Lessons I Have Learned In My First Year Of Motherhood

I tried as much as possible to prepare for our little peanut. I read books, took classes and asked hundreds of questions to other moms. I was as prepared as I possibly could have been. Even so, there is still so much I have learned over the last year. It has been very therapeutic to keep a record and reflect on what this past year has brought.
I certainly have not done everything right but P and I have both made it out alive. I want to thank my friends, family, the online community, my amazing husband Rob and my precious baby boy Parker. I want to thank you for allowing me to learn from my mistakes, celebrate in my successes and stand by me as I started the journey of a new me, the journey of motherhood. It has by far been the best job I have ever had and I am so happy I get to spend the rest of my learning how to be a mother.

A cute mobile is great, but all that will matter is if it goes around and around. I spent hours on a mobile and realized that while it looked great, the idea of a mobile was to give babes something to look at.

That stylish chair may look great in the nursery but at 3:00 am, all you will care about is comfort. Our first chair looked so good in his room but is was next to impossible to nurse in, especially being new at it, and so uncomfortable. My amazing parents got me a La-Z-Boy which I pretty much slept in during my c-section recovery and in between feedings for the first few months. To this day, 14 months later, it is still in the nursery and what we use for story time, rough nights, and it is one of Parker’s favorite things to play with.

You may not want to know it’s 3am but it will help to have a clock to look at.

One of the best gifts my husband has ever bought me was a small TV and Roku for the nursery. My birthday is 4 days after Parker’s and he came home with it the day after we came home from the hospital. It helped pass the time during long and late nursing sessions or when I was in nap jail. Join Netflix and save a TV series or two to start out with.

Have at least 4 sets of sheets and 2 mattress pads (ideally water proof). I wouldn’t wish a night on any parent where they are all needed, but it is bound to happen.

You wouldn’t think it but crib bumpers are a hot topic. Here are just a few articles 1 2 3 4 5. I was convinced not to get one and then at 6 months, when we transitioned P to the crib, he was rolling into the bars and getting arms and legs stuck. It’s important to do your research and make an educated decision about what you want to do.

Spend an hour or two walking around your house in complete silence. You’ll be amazed how many creaky spots you have. Trust me, you’ll notice them at 2 am when you just got babes back to sleep and try to sneak out of the room.

Go to the movies and on as many date nights as you can. They won’t be impossible to have after babes arrives, but it will be harder. This is something so many parents told me and I never made it a priority, now I wish I had. Similar to the advice, “make sure you eat at your wedding”.

Pay any bills and schedule the ones you can ahead of time. Take out cash (including lot’s of $1) and keep in your hospital bag. Schedule a pet sitter and make sure they have a key to the house. These are things you will not want to worry about during labor or your hospital stay.

Find a group of women who are also pregnant and preferably due the same time to you online or locally. I am a part of a FB group of women who were all due the same month as me. It was a great place to ask questions throughout my pregnancy and even still more than a year later. I also started a group on meetup.com for new local moms who were due with their first baby the same year. I have found such an amazing group of women and support system while Rob is deployed. We have playdates and even started a babysitting share to help with errands and date nights.

Buy thank you cards, return labels and stamps to assemble ahead of time. Something you can do to keep your mind off labor in the hospital. It will make life a lot easier after babes is here and you are trying to get thank you notes out to people. It also helps to take photos of everything you get. I used my cell phone camera and saved everything in a folder on the computer naming the picture by who gave it to me. It made is easy to remember who gave me what, especially if they asked for a picture of P in their gift.

If you need a detailed hospital plan, make one. You may not use it, but if it helps you mentally prepare, that is all the matters. Additionally, pack what you think you need, even if everyone says you have over packed. It’s about what makes you prepared and comfortable, everyone else can suck it!

At the end of the day, all that matters is that you and baby leave the hospital happy and healthy. Your medication free, vaginal birth may not happen. That doesn’t mean you are any less of a mother. On the contrary, it means you have already started making tough decisions for the safety of yourself and your family.

If there is a nursery, utilize it. Everyone gave me the same advice which I let go in one ear and out the other. On the second night, I let them take P for a little while so I could get a few hours solid sleep. It did wonders and helped my recovery drastically.

