Being a brand new mom is intense. Intense in every way in every emotion. In the happiness, in the overwhelm, in the sadness, in the uncertainty, in the exhaustion, in the love, in the beauty.
All of these feelings feel so big. And sometimes they feel like they're all-consuming.
The tears feel extra heavy. Your worries feel extra scary. Your heart feels extra full. Your nerves feel extra raw. Your body feels extra tired. Your boobs feel extra sore. Your mind feels extra scattered. Your soul feels extra clear. Your happiness feels extra abundant.
Everything is heightened.
It's a powerful time. I became a new mother four years ago. Then I became a new mama again two years ago. And one more time four months ago. Each time, with each beautiful bundle I brought home, I brought with her a little more wisdom and a little more ease. But let me be clear—I am also still learning so much as I go.
This learn-on-the-job position of “Mom" has taught me a thing or two over the past four years. I have spent time reflecting and learning and pushing myself to grow and get better—to be better.
New mamas, this is what I want to share with you.
1. On your confidence
Your confidence levels will be tested. You have never done this before. Of course you have very little clue as to what's going on or what's going to work or what is going to happen next. This is natural and normal. This ride is a rollercoaster—when there's a twist, your life may turn. When there's an up, it seems that there could be a down around the corner. And you may even get flipped around a few times.
But you know what all of this is doing? Building your confidence. You are learning how to be a mother, learning how to selflessly care for another human being. It will take time, but eventually you are going to believe in yourself and the fact that you truly are the very best mother for that darling baby of yours. That you were made for one another.
2. On your career
You may put your career on hold when baby comes. You may not. You may have a long maternity leave; you may have a short maternity leave. You may decide to go back to work at first, but then determine that working outside the home right now is not worth the price of childcare for your family. You may be excited to go back to work when your maternity leave is over because you want to feel a little bit closer to the 'pre-mom' version of yourself. You may not want to go back to work at all, but you have to help support your family.
Guess what? All of those things are okay. This is life. Everyone's career path looks different—baby or not. My point is...there are no rules on how to do this. There's no black and white. You will figure out what works best for you and your family along the way.
3. On your marriage
I found that with each baby we brought into our family our relationship went through a bit of a shift. In talking to friends, I realized that (surprise!) we weren't alone in that. For us, the change from one to two kids was the most challenging to navigate. But we're here to tell you that we made it through and our marriage is stronger because of it.
Bringing a baby into your marriage means you do a lot of growing together on this journey. Neither one of you (most likely) has ever been a parent before. You learn new things about each other, and yourself, and it's a long period of discovery. It's an exciting and frustrating and romantic and enlightening and never-ending period of discovery.
4. On your friendships
You may want mom friends if none of your friend friends are having babies around the same time as you. But finding new friends as an adult is...kind of weird, TBH. It feels sort of like going on a blind date. Just know that other moms feel like this, too. So don't be afraid to be the mom at the park who goes up to another mom to start a conversation. It will probably make her day! It can be awkward, but it's worth it.
Your friends who aren't having kids might not fully “get" everything about your new life—but that's okay. They don't have to understand it all. They just have to stick around for this chapter in your life. Reach out to them. Ask them for help. Our friends will always be important keys to different times in our lives.
5. On the monotony
You may feel like you are doing the same thing every. single. day. That all you're doing is changing diapers. Nursing. Wiping spit-up off yourself. Or the rug. Or the baby. You're not doing much, but at the same time—you're doing SO much.
This newborn fog clears faster than you can imagine. And looking back, that time is pretty magical. You have nowhere to be, nowhere to go—it's your time to figure out how to be a mom to your baby.
It's your time to sit on the couch and stare at her as she lays on your chest. It's your time to ooh and ahh over every yawn, every stretch, every sound. It's your time to be gentle with yourself—to rest and recover. Oh and to binge watch so many TV shows.
6. On your body
I sort of have a love-hate relationship with my body at the moment. And I'm working hard on getting that 'hate' part out. Because when I really think about the miracle that is pregnancy and childbirth and motherhood, in general, I want to just bow down to my body and thank it profusely for what it has gifted me.
The feeling of my baby kicking inside of me? Amazing. Watching my baby move around on the ultrasound screen? Mind-blowing. It's all just downright beautiful.
But then, with this miracle of life, comes the stretch marks, the loose skin, the seemingly pregnant (but not actually pregnant) looking belly, the (still) wearing maternity clothes a few months after giving birth, the feeling like you'll never fit into your pre-baby clothes ever again.
For me—it actually did take a little while to feel comfortable in my own skin again. But, eventually, I did. I really did. I felt like myself again, and it felt empowering. I was 'myself 2.0.' Because if there's one thing I've really learned over the years is that I am strong. Physically, emotionally, mentally strong. And that is one incredible gift my babies have given me.
7. On your pre-mom self
You'll miss her. I can't say you won't. Or at least the idealized version of what she was. She could book a trip and fly somewhere exotic on a whim (she didn't really do that, but she could have.) She could make plans at 5:00 p.m. to see an 8:00 p.m. movie. Exciting stuff. She didn't have to make three different meals at dinner time, and she could sleep till whatever time felt right on a Saturday morning.
But, she didn't have a really, really cute alarm clock yet. She didn't have this incredible human calling her 'Mom' yet. Her heart was still inside of her body, not yet crawling and walking around on the outside.
She knew love, of course...but she didn't know this love yet.
8. On appreciating your mom
I see my mom in a whole new light now that I'm a mother myself. I truly do not know how she raised five (seemingly) normal human beings. It's awe-inspiring. I have an even higher level of respect and admiration for her now than I ever did before.
Even though I am an adult, and I'm a mother myself—I will never stop needing her. I always call her for advice or with questions—to just check in or to vent. She “gets" it and that has brought us closer than ever.
9. On asking for help
At first when I was a new mama, I wanted to do everything myself. I wanted to figure it all out and be in control of what was going on with my baby. I watched what and how my husband did things (hardcore maternal gatekeeping going on) and I felt anxious when other people were helping to do anything baby-related. It caused me a lot of anxiety, and I turned excellent help away that could have been making my life easier.
Now, with three kids, I pretty much believe that we all deserve to live in communes together so we can all help care for each other's kids and live in peace and harmony. So the advice I'd have is: Try to let people in. Accept their help. They want to care for you and make your life a little easier. That's pretty wonderful.
But mama, let me remind you—you are your child's mother. They want you. They need you. They love you most. So it's okay to let people in. It's great in fact—to allow your child to strengthen their relationships with the people who mean most to you.
10. On taking care of yourself
I have found that if I don't make time to take care of myself, no one is just going to insert themselves into my life to do it for me. I have people who love me and want to help me—but no one is going to go as far to do that. So I have to do that. I can't pour from an empty cup, and with three children and a husband—there's a lot of pouring to do.
So I try my best to get the time I need. I try to get to the gym. I try to make regular hair appointments and plans with girlfriends. I try to take long, quiet showers when my husband gets home. I try to get out of the house when I need a break. It is not perfect, but I try.
Reflecting on life as a mother is a privilege. This role is the greatest honor of my life. And these are the important things I've learned, that I'm honestly continuing to learn every day.
And even if I was able to tell my first-time pregnant self these things, who knows what I'd do with this information. As I said before, motherhood is a learn-on-the-job type of position. You have to go through it firsthand to feel it, to believe it, to be okay with it, and to fully understand it.
So just know this—you will. You will fully understand it. Be patient with yourself. Be kind to yourself. This ride is the best adventure of your life.
Welcome to the sisterhood of motherhood. You're going to like it here.