I wrote this right after my son was born in 2013. I read over it the other night and it made me smile (and cringe). I pass it on to you…
They weren’t lying when they said that parenthood is the most challenging, yet most rewarding, thing that you will ever do. I felt so prepared to bring my son home and begin nourishing him, providing him with safety and love and guidance. I had taken all the classes, bought all of the stuff, double checked all of our lists and asked all of our questions. We were as ready as we could be!… or so we thought.
I don’t think that I was completely prepared emotionally for what I was about to endure. I’d like to explain a bit of that in the hopes that I can arm some of you to face what’s ahead of you emotionally!
Before I go any further though, don’t let me scare you – motherhood is truly challenging and has the biggest learning curve of anything in the world, but I am the happiest I’ve ever been in my life and am so excited to be my son’s mother!
You Will Feel Pain
I’m sorry to start off with something that sounds so ominous, but it’s true. While I’ll save my labor story for a separate article, I think it’s safe to say that you’ll probably still be in some pain when you get home. You’ll most likely get some remedies to take home with you, but just be aware that pushing the baby out is not the last of the physical strain you’ll feel. I’m not sure that I really thought of that before I brought my son home.
And as much as I advocate breastfeeding, I was surprised by how much – and how long – it took me to toughen up and not be in pain. I’m currently on Day 18 and am just now starting to feel like it’s not painful – and we’re not talking “mild discomfort”, this is real try-not-to-scream-when-your-son-latches-on pain. But I didn’t give up and I’m so proud of myself, and happy for my son’s sake.
And then… there’s the bathroom situation. Depending on what happens in labor, you’ll probably end up having some trouble using the restroom. It might just burn when you urinate (and in that case some warm water in a peri bottle is your best friend), or in some ladies’ case it can be serious enough to where you don’t poop for days. You will probably have some anxiety about going to the restroom on your own, so just be prepared. Talk to your doctor about adding stool softeners if you haven’t already, and have your commode stocked with pads, peri bottles, witch hazel wipes, Dermaplast, and anything else you can think of. I won’t say any more than… brace yourself.
You Will Feel Exhaustion
This seems like a no-brainer, and I actually thought I was really ready for this since my sleep schedule was all screwed up for a few months before my son was born. I was sleeping a little at a time, around the clock. I knew that I would sleep when the baby sleeps (I’ve heard that 1,000 times) and that I’d be up multiple times in the night for feedings and diaper changes, so I felt my body had anticipated this change. No big deal. I got this.
What I wasn’t prepared for, was how I would jump up at every sound my son made in his sleep, in fear that he was suffocating or starving or covered in poop. We use a radio that plays the sound of rain to help with some additional white noise, and had the crib next to my side of the bed. Finding out that my son had reflux just made my anxiety worse – what if he spit up and choked, or it drained back into his lungs and he couldn’t breathe?!?! And on the milk I had nursed him on?!?! I felt the best thing to do was sacrifice my sleep to be sure that he was ok.
PLEASE DON’T DO WHAT I DID. At worst, make a schedule with your significant other to sleep in shifts. At best, use a baby monitor if you’re paranoid and keep baby’s crib close to you so you can hear them. But you have to take care of you, as my Mom says. While I agree that motherhood is all about self-sacrifice, you’re not being a good mother if you’re not letting your body rest up and heal. (This is especially true if you’re breastfeeding, as your body needs time to go into milk factory mode). And this is advice that was given to me by everyone around me. Don’t be a martyr – be smart about getting some shuteye. In my case, I’ll try to sleep at night, but find that if I have 1 or 2 small naps during the day, I am much stronger and have more mental energy to do things like battle pain and be patient. I won’t lie to you, though – I don’t always sleep when the baby sleeps! (And those of you who know me, know that I’m still somewhat of a martyr anyway). 🙂
You Will Feel Overwhelmed
No matter how much reading, planning, class-taking and researching you do, there will be plenty that you don’t know once you get Baby home. That’s ok! Your baby doesn’t know much about being a human being, and you can learn together. I’ve certainly felt stupid at least a hundred times since he was born, and I’ve even had moments where I felt like a failure as a mother because I couldn’t correctly guess why my child was crying, or get him to latch right the first time. That’s a really crappy feeling. But just remember that if you love your child and you do whatever you can for them, you will both come out undamaged. Just be patient, call whoever you need to for advice (get those 24/7 on-call numbers ready!), and ask loved ones for help. Oh, and remember what I said about getting rest? That’ll help you too.