I won’t tell you to do this because it was such a hot topic, but I will tell you how it helped me. We asked ahead of time if the hospital carried formula in case it was needed. They did, so we didn’t need to bring some. You just never know how things will go and you certainly don’t want your significant other leaving to find a 24 hour store to pick some up. It doesn’t mean you will fail, it just means you are prepared. I had intended to EBF but had a lot of issues in the hospital and quite frankly, starving my child wasn’t an option.

No matter how prepared you are, someone will need to make a run out for things you realize you need. Keep paper and pens around or start a list in the notes app on your phone.

Babies will start to defy you early on. It maybe as small as escaping a swaddle, but it’s there!

It’s helpful to rotate the direction you change baby on the changing table and even where you change them. Diaper changes become motions of muscle memory very quickly and it will make emergency diaper changes easier in the back of the car or even in someone else’s arms (true story).

Rotate the direction you lay little one down in the crib, pack n’ play and bassinet. Babies tend to look towards the doorway, where their mother enters, and this will change things up so they lay on both sides of their head.

Eat lots of healthy foods, get rest when you can, take it as easy as you can and snuggle as much as you can.

There are lots of articles out there on how to prepare your furbabies for the new addition to your family. The most common tip was for someone to bring a blanket home with the babies scent before the baby comes home. It gives them a chance to start learning their smell and the baby won’t seem to foreign. Make sure to keep babes off the ground, especially early on. You just never know how they will react.

Having someone at home other than the new parents is very important. It’s just as important to have someone the mom feels comfortable with. The first few days and even weeks can be vulnerable for a mom during recovery and learning how to nurse. A trusted family member or friend to help with cooking, dishes, laundry and taking care of the baby is important.

Use technology to your advantage. There are tons of smart phone apps to help you track sleeping, feeding and diaper changes. This is really important because you won’t remember much and it’s a good way to see if something is off. We used the Baby Timer app which tracked P’s diaper changes, feedings, sleep, medication, milestones, doctor visits, height/weight, vaccines and even spitting up. This was really important since we had issues with weight for the first few months.

You won’t want to but get out a few times, especially if there are people around to help. The sooner you start going out, the quicker you will figure out how to do it. I have always said running errands with an infant (and now toddler) is a skill. Learning what you will need, how to pack and how to maneuver takes practice. Don’t let it intimidate you!

You will want to get one size up if you are cloth diapering. Rompers you may need two sizes up.

Footed long sleeve onesies with zippers are the way to go early on.

Overalls are so deceiving and look larger than they really are.

Gerber runs small so you will need one to two sizes bigger than other brands.

A size doesn’t matter if your kid has a big head and the hole won’t fit around it.

Keep a NB size in their closet. It’s fun to reminisce and helps the blow at their first birthday.

You will soon realize most kids are eating shirtless in their highchairs for a reason. I could never understand why so many parents did it. Now I know it’s to save as many pieces of clothing from stains as possible.

Consignment sales are a gold mine. Almost new clothing, toys and gently used baby gear for only dollars. This is a great website to find local sales. You can volunteer and shop early. Many sales also offer an early time/day for new moms and teachers. You can consign old clothing and toys and get a % to use towards what you need. Here is a post I did on tips for shopping consignment sales if you are interested.

Things People Will Say That Will Drive You Nuts…
… “Sleep when the baby sleeps”
… “It goes by fast, enjoy every minute”
… “Oh, you do that…?”

Babies have these invisible clocks and always know…
… when you have just sat down to eat dinner and will also be hungry
… are less than 5 minutes away from home and will fall asleep

If you are missing a pacifier(s) from the crib, pull the crib out from the wall. They are most likely caught between the crib bumper and the wall. It’s like finding the jackpot sometimes 🙂

Pediatricians are there more for parents than kids. If you are worried, call. If they give you a choice to go in, go in. Most of the time, babes is fine but if the trip makes you feel better it is necessary. When parents are uptight, babies can usually sense it and can throw them off as well.

