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1 Year of Motherhood: My Journey

This past year has been life-changing, to put it lightly.

Going into motherhood, you know it’s going to change your life — but you don’t know how. You hear other women’s stories, and you know yours will probably be similar in many ways, but every woman’s journey is unique. Every woman is unique! Every child she has is also unique, so that child’s needs & gifts & challenges will differ in special ways from the next kid’s.

Even if you’re a mother of 8, each child teaches you new things. You can’t discipline them all the same. Different things motivate, frustrate or anger them — and this is all by God’s design!

Our old pastor used to say parents don’t raise their kids, kids raise their parents 🙂 I think there’s truth in that.

After crossing over the threshold of one year of parenting {which may seem so small in your eyes!}, I feel I’ve learned so much. I wanted to share how it’s changed my perspective, my heart, my day-to-day, my goals & thoughts, even my dreams.

Here are some reflections on our 1st year as new parents, what we’ve learned, some challenges, and overall the whirlwind that is bringing new life into this world!

Baby Love: Your Heart May Burst!

Prepping for a baby includes everything imaginable — prenatal vitamins, loads of doctor visits & tests, sonograms, medical advice, “must have” lists, nursery furniture, baby registries & showers, labor & delivery, birth classes — but one thing I felt unprepared for was how our little girl would change my heart. 

The practical aspects of adding a person to your family can completely overshadow the very real changes that take place to your family dynamics, to you & your husband’s relationship, within your community, & within your own heart & soul! It’s amazing. Of course your body stretches & expands to accommodate this new little guy or gal — but did you know your HEART also changes shape? It seems to expand on its own, too, to make room for more love to overflow out of it than you thought possible.

Abigail is our sweet 1-year-old, and she is such a JOY {her name means “Bringer of joy” or “The father’s delight”!}. The Lord gave us her name the week before we even knew we were pregnant (!) & most certainly before we knew she was a girl. He had every detail planned out perfectly. I am sooo thankful for how all the pieces fell together for Abigail’s entrance into the world.

Why does no one tell you how, at times, when you’re nursing your baby or watching her discover clapping or water or “cold” for the 1st time how your heart will almost burst with joy?! I was so ready practically. I was so not ready emotionally!

A Real Living Person

This may sound ridiculous, but in alllll the parenting articles, books, classes & advice thrown around, no one discussed that we were dealing with a real live HUMAN BEING. There were 1,000 tips & tricks for shushing your baby to sleep & schedules & when to feed them what, but one day when you’re busy caring for this little person, it pops in your mind that SHE IS ALIVE. She is a little person, not a mechanical doll I can maneuver in just the perfect way to make her do what I want. LOL! Babies are so unique, each & every one, thus things don’t always “go according to plan” with them. This is a good thing 🙂

I’ve just been astounded that many parenting circles talk of babies as if we’re adding a new couch to our home, a set of drapes, or something else without emotions & thoughts of their own.

Babies are REAL. They require special care because they have emotions that can be wounded, bodies that are breathing & feeling, & minds that are growing. They need tending to — not just their dirty hineys or their runny noses or their alligator tears. They’re human. They feel & think (baby thoughts, I’m sure, but you never know ;)).

They’re experiencing this world for the first time EVER, so yes, it’s a bit jarring. Yes, they cry frequently at times. They don’t know what they’re doing, and they need attention for a lot more reasons than just another round of nursing or a new onesie.

They need us — not just our hands to clean them but our arms to hold them, our voices to whisper & sing to them & soothe their discomfort, hurts & anxieties. They are human, JUST LIKE US. Hah! So simple, but in the often formulaic approach to parenting I’ve come across, this seems overlooked.

As silly as it sounds, I wasn’t prepared for this aspect of parenting — that this little person needed ME — my heart, my focused attention, my calming voice of reassurance, my flexibility & patience, my willingness to experiment til I learned her likes & dislikes & unique makeup — more than she needed me to follow some sort of schedule or protocol. She needed me to be fully present & adapt to meet her needs.

This, my friends, takes time.

Love Grows Slowly

Speaking of time & patience… one amazing thing I’ve learned is that with each sacrifice, sleepless night, diaper change, & hour spent chasing a tiny human around the house… I’ve grown to love her more. Sacrifice — not ease — has made my heart grow fonder.

Surprising, huh?

Maybe that’s why God intended motherhood to be challenging (other reasons, too, I’m sure!) — because He knew that the more we laid down our lives for these littles, the more our hearts grew for them. And the more we learned how to truly love… not in comfort, but in difficulty.

