Twelve Months: A New Mom’s Confession

12 months ago, I was cradling a perfect, six pound newborn baby boy against my chest. I remember that pregnancy fog, where the presence of an infant feels like a unicorn that suddenly let itself into the house. You aren’t sure it is reality yet; nine months of planning and anticipation suddenly seem as though they never existed. The first few days at home with baby Sage felt like a blank slate; as if life started over. Looking back, I can honestly say the labor, delivery, and the week that followed were some of the most beautiful moments that Justin and I have ever shared.

Sage and I on our porch when he was 2 months old.

If I may step away from the sappiness for a moment: The last year has been a struggle for me, and I want to be honest about that. There is some primal defense mechanism that kicks in with new mom’s that pushes us to never admit the reality: that being a mother is hard, hard work. We put on a smile and refuse to admit to anyone (especially our friends without kids or our mother-in-laws) that we are exhausted, emotional, and most of all…scared. There is truly nothing that can prepare you for motherhood. Not a book, or a class or even advice from those who have been there. Admist the love, first coos, smiles, “mamas and “dadas,” it is safe to say that parenting can feel like a cruel joke sometimes. There have been plenty of mornings where I look at the dark circles under my eyes and wonder if I am cut out for this job.

The hardest struggle I have had has been trying to maintain a business while at home with an infant. I recall something Justin said to me about 6 months before I got pregnant:

“You can’t have it all, right?”

Ha! At the time I took offense to this comment, but looking back I realize that his sensible nature was only trying to prepare me. Prepare me for the reality, that in fact, I couldn’t have it all. The blissful 3 hour infant naps everyone told me about when I was pregnant, didn’t exist in our house. I spent the time I was with my baby worrying about the work I needed to do, and the time I was working praying that he would stay asleep long enough to finish what I was doing. Then you add an Everest-sized mountain of guilt on top of that and you pretty much have the makings for a complete emotional breakdown.

Justin is a natural dad. He and Sage at the Seattle Aquarium last month.

For the first 10 months of Sage’s life I beat myself to a pulp. I tired to care for an infant, run a business, a home and a blog… all on 3-4 hours of solid sleep a night. Again and again Justin said I could take time off if I wanted. But every time thought of just being a stay at home mom crossed my mind (as if that isn’t a full time job itself) I pushed even harder. In spite? Perhaps, I don’t know. At 6 months, I was lucky enough to have Katie, Sage’s awesome nanny here for about 15 hours/week. It helped a lot, but I still had the problem that I was trying to run a business on 15 hours a week. That doesn’t work, take my word for it.

It took months of not living up to my client’s expectations, or my own, until one day I just fell apart. I had slowly started giving up. I said and did things I never thought I’d do (like throwing a glass of champagne is my husband’s face because he wasn’t up for a 3-day weekend in Belize.) I didn’t know who I had become. I felt paralyzed for weeks and weeks. Not knowing what I wanted or what I should do. Should I still try to work? Should I focus more on Sage? Should we hire the nanny for more hours? Can we afford it? Should we send him to daycare? Should I move to Belize alone and farm bananas? Round and round I went, driving myself (and my husband) crazy. I felt as though I had tried every schedule possible, yet I still couldn’t seem to make any headway and feel successful.

I haven’t figured everything out yet, nor do think I ever will. But I feel stronger now. Sage is in school part time now that his nanny is back in grad school and it gives me the physical and mental separation I need to work. I’m not sure I have found the perfect balance yet (is there one?!) but the horizon looks brighter. I know now that I need to work. It’s who I am.

Last weekend I took the train to Portland for a design meetup and I think this realization really sunk in for me. The city is just bustling with self-expression, creativity and passion. I was sitting in the halls of Wieden + Kennedy, with my friend Erin, surround by a hundred other creative souls, and I knew I needed to always be a part of that.

Design and creativity are my passion and too much of who I am to walk away from my business. Reality has shown me that my business needs to evolve, just like my life has. I am a mother, then a wife, then a graphic designer. But before any of those – I am me: A stubborn, impatient, fearless, driven, creative soul. And nothing can take that away from me.

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