Turn toys off when they are not being used. It can be a pain in the butt but nothing more creepy then hearing a “tik tik” at 2 am in a quite house! Soooo freaky. Also, toy emergency vehicles can really freak you out in the middle of a drive

Keep a calendar by the changing table. That way you can write milestones or important facts each night. It’s so helpful with looking back to do a scrapbook etc…

It’s amazing how one smile can get you excited about getting up each day!

Your intellectual dinner table conversations about work will turn into conversations about poop. No joke. I am talking, frequency, consistency, color and smell.

Most days you won’t even be able to identify all of the mystery stains on your pants.

Take the sleeves off all their books. They are great “toys” and oh so much fun to rip. When friends and family give books, if they haven’t already, write who it was from inside.

Don’t wish away any stage because it only happens once.

You will soon become a pro at looking at a pile of bars, hooks and fabric and assembling it into something without even thinking.

Do your research on circumcision, vaccines, household cleaners, child safety, etc… Make a collective decision what you want to do. Welcome thoughts from family and friends but in the end, make a decision that fits your family. Other’s, even your parents, may not agree. Welcome to the wonderful world of parenting.

Nothing melts my heart more than seeing Parker with his Daddy. I try and capture every moment I can since he works long hours and travels a lot. Pictures are so important and with today’s technology, really easy to do. I installed an app call Project 365 and used it to record a picture everyday in Parker’s first year (I am still doing it now) and at his birthday, displayed them.

It’s also fun to get a chalkboard to document monthly milestones and memories.

Habits are only bad if you want them to be. So many times I hear, “if you don’t change that it will become a bad habit.” Rocking my baby to sleep might be time consuming, but when P is 17 years old and independent, I will cherish those quite private moments and won’t remember what I had to do “instead”.

Make sure to educate yourself about your car seat and the law. Specifically, how long are they required to rear face. Also educate yourself on the benefits of extended rear facing which is proven to be the safest position for you child in the car. Utilize free inspections in your area to make sure it is installed properly. Many parents don’t realize that it is not okay to put a carrier on the front part of a shopping cart (even if it locks in) and is extremely dangerous. Here are a few articles explaining why, 1 2.

Some days you will be like, “yeah we are rocking this parenting thing.” Others you will find yourself saying, “WTF?” Enjoy the good days and remind yourself during the bad a good day is right around the corner.

They do not give you a manual in the hospital before you go home for a reason. Trust in yourself, you will know what you are doing and when you don’t, you will figure it out.

Motherhood is an unbelievable adventure full of laughs, tears, questioning and joy. It has been the best job and the most rewarding responsibility I have ever had. I wake up every day for my son and aim to be a better person and mother for him.

I am curious what some of the things you learned about motherhood, in your first year or beyond, that stick out in your mind?


  1. doublethelaundry.com September 7, 2013 at 6:42 am

    That you will not sleep, but you WILL survive.

    1. Mary Meyer September 7, 2013 at 9:53 pm

      Oh that is a good one and very true.

  2. Guinevere September 7, 2013 at 4:50 pm

    I so agree with you that “bad habits” are only bad habits if it’s something that isn’t working for your family!

    1. Mary Meyer September 7, 2013 at 9:55 pm

      Guinevere, this has been a really important for me over the last year. Everyone is so quick to show “concern” and while their intentions maybe their, I choose to parent a way someone else may not.

  3. peg5 September 10, 2013 at 3:06 am

    i love this post…i am forwarding it to my daughter who will be a first-time mom in november. lots of good advice.

  4. Renee Fischer September 11, 2013 at 12:34 am

    First: i am savign this post, lots of good information here.

    second: my first year as mommy happened to be with a 9yo. thats quite a different challenge. i though i had kids figured out after being a nanny for years and working at a daycare, let me tell you, its totally different as a parent. esp as a step-parent, al lo the work and almost non of the respect or recognition.

  5. Just a Guy September 11, 2013 at 4:36 pm

    Some really great tips that I wouldn’t have thought about at all. We are trying to get pregnant right now and this leads us guys (yup, we worry too) to start doing some reading on things.

  6. Alice Emma Thompson September 12, 2013 at 4:05 pm

    What a brilliant list of tips – so much really practical stuff that gets missed or forgotten. I will be featuring the post at this week’s party, Alice @ Mums Make Lists x

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