This strong feeling of “love” didn’t hit me immediately. Some women talk about “Love at first sight” with their babies, but I was still in major shock from what I’d just experienced (a pretty tough childbirth)… & this little person in my arms was precious & adorable & all ours… but she was still a stranger to me!

I loved her then, but with each passing day I’ve gotten to spend with her, watching her personality unfold & getting to know her (which will continue every day as she grows up!), I’ve experienced a MUCH richer & deeper love for her.

Love didn’t happen by looking at her. It happened by being with her, slowly, like a rose blooming in my windowsill over time. True love takes time & sacrifice — both which can be tough lessons for this new mama 🙂

Make Marriage a Priority

One thing I’ve learned for sure is that marriage must be intentional with little ones. Yes, we’ve all heard it, but when you LIVE it with little people’s needs constantly at the forefront of your minds, it becomes REAL. Daddy & Mommy must walk away from the crazy & talk about things other than the kids (though she’s our favorite topic!).

To be honest, I’m totally learning the art of this. I’m NOT good at this one yet. I’m praying to be a better wife, as I learn to balance my new role as Mommy with the man who made me one. It doesn’t come naturally, but that’s okay — God will give me grace every day to be both roles simultaneously.

One day that may mean I focus more on one than the other — with our babies winning out at times — but my goal is to never lose my grip on our love. To never become that couple that lets their flame die & lives like business partners, talking budgets & bills & deadlines & errands & who’s got the kids & grocery visits & dishes.

No, no, no. Though our lives may have changed with a little one, they’re richer & better. More complex & busy, and certainly more sleep deprived :), but God can bring romance right into our mundane & ordinary days. We can take moments to stop & look each other in the eye — really see each other & really talk — every day.

In fact, the other night we decided to SIT DOWN & have dinner at the table at the same time, without my laptop or TV or cell phones or work or any other distractions. We want to make it our new tradition! As simple as that sounds, this one small change means we intentionally have to stop daily to enjoy each other’s company, good food, & conversation. It’s more relaxed than at a restaurant for sure, when keeping Abigail quiet & happy is our #1 goal. Daily sit-down dinners are a tradition my family modeled for me, and one I want Abigail to grow up with. She deserves two parents in love, engaged, & slowed down. We deserve it, too.

Putting my husband’s needs as a top goal is a surprising challenge I wasn’t expecting in motherhood, but one I’m trying to tackle. {Thanks for your patience with me, Hubby :)}.

Capture Memories {& LIVE Them, too!}

One of the hardest challenges I’ve experienced as a new Mama is this [which may sound lame]: I’ve had this fear, since she was born, that I’m missing special moments! That I’m not capturing her young life adequately — in words & pictures — before it passes, & it’s had me very anxious!

I had no idea I’d be so concerned with holding onto each sweet memory this much. Her first week of life, I found myself crying several nights in a row {thanks, postpartum hormones!} because she was changing already & I wasn’t capturing it!! I was missing it somehow, I thought. She would change & never be the same, and I could never get those moments back.

From monthly styled photo shoots (which Abigail & I have both gotten better at :)!), to 6,000+ iPhone photos (& more deleted), to a beautiful & fun 1st birthday party, her baby memory journal, recording videos of her personality & sweet moments, writing down all her “1sts” (& Instagramming them later that night!) — I’ll admit I’ve allowed STRESS & fear to motivate me at times.

Many times I’ve found myself on the other side of my iPhone (or camera), wondering if I’m really taking in this beautiful moment with our daughter & my husband & our family & friends. Am I fully present, or am I just trying to capture it for the future? Because the most precious moments in life are when we lived it then & relived them later… through our photo albums & journals.

I’m working on this one, too. Putting the camera down, relishing special little moments, enjoying each nursing session instead of scrolling through my phone, neglecting emails & texts to be with her & my hubby & family.

It’s hard, but true: Life passes quickly. Abigail has taught me this so well because every day she’s growing, learning, & changing. It happens SO fast it’s shocking! We’ve already passed 1 year since she was born!! How can that be?! I can just imagine how quickly the next 17 years will go. I want to be “here” for all of them, so when I get “there”, I have 0 regrets.

I went to a funeral Saturday & was struck by one thing that was said about this awesome man: That his was a life well-lived, that he’d made the most of it and fully enjoyed his years & could now rest in peace.

It made me wonder: Am I living life well? When I recount my history to our children & (Lord-willing) grandbabies, will I be a testimony of a faithful, adventurous life or one shrunk back in fear, doubt, & half-hearted existing?

I want it to be said of me — she fully lived for God, her family, & His purposes. I want Abigail to see that example so she, too, can fully embrace each day & bring her best for everyone around her, leaving nothing on the table ♥

Go Outdoors!

