This summer I welcomed my amazing son into the world. Like many soon-to-be parents, my husband and I signed up for our local prenatal class series, confident that I'd leave the course feeling prepared. And I was, in a way.
We learned about the stages of labor, pain relief methods, and emergency C-sections. But almost no time was dedicated to the postpartum period, or the blurry, foggy, overall confusing newborn stage.
In the 8.5 months that I've been a mom, I've by no means become an expert, but I have learned some lessons that have served me well as I navigate this new world. Things that, honestly, I wish someone would have given me the head's up on.
Here they are:
1. Simple doesn’t mean easy.
Feed, change, cuddle, repeat. Bathe occasionally. Clothe. Simple, right?
Caring for a newborn may be simple in theory, but make no mistake— there's nothing easy about it. In fact, it's shocking how difficult it can be. Lack of sleep played a huge role for me in how difficult things often felt, as did my physical recovery, and well, the huge adjustment to being a mother.
2. You’ll recover at your own pace.
After a beautiful, calm labor—the labor I had dreamed of—I was utterly disappointed in myself for recovering so slowly. I knew people who were out and about, jogging with their newborns in their strollers just a few days postpartum.
Me? The journey from the car to our condo unit felt like a marathon. It hurt to stand. It hurt to sit. I was bleeding. I was leaking milk. Taking a shower was terrifying.
In fairness, my delivery was complicated—the umbilical cord was wrapped around my son's shoulder and his heart rate was dropping, so I needed a massive episiotomy and the help of a vacuum to get him out ASAP. But I couldn't believe how long it took me to feel like myself again. I wasn't close to healed by the 6-week timeline—it was more like three months.
I remember thinking, forget about getting my pre-baby body back—I just want a body that functions! But beating myself up wasn't going to speed up the recovery process. It only made me feel worse.
Be kind to yourself. It took nine months (give or take) for your body to grow and birth your baby, and it'll take time for things to fall back into place.
3. Your baby might have recovery time too.
After delivery, my baby had a swollen head from the vacuum extraction and was jaundiced. He didn't exactly look like the sweet, chubby baby I was expecting.
When he cried and was fussy, I had to remind myself that he was healing just like I was. We were in this together, and neither of us was feeling our best.
4. You’ll want someone at your appointments.
Between the sleep deprivation, hormones, and total newness of it all, doctor's appointments can seem like a hazy blur. Recruit your partner, your mom, your sister, or a close friend to come with you. They'll listen, ask questions, and help you remember things after the fact.
I don't know how many times my husband said to me, "Don't worry, the doctor said that's normal," and I thought When the heck did he say that? That's normal, mama. Your body may be working overtime but your mind might feel like it is moving in slow motion.
5. Unexpected people will reach out.
One of the most amazing experiences during my pregnancy and postpartum period was the people who reached out to offer love and support—not just congratulatory wishes but an invitation to talk about how things are really going.
Because those who have gone through it recently know how trying those first few days, weeks, and months can be. If you don't have lots of close friends or family members who are having babies at the same time as you, you can feel extremely alone.
I had a former co-worker who now lives halfway across the country reach out in the most touching way, and she still stays in touch.
When someone holds their hand out, take it—it can be such a wonderful experience. Plus, you may be able to pass it on one day too.
6. Little victories are worth celebrating.
One of the most powerful, important things you can do is celebrate small victories, and be thankful for little joys.
At the very beginning, I tried to do one simple thing every day— cut and file my nails, write a thank you card for a gift I received, drink a hot cup of tea.
Later on, my victories got slightly bigger—meet my sister for lunch, go for a walk with the baby to the grocery store. On more than one occasion, I looked down at my baby when I got home from being out with him and said, "Look at us—look at what we can do!"
When you're a new mom, it's perfectly acceptable to be proud of yourself for getting dinner on the table or running an errand. In fact, you should be beaming with pride. You did it!
7. There’s no shame in asking for help.
When it comes to professionals, there's a wealth of knowledge out there to turn to: breastfeeding specialists, sleep consultants, pelvic floor physiotherapists, postpartum doulas, and so on. But asking for help can also mean asking your mom to come over and hold the baby so you can nap. Or asking your friend to bring a pack of diapers. And of course, seeking support for postpartum anxiety or depression is crucial and can make a world of difference.
8. It gets easier, and it gets better.
I've heard people say, "It doesn't get easier, it just gets different," and I'll let you know—that's not true. It does get easier. Sleep improves, breastfeeding (if you're doing so) gets easier, colic goes away, and newborns turn into adorable, smiley, cuddly little babies. If you don't love the newborn stage, you're not alone, and that's okay!
New motherhood can seem like a long, hazy tunnel, but you'll find your way through it, and at the other side, you'll discover yourself again, along with the sweetest little baby in the world.