Menu

New mama, you just need to relax into it

I have to be willing to give up who I am to become who I want to be.

New mama, you just need to relax into it

I often describe becoming a new mother as if someone took my entire being, dropped it to shatter onto the floor, and left me to pick up the pieces.


They told me to expect sleepless nights, a changed body, and the immense love I would feel for my daughter.

But no one told me I would experience a complete unraveling in the months following her birth. They mentioned loss of identity but no one explained it. The first two months almost destroyed me. They were the hardest thing I’d ever experienced.

I fought the changes that new motherhood brought so much that I made it harder on myself.

Every part of my life changed the day my baby girl was born. There wasn’t a single thing that stayed the same. Not one.

My body had undergone an extreme change and after baby was born, to my surprise, it didn’t return to the way it used to be. Instead, my body was in slow-motion recovery. I couldn’t move at the pace I was used to. I was fatigued. My hormones were spiraling out of control, adjusting to no longer being pregnant and to supporting a new baby.

I was up at all hours of the night, deprived of sleep with no semblance of a routine.

I had gone from working full time to being at home full time. Every bit of my schedule had changed. I was used to being surrounded by people all day at work. All of the sudden I was alone with a baby.

I went from the comfort of being good at my job and feeling like I knew what I was doing, to staying at home with a baby having no clue what to do.

Everything about my new role was unfamiliar and uncomfortable.

Even my relationship with my husband changed. We fought more. Our roles were different. We were no longer just husband and wife. We were now also a mother and father. We had to learn to support each other in different ways. Out of nowhere, I felt like the baby we created was pushing us apart; it didn’t seem fair that he didn’t have to give up as much as I did and I resented him for it. It took time to figure out and at some low points I questioned our relationship could even survive.

Our social lives changed. We were exhausted and sleep took precedence over going out. We were also a little more limited in what we could do.

I was alone most days while my husband worked. Then I was up all night while he slept. I felt alone. I questioned whether or not I had postpartum depression. I don’t think I did. I just cried a lot.

And then, I felt like a failure because I wasn’t coping as well as I thought I should. I was used to being emotionally stable and confident in what I was doing. It was difficult for me to ask for help.

A baby depended on me 24/7. My freedom was gone.

It was an overwhelming transformation—one that I resisted for months after my daughter was born.

Yes—that’s exactly how it all felt at the time, even though now life is far less dark.

When I think about the early days of my motherhood experience, I am reminded of something I heard years ago: I have to be willing to give up who I am to become who I want to be.

This. This was the turning point.

It felt like every aspect of who I used to be had crumbled.

But I wanted to be a mother.

And even though it was crushingly hard for those first few months, I adored my baby. I wanted this child, and I never wished her away. Despite the hardship, there was nothing I’d rather do.

I prayed it would get better. It eventually did.

I was promised by others that it would get better around 3 months. Just hang in there, they told me. I remember hearing this around week 6 and thinking I couldn’t do another 6 weeks. Time moved at a snail’s pace during those months.

Looking back, I think one of the reasons my transition to motherhood was so difficult was because I was hanging on with desperation to my pre-baby identity.

I was resisting the change. I was struggling to accept my new role.

But now I know that struggling with your identity, especially after your first baby is born, is normal.

It did get better with time, but only once I I learned how to be a different version of myself—a new self I gradually pieced together.

The most helpful words of wisdom came from my husband during this time. It was the same advice other mothers had given me about childbirth: Just relax into it.

It really resonated with me because the similarities to the actual birthing process were apparent in that moment.

Through motherhood, a new me was born. I just needed to relax into it.

Just like childbirth, the more I fought it the more it hurt.

And just like childbirth, all the suffering and pain was worth it for the glory of becoming this new creation—a mother to my beautiful child.

In the end, all of the pain was worth it.

I did become a better version of myself, the version I needed and wanted to be in my new role as a mother.

What was happening to me was going to happen regardless of how much I resisted. Change was inevitable. So I needed to trust that I would make it out to the other side.

The other side? It’s glorious.

I discovered my own strength. I found that I am willing to give up who I was to become who I want to be: a mother.

Deep breaths, mama. You just need to relax into it.

Join Motherly

After 4 kids, this is still the best baby gear item I’ve ever purchased

I wouldn't be swooning over the BABYBJÖRN bouncer after eight years and four kids if it didn't work.

I have four kids 8 and under, so you might expect that my house is teeming with baby gear and kid toys.

