2018 was a big year. In November 2017, we welcomed our son into our lives, but the real journey began the day after Christmas and well into the new year. Our son was born with GERD, or commonly known as acid reflux. Who knew a baby could have severe heartburn? Not only that, but he could not digest my breastmilk. I tried everything, but alas it wasn’t meant to be. Needless to say, I was devastated; I felt like a failure. I didn’t realize how much I wanted to breastfeed until I couldn’t. I felt like I had let him down. That was my first introduction to ‘mom guilt’ a condition I will inevitably suffer for the rest of my life.
On top of the GERD issues, he started to develop severe ear infections that were resistant to antibiotics. I remember that he would constantly cry, no matter what time of day or night it was, he was just miserable. His crying led me to cry, and that led my husband to carry the weight of our pain on his shoulders. We were all severely sleep deprived and stressed. This was not what I envisioned when I thought about being a parent. Everything I thought I knew went right out the window.
Going back to work was bittersweet. I was starting to go stir-crazy at home, but worried about leaving him with strangers. Would they understand that he was in pain, or would they get annoyed by his crying? Would they be able to administer his medicine and stick to the feeding schedule I carefully laid out? The mom guilt reared its ugly head as I questioned if I should even go back to work, or should I stay home? I had friends on both end of the spectrum and ultimately felt that I needed to work. To my surprise, the reality of the situation at daycare was much better than I ever could have anticipated.
During my time back at work, things changed for me as well. I had a growing uneasiness with my work and my leadership. I wasn’t happy and having my son changed my perspective. I was not going to stay in a role in hopes that it would improve, but in the meantime come home miserable every night feeling unappreciated. I had conversations with my boss about my work and my path and I felt that I wasn’t being heard. Ultimately, things came to a head and I let her know that I felt undervalued and that while I would continue to give 100% effort in my role, I was seeking work elsewhere. I made the move to another company in November and thus far am confident I made the right decision for me and my family. This was the first year that I really stood up for myself and what I believed in. While my situation ultimately lead to me leaving the company, I know I did what was right.
There are a few lessons I’ve learned this year and that is what I am using to guide me in 2019 and beyond.
- This too shall pass.There were moments during my son’s screaming fits and sleepless nights where I thought to myself, “I can’t do this another day.” But I did – again and again and again. The ear infections are gone (thanks to tubes) and his reflux has almost fully subsided (thanks to walking). He’s still a little boy with big emotions, but we are all doing great. In the grand scheme of things, he is healthy and thriving.
- Embrace your tribe. I cannot emphasize this enough. Lean on your friends and family. I have always had trouble with this one in my life but becoming a new mom has changed my perspective. Being a new mom was very lonely for me. My husband worked and I didn’t have the energy or confidence to take my son places by myself because he was such a wild card. I would count down the days until my mom had a day off and could come over and just be with me, or venture to the grocery store, or anywhere out of the confines of the house. She was my support, my life coach, my sanity for a while. I felt that every time I talked to my girlfriends all my emotions would surface because I was consumed with feelings of frustration and helplessness. I didn’t know what was happening and therefore I couldn’t fix the problem. To all my friends and family who were there for me during meltdowns, who brought me food, who listened and helped me weave through the medical and insurance hell, and those of you who offered to help but I was too afraid to accept, from the bottom of my heart – thank you. I try so hard to pay it forward in any way I can because there is nothing more overwhelming than being a first-time mom.
- Know your worth. I can’t tell you how much time I spent questioning my worth and contributions to my previous employer. I questioned every move I made and had lost all confidence during my tenure there. I had become weak and vulnerable, and I hated myself for that. I felt that I was wasting valuable time in my career that I would never get back. Like any bad relationship, I knew it was time for me to leave. A month in to my new job and already I feel my confidence thriving. Not because I’m told I’m doing a good job, but because people come to me for input, they value my opinions, and they trust me with their projects. When you feel you’re losing sight of your values and worth as an employee, it’s time to make a change.
- Be present. I’ve had to pause many times this year and re-calibrate my mental attitude. I would pray that our days would go by quickly so that I could go to bed and sleep for a few hours, or I would sulk when I got on a plane for a business trip and just hope it would get over quickly. But these experiences were important, no matter how grueling they were. At night when I finally got my son settled down in the rocker, instead of putting him in his crib sometimes I would just rock him for as long as he would sleep, and just stare at his beautiful little face. And when we’d bring him into our bed in the middle of the night I knew I wouldn’t sleep, but I held and comforted him. As grueling as they were, these moments were all part of my son and his first year, and I didn’t want to race through them because then he wouldn’t be my baby anymore. As a co-worker once said, “embrace the suck.” I know it may be a bit crude to describe the events of motherhood, but there were some really sucky moments, and we embraced them – all of them. They were part of us, our story, and we got through them. There will always be sucky moments in our lives, but it’s how you make it through that matters. I feel like we are stronger. My husband and I have a bond that has grown stronger this year because we’ve both ‘suffered’ together, and we’re on the other side of a year and again we are doing great!
- Be intentional. I’ve done a lot of reflecting in the last few years, and I feel like a lot of my life has been transactional. I went to school and got two college degrees. Why? Because I thought I had to. Did I really take the time to think about what I wanted to do, or what I wanted to study? Nope. I took the courses that seemed like the best fit. It just made sense to study business. With math skills as poor as mine, I look back at that decision and laugh. I don’t regret it, but I wish I would have challenged myself to be a little braver, fail a few times doing something I was really passionate (or thought I was passionate) about rather than just going through the motions. I haven’t always been true to myself. I have made decisions based on outsider input. This is very important for me to instill in my son – you have nothing to prove to anyone. You make choices that are meaningful to you in your life. Live a good life, a thoughtful life. Do what you love and the rest will fall into place. I am learning to live by example, and am definitely a work in progress.
- Just Do It. Thanks, Nike. This is a last-minute add. I think way too much. One of my main goals for myself is to stop thinking and start doing. If success was based on the amount of thoughts produced in a day, I’d be on top of the world. The more time I spend in my head, the more I talk myself down and let fear take over, and of course nothing gets done. But this is the year of do and I’m getting out of my head and putting my thoughts into action.
I’ve tried multiple attempts to maintain a blog, but either life got in the way or I wasn’t feeling authentic in my writing. This is a work in progress and I hope you enjoy me on my journey.
Thanks for hanging in there through this long post!