This weekend my daughter turns one! We are having a little party to celebrate our sweet girl, but it’s also a chance for my husband and I to celebrate surviving this first year.

Hooray! We did it! As we approach this first major milestone, I’ve been thinking about all the surprises that have met us along the way. For the new moms out there preparing for or just starting this adventure, here are some spoilers:

Newborns come with personality.

And, even more surprising to me, it was the same personality she had within the womb! The baby who never stopped moving in utero is the same little busy bee who is currently terrorizing my living room.   Her strong will was present from the beginning. Sometimes that exasperating, but it’s almost always hilarious.

Nursing doesn’t come naturally.

Breastfeeding is so natural. So it was completely surprising how difficult and awkward it was for us, not just for the first few days, for the first few months! But you get better at it, and so do they. It took a long time to learn how to hold her, to help her latch, to work a nursing bra, and nurse discreetly in public. But in spite of the challenges, I’m glad we stuck with it.

New babies poop. A lot.

Before she was born I bought a jumbo box of newborn diapers thinking it would get us through the first month. Surprise! We averaged 80 diapers a week those first few weeks, with at least two blowouts a day. Lesson learned: stock up on diapers and good stain remover.

The phrase, “I slept like a baby,” is ironic, and cruel.

I hear that some babies sleep through the night. I’d like to find one of those! My daughter wakes up a lot. So I wake up a lot. I’ve been surprised at how hard it can be to function at a normal level when I’m sleep deprived, and how long I’ve been able to “fake it ‘till you make it.”

I will never be alone again.

At first she was so cute and little and slept all day, so having her with me all the time wasn’t so difficult. I even accepted the logistical challenges of taking a baby out and about. But once she became mobile and could follow me around the house, I couldn’t believe how frustrating it is to always have someone hanging on my body or pulling at my clothes, never being able to shower or use the bathroom in peace, or have alone time with my husband. I’ve learned to use naptime as a “recharge” for the rest of the day.

Grandparents love their grandbabies.

I knew grandparents love grandbabies, but I was completely surprised by the depth and intensity of that love. Lucy’s grandparents love her; they long for time with her; they hunger for more pictures; more Skype; more weekend visits. And the geographical distance that separates them causes real heartache.

I’m doing okay.

Being a mom harder than I thought I’d be. And I’ve had to learn to reconcile that motherhood, MY motherhood, isn’t what I imagined. But that’s okay. I’m not as awesome at this gig as I thought I’d be, but I need to give myself more credit. I made a person, and I’m teaching her how to be a good person. I’m doing okay.

No mom is an island.

In the first months of staying home with Lucy, I really missed the camaraderie of coworkers and the joy of working alongside others all day. I was surprised to find a new kind of “colleague” in other moms. Sharing stories and advice, getting together for play dates, celebrating milestones and commiserating over wine or coffee, doing life with those ladies makes motherhood sweeter.

I love watching my husband be a dad.

I suspected that I would love seeing this transformation, but I could never have known what a deep, profound, inexpressible joy it is to watch my husband and daughter love each other.

Her birthday was not the best day of my life.

I didn’t expect that the joy we felt on our wedding day could be topped. But then she was born! But neither of those days holds a candle to her baptism. Watching the water pour over her head, I was overwhelmed with gratitude – to co-create with God and then to bring that soul to Him, to prepare her for eternal life with Him – this is what I was made for. I still tear up when I look at pictures from her baptism. The joy of leading her to Jesus has been the single greatest surprise of motherhood.

What has surprised you most about being a mother?

Copyright 2014, Megan Swaim