish more people would.

I never imagined that I would exclusively formula feed a baby and hate it so much.

Exclusively formula feeding wasn’t part of my plan for parenthood. I’ve never understood why women would choose to exclusively formula feed when they had the ability to breastfeed. I don’t like to be a complainer, so I don’t complain about formula feeding, even though it’s been one of my least favorite parts of the past year. There is zero bonding with formula feeding. Formula is messy. Formula is smelly. You have to bring the supplies for it with you everywhere. Washing bottles is a tedious daily chore that I will not miss when I’m done with it. It’s super fun when you have to do it while traveling, especially in hotels.

I laugh a lot at people who talk about how every day with kids goes so fast.

It doesn’t. It just doesn’t. Life as an adult goes by fast, with or without kids. In my head, it’s still 2004, and 2020 feels a long way into the future. Having kids doesn’t magically make life go even faster. I don’t feel like every single day is slipping right between my fingers. The idea of missing the days of having tiny kids before they’re even gone is also ridiculous. I love having a little one and have done my best to embrace this stage. But I will also embrace not being in this stage. I love thinking about taking elementary school age kids to museums and on vacation and having middle and high school age kids busy with friends and activities and looking forward to college age kids coming home on weekends.

I’m still surprised at how different my perspective is on parenting in my mid-30s than it would have been in my mid-20s.

I talked about this concept a bit in my new baby FAQ post, which I wrote when Tommy was about two months old. It remains true nearly a year later. At 24, I would have been a read all the parenting books, use parenting apps, watch the baby monitor religiously, and create a set schedule type of parent. I am not that way at all now, and I still find that surprising. It seems to be a combination of much more life experience, the confidence that comes with being in your 30s, and having watched so many friends become parents before me.

I am also still surprised at how much I’ve wanted baby #2 this entire year, right from when we left the hospital with Tommy.

Now that Tommy’s a year old, I feel less crazy talking openly about wanting another child, especially with going back into the adoption waiting pool. But the truth is that I’ve wanted another kid this entire year.  We spent so long trying to have one kid that I couldn’t open my heart up to thinking about more than one kid. I had no idea what it would be like to make that transition. I left the hospital thinking about baby #2 and haven’t stopped since. Months before I started officially working on nursery #2, I started buying items for the room.

One of the biggest surprises about adoption has been being part of such an amazing group of adoptive moms.

Hands down, one of the best parts about adoption has been meeting so many awesome adoptive mamas. When Tommy was just a couple of months old, I met another adoptive mom in my area through a friend of a friend. She introduced me to a couple of great Facebook groups and personally connected me with a couple of other adoptive moms who live near me. I’ve also met some amazing adoptive mamas through our adoption agency. I spend time with all of these women and their kiddos regularly. It’s great to have people who “get” it and whom I can talk with about anything and everything adoption related. It’s great for Tommy to be getting to know other adopted kids already.

I also never imagined that having a relationship with a birth family would be so amazing.

Arguably even more surprising, one of the best parts about Tommy’s adoption has been having such a great relationship with Tommy’s birth mom and her family. Everything happened so quickly that none of us really thought about exactly how we’d keep in touch or what getting together would look like. But it’s worked out great, and I always look forward to spending time with them. We’ve spent more time with them than some of our close family members.

My best advice for new moms.

Take care of yourself.

Take a shower every day, even if it’s at 10 at night. Don’t skip meals. Make an effort to grab cereal, a peanut butter sandwich, or a bowl of Ramen (Jessica’s sesame Ramen will change your life). Stay hydated. Get dressed, even when you aren’t leaving the house. Make yourself a priority, allowing time to relax, stay healthy, and look your best. Make your relationship with your spouse a priority as well. Even when you don’t have a lot of time alone together away from your kids, make the most of your time at home.

Give yourself a lot of grace.

When I say give yourself a lot of grace, I mean A LOT of grace. I am my own worst critic and fall into the classic women cliche of wanting to do it all. There will be weeks that your family is sick, your house is a mess, and you haven’t done a single load of laundry. This doesn’t mean that you’re a bad parent or that the world is going to end.

Maintain at least one hobby.

A hobby doesn’t have to be anything especially ambitious, complicated, or time-consuming. Taking even 15-20 minutes per day to read a good book, try a new recipe, or work on a DIY project will help you maintain a sense of self and keep your sanity amidst endless diaper changes, feedings, and loads of laundry.

Don’t play the comparison game on social media.

I know that staying off social media altogether isn’t realistic. But please find ways to limit your time and exposure. You don’t want to get caught up in comparing yourself and other kids to your friends and family, much less the impossible social media standard.

Find your people.

I’ve talked before about finding “your people” or people who “get” it. This concept has been so important for me for years as a medical spouse. Having a network of fellow medical spouses during residency was a game changer for me. Having a network of moms has also been so important for me. We didn’t move very far for Jake’s job. However, we basically started over after residency because so many of our friends moved. I’ve had to work hard to build new friendships, but it’s definitely been worth it.

For me, the most important mom friends I can have right now are Christian mom friends and adoptive mom friends. I’ve been very fortunate that a number of my friends fit both those categories. I still know a lot of amazing medical spouses, but most of them don’t live very close to me. I’d like to a close network of medical spouses again, although it’s not as high of a priority right now.

Make an effort to get together with these people on a regular basis, both with and without your kids. Don’t be afraid to call or text them when you need someone who “gets” it immedately.

Get away from your kids at least once a week.

Spending time away from your kids helps you recharge, coming back energized to be a better mom. It also helps your kids get comfortable spending time with other adults. When it isn’t possible to go on a date night or get out with friends, make time to run errands alone or do something for yourself. Take a walk, get a haircut, or unwind at Starbucks.

Be real.

We live in an age of constant unrealistic expectations about parenthood on social media and Pinterest. It’s easy to be afraid to be real. People will judge your messy home because they only see perfect, catalog-worthy homes online. They’ll laugh at you because your kids chose funny outfits for church. They’ll think less of you because you have no makeup, a topknot, and old yoga pants in a candid family photo or video. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Keep it real. The more moms see other moms keeping it real, the more they’ll realize what the norm is and be okay with sharing that norm with others.

If you read all 3,000+ words (or even half of them), thank you. Here’s to year #2 of parenthood!

2 thoughts on “First Year of Parenthood – My Commentary”

  1. I also don’t like to complain because I know how fortunate we are to have a healthy little girl. My mom’s an OB, so I grew up hearing about all the things that can go wrong and I know too many people who’ve had trouble with infertility, miscarriage, and even infant loss to even think about complaining about on social media. That having been said…life with a baby certainly can be a challenge! There’s just no way I can guarantee a shower each day or time away from home each week like you suggest. I’m so thankful that breastfeeding has always gone well for us, but we waited 3-4 weeks, as advised by our pediatrician and lactation consultant, to introduce a bottle/pacifier. As a result, my girl has never accepted either. That really limits the amount of time I can be away from her! Working out in my mom’s garage (usually with Baby playing in there, too) is the closest I get to alone time.

    I’m so sorry that you’ve encountered some attitude about the ‘ease’ of your adoption. That’s very unfortunate. Hopefully things go unexpectedly well the second time, too.

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