I have four kids, and I honestly think the hardest transition was going from zero kids to one. If you are a brand-new mom, stumbling through those first hazy months, here are some messages for you from the other side.
You don’t have to know how to do everything.
I went through a phase after my first baby was born when I was just running through the list of all the things she was going to need to learn to do or that she was going to experience in her life, and I felt like I needed to be prepared for every single one right then! In reality, you learn as you go. You have time to solve each challenge as it’s presented to you, and each time you need to figure something out, you’ll have abundant resources at your disposal.
Postpartum anxiety and depression are real.
I spent most of the first week of my baby’s life weepy, forgetting to eat, anxious about everything, hiding from company. Thank goodness my mom was there to care for the baby because I was a mess. Know that if you have feelings like this, they are common, and you’re not alone. Also, know help is out there.
Nursing can be super challenging.
I thought I was going to breastfeed, but I ended up making the choice to formula feed after I struggled to nurse and pump. It is painful, time-consuming, and difficult. Many moms make exclusively nursing work, and many moms choose to pump or use formula instead. All that really matters is that your baby is fed.
So many of the challenging things will end.
Crying in the car seat. Hating baths. Being up all night to eat. Random screaming spells that appear to have no rhyme or reason. Needing to be held all the time. Eating every two hours. All of these things will rather quickly come to an end, even if right now it feels like time is going in slow motion. But then again, so will the new baby smell and teeny snuggles, so soak them up.
Sleep deprivation is a killer with your first baby.
It wasn’t as bad with my subsequent kids, but it was so hard with my first. You just went from being able to control your sleep schedule and probably getting eight hours of uninterrupted sleep every night (maybe more, if you were like I was) to waking up every couple of hours all night, every night. On top of that, you just birthed another human being. And you’re dealing with the mental exhaustion of learning how to be a parent. For better or worse, this is probably the most tired you will ever be!
Ask for the help you need.
People do seriously want to help you. Hopefully, people are bringing you gifts and meals, but don’t be afraid to ask close friends and family for help with dishes, laundry, grocery shopping, or just coming over to sit with the baby so that you can take a nap. And be specific with your partner about what help or support you need. You do not have to do this alone!
Being a new mom is hard!
Everything is new. I remember feeling so overwhelmed—like I didn’t know how to do anything. Sure, I had taken classes and babysat before, but nothing compares to actually being thrown into the trenches, suddenly responsible for every aspect of a baby’s care around the clock. Do not be hard on yourself. Don’t downplay it. If anybody makes being a new mom look easy, she’s probably full of it.
…but it’s also the most amazing thing you’ll ever do.
Right now, I have a three-month-old baby who has to stop eating sometimes just to beam a huge smile at me. I have a two-year-old who walks around all day singing and saying hilarious things (when she’s not randomly throwing objects) and gives super soft kisses. I have a five-year-old who asks the world’s best questions and loves to use his vivid imagination, and a six-year-old who writes me sweet notes and tells me I’m the best mom ever.
Each stage of your baby’s life will bring challenges but also such priceless rewards. So, keep your eyes on the prize as you change your fifteenth diaper of the day. You’re doing a great job, and that kid is going to love you so much.