New moms inevitably receive loads of well-wishes, cute-baby stories, and more advice than they’d actually like to hear. But, for myself and many other moms I know, there were a lot of things that I WISH people had told me before I became a mother. The journey into parenthood – especially during those first few months – was awesome and miraculous and fantastic… and by far the most difficult thing I have ever gone through. There were a lot of bad days mixed in with all the good and no one seemed to acknowledge that aspect of being a mom. So, I turned to Facebook and asked a lot of moms to share what they wish people had told them about having a baby. You’ll love them, yes, but expecting to love every moment with them will make you feel like a horrible person when you are dying for a few moments of solitude. The following is a list of things that moms often struggle with in those first few months. Cut yourself some slack on the not-so-good days and revel in the fantastic days. It’s all part of the parenting journey.
**I would like to add that most of the following information is from the viewpoint of women in heterosexual relationships who have given birth to a biological child. However, I think that some of these experiences are universal in nature – no matter your sexual orientation, or whether or not you physically gave birth. Feel free to use only the info that resonates with you, and pass on the rest. XO**
It may not be love at first sight.
You have been growing a baby in your womb for the past 9 months. You felt every little movement, every hiccup. You’ve dreamed about how much you’ll cry when you deliver that bundle of joy and how you will melt as soon as that baby is laid on your chest. Then, however, the baby actually does come out and you don’t feel warm and fuzzy at all. In fact, you kinda hate that little thing that just came out of a hole that you KNOW couldn’t have gotten big enough to actually birth a baby.
Don’t worry. It’s normal.
When I had my first child, my epidural wore off right as I started pushing. By the time I delivered my baby almost an hour later, I was in shock (from pain), exhausted, and indifferent about even holding her. I remember looking over at her, hoping that I wouldn’t have to hold her yet. I didn’t care for her at all in that moment. What I did care about, however, and what was going through my mind, was that I was apparently going to be a horrible mother. What mom doesn’t fall in love with her baby right away?
It was several hours later before I felt any inkling of a bond starting to form with my baby, and the guilt lasted for months. No matter what anyone says, it’s okay if you don’t love your baby as soon as you see him or her. You are not a horrible parent. You just went through labor and it’s okay if you need some time to process, sleep, or just recover before falling in love with your new baby.
Even if you love being a mother, there are times when it will feel miserable.
When you do fall in love with that baby, you’ll fall hard. You will still love your partner, but if you have to choose between the two, you’ll probably pick the baby that looks adorable and feels warm and cuddly. Don’t be surprised, however, when you have moments in which you feel sure that your life is now over, you’ll never sleep again, your breasts aren’t normal, and it’s all that darn baby’s fault! And while those thoughts are going through your mind, you’ll be showering your baby with kisses at the same time. Loving and hating your life is part of being human. It doesn’t reflect on you as a mother. It has nothing to do with your love for your child. It’s all just part of the package.
Your life has just changed in more ways that you thought was possible, and your whole identity as a woman, wife, and individual, has begun to shift. It’s okay if you don’t like some of the changes that have taken place.
Adjusting to parenthood is
hard the most difficult thing you will have ever done.
You can read all the books, consult all the professionals, gather advice from family and friends, and feel as prepared for parenthood as could one possibly be, but the sleepless nights, breastfeeding, crying, changing relationship with your partner, and general feeling of incompetence will be more of an adjustment than you realized. Every mom I talked to expressed this same sentiment: Being a mom is the hardest thing you’ve ever done, and the most amazing – at the same time. Don’t feel guilty about feeling miserable at times. Every mom feels the same way. It might be the baby blues, or it might be postpartum depression. [If you think you may be experiencing postpartum depression or anxiety, click here to review a checklist and contact me to start feeling better.] But it’s also just a normal feeling. You’ll probably even feel this way at various times as your kids age. *Hand raised* They sure can make life difficult, but all the little amazing moments totally make up for it.
Breastfeeding is HARD, and sometimes, not very enjoyable.
