My First Year of Motherhood--A Mini Novel


Dear friends,

I am suddenly the mother of a one-year-old. I know, I know. This should not come as a surprise as just one month ago I was the mother of an 11-month-old and everybody knows that 11 is followed by 12. But one year is different. It's older. It's bigger. It's more little kid and less tiny baby. I already find myself looking at him and thinking, "Almost toddler". This weekend we celebrated with homemade cupcakes, bright balloons, and two dozen friends in the nearby park. He's one-year-old. I sigh.

Mostly, I can't believe I've been a mother for one entire year. I can't believe it was one year ago that I was summoning the last reserves of strength for a long and complicated labor. I can't believe it was one year ago that I started my maternity leave and then completely walked away from my desk job and into freelance. I just can't believe it's been one entire year. It's been amazing. Astounding. Exhausting. Exhilarating. Bewildering. And so incredibly raw and beautiful. It's been all of these things within the same afternoon. Sometimes within the same hour. Sometimes within the same 10 minutes. Phew!

If I had to say what I learned in this first year of motherhood I'd probably write the first draft of a very long novel. But if I had to boil that down I'd say I've learned to bite my tongue, eat my words, swallow my pride, and any other idiom that relates to digesting one's opinion. Some things are not learned through study, theory, intellect or calculation but instead through trial and error. Parenthood must be the biggest experiment in trial and error ever to be conducted. (To all my friends with older children if I ever suggested how your child should sleep, eat, talk, walk, learn, play, communicate, or otherwise develop then please accept my apology here and now. I am sorry! I was wrong. You were right. Forgive me.)

I've learned about joy. Not predictable joy or calculated joy but spontaneous and eruptive joy that still takes me by surprise. I'm a fairly predictable person. My likes and dislikes are fairly consistent. I've been working in the arts since I graduated college, started dating my husband 14 years ago, eating vegetarian since I was in high school, and my best friend became my best friend in first grade. Like I said, consistent. But there's something about mothering a new baby that has totally taken me by surprise and that thing is joy. Babies are joyful. My son is joyful. And spontaneous eruptive joy is simply contagious.

I've learned about sleep deprivation. Not a few nights of poor sleep or even a few sleepless weeks but an entire year without sleeping more than three or four hours at a stretch. I learned about tiredness. In my depths. In my blood. The kind of tiredness that does not pass but becomes a new way of being. And somehow, I learned to manage fatigue or how to become functional while being so damn tired.

I've learned about endurance. I've learned about patience. I've learned to witness. I've learned to observe. I've learned to pause. I've learned to take a deep breath and simply try again. I would not say I've mastered any of these honorable traits but I'd say I've become aware of how much I need to practice. (Practice, practice.) I thank my yoga teacher for reminding me about mindfulness on a weekly basis because I promptly forget it daily. Patience. Watchfulness. Deep Breaths. Yes, yes, and yes.

I've learned about time management. I've learned that short conversations are better than no conversations at all. I've learned to do what actually has to be done and to stop writing the other things on my to-do list. I've learned to prioritize. I've learned that dinner and laundry trump vacuuming and tidying. I've learned the need for stain sticks and paper towels. I've learned to organize most activities by noise, attention span, and how easily something might get broken. I've learned to organize my studio life into quiet and loud activities. Quiet activities can be accomplished while my son naps. Loud activities usually require my husband be available for baby tending.

And lastly, as my own mother pointed out, I have learned about unconditional love. Love without condition. Without boundary. Without premise. Absolute acceptance of another human being regardless of their faults or shortcomings or struggles or weaknesses. It's something I thought I already knew but it turns out I didn't. This is the one thing I hope to carry around in the deep plushy humus of my imperfect heart for all the years I am his mother--unconditional love. I hope it grows like the bougainvillea around the front window--tangled, wild, bold, fervent--surprising me with its brilliant colors every single spring.

My dear Maxwell Forest, happy first birthday, my sweet son.



  1. Oh, wow. So beautiful, Katrina. Although I am not a parent I fully agree that some things are best learned through trial and error. I liked "I've learned to do what actually has to be done and to stop writing the other things on my to-do list." Why write those other things down and then feel disappointed when they don't get done, right? He looks the happiest little guy. He must have a great mom ; )

  2. So beautifully written Katrina. ox

  3. So true. so beautiful. Parenthood is running a marathon of milestones, and trying not to trip, right? I loved the opportunity to stop taking my career and other things so seriously to make room for the #1's in my life. Unconditional love is not describable and quite unfathomable when you may not placed in the moment that you would not flinch to hand your possessions, your well being and even your life for the safety of the boy(s). It's wonderful, its warming and it's forever. You'll be a mother forever. and ever. My hope is that I am remembered as a mother first, no matter what. I truly say that motherhood is the greatest honor or award I have received. It always will be.

  4. congratulations sweet friend.
    you are the BEST possible mama for maxwell and i nod my head at all your observations.

    from the other side of the sleep tunnel - it WILL get better. i promise... XO

  5. this made me weep my dear. WEEP. i don't know if it's the horrible, very bad day i'm having, or if it's indicative of something else i need to pay attention too.

    i love you.


  6. This is perfectly and so beautifully expressed, lovely friend, excellent mama. It made me tear up, too, though I think my watery eyes have more to do with how quickly these precious times become memories. I have nothing but love for all three of you. xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxox1000

  7. So great, Katrina. Happy Birthday, little man! I look forward to meeting you and introducing you to my own daughter someday soon.

  8. This made me tear up too! My dear 6 and a half month old is sitting next to me on the couch chewing on a book and babbling. My head is fuzzy with tired. My home is full with mess. My clothes are spattered with milk, pureed carrot, blood and saliva. And yet, she is the best most wonderful thing in the world. One whole year, cheers to you David and Maxwell. So glad to get to share motherhood with you.

  9. Happy birthday! And congrats for that first year of a new way of life. One day you'll look back and wonder how life was before a child. I can't remember! And then when they hit eight (next week for us!) you start looking forward and wonder with shock what life will be like in ten years, when they're off to start life on their own. Ten years! Yikes! In other words, savor every single moment as you know it is much too fleeting!

  10. Candace11/02/2012

    What a beautiful post Katrina. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us on your first year so eloquently. Much love to you and David as you celebrate your first year as parents, and to Maxwell as he celebrates his first year of life. I will never forget the joy and shock and relief as you held him for the first time after such an intense labor. You are amazing.

  11. Katrina, you have beautifully captured the meaning of what it is to be a mother. Through love, we work hard at this job of parenthood, we make mistakes but sometimes we're awesome. Raising children is fun and they bring great joy to our lives. It is exhilarating to watch them grow into adults and become your friends. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and I know Maxwell will love reading this when he is older. You are a gifted writer. love, Aunt Carolyn

  12. Friends-- Thank you for your kind words and support and for sharing your own thoughts too. It's been a big, beautiful year and I'm honored to share glimpses of that here in this space.

    So, thank you! It's always good to know that you are out there and to have you participate in this virtual community. Thank you for your comments.

    xoxo, k.


Thank you for your comments, friends. I like to think we are creating a dialogue in this space--building a virtual community.