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interview with two survivors of the first year of parenthood

With Ava's first birthday coming up next week, I thought it would be fun to hear from both me and my husband, Jordan, as we answer a handful of questions about our experiences, hardships and parent-wins during this first (sometimes turbulent and always joyful) year of parenthood. As much as Ava's first birthday is a celebration of our sweet girl turning one, it's also a victory for Jordan and I. For earning the titles mom and dad and for surviving this first year taking care of our adorable new addition to the family.

Reflecting on this past year of being a new parent – what is/was:

Your greatest joy:

DAD: I can’t believe my daughter is almost a year old! When people say time flies watching your kids grow, they weren’t lying. My greatest joy is just simply being a father to such a beautiful little girl that is loved by so many. I couldn’t be any luckier than I am today and Ava will be my pride and joy until the end of my days.

MOM: Just watching Ava grow and learn new things. So much happens during this first year of life, and the rate at which babies learn, develop and physically grow is crazy. I feel so lucky to have had the opportunity to watch it all.

One thing you’ve mastered:

DAD: I’ve pretty much mastered everything there is to know about babies. Some even refer to me as “The Baby Whisperer”. I’ve recently contemplated even starting a daycare and just taking care of babies all day. Feeding, nap time, diapers, spit-ups, etc. it’s just all too easy for me!

MOM: Traveling with a baby. Whether it’s a day trip to San Diego or three months to San Francisco, I feel like I have finally mastered the art of traveling with a baby, bringing the necessities and not taking an entire day to get packed up and out the door. It only took a few major travel snafus to get here ;)

One thing you still need to work on:

DAD: I could learn a thing or two from my wife when it comes to patience. I have virtually no patience in general and can easily get frustrated, so I’ve had to learn how to handle the melt downs and unsuccessful nap attempts. Let’s just say that I’ve got a ways to go…

MOM: Loosening up on the schedule. I am naturally drawn to schedules and routine (it’s how I’m wired), and I think Ava’s sweet temperament is partially due to keeping her on schedule (if she gets lots of sleep and is fed on time, there’s nothing to cry about right?) BUT I have to remember that sometimes life happens, and a missed nap here or there is not the end of the world.

Title of your best selling parenting book:

DAD: "The Poop Chronicles"

MOM: “We Have a Shituation”

One thing you miss the most about life B.A. (Before Ava):

DAD: Golf… :( I’ve lost my game!

MOM: Spontaneity. We used to pick up last minute concert tickets and drive down to the Hollywood Bowl (because being a married young adult with a disposable income is about as free and able to do fun things as it gets). A baby changes all that. Even if we did want to do a spontaneous kid-friendly activity, it still takes a lot of planning and A LOT of packing to do it.

Hours of lost sleep:

DAD: The first two weeks were rough as we adjusted to parenthood, but lucky for me my wife took on the difficult nights. I had a pretty rigorous work travel schedule last year and was usually wiped out. Wife to the rescue!!! Thanks babe!

MOM: Approximately 300 -- 90% of which fell within the first three months. I was essentially a zombie.

Favorite memory with Ava:

DAD: We moved to San Francisco for the last 3 months of the year for my job. My travel schedule subsided and I was able to get home much earlier and spend more time with my family. We also got to experience living in a new city while Ava really started to show her large personality. It was a lot of fun and definitely memories I will never forget.

MOM: Aside from the day I had her (which, I mean come on, how can you top that?), it would be something that happened just the other day. Ava isn’t much of a snuggler – primarily because her desire to wiggle outweighs really any other desire, so when she crawled up on me the other morning and laid her head on my chest for a while, my heart melted and I enjoyed every minute of that rare moment with my little girl.

Best advice for a brand new parent:

DAD: It’s really not as scary as you think it may be, the hardest part is really just the first 2-3 weeks. Once you get a solid routine things will start to be on auto-pilot. The key to everything is having a routine and always sticking to it. Nap time, feed time… stick to that and it will be smooth sailing. Also, find easy clothes, less buttons and more zippers!


1) Know that your expectations will RARELY match the reality

2) Prioritize sleep for your baby above ALL ELSE

3) The first three weeks are hard. Possibly the hardest three weeks of your life (they were for me). But once you make it over that first MAJOR hump and jarring life adjustment, every week and month that follows just gets more and more fun and more and more enjoyable. And just when you think you can’t possibly love this person any more than you already do… they do something new, or giggle for the first time, or pull themselves up on their own, and that love grows even bigger and even stronger. And it’s pretty dang awesome.

