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By Jenni Mortimer
Sleep deprivation, coupled with the endless tidying up, tied up with a bow that is parent guilt, and there you have the gift of your baby's first year.
I knew all that was coming. But what I wasn't prepared for were the endless learnings as my son changed from a chill newborn to a bolshy toddler determined to scalp the cat, skip naptime and desperately hold on to a 2kg fox doorstop while sitting in his high chair eating spaghetti bolognese.
For all that madness and more, here are 10 of the biggest learnings from my first year as a mum.
I love my son so much. Like so much. I simply was not prepared for how much his little soul would consume my soul.
At work and someone asks me how my son is? I light up at the first mention of his name. Someone else has a kid? Fantastic news! I have one too and my one is better.
Why? Because he's mine, and he's awesome and I made him and I love him. I love him so much.
2. Babies don't sleep well
I cannot stress this enough - babies are absolute lunatics. Never in my 30-years have I experienced anything quite like trying to teach my son how to sleep.
After 4-months of maxing out on three hours sleep a night, grappling with postpartum lows and knowing we had exhausted all resources - I hired a sleep consultant and it was the best decision.
I wish I could have traded the hours I spent learning NCEA level 3 Art History, for a crash course in Baby Sleep 101 - learning the right combination of back-breaking holds, white noise volume, vacuum cleaning and aggressively jolting one-self up and down in order to get him to sleep.
3. You might fish a poop out the bath
I think this one is pretty self-explanatory. But just in case - your child might poop in a bath. He might even make a fun game of it. You might have to fish it out. You should probably use a cup or scoop of some sort, and definitely soap, but I'll get to the soap bit in lesson 8.
4. Laugh and then laugh some more
You will not survive the first year unless you can laugh at yourself, your child and your partner. Because this whole parenting gig, it's totally nuts.
Vacuum your carpet only for the little tyke to go full Nature Valley bar and riddle your floor with crumbs – funny! You should definitely laugh at that.
Run out of clothes because they are covered in baby spit-up and your washing machine breaks? Simply chuck on your best dressing gown (why did you get out of it anyway?) have a good laugh and call a repair person.
5. Buy good trackpants
While I simply adored Karl Lagerfeld, he also didn't have children, and thus I cannot abide by his anti-track pant propaganda.
There is nothing wrong with valuing comfort, practicality and function in a grey marle cotton fabric with elasticated waistband.
Pro-tip: An elongated cuff will have you feeling sophisticated as you tuck them into your uggies, and a couple of pockets are the perfect hiding spot for your phone and snacks when baby falls asleep on you.
6. You are still you
There will be a period of time where may not see yourself anymore when you look into the mirror.
Who is that person with the bags under their eyes, weird pigmentation and truly catastrophic posture? Surprise - it's you! You are just really busy doing the most important job in the world.
You are raising a tiny human, and there is a good chance you aren't physically or mentally thriving right now. That's going to come back, and you will emerge a more resilient version of yourself, who did this amazing thing.
7. Knowing what to do is simple and also really hard
It seems so natural to know what is right when babies are little. If your baby stops crying when you do something, that means you absolutely crushed it. Simply repeat this process 10-25 times a day.
But when babies start to get near the toddler stage, it's a little harder to know if you are crushing it.
Your baby wants the sugar-laden snack you are quickly scoffing, and he's started screaming in public and making a scene. Do you give him the sugary thing? Or do you get on a chair in the Albany Mall food court, tell him a firm "no", shove the snack in your mouth and let out a battle cry, summoning other mall dwelling parents to join in?
Should you send your child to daycare? They cried when you dropped them off, then you cried in the car and wiped your tears with a used tissue you found on the floor, so maybe this is the wrong choice?
Go with your gut, know you are doing your best and put travel tissues on the grocery list.
8. Buy fancy hand soap
A friend once told me to buy nice hand soap when you have a baby because there will be little time for pampering, so a nice soap will be a welcome dose of luxury.
Got the dreaded poop on your finger during a wriggly nappy change? You better believe that pricey Ecoya concoction will be worth every cent when the sweetpea and jasmine scent washes your cares down the drain. That is until you see tiny fingers reaching under the toilet door, and it's back to reality.
9. The hideous bright plastic toy will be your child's favourite
"My child will only have wood toys," declared a newly pregnant me, like a complete and utter stuck.
His stunning $30 wooden teething ring now lives at the bottom of the toy basket under an abomination of colour vomit in plastic form.
However, you can totally cater to your child's need for hideous plastic toys without having to fill landfills and break the bank.
Hand-me-downs, thrift finds, or toys purchased off of Trade Me will do the job swimmingly, after a thorough clean.
10. You will spend eternity being grateful
I had to go through a lot to have my son, so when that little dimple chinned boy was handed to me for the first time, I experienced gratitude as I have never before. He was here, he was safe and he was perfect.
Each day I feel so blessed to have a healthy child to love, as I know this isn't the reality for every parent or should-be-parent. I know that yearning too.
So when people declare "You have to have two!" I can't help but feel a twinge of frustration at the idea that they feel my family isn't complete with just one. Because it is.
My son is happy, and my heart is full. For that, I will spend eternity being grateful.