Menu

I wasn’t prepared for the grief each milestone would bring

For every stage of motherhood that ends, a new one begins, bringing different but no less abundant joys.

motherhood and milestones

I turned the corner into our bedroom and stopped with a jolt. The rented bassinet that stood along the wall beside the door for the past five months was gone. My son hadn't slept in it for at least two weeks, not even for naps. But the bassinet had stayed there, holding that space, until we packed it up to ship it back earlier that day. Now, the space felt cavernous, the emptiness a gut-punch. It announced that this chapter of my son's young life—our sleeping-in-the-same-room chapter—was over. Actually, it'd been over for a while, I just hadn't noticed. I couldn't stop myself from crying.

FEATURED VIDEO

This wasn't the first time I encountered this specific sadness after my son's birth. I'm no stranger to emotional turbulence but typically it hits before a change happens, not afterward. Doctors diagnosed my anxiety disorder in early childhood. For more than three decades, I've operated in an alternating state of dread and relief. Whenever something scary, challenging, or just unpleasant lay ahead—be it a thunderstorm, a piano recital, even the end of a vacation—I spent absurd amounts of time projecting worst-case scenarios. I'd agonize to near-paralysis. Then the awaited event or moment of change would arrive. Everything would turn out fine, or simply pass, and the dread would melt into relief.


Knowing these tendencies made it easier to manage my pregnancy. Despite the seemingly endless array of scary, challenging and unpleasant things those months threw my way, I could recognize my anxiety symptoms when they started. I could dip into my hard-earned toolbox of coping mechanisms to handle them. But having such intense emotions appear weeks after the moment of change was a new experience.

It'd happened once before. Weeks before the bassinet breakdown, I sat nursing my son on the morning of his due date (he surprised us by arriving two weeks and a day early). Looking at his patches of fuzzy hair, undulating cheeks and impossibly tiny fingernails, it hit me for the first time that my pregnancy was really over. My husband and I didn't have a chance to enjoy the freedom and stillness of our last night as non-parents. I didn't have a chance to spend an hour snuggling on the couch with my dog, just the two of us before she'd forever have to contend with her brother for my attention. I didn't have a chance to sit alone in my son's nursery, looking around at everything we'd put together for him, enjoying a few minutes of solitude and dreaming. A unique part of my life—the imagining, preparing, nesting, anticipating – it was over, and I couldn't go back. I couldn't stop myself from crying.

I struggled to understand what I was feeling and, more importantly, why.

How could I possibly be sad about my pregnancy being over when it meant I had this healthy baby boy in my lap?

How could I possibly be sad about my son's bassinet being gone when it meant he'd transitioned to his crib and was sleeping through the night?

Why was I only feeling sad now, weeks too late to do anything about it?

As I spoke about these feelings to others, I started realizing what they were: expressions of grief. Delayed, but intense grief.

I've been fortunate that I can count on one hand the number of loved ones who've died in my 36 years. The two most prominent—my dad's parents—died when I was 7 and 11, so I was too young to fully feel or understand the weight of that grief. Given my inexperience, it's reasonable that I didn't recognize what I was going through now. No one had died, but I'd experienced a deep loss.

In some ways, this phenomenon of delayed-onset grief has been a blessing. If my anxiety were the dominant emotional force in my parenting life, I'd be agonizing about my son's every transition or milestone. I'd be too stuck in my own head to be present for any of them. Being perpetually on the brink of a panic attack, I'd be incapable of giving him the real-time nurturing he needs.

In other ways, it's been a millstone. I chide myself for not documenting each memory permanently enough so I can relive it later. I mourn the many previous versions of my son that are gone for good.

The just-out-of-the-NICU version small enough to fit on my forearm.

The feeding-around-the-clock version who provided ample excuses for just-us time.

The are-you-pooping-or-actually-happy-to-see-me version who was just learning to smile.

I'm realizing that, despite surviving many mental health battles, I'm pretty unarmed for this one. I know how to stop my mind from projecting onto the future, but I don't know how to prevent it from yearning for the past.

A friend told me to remind myself that, for every stage of motherhood that ends, a new one begins, bringing different but no less abundant joys. I try to do this when the grief creeps in. Sometimes it works. Sometimes I can't stop myself from crying. But I'm learning to embrace these changing moments.

By its very nature, motherhood requires some lifestyle adjustments: Instead of staying up late with friends, you get up early for snuggles with your baby. Instead of spontaneous date nights with your honey, you take afternoon family strolls with your little love. Instead of running out of the house with just your keys and phone, you only leave with a fully loaded diaper bag.

For breastfeeding or pumping mamas, there is an additional layer of consideration around when, how and how much your baby will eat. Thankfully, when it comes to effective solutions for nursing or bottle-feeding your baby, Dr. Brown's puts the considerations of mamas and their babies first with products that help with every step of the process—from comfortably adjusting to nursing your newborn to introducing a bottle to efficiently pumping.

With countless hours spent breastfeeding, pumping and bottle-feeding, the editors at Motherly know the secret to success is having dependable supplies that can help you feed your baby in a way that matches lifestyle.

Here are 9 breastfeeding and pumping products to help you no matter what the day holds.

Customflow™ Double Electric Breast Pump

Dr. Brown's electric pump

For efficient, productive pumping sessions, a double electric breast pump will help you get the job done as quickly as possible. Quiet for nighttime pumping sessions and compact for bringing along to work, this double pump puts you in control with fully adjustable settings.

$159.99

Hands-Free Pumping Bra

Dr. Brown''s hands free pumping bra

Especially in the early days, feeding your baby can feel like a pretty consuming task. A hands-free pumping bra will help you reclaim some of your precious time while pumping—and all mamas will know just how valuable more time can be!