But it turns out that for me, the more kids I have, the more I simplify our stuff. At this point, I'm down to the absolute essentials, the gear that I can't live without and the toys my kids actually play with. And so when a mama-to-be asks me what things are worth registering for, there are only a few must-haves on my list.

The BABYBJÖRN bouncer seat is on the top of my list—totally worth it and an absolute must-have for any new mama.

In fact, since I first splurged on my first BABYBJÖRN bouncer eight years ago (it definitely felt like a splurge at the time, but the five star reviews were really compelling), the bouncer seat has become the most-used product in our house for baby's first year.

We've actually invested in a second one so that we didn't have to keep moving ours from the bedroom to the living room when we change locations.

BABYBJÖRN bouncer bliss

baby bjorn bouncer

The utility of the seat might seem counterintuitive—it has no mechanical parts, so your baby is instead gently bounced by her own movements. In a world where many baby products are touted for their ability to mechanically rock baby to sleep, I get that many moms might not find the "no-motion" bouncer that compelling. But it turns out that the seat is quite reactive to baby's little kicks, and it has helped my kids to learn how to self-soothe.

$200

Lightweight + compact:

The BABYBJÖRN bouncer is super lightweight, and it also folds flat in a second. Because of those features, we've frequently stored it under the couch, in a suitcase or in the back of the car. It folds completely flat, which I love.

Entertainment zone:

Is the toy bar worth it? The toy bar is totally worth it. Not only is the toy bar adorable, but it's one of the first toys that my babies actually play with once they discover the world beyond my boobs. The toys spin and are close to eye level so they have frequently kept my baby entertained while I cook or take a quick shower.

Great style:

This is not a small detail to me–the BABYBJÖRN bouncer is seriously stylish. I am done with baby gear and toys that make my house look like a theme park. The elegant European design honestly just looks good in my living room and I appreciate that parents can enjoy it as much as baby.

It's adjustable:

With three height settings that let you prop baby up to be entertained, or lay back to rest, we get years of use. And the bouncer can actually be adjusted for bigger kids and used from newborn to toddler age. It's that good.

It just works:

I wouldn't be swooning over the BABYBJÖRN bouncer after eight years and four kids if it didn't work. But I have used the seat as a safe space to put baby while I've worked (I once rocked my baby in it with my foot while I reported on a breaking news story for the Washington Post), and as a cozy spot for my second child to lay while his big brother played nearby. It's held up for almost a decade with almost-constant use.

So for me, looking back on what I thought was a splurge eight years ago, was actually one of the best investments in baby gear I ever made.

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

Shop

Every week, we stock the Motherly Shop with innovative and fresh products from brands we feel good about. We want to be certain you don't miss anything, so to keep you in the loop, we're providing a cheat sheet.

So, what's new this week?

Earth Mama: Effective, natural herbal care for mamas and babies

Founded and grown in her own garage in 2002, Earth Mama started as an operation of one, creating salves, tinctures, teas and soaps with homegrown herbs. With a deep desire to bring the healing powers of nature that have been relied on for thousands of years to as many mamas as possible, Melinda Olson's formulas quickly grew into Earth Mama Organics. Since then, the brand has remained committed to manufacturing clean, safe and effective herbal solutions for the entire journey of motherhood, including pregnancy, breastfeeding and baby care, and even the loss of a baby.

Bravado Designs: Soothing sounds for a good night's sleep

With 28 years of serving pregnant and postpartum mamas under their belt, Bravado Designs is a true authority on the needs of changing bodies. It's true that we have them to thank for rescuing us from the uncomfortable and frumpy designs our own moms had to live with. Launched in Canada by two young mamas, they designed the first prototypes with extra leopard print fabric certain that a better bra was possible. Throughout the years they've maintained their commitment to ethical manufacturing while creating long-lasting products that truly work.

The Sill: Instagram-ready potted plants

We've long admired this female-founded brand and the brilliant mind behind it, Eliza Blank. (She even joined Motherly co-founder Liz Tenety on and episode of The Motherly Podcast!) The mission behind the business was simple: To make the process of bringing plants into your home as easy as possible, and as wonderful as the plant themselves. With their in-house, exclusively designed minimalist planters, the end result makes plant parenthood just a few clicks away.

Not sure where to start? Here's what we're adding to our cart:

Keep reading Show less
Shop

A few years ago, while my wife's baby bump got bigger and my daddy reading list grew longer, I felt cautiously optimistic that this parenthood thing would, somehow, suddenly click one day. The baby would come, instincts would kick in, and the transition from established couple to a new family would be tiring but not baffling.

Boy was I wrong.

Keep reading Show less
Life