My first year of motherhood taught me the most important lesson of all

For the first time ever, everything shifted and I had to pour my whole self into one person, the one person who needed me the most.

lessons from the first year of motherhood

As far back as I can remember, I've spent my whole life mothering everyone else—my partner, parents, siblings, friends. I poured all my energy into being present for them and their needs. I was often their problem-solver (voluntarily). I was the friend who stayed up late to help them finish their thesis (even when I had my own deadline). I'd listen to hours of their relationship woes. I'd take on their worries as though they were my own.

I am not sure if that's just how I am wired or if I acquired this call of duty along the way, but I eventually started questioning why I was so hyper-focused on everyone else's needs before my own—especially once I became a mother.

A real mother. I created a human being who actually required all that maternal love and energy, and so I figured my maternal instincts would go into overdrive when my baby was born.

I figured my anxiety and any other heavy emotions would subside. Instead, they only intensified. Each day that went by I felt like I would have more of a handle on how to be her perfect mother—the mother I always dreamed of being. I prayed so much for a healthy baby and swore that once she was here I would devote my whole being to her.

The reality was so far from the perfection I envisioned. I was nothing like the superhero I vowed would magically appear after birth. Instead, I felt exhausted. Not only physically, but emotionally, too. Instead of "light and bubbly Mom," I felt emotionally pulled in so many directions, I was unable to cope.

That first year postpartum, I discovered something about myself: I was exhausted.

I had lost myself in all the caring, all the nurturing and all the giving. I was emotionally spent. My body was tired for obvious reasons but I felt drained for reasons no one could even see.

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In my head, I had carved out this role for myself. I set everyone up in my life to have the same expectation of me that I had of myself—that I could "do it all." That they could depend on me no matter what, could lean on me no matter what. That if they needed me, I would be there. Like some cheesy love song.

And I genuinely meant it. Yet, here I was for the first time as a mother, with a child who needed all of me, and all I wanted (and needed) was to hit pause. Because for the first time ever, everything shifted and I had to pour my whole self into one person, the one person who needed me the most.

Suddenly I became the person who forgot to reply to a text, didn't return calls, didn't show up and didn't have the mental capacity to be the problem solver. I no longer could stay up all night and give the long version of the heartfelt talk I sincerely wanted to give. I no longer could lend my ears, my heart, my thoughts—fully and wholly. I couldn't prop up or shelter anyone else. I didn't have the bandwidth.

Now what mattered most to me was my daughter, but yet, I felt guilt on top of my new mom guilt for not being able to show up for other people in the way I wanted to. I wasn't prepared to feel guilt for failing at all of my other relationships. I didn't know how to cope with failing at giving.

I became an expert at saying I was okay and carrying on even though I was anything but.

Now, my daughter is one, and although I have not perfected the art of setting realistic expectations, I have learned to accept I cannot do it all. I have learned to be gentler, kinder and more understanding to none other than—myself. I finally learned that I can still be a great wife, friend, daughter, sister, and inevitably a better mother if I finally accepted I could not be that version of Super Mom I once thought I should be.

I can't always be available and prompt, and I am finally okay with that. My advice might be quick but you can still expect honesty. My hug will always be sincere, my presence wholehearted. I learned that all the people in my life will understand, and are just as giving as I would like to be if I let them.

It took me a long time to get here, but I am happy I finally did. Now, I can enjoy the time I have with my child and be wholly present for her. I feel pretty close to what I always hoped I would become—my very own version of Super Mom.

Emilia's new book, To the Moon and Back for You, is out now.


A very important letter for new mamas

Listen, mom-guilt is a dirty liar. Yes, it's your job to fill your little human's needs, but you matter too. Don't forget to take care of yourself. Hang out with friends, take a drive blaring 90's hip hop or shower without interruptions—trust me, you'll be a better person (and mom) because of it.

Dear new mom,

You will shave again someday. Today is not that day.

Set expectations low, my friend, and set your partner's lower—at least where body hair and overall hygiene are concerned.

That conversation could go something like this: “From now on let's not consider shaving a “standard," but more like a gift that happens on birthdays and the first day of summer."

Voila, you are a gift-giving genius. You know what else is a gift? Shaving the inch and a half of skin that is between your skinny jeans and your boots. You're welcome world.

You will not be perfect at parenting.


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