Celebrating your baby’s first birthday is a major milestone. No, your baby won’t remember what you did or how you celebrated. You don’t need to throw a big party or shower your little one with presents. But you should celebrate…and you should do it for you.
Today, our second baby turns one. I am admittedly a bit mindblown it has officially been 365 days since I became a parent of two. In some ways, it’s hard to believe it’s only been 12 months since he joined our family. In other ways, the past year feels like a total blur.
Poring over photos, videos, and notes, I’ve been processing the ways our family has evolved and how I have grown. Without question, I can confidently say this past year (and second birth) has been a radically different experience than my first. As a second-time mom (and perinatal professional), I have advantages now that I didn’t have the first time around.
I know a whole heck of a lot more about the physiology of childbirth, infant development, the science of sleep, and supporting new families. I hold a whole set of certifications related to babies and supporting families through this transition. As a doula and coach, I am now equipped with tools and skills that I never even knew existed before I became a mom.
Throughout this year, I have regularly asked myself why exactly it feels so different this time around. What I keep coming back to is this certainty that it’s not because of the certifications I carry or the things I’ve learned professionally. (Though I would be lying if I said those things didn’t help). The true difference-maker is something far more universal.
Before our first son arrived, I grappled with some big questions and struggled to embrace the unknown ways my life was about to change. How would my identity evolve? How would my new role as a mother impact my life and career goals? Was I even cut out for any of this? Would I be any good at parenting? If you’ve been part of our community for a minute, you may know I’m very open about my experience with the isolating lows of prenatal depression.
What I have struggled to share publicly, however, is the new lows I hit after my first son was born. If I remember correctly, he was about 9 months old when I hit rock bottom with postpartum depression. One day, I may feel ready to share that story. Today is not that day, but it’s still an important part of my journey. With the help of my family, an incredible therapist, an awesome coach, and a load of grit, I made it to the other side. But not without emotional scars.
When my husband and I would talk about expanding our family with a second child, I was admittedly hesitant. I proved to myself I could be a great mother. I had learned so much through my experiences, my studies, and my work with other growing families. And still, I was afraid of the darkness I had previously suffered during my first pregnancy and again as a new mom.
As I look back on the last year, I am filled with gratitude. There are countless reasons why this experience should have felt more stressful, why it should have been harder, and why it all could have brought me right back to my knees. And yet, becoming a mom of two has been more gratifying, fulfilling, and healing than I ever could have imagined. And for me, it’s largely due to a shift in perspective.
As a new mom, everything about the journey into parenthood was unknown. As someone whole-heartedly invested in career fulfillment and success, not knowing what was next was deeply difficult for me. My husband and I both regularly worked overtime. We spent our weekends sleeping in late and going to local wineries. Neither of us had much experience with babies or toddlers. We haven’t lived close to family in over a decade, and we have a sensitive dog with a bite history. I regularly wondered what the hell we were doing before and after our son was born.
As a new parent, I found comfort in being able to finally have answers to some of the biggest unknowns. I no longer had to wonder what it would look and feel like to be a parent. What I wasn’t prepared for, however, was the all-consuming nature of early parenthood. As an introvert, I isolated myself from the outside world. I struggled to ask for help or say yes when it was offered. I didn’t do well with the lack of sleep. My self-care strategy was non-existent, and I realized just how bad I was at setting boundaries.
I became obsessive about getting it “right” with no real idea what that even meant. The more I learned, the more the information all felt so conflicting. My growing fears, doubts, guilt, and resentment were overwhelming at times. I was giving my all to my new role as a parent, navigating this marathon like it was a sprint. Would it ever get better? Would it always be like this? Is it just me? Why does this all feel so hard? What am I doing wrong?! The hardest moments seemed everlasting until, little by little, I started to see the light.
As a seasoned mom, I had already lived the impossible way time passes as a parent, the bizarre time continuum that causes the nights to feel endless while the weeks and months fly by, picking up speed as they pass. This time, I had the internalized assurance that we had faced hard moments in the past and, without question, would get to the other side of them because we had done it before. I knew that, even in the hardest seasons, there were moments I would miss. This knowledge made it so much easier to focus on the pieces of the newborn phase I enjoy and more easily tolerate the rest.
