Dear New Mama,
Welcome to motherhood. You’ve spent the nine months getting things ready for your new bundle of joy. You most likely have sorted through clothing, set aside bottles, gone over your birth plan, placed the car seat in your vehicle, and so much more. If you were like me, I had baby stations throughout the house with diapers, butt cream, wipes, clothes, burp rags, and so much more. I had spent months going through every detail, list, and recommendation Pinterest pushed my way. However, there was oh so much I had to learn. You new mamas knows exactly what I’m talking about—these hidden details we don’t tell the mother-to-be.
Why? It’s scary. Not fun. Intimidating. Frustrating. Mind Boggling. And it goes against every cliché you have heard for years about parenthood.
So, what do we hide from the new moms? Let’s break it down from birth.
1. Your Birth Plan
Like most new moms, the birth plan is the item on the forefront of your brain. Giving birth and the unknown is downright frightening. Everyone is willing to tell you their horror stories. Whether you plan to be induced, go natural, c-section, medicated, or whatever you have in mind, just be aware that those plans can go right out the window. Quickly. Take it from a woman who was planning to be drugged with an epidural to only have all 3 wear off and go all natural at the end. You may tear. You may need an emergency c-section. You may do exactly what you wanted. It may take a few hours…it may take a few days. There is no sugar coating for labor and delivery, but there is the shining moment of holding your little nugget in your arms. You muster a strength you didn’t know existed deep down inside of you. Trust your support system. Trust your instincts. You will survive. You’ve got this mama.
“There is a secret in our culture, and it’s not that birth is painful. It’s that women are strong.”—Laura Stavoe Harm
2. Let’s talk about the B and F word—Breastfeeding and Formula
Oh what a hot topic! Some women decide to formula feed right from the beginning. Others pump. Some breastfeed exclusively. Many do a combination. Find what works for you and your baby! People have no problem telling you their opinion and what you are doing wrong. Not everyone will produce milk or colostrum right from the beginning. Most don’t. However, other women are breastfeeding champs and I tip my hat to them. Some kids don’t latch. Some babies are immature suckers. Your nipples will bleed, swell, and crack. You will be in pain. You will absolutely cry over spilled milk. You and your baby will get frustrated (no matter what route of feeding you choose). Breastfeeding is not natural for every mother. The biggest lie we tell moms is that you will get the hang of it quickly. We put this weight on mothers that they will immediately know what to do, which leads to breakdowns, tears, and immense frustration. It can take days, weeks, or never to get the “hang” of feeding your baby. Once you do know what’s going on, that nugget will be sure to change things on you. Make sure your baby is happy and fed. Talk to the pediatrician if you have questions. You’ve got this mama.
“If anything else woke up every 45 minutes during the night demanding to see my wife’s breasts, you kill it.” —Ryan Reynolds
When we discuss postpartum, we immediately think of depression. Postpartum is that period of time after having your baby. It’s a time when your body is healing from basically being hit by a truck and dragged for seven miles down the highway. Your body will surprise you with what it releases, leaks, and the healing process. “Baby Blues” are completely normal, and many women find themselves crying for no reason during those first days/weeks. However, I found that postpartum comes in many varieties, not just depression or sadness. Many women experience intense anxiety, anger, irritation, worry, and much more. Postpartum is not always just depression. As your hormones try to regain control of your body and go back to a normal level, you may find yourself laughing one moment and then about to kill your partner ten seconds later. If you experience “baby blues” longer than 3-4 weeks, you should speak with your doctor. However, know those feelings of anger, anxiety, frustration, and irritation are part of the process. In the meantime, don’t kill your partner. Don’t rehome your animals. Stay away from the hair salon for 6 weeks. Drink a cup of coffee. You’ve got this mama.
“Parenthood always comes as a shock. Postpartum blues? Postpartum panic is more like it. We set out to have a baby; what we get is a total take-over of our lives.”–Polly Berrien Berends
Oh what we don’t tell our new mamas—how lonely they will feel at times. It doesn’t matter if they are home on maternity leave or surrounded by friends and family. You feel like you are drowning at times. You can’t get the baby to stop crying or fussing. You are sleep deprived. You haven’t eaten a real meal in days. Don’t even ask when you showered last. Yet those few seconds you are alone when your nugget isn’t attached to your boob or in your arms, you may feel overwhelming loneliness. No one seems to understand the weight on your shoulders. You worry about everything. Your partner doesn’t seem to understand how you feel. You hear and read different opinions on everything you do for your baby. The loneliness does subside and lessen each week. It will crawl back and hit you like a ton of bricks at times. You are not alone. Call on your support system—friends, family, or online groups. We don’t tell new moms about this issue. It exists. You’ve got this mama.
“Having children is like living in a frat house – nobody sleeps, everything’s broken, and there’s a lot of throwing up.”–Ray Romano
5. Endless Guilt and Worry
Think all the worry would go away once you were no longer pregnant? Wrong-o. While pregnant, you may find yourself conscious of every item you eat. You can’t wait to just hold your baby in your arms, where you know it’ll be safe. Although there is an instant relief when that baby boy or girl is placed on your chest, it is immediately replaced with guilt and worry. The first few weeks of motherhood are hard as macadamia nuts. You blame yourself for every cry, fuss, and issue that will surely arise. You wonder what you can do better. You worry that you are not doing enough…or maybe too much. You are enough, mama. It’s ok for the baby to cry so you can shovel down food for 5.8 seconds. You will be given plenty of unsolicited advice, but know what to listen to and what to ignore. Welcome to motherhood—that worry and guilt will be there until the day you croak. Don’t be too harsh on yourself. You’ve got this mama.
“Most of the time, I feel entirely unqualified to be a parent. I call these times being awake.” –Jim Gaffigan
Good luck new mama. Find a support system—whether it’s friends and family or a group of women online. Keep pushing through. It does get better, but there will be many road blocks and bumps along the way. It’s not easy. It’s not magical. It is special. Like the Grinch, your heart will grow three sizes. You are not alone.
Most importantly—You’ve got this mama.