You Will Feel Jealousy
Wait, what? Jealousy? Yes, jealousy. I felt it when anyone other than me had our baby – it was minor when my husband had him, a bit more when my close family held him, more when other family members held him and was pretty extreme when a nurse or doctor was holding him. Completely normal, but completely unexpected.
I’m going to admit this even though it sounds ridiculous – I got jealous of things, too. I hate formula with the fire of a thousand suns – we supplemented for a few days until my milk came in, and although it was a very temporary thing, I felt like a failure. I was brainwashed to think that I wasn’t providing my child with enough food, and I hated that some factory-made powdery stuff was the solution. I went along with it of course because that’s what i thought was best for my child – I wasn’t going to starve him out of pride – but I was so happy when I didn’t have to use it anymore!
I feel the same loathing for his pacifier. A stupid piece of plastic could do what his own mother couldn’t always do, as I had to put him in daycare when j went back to work. I had to get over that.
Ok, since you’ve made it this far in the article, let me pump you up with some positivity! Because there’s a lot…
You Will Feel Needed
Never in your life have you mattered more. And I don’t just mean as a food truck. Your voice gets a response from your little one that nothing else can do – you motivate and calm them instantly. They literally can smell that it’s you when their eyes are closed, and you will be the one they want when they need comforting. Being able to provide nourishment for your child is one of the many facets that will constantly remind you that you are more important to this little life, than anything in the world. You are home.
You Will Feel Adored
The first time your child opens their eyes and looks at you – really looks at you – something inside you will change forever. They’ll make the connection with how you look + how you sound + how you smell, and that little face will look at you adoringly. My son smiled at me in his sleep when I said “I love you”, and he studies every expression on my face as I sing to him. I know in my heart that he loves me as much as I love him, even though he can’t say it.
Hopefully you will also have as great of an experience with your spouse as I have. It took a little while for him to express it, but he has never been more helpful nor appreciative than he is now. I think it’s a combination of “wow you went through all that pain and you’re still going strong”, and “I love you that much more for doing all of this for our son.” I feel more beautiful to him, and more comfortable and confident with him, than I ever have. And my marriage is that much better.
You Will Feel Invincible
I know I know… I spent the whole first half of this article preaching about pain and exhaustion. But there will come a point when you feel like Super Mom because you look back on all you’ve accomplished. You’ve created another human being; you’ve survived labor and birth; your body continues to heal and the pain lessens (your uterus alone is one of the hidden wonders of the world); you’re learning more and more each day; you’re able to predict what your child needs and wants; you’re able to take care of yourself and keep your house from sinking into neglect. What CAN’T you do?
Try to focus on this, and the love for your child, as much as possible. When I’m in pain or particularly tired, I do my labor breathing, softly repeat the word “relax” over and over while fixating on one body part at a time, and remind myself that I got through birth… so of course I can deal with whatever life dares to throw at me! I let the endorphins wash over me and I feel calmer and stronger. Remember, most of us are our own worst enemies, but we can be our own biggest advocates, too.
You Will Feel Cleansed
This can certainly be taken literally, but I mean more as a spring cleaning of your life. I’ve found that I’ve lost touch with certain friends of mine, but it doesn’t make me upset at all. Other friends (most of them either already had kids or want kids) have stepped up to help us out, and we’ve become closer. It might surprise you, but it won’t bother you; it’s hard to explain. Things that used to consume time and mental energy just fade away. This doesn’t mean that you won’t care about cooking or cleaning or hygiene, it just means that being a mother helps put a new lens on your perspective. Your baby will effortlessly re-prioritize your life for you, and be grateful – because the people and things that fall by the wayside end up being those that you didn’t really need, anyway.
You Will Feel Peace
Peace… what an amazing word. And it’s true. You’ll start to feel better as your pain subsides, you master things like twilight diaper changes and breastfeeding, you become an expert at doing things with a baby in one arm, and you get into a routine. Sure it’s time consuming and will certainly re-arrange your life in a way, but there is nothing like being a mother. You will never not be a mother ever again, and like anything else worth doing in life, it’ll take practice and hard work. But as things get easier, you will find yourself having more happy moments and less sad/stressed/panicky moments. Cherish it!
How did you feel as a new parent?