I let go of more guilt this time around by knowing and believing that I was doing my best. I trusted my intuition, leaned more on my people, and recognized the warning signs when the darkness threatened to creep in. This time, I knew better that I really couldn’t do it all on my own, and I really didn’t need to. I asked for support, accepted helping hands as often as I could, and I put less pressure on myself to get anything done, especially in those first 12 weeks. Our number one priority during the fourth trimester was rest.
When I felt the desire to isolate, I did so in less consuming ways. When the fog of the newborn phase started lifting and I felt myself needing different things, I eased back into work, grateful I had this space to come back to. During my transition back to work, I have given myself ample time to adjust to our new family dynamics, the revolving changes in our routines, and the strain of carrying a larger invisible load. Through it all, I’ve given myself a lot of grace. The load I’ve been juggling has felt impossible at times, especially in recent months, but I undoubtedly know I am a better mom because, this time, I have chosen myself, too.
It certainly hasn’t been an easy year. I still experienced a wild rollercoaster ride of emotions, the bone-depth exhaustion of infancy. Asking for help, setting boundaries, and getting comfortable with unknowns is life-long work for me. I have cried at times, snapped when my cup was empty, and yelled in moments of mom rage. I haven’t always gotten it right as a parent or partner, that’s for sure. But I know, in my heart of hearts, I don’t need to be perfect. I have been “good enough.”
Over the past few months as this milestone drew nearer, I felt some amount of (mostly self-imposed) pressure to celebrate this first birthday the same way we did with our firstborn: a large party surrounded by family and friends in our home state of Colorado. When I look back though, my favorite part of his first birthday was the quiet moments we spent as a family, just the three of us, capturing this major milestone with a lowkey, cake-smash photoshoot.
So, that’s exactly how we celebrated this second first birthday. Our favorite local family photographer, Hilary, snapped pictures while your youngest picked strawberries off of his very first birthday cake. God willing, there will be plenty of birthdays in the future–one’s he will actually remember–that will be all about him. This first one, however, is a major milestone for all of us, and for me, it felt special to celebrate it as such.
It was far from a perfect day. Our older son has been fighting a stomach bug, the rain was coming and going all day, and there was the very real possibility I would need to leave at any moment to support a client’s birth. And yet, I was ever optimistic it would all work out. Sure enough, as the sun began to set, we enjoyed our intimate celebration atop a nearby mountain.
Sometimes, I look at my older kiddo, and I feel sad that he didn’t get this version of me in those early months. In those moments, I try to remind myself that what did get was the best of that version of me as well as his very own set of unique and special moments. After all, he got my undivided attention in a way his younger brother never will.
Even with all of its ups and downs, that very first year was special, too. I wish I could go back in time just for a moment to sit with that terrified version of me who just learned she was pregnant for the very first time. I would try my best to impart some of my wisdom from this other side. Do not sweat the small stuff, take it one day at a time, and just hold on until it gets better.
I’d tell my younger self to trust the journey and my ability to learn what I needed along the way. More than anything, I’d challenge that past self to sit with those biggest fears, allow space for them, and embrace the unknowns. I’d remind myself that I am capable, I am adaptable, and above all, I do not need to figure out any of it on my own.
Of course, I can’t go back in time (as much as I wish I could), but I can keep moving forward. I can keep learning, growing, sharing, and supporting other growing families along the way. In some ways, I’m almost grateful for my struggle. Without it, I’m certain I wouldn’t be the coach I am today.
If you’d like support during your own journey into parenthood, we’d love to be a part of your story. Click here to talk to a coach or send us an email at email@example.com. We offer 1:1 coaching as well as a new group coaching experience launching this spring! Reach out to us to learn more.
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Richelle’s passion is supporting growing families through the unpredictable and transformative journey of pregnancy and the first years of parenthood. In 2019, she set out with a vision to create a modern-day parenting village: From Pregnant to Parent. In addition to being our founder, she is a certified doula, childbirth and lactation educator, sleep coach, and RETAIN parental leave coach. When she isn’t working, she enjoys spending time with her husband and two kiddos around their home in Marin County (San Francisco Bay Area).
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