Becoming a mother is a kind of birth, too.
After our first child was born, I thought I might never leave the house again.
Not just because none of my clothes fit (my maternity clothes made me look like I was still pregnant and my pre-pregnancy clothes, well—yeah, no ?.)
But because I was so overcome by a sense that I had no idea what I was doing.
My mom and mother-in-law spent the first six weeks of my son's life visiting their first grandchild and helping me, in alternate waves.
They were miracle workers.
I would wake up and there would be oatmeal on the table. I'd leave bed and it would suddenly get made. I'd put milk-stained clothes in the hamper and clean, folded piles would suddenly appear.
Thinking about it now, I could cry. (Please come back!)
They were little angel mamas running around our house.
But as the weeks wore on and I realized that eventually they would pack up and move back home, I started to panic.
It seems silly to write now, but I couldn't imagine how I'd survive without