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by Uju Asika

It’s an amazing experience watching your baby grow, from those adorable early smiles and coos to the first bow-legged steps into toddlerhood.

What’s almost equally astounding is how many changes you’ll go through after the little one packs up and leaves womb for good. We’ve identified five crucial developmental stages for new mothers in the first year.

Remember this list is only a guideline and if you have any concerns, please check in with your nearest health professional/priest/bartender.

1. Face recognition

It’s love at first sight. You simply can’t tear your eyes off your newborn. You’re so zoned in on baby that everything else fades to black. Since the delivery room, you’ve barely given a backward glance to the sperm provider – let alone your own reflection. But as the fog of new mamahood clears, things come back into focus. You notice how handsome your partner looks even baptized in spit-up. You’re starting to recognize that stranger in the mirror. Sure, her hair is wild and her stare is cross-eyed, but at least she’s smiling. In fact, she’s never looked more content.

2. Language and communication

You and your mini-me are developing a language all of your own. One day you bump into a buddy from B.C. (before child) and you have trouble keeping up with what she says. She’s yacking about politics or last night at the hot club, and she may as well be speaking Latin. You start gushing about new teeth or first solids and what she hears is ‘blah blah, mumble, yada’. Don’t lose hope. Sometime before baby learns to form complete sentences, you’ll relearn the art of grown-up conversation. Meanwhile, at least you’re fluent in babble.

3. Independent movement

They say absence makes the heart grow fonder. In the early days, it’s your boobs that grow (and your stomach that clenches) when you’re separated from baby. But once she’s old enough and can be left in safe hands, why not step out on your own? At first it feels weird but before long you’ll enjoy going solo to the shops, a night on the town, maybe even a weekend away. Best not to book that two month no-kids trip to New Zealand yet though. Baby steps.

4. Sleeping through the night

Parenthood changes sleep patterns forever. It doesn’t matter whether you’ve got an all-night raver or a cherub that snoozes for 14 hours straight. Once you’re in charge of another human being, you’ll always have one eye symbolically open. However, after an eternity of midnight feeds, there will come a morning when you’ll wake to find baby’s not made a whimper all night long. Is everything ok? Should you check on him? Don’t panic. Pat yourself on the back for reaching another mommy milestone. Then go back to sleep.

5. Keeping your head up

Motherhood is another word for joy. Still, those first few days, weeks and even months can grind you down. New babies need ‘tummy time’ to strengthen their neck muscles enough to be able to hold their heads up. What new moms need is ‘mommy time’ – not just a few stolen moments but dedicated head and heart space for self-nurture. Rediscover that passion, try a new skill, get that fly haircut – do whatever helps you lift your chin up and transform that stroller slouch into a hip mama strut. Your baby might not notice. But your inner babe will love you for it.

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Uju Asika is founder and Babe-in-chief of Babes About Town, a London-based city guide and social network for hip, smart parents.

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