What you wish you knew before having a baby:

DAD: There’s really nothing I wish I knew before having a baby. I was already well prepared for the change in lifestyle going into it. You get so much advice from different parents, but really the fun part is learning what works and doesn’t work. What works for us may be the complete opposite for another set of parents.

MOM: That I didn’t need 1,000 swaddle blankets. It sounds silly, but I honestly had this insane idea that one needed every swaddle in every pattern in order to survive with a newborn. Yes, these blankets come in handy for a variety of reasons, but I would have gotten by with 4-5. I have an entire drawer filled with them and only half actually get used.

Ava is her father's daughter because…

DAD: Ava is a little ham. She is full of personality and constantly laughing and smiling at anyone she meets. I can already tell she’s going to be a little jokester and will most likely have us laughing constantly.

Ava is her mother’s daughter because…

MOM: She pokes her tongue out of the corner of her mouth when she is concentrating or working hard at something. I about fell over when I saw her do this for the first time, because my mom has endearingly teased me about doing this same exact thing, for the same exact reason, my entire life.

One thing you wish for your daughter:

DAD: I want my daughter to know that she can accomplish anything in life that she puts her mind to. As long has she works hard and is dedicated to something, she will always have my full support.

MOM: That she finds what makes her heart dance, and spends her time doing just that. All anyone wants for their kids is for them to be happy and fulfilled – but I also pray that she finds what she is passionate about and relentlessly pursues it.

Biggest challenge over this past year:

DAD: I always thought the world revolved around me! But I guess it doesn’t and it especially doesn’t now that I have a kid. Learning to adjust my lifestyle to the new routine has been a challenge, but it’s all been worth it!

MOM: When you become a mom, you are no longer simply responsible for yourself and your wellbeing. All of a sudden, you are responsible for another human who cannot take care of any of their basic needs. It is a lot of real responsibility and a major adjustment. There were months in the beginning where I didn’t even want to leave the house because it was too much stress with the new baby. Adjusting to an entirely new set of responsibilities and way of ‘doing life’ was the biggest challenge for me.

Approximately how many diapers changed:

DAD: Too many to count, I’m a pro!


Favorite baby stage (within the first year):

DAD: The 7-9 month stage was awesome. She could sit in a high chair with us, semi crawl, make “dada” noises, and was always smiling. Her personality was really starting to bloom.

MOM: 8-12 months. These last 4 months have been SO enjoyable for me. Ava has so much personality that shines through brighter each day – she is so easy to transport and bring out to places with us, but she’s not totally mobile (not walking yet) so she’s ‘somewhat’ easy to contain when we are out.

A note to our baby girl on her first birthday:

DAD: Ava, it’s been a real treat to watch you grow over these last 12 months. A part of me wants you to get a little bigger so we can go on some fun adventures, but the other part of me wants you to stay my small sweet baby. Life is full of challenges and will sometimes seem impossible. It’ll seem difficult when you’re 5 years old and it will also feel difficult when you're 30 years old. Just remember that me and your mom always have your back and will support/guide you every step of the way. You’ve got the whole world ahead of you, and it’s all yours to take over! Love you forever, Daddy

MOM: Happy birthday our sweet Ava June. This has easily been the best and happiest year of my life. You have opened a new spot in my heart and nestled right in to make it your home -- I am so grateful to have you as my daughter.

You really are the happiest and most joy-filled person I know. Everyone we come into contact with (even if it’s just for a moment at the grocery store) comments on how incredibly happy you are. I can't wait to watch that happiness grow as you continue to discover the beautiful world around us, make new friends, love with your whole heart, and collect rich experiences throughout your life.

I really can’t believe you are already turning one, I feel like it was just yesterday I was meeting you for the first time. The doctor placed you on my chest and you looked up at me with those beautiful eyes and in that moment, I knew life would never be the same. In these days before your first birthday, I’m not experiencing the bittersweet sadness so many moms told me about. I just feel happy to celebrate you, and excited for what this next year has in store. Love you always, Mama

All of these photos were taken by one of my new favorite San Diego photographers, Avery Zieben. I can't say enough good things about Avery, and I am THRILLED with how these sweet family photos came out.

Because she is just THAT rad, she's offering a special mini session price for my Southern California followers. These sessions are typically $200 and include 20+ high res edited images BUT Lauren Gardner Blog followers are getting $50 off!!! Just tell her Lauren sent you :) Note that travel fees outside of the San Diego area may apply. You can contact Avery by CLICKING HERE or by visiting her website here:


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