No one can argue that breastfeeding isn’t the most natural way to feed your baby. Babies (before the days of formula) HAD to breastfeed to survive. So, one can only assume that breastfeeding will come naturally to you and your baby… right? Wrong. Breastfeeding is hard as hell. You might hear, “Just make it past two weeks and you’ll be fine” and this is often true. I don’t know why two weeks is often the magic amount of time, but after two weeks, you’ve usually gotten the hang of it. During those first two weeks, however, you’ll wake up one morning to find you look like Dolly Parton. You’ll feel like a cow as you try to figure out how to use the breastpump. You will question if your baby is getting enough milk, if you are doing it right… if your baby is doing it right. You might even have those cracked and bleeding nipples that everyone tries to avoid. Sometimes, all the difficulties can be too draining – both physically and emotionally – and breastfeeding just doesn’t work out. Again, don’t feel guilty and worry that your child isn’t going to turn out as well as babies that are breastfed. I breastfed my first baby for 8 months and cried the day I gave her formula. I wanted to breastfeed my second baby longer, but only made it 4 weeks. I just knew I was ruining her, but she’s turned out as amazingly as her sister did (and is the least picky eater, I might add). Breastfeeding is amazing and wonderful and I truly wish everyone could do it. But trust me when I tell you that your ability to parent, and your baby’s development, is hardly dependent on whether or not your child has breast milk.
You’ll lose some friends.
Some of you will be lucky enough to have a lot of friends with kids before you ever have kids of your own. You’ll have other people to talk to who will understand what you’re going through and might even be able to offer some parenting advice when you have no idea what you’re doing. If you don’t have a lot of friends with kids, then it’s time to make some. Close friends that I’d had for years are still very much involved in my life, but I found out I was having a baby right after my husband and I moved to a new city so that we could start medical school and graduate school. We were young, fresh out of college, and some of the first in our circle to get married. I had NO friends with babies. While I was pregnant, we made new friends – some single, some married, and all excited to welcome our newborn baby. But friendships with them became difficult when we became parents. Our friends would call to invite us out, but inevitably, only one of us could go because we were exhausted, the baby needed to be fed, the baby needed to go to bed, or we secretly wanted to go to bed too. After we kept politely declining invitations, the invitations eventually stopped coming altogether. It’s not a good thing or a bad thing, but just what usually happens. Friends who really matter will stay in touch, but it’s also a good idea to make some other friends who have kids of their own. Parent friends won’t think it’s a lame idea to stay in for dinner instead of going out. They won’t gasp when you say you’ve got to be home at a decent time because the baby wakes up early. And they won’t protest when you back out at the last minute because your baby is teething. They’ll be there alongside you when Friday night becomes just another night to rent a movie, and your non-parents friends will be there to buy you a drink when you can afford a babysitter.
You might feel resentful of your partner.
Even if you are blessed with a partner that helps out as much as they can, there will probably be times when you resent him or her. In families where one partner has given birth, or a partner has decided to be a full-time caretaker, life seems to change drastically overnight – maybe more so for one of you than the other. You’re probably up several times at night, you might be breastfeeding and/or pumping, and spending untold amounts of time checking and double-checking to make sure your baby is still breathing (trust me, you will do this). You will feel as though your life is now ruled by a tiny human being who never leaves your side and just getting a shower is the most productive thing you do all day. Your partner, on the other hand, might sleep peacefully beside you, enjoy an uninterrupted drive to work, and interact with other adults before coming home and snuggling with the baby before sleeping peacefully again. Especially in families with more designated roles for care-giving, you can and should expect to have these feelings. But this too shall pass. Your partner may NEVER truly understand what it is like to be a new mother in those first few months, but some of them may, at the very least, try to hear where you’re coming from. And that’s all you’ll really want anyway.
You will question everything you do.
Nowadays, there are research articles, books, blogs, websites, magazines, movies, (and a plethora of friends & family) to tell you the best way to raise a child. If you have been lucky enough to have spent a lot of time around babies before having your own, you may have the upper hand when it comes to new-mom apprehension. But for many of us, having a baby was like stepping into another universe. You will probably question most of the things you do, wondering if you’re parenting the “right way.” The funny thing is, there is no singular right way to raise a child. Breastmilk or formula, cloth or disposable diapers, homemade baby food or Gerber jars, co-sleeping or crib-sleeping – all babies that are loved will turn out just fine. Don’t worry about what your mom, your grandmother, the Today show, or any book has told you. If you follow your intuition and do what feels RIGHT FOR YOU, you will be exactly the kind of parent that your baby needs.