Whenever I see a first-time mom—at the park, at the grocery store, or as friends sitting on my living room couch—my thoughts each time are pretty much the same. First I think, "Awww! Sweet, cozy newborn! Let me snuggle that babe!" Moments after that initial response though, a second thought comes into my mind and that thought is, "You literally couldn't pay me enough money to go back and relive those early days of first-time motherhood."
This is something that most veteran moms may not tell you, but I have a feeling that I'm not alone in my sentiments. Don't get me wrong. I absolutely adored my first daughter as a baby. She was tiny and precious and I thought she was basically the most adorable thing on the planet. There are definitely times when I see her becoming such a big girl these days when I have moments of wishing I could have her be little again to soak up every bit, but for the most part those early days/weeks/months (honestly, probably most of the entire first year) of new parenthood were flat out exhausting—mentally and emotionally.
Recently I sat down with a first-time mama friend of mine for a bit after bringing her a meal a couple of weeks postpartum. After "oohing" and "ahhing" over her little one, I asked her how things were going... like actually going with the adjustment to new motherhood. She teared up as she admitted that it was all so much harder than she had anticipated.
It was a difficult time, mentally and emotionally, and then to add in postpartum hormones and sleep deprivation on top of that? Well, it's just a lot.
As the type of person who always wanted to become a mother one day, and who prepared herself rigorously by reading all the baby books, she sort of assumed that it would come a bit more naturally than it was. She admitted that she felt like she was floundering—and quite honestly, failing —at the endeavor at this point. She was crazy hormonal, insanely sleep-deprived and feeling like a former shell of her pre-child self. She couldn't figure out how to get her baby to sleep and nursing was a still a struggle and half the time when he would cry, she couldn't figure out why and would end up in tears herself.
After talking for a bit she apologized for spilling her guts, saying that obviously what she was going through was so much easier than what I was currently going through (i.e. being 9 months pregnant while chasing around a 4-year-old and a 2-year-old). Admittedly, this has been a challenging stage of life and I am really, freaking tired, but it's still nothing compared to the level of overwhelm I felt during that season of first-time motherhood and I told my friend as much.
Being a new mama is hands-down one of the hardest things I've ever experienced and I remember that time so vividly. I went from working full-time and having an outside identity as a teacher with interests, hobbies, a sense of style and a great relationship with my husband to being a full-time feeding machine and caretaker for a tiny human who I didn't know the first thing about—all while wearing frumpy sweat pants and barely talking to my husband because we were both so incredibly exhausted ALL THE TIME. It was a difficult time, mentally and emotionally, and then to add in postpartum hormones and sleep deprivation on top of that? Well, it's just a lot. Honestly, even just writing about that time gives me PTSD-style flashbacks.
So to my new mama friend and also to all the other new mamas out there, I would like to say to you: this stage really is that hard. You're not the first mom to feel like you're screwing it up while everyone else has it all together. Any of us who've been at this parenting thing for a decent amount of time can relate to what you're going through and we're all just faking it 'til we make it.
The good news is that it gets better.
There will always be hard stages and new challenges and I'm pretty sure that happens forever until your children are grown (and maybe even still after that), but you will get stronger. You will become a better parent. You will know more and you will learn to trust your instincts more and you will figure out how to be in tune with your unique child and their unique needs. You will never be perfect, but you will get better with each passing day/week/month/year.
So take heart new parents. It's gonna be OK.