I don’t WANT to live the fast-paced American life that never pauses for a break, nary enjoys a Sabbath, forgets to step outside & breathe in the air, or is so focused on efficiency that we neglect the people around us (including our family).

I want my kids to get bored sometimes — us too! I want them to learn how to explore the world around them for entertainment, how to be ingenuitive, how to make lemonade out of lemons. I did as a kid — we grew up first near the woods, then near the water, and both offered plenty of ways to explore & enjoy God’s creation.

I have very few memories playing Atari, watching TV, or staring at screens… and I’m so glad. I want Abigail to share my love for the outdoors, cultivated in early childhood. {I must remember this when life & work beckons me indoors 24/7!}

Community is Essential

One major blessing throughout every phase of our pregnancy & birth & 1st year with our daughter is the community God’s placed in our lives. I have no words that adequately express my gratitude in this area.

It was the prayers, advice, & resources of our community that helped me get pregnant!! That told me about this awesome fertility doctor in Austin. That helped me change my diet & lifestyle & take the best supplements & pray beautiful prayers of faith & dedication to God while TTC.

It was our community that REJOICED with us as we announced our pregnancy, then her gender, then every step of the journey to parenthood. Our community was surrounding us (quite literally) as our little Abigail entered the world! Our community videoed & photographed when I was too numb to hardly move. Our community loved on her & welcomed her into the world & held her many mornings when I was too tired to get out of bed.

Our community ADORED her & gave her all the kisses & love in the world, welcoming her beautiful soul into our old church!! So many of our old friends & pastors gave her a “Jesus welcome” to earth. I will be forever grateful for such moments ♥♥

And it was our loving family & friends & fellow church members & coworkers — our community — that threw several baby showers for us, that outfitted our daughter her 1st year {& beyond!}, that bought & gave & donated tons of items (including nursery furniture, a car seat, toys, & all kinds of baby gear like a walker & bath tubs & a breast pump, etc.) to get us through each phase of that first year.

They were there when we got sick & could hardly care for our baby girl. They loved her when we couldn’t eat or stand. They babysat her when we went out to celebrate our first anniversary, or when Mama wanted to get back on her road bike after a year+ long hiatus.

Our community attended our baby girl’s 1st birthday party & celebrated as if she was their own child because, in a way, she is. She is a member of our community, & a sweet one at that 🙂 They even reenacted her first night at home with us, 1 year later.

What absolutely precious memories!

Without our community by our side, we would’ve had much harder days (& nights), felt less tangible joy, spent thousands more dollars, & been infinitely more clueless about raising a child :). I can’t imagine where we would be without their INCREDIBLE advice on caring for our daughter with tried-&-true parenting experience. What a Godsend! What a necessity! I would never have wanted to walk this journey alone. They have blessed us & our baby girl more than words can express!

God Gives Each Mama Grace for the Road She Walks…

I know many who don’t feel they have a village lifting them up on this parenting journey, which is a lie from the enemy! I pray God opens your eyes to those He’s provided to be your people, even if your family is far away or doesn’t make you feel understood.

I pray you never feel alone, & that the Lord shows you the abundant grace He makes available to each of us every single day.

I had no idea being a mother would be so intense, so FUN & joyful, so taxing, so selfless, & so incredible. I know I’m only 1 year in with ONE baby, too! The reality is that many women do this with much less support than I’ve had, with more kids, & without a husband working from home. I can’t imagine! Yet God knew what I needed, and He knows what YOU need, too, Mama!!

How do such ladies get through the day? The same way we have lived through many other challenges: By the grace of God. And He’s shown me BIG time that it’s by His grace that I’m equipped to do this, too.

He’s faithfully & kindly provided the right people, resources, & everything in between every day, and especially in moments when I just felt I couldn’t do it anymore. He’s given me energy when I’ve needed it {coffee, too :)}, a sweet 10 or 20 minute nap when I could barely function, & tons of answered prayers & wisdom & advice for how to help my baby when I was at my wit’s (or knowledge’s) end.

So don’t try to do this alone. Even superheroes face challenges & need help, right? 🙂 As cheesy as it sounds, we already have a SuperHero who’s carried the weight of this world on His shoulders — & He’s readily available to us with encouragement, guidance, & LIMITLESS resources to power us through the good, bad & really tough days.

I hope my journey has been a source of encouragement & joy to you in some way! Yes, I’m a young mom with much to learn, but it’s neat that I’m growing every passing day, too. I love to record this journey for our family & for you — to show what it looks like when God makes a mommy out of an ordinary girl 🙂

What have you learned as a new parent? I’d love to hear your thoughts, experiences & wisdom! ♥♥

*Photo taken by my talented sister Aubi Martinez!

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