$29.99

Manual Breast Pump with SoftShape™ Silicone Shield

Dr. Brown's manual breast pump

If you live a life that sometimes takes you away from electrical outlets (that's most of us!), then you'll absolutely want a manual breast pump in your arsenal. With two pumping modes to promote efficient milk expression and a comfort-fitted shield, a manual pump is simply the most convenient pump to take along and use. Although it may not get as much glory as an electric pump, we really appreciate how quick and easy this manual pump is to use—and how liberating it is not to stress about finding a power supply.

$29.99

Nipple Shields and Sterilization Case

Dr. Brown's nipple shields

There is a bit of a learning curve to breastfeeding—for both mamas and babies. Thankfully, even if there are some physical challenges (like inverted nipples or a baby's tongue tie) or nursing doesn't click right away, silicone nipple shields can be a huge help. With a convenient carry case that can be sterilized in the microwave, you don't have to worry about germs or bacteria either. 🙌

$9.99

Silicone One-Piece Breast Pump

Dr. Brown's silicone pump

When you are feeding your baby on one breast, the other can still experience milk letdown—which means it's a golden opportunity to save some additional milk. With a silent, hands-free silicone pump, you can easily collect milk while nursing.

$14.99

Breast to Bottle Pump & Store Feeding Set

After a lifetime of nursing from the breast, introducing a bottle can be a bit of a strange experience for babies. Dr. Brown's Options+™ and slow flow bottle nipples were designed with this in mind to make the introduction to bottles smooth and pleasant for parents and babies. As a set that seamlessly works together from pumping to storing milk to bottle feeding, you don't have to stress about having everything you need to keep your baby fed and happy either.

$24.99

Washable Breast Pads

washable breast pads

Mamas' bodies are amazingly made to help breast milk flow when it's in demand—but occasionally also at other times. Especially as your supply is establishing or your breasts are fuller as the length between feeding sessions increase, it's helpful to use washable nursing pads to prevent breast milk from leaking through your bra.

$8.99

Breast Milk Storage Bags

Dr. Brown's milk storage bags

The essential for mamas who do any pumping, breast milk storage bags allow you to easily and safely seal expressed milk in the refrigerator or freezer. Dr. Brown's™ Breast Milk Storage Bags take it even further with extra thick walls that block out scents from other food items and feature an ultra secure lock to prevent leaking.

$7.99


Watch one mama's review of the new Dr. Brown's breastfeeding line here:

This article was sponsored by Dr. Brown's. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

Our Partners

I never wanted to be a mom. It wasn't something I ever thought would happen until I fell madly in love with my husband—who knew very well he wanted children. While he was a natural at entertaining our nephews or our friends' kids, I would awkwardly try to interact with them, not really knowing what to say or do.

Our first pregnancy was a surprise, a much-wanted one but also a unicorn, "first try" kind of pregnancy. As my belly grew bigger, so did my insecurities. How do you even mom when you never saw motherhood in your future? I focused all my uncertainties on coming up with a plan for the delivery of my baby—which proved to be a terrible idea when my dreamed-of unmedicated vaginal birth turned into an emergency C-section. I couldn't even start motherhood the way I wanted, I thought. And that feeling happened again when I couldn't breastfeed and instead had to pump and bottle-feed. And once more, when all the stress from things not going my way turned into debilitating postpartum anxiety that left me not really enjoying my brand new baby.

As my baby grew, slowly so did my confidence that I could do this. When he would tumble to the ground while learning how to walk and only my hugs could calm him, I felt invincible. But on the nights he wouldn't sleep—whether because he was going through a regression, a leap, a teeth eruption or just a full moon—I would break down in tears to my husband telling him that he was a better parent than me.

Then I found out I was pregnant again, and that this time it was twins. I panicked. I really cannot do two babies at the same time. I kept repeating that to myself (and to my poor husband) at every single appointment we had because I was just terrified. He, of course, thought I could absolutely do it, and he got me through a very hard pregnancy.

When the twins were born at full term and just as big as singleton babies, I still felt inadequate, despite the monumental effort I had made to grow these healthy babies and go through a repeat C-section to make sure they were both okay. I still felt my skin crawl when they cried and thought, What if I can't calm them down? I still turned to my husband for diaper changes because I wasn't a good enough mom for twins.

My husband reminded me (and still does) that I am exactly what my babies need. That I am enough. A phrase that has now become my mantra, both in motherhood and beyond, because as my husband likes to say, I'm the queen of selling myself short on everything.

So when my babies start crying, I tell myself that I am enough to calm them down.

When my toddler has a tantrum, I remind myself that I am enough to get through to him.

When I go out with the three kids by myself and start sweating about everything that could go wrong (poop explosions times three), I remind myself that I am enough to handle it all, even with a little humor.


And then one day I found this bracelet. Initially, I thought how cheesy it'd be to wear a reminder like this on my wrist, but I bought it anyway because something about it was calling my name. I'm so glad I did because since day one I haven't stopped wearing it.

Every time I look down, there it is, shining back at me. I am enough.

I Am Enough bracelet 

SONTAKEY  I Am Enough Bracelet

May this Oath Bracelet be your reminder that you are perfect just the way you are. That you are enough for your children, you are enough for your friends & family, you are enough for everything that you do. You are enough, mama <3

$35

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

Life

The American Academy of Pediatrics says that newborns, especially, do not need a bath every day. While parents should make sure the diaper region of a baby is clean, until a baby learns how to crawl around and truly get messy, a daily bath is unnecessary.

So, why do we feel like kids should bathe every day?

Keep reading Show less
Learn + Play