Becoming a mother is by far the hardest thing I have ever done. I’ve mentioned some of the ways in which it is hard here and here. But recently, some of my mom friends and I were discussing how difficult becoming a new mom can be and why no one seems to talk about it. So I’m going to talk about it.
There is really nothing that can prepare a new mother for the shock of caring for a newborn. This can be a challenging time for women – besides having a fragile, small person completely dependent on us, we have to balance extreme lack of sleep, recovery from the birth, the pain and struggle of trying to breastfeed, and the Baby Blues. It’s no wonder the thought, “I can’t do this,” crosses our mind every now and again.
Here’s the truth – taking care of a newborn is not fun. There are fun moments, yes, but in those first few weeks there are, for many of us, many more un-fun moments. We look forward to the moment we get to bring home our baby for nine months, only to have our expectations shattered. In the first weeks the future looks bleak. “Will she ever stop crying? Will I ever sleep again? What am I doing wrong? Maybe I’m not cut out for this.” These are just some of the thousands of questions and thoughts that cross our minds. We are unsure of ourselves yet afraid to ask for help lest we should admit that we have no idea what we are doing and feel like we never will.
Why are new mothers constantly surprised by this truth? Why don’t we ever talk about this?
Mom guilt kicks in the second we start to think any thought of frustration towards our new baby. Every time I mentioned that I was struggling from lack of sleep or that AJ was crying a lot I felt extremely guilty immediately afterward. I didn’t want people to think I didn’t love my baby, and even worse, would she somehow be able to pick up on the fact that I was “talking bad” about her and hate me forever from birth? When I start to feel mom guilt now, I console myself with the fact that I know my own parents felt frustration when I was a newborn and do I blame them? Heck no! Did I turn out okay? Yes!
We also forget oh-so-quickly how hard it actually was to take care of our newborn. I’m already to the point where I can look back and think, “Maybe it wasn’t so bad. After all it was only a few weeks.” But when you are in the thick of it, it is that bad. Three weeks can feel like an eternity.
Another reason new moms are unprepared is that when mothers do share their struggles, we as pregnant women have on our pregnancy blinders and don’t believe them. I had people tell me I wouldn’t like my newborn or that it was okay if I cried. I thought, “Ha! Not me! I will LOVE being a mom.” And I do, now. Those wise women who went before me knew what they were talking about; I just didn’t want to listen. Can you blame me though? What pregnant woman wants to hear that the baby they’ve been dreaming about will terrorize their life when it arrives? As a pregnant woman, I wanted to think about all the good times ahead.
Here’s the second, and wonderful, truth – it gets so much better. Quickly. There is a light at the end of the newborn tunnel! For me, it took about six weeks for things to finally feel good, for me to finally feel like I was getting the hang of things. For some moms it takes only a few days, and for some moms it takes months. It’s all normal and it’s all okay. And once your baby is able to acknowledge you, able to smile and coo and laugh, you realize it was all worth it. Every tear, every sleepless night, every moment of hardship was worth it. There are still tough days, there will always be tough days, but before you know it the good days way outnumber the bad.