Getting through the first 5 months of motherhood

I never imagined myself at home with a sweet babe on my hip. I've always been moving and doing, energized by ideas, projects and deadlines. And when I was pregnant with Emerson, I didn't imagine much changing after she was born. I knew there would be more to juggle and conceptually, I understood more work was headed our way. But when she was born five months ago, Rich and I were blown away by how much our world changed. Our life and relationship with each other intensified and congealed in purpose and meaning. We are completely smitten and enthralled with our sweet baby and love being her parents. But that said, it's been a HARD five months.

Aside from actually having Emerson, my world changed drastically when we decided I was going to take an extended break from the corporate world and explore freelancing, while primarily taking care of E. After the finality of that decision set in, I started having anxiety about the slowness and unpredictability of this new life. Would I fall behind professionally and never catch up? Was I pursing the career I wanted to have? Would I be personally fulfilled? Or would I grow resentful? What would people think? Would I be able to make mom friends? What are mom friends? What do they talk about?

Here are the five things that have been getting me through the past five months:

1. Friends. All of them. Mama, non-mama, older and younger.

I've always valued my friendships, but never realized how extroverted I was until I had a baby. Being at home with no one to talk all day drove me up a wall and left me lethargic and uninspired. After spending time with people I care about, even if it's just an hour for coffee, I'm so energized about life and possibilities. So I've quadrupled my efforts to be more social, make buds and have more community with women. It's been amazing to connect with mamas and immediately relate on a deeply personal level. That said, my friends who don't have children have been equally amazing. There is something so refreshing about laughing about an old workplace or hearing about a friend trying to raise capital for a new side project and never mentioning the word 'sleep training.'

2. Guarding myself against negative thoughts.

It is SO easy for me to fall into the black hole of perfectly stylized motherhood on social media. Any time I've been scrolling through squares on Instagram and had the thought, "Oh, this kind of makes me feel bad about myself or my parenting style." I cut and run. On the flip side, when people inspire me, I've been trying to get out of my shell and write a comment to engage and tell them how much I appreciate their perspective.

3. Being vulnerable.

At first, I wasn't comfortable telling people how much I hated breastfeeding, that my weight was not "melting off", that I didn't feel like I could soothe my baby, that her waking up early from a nap was frustrating and felt like stolen time. But slowly I started confiding in people and was met with head nodding and encouragement instead of the judgment I feared. Not only did I find the support I needed, but my own vulnerability was able to fast-track my relationships into a deeper, more honest place.

4. Making goals, however small.

I've always been pretty goal oriented, so I've found ways to incorporate some discipline into this unpredictable new life. I started really really small in the first few weeks. My goal would be to change out of the clothes I slept in by 4pm. Or make myself a smoothie for lunch. One girl I know got coffee at the same coffee shop every morning for most of her adult life, so on her maternity leave, her daily goal was to get out of the house every day for that cup of joe.

As Emerson becomes more independent, I've tried to photograph one thing a day. Sometimes I'll be able to shoot and style my heart out. Other days, I take three frames while E starts tuning up for a meltdown in her bouncy chair.

In the back of mind, I have large overarching goals I want to achieve, like setting up a thriving enough photography and design freelancing gig that will sustain me when Emerson is off to school. But I try to reassure myself that the small steps will turn into larger leaps in time.

5. Laying out my needs and expectations.

Rich and I have pretty good communication, but we have needed be more clear and direct about our struggles and expectations. After a few months of E taking erratic naps during the day, I got to a breaking point with never having time to work. I would start shooting something perishable like food or botanicals, and E would start crying the MINUTE my camera started to click. So we started getting more creative with our schedules and explored one of us working on a weekend day while the other would be on full-time baby duty.

At the end of the day, I'm still a very new mom and don't have anything really figured out. I'm not posting this to offer advice, but to simply share what's been hard, what's worked, and open a dialogue to hear your stories. Do you have any advice for getting through the first couple months of mamahood?

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