March 12, 2009

My first year of motherhood

Thinking back through Toby's first year of life is both emotional and rewarding. I don't think anything, anything could have prepared me for the wondrous and challenging calling of motherhood. While perusing through a handful of baby pictures of Toby drooling and bursting with chub, I smiled as I reflected on some of the little things I would miss, and not miss, during our first year together. I felt like the best way to describe it would be to do a little bio on Toby:

Every woman dreams of having the perfect baby. The baby that sleeps all the time, doesn't get upset easily, smiles at everyone who holds him, and is easy to tote anywhere. Well, I am proud to say that I did get the perfect baby.... just not in the way I was expecting.

I should have known from the beginning what kind of baby Toby was going to be. Even before he took his first breath I felt a constant stream of kicking and pushing right up until I delivered. Nothing could have foreshadowed my future adventures with Toby better than when one of my co-workers stared in awe at my turbulent tummy and exclaimed "I have never seen somebodies pregnant belly move like that before! Is he always that active?"

The first 4 weeks with Toby was probably the most taxing month of my entire life. Every night, around 10 o'clock he would scream and cry until about 3 or 4 am, and then just fall asleep from exhaustion. Nick and I were completely baffled and frustrated by his behavior and tried everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, to get him to stop crying. Nick rocked him, I nursed him, we both sang to him, we took him for car rides, we swaddled him, burped him, gave him gas drops, and then repeated the whole process over again. I was so grateful and relieved for the night when he slept 3 hours at a time and woke up just to nurse. Needless to say, when people asked how he was sleeping at night I would give them the vague answer of: "well, he is sleeping."

Then as he approached 3 months, some things got easier, but new challenges surfaced. He was sleeping for longer durations at night (4-5 hour chunks), but his naps during the day were almost non-existent lasting only about 30 - 40 minutes. This gave me very little time for myself. And even if my body screamed for sleep my mind was always on what needed to be done around the house. I learned how to get housework done in record time and even send a few emails before I heard the first sounds of Toby stirring in his crib. Also, I should mention that when Toby was awake, he was (and still is) a high-need baby. He bored easily, he wanted to be held constantly, he was much LOUDER than most babies and protested at the slightest discomfort, he could not be in his car seat for longer than 20 minutes, and nursed about every two hours until he was 9 months of age. I can remember for the longest time telling myself, "I can't wait til he reaches ___ age because then it will be easier."

My wishful thinking always proved to be true...and false. Every milestone brought some relief and feelings of excitement, but also new obstacles and anxieties. It wasn't until a mother of a rowdy two year-old commented on how easy I had it with Toby only being 10 months, that I realized how very wrong I had been about there being a "perfect age" for my son.

"Just wait til he gets to my daughters age and then the real fun begins." she said sarcastically.

I looked at her in pure disbelief with my droopy, blood-shot eyes. Toby was still not sleeping well at night and continued to suck every ounce of energy from me during the day time. She must of had an easy baby, I concluded. But still unsettled by her flippant remark, I desperately wanted to convey what I had gone through the past year. Sadly, the only thing that came out of my mouth was how Toby gets into everything and I can't take my eyes off of him for a moment (which really only grazed the surface of my rambunctious, very demanding, little boy). As expected, she easily dismissed my attempt to compare him to her daughter who ran around wildly.

"Oh that's nothing." she scoffed.

Feeling extremely annoyed at this point I hoped to silence her with: "You know, I honestly feel no matter what the age, there will always be a challenge."

To this day my words have proved to be prophetic.

But as hard as it was to have a baby that seemed to need more of everything (other than sleep!) I fell completely in love with my little Tobe-man. Even with all of his "spirited" traits, he is the sweetest, most cuddly, curious, little boy in the whole world. Whenever he meets someone new he won't just stare at them with that glazed over baby stare, he actually listens to them interested in everything about them to their voice, to how their mouth moves, to the way they gesture their arms. And then its like once he has them figured out will he charm them with his fantastic jack-o-lantern grin. Probably one of the sweetest memories I have with him is when I was really upset about something and I was crying pretty hard. I don't remember how old Toby was but he just stared at me curiously for a minute and then gently put his chubby little hand on my shoulder as if to say, "its ok mommy, I still love you." My heart just melted. Another thing about Toby is that he is incredibly affectionate. I was at an Enrichment activity and one of the ladies picked up Toby before he could escape the room. Toby immediately threw his arms around her neck and rested his head on her chest. Stunned and pleasantly surprised, she laughed at how cuddly my son was with her being a complete stranger.

I can already sense that some of my fondest memories with him will include: watching old "Saved By the Bell" episodes together in the early morning hours, playing hide-and-seek in the house, dancing in the kitchen together, and falling asleep curled up on the couch for our afternoon nap.

Yes, I will admit that being a mother to Toby is probably the toughest job I've ever had. I've had moments where actually asked myself "Am I really cut out for this motherhood thing?" and and thought about how easy I had it when my life revolved around waiting for the weekend and punching out at 5 everyday. But when my son looks up at me and gives me that priceless smile or peacefully falls asleep in my arms or when I see his reaction to falling snow flakes, I have to confess that I know I wouldn't change one thing about my life. Every sacrifice, every challenge has molded me and refined me into a person that I never knew existed inside of me. A person who now realizes that motherhood is probably the most sacred and underestimated callings in this confused and crazy world.

And to all those women approaching this new adventure in their life, the only piece of advice I have about being a mother is: be prepared to be surprised...


Ashley said...

Deb I love you! You are amazing and keep up the good work raising your sweet boy!

Jessie said...

That sounds SOOO much like my oldest son. I didn't sleep his entire first year, and I thought I was really going to lose my mind. I will say, it did get easier. He was kind of tricky at age 3, but now that he's 4, he's mostly nice again. So, yes, there are challenges at every stage, but for me, it did get better, starting at around 14mos.

Jessie said...

Also, my little guy paid close attention to people and never did that "baby stare" thing. He could name all our friends at 15 mos, knew all his colors at 13 mos, talked in full sentences at 18 mos. These are things you probably have to look forward to (assuming Toby is one - which I am assuming). Anyway - maybe their little brains just can't shut down enough for a normal nap or to sleep well at night. Burdens of brilliance, eh?