Motherhood can be a bitch. In addition to being totally and overwhelmingly wonderful and incredible, that is. Thanks to online truth-talkers, most of us no longer feel guilty or ashamed about admitting and lamenting how hard and disorienting the first days/weeks/months/year of brand-new motherhood can be.
I remember so freakin' clearly how scared I was to deliver, feed, hold, change and pretty much do anything with my newborn the first time around. Could I accidentally break her? After all, the first time I'd really held a baby in my life happened to be after I delivered my own. (There is more truth about getting over my fear of newborns in my book.)
So, for the new mamas who might be petrified and giving birth any day now ( September is one of the most popular birthing months!), here are 10 shame-free mantras for those first days, weeks and months.
1. My baby will not break. Those first days in the hospital were the most out-of-body experiences ever and I was scared to handle my own child for fear I'd dislocate an arm or leg or toe or head because babies are so fragile. Wrong. Babies are actually pretty solid, despite their wrinkly faces and scrawny limbs. I watched the nurses handle my newborn like the fierce bosses they are and I took major notes. Moving a baby's arm into her onesie, a leg into the footie or her bum-bum into a diaper will not break her.
2. No, I just can't do visitors today. Period. No explanation to others or self-induced guilt needed here.
3. Yes, I can take a shower and everything will be fine. If I disappear in the bathroom, the baby won't know where I am, even though she's happy and in her bassinet! Regardless of what your brain tells you, boss yourself into rolling that bassinet in your bathroom and turning on the hot water. You'll thank yourself.
Bouncing back after baby means taking things at the exact speed I need them to be.
4. I will not compare my life right now to anything on social media. Yes, get offline! Seeking support from other moms in Facebook groups can be therapeutic but know the limits: Too much scrolling and comparing online, even if it is in Facebook groups meant for moral support, can make us anxious, unhappy, frustrated and just plain crazy. Also, asking too many questions in those Facebook groups (with those well-meaning moms who truly aren't experts) personally made me question my own intuition and parenting skills. No new mom needs that. Too much social media as a new parent can freak us all out — big time.
5. I'm doing my best today and that makes me a superstar. I highly suggest looking at yourself in the mirror while saying this at least three times a day. At the very least, it'll amuse you.
6. Come hell or high water, I will make my bed at some point. This psychological lifestyle tip from a former Navy SEAL. No joke: Fixing my bed saved me as a new mom! Even if I didn't get to it until around 2 p.m. or even 5 p.m., forcing myself to pull the covers up to make my bed look semi-decent made me feel productive even on the most frustrating or chaotic time-sucking days.
7. One day, I'll remember this day (with a screaming baby and smeared vomit on the carpet) and smile. NOT TODAY, BUT SOMEDAY. A LONG, LONG TIME FROM NOW.
8. Bouncing back after baby means taking things at the exact speed I need them to be. For me, part of this meant 30 days of living in my underwear with no visitors, no makeup and nowhere I needed to be.
9. Just because I'm not working right now and feel absolutely isolated from everything that brought me a sense of accomplishment and professional pride doesn't mean I won't ever return to those things again. I had a very complicated struggle with freezing certain career aspirations during my new-mom days. The fear of never working again took more space in my brain than I'm comfortable admitting. Have faith that — even though life might feel upside down with a new baby — you can and will return to the professional world you once knew should you be ready once you heal and recover from this newborn phase. Bonus: You'll be much more fierce and complete.
10. Damn, I love my new little baby. (Because, duh.)
"Keep breathing" is also something to repeat on the daily. Before you know it, you'll be wondering how the hell time can fly so fast as your baby starts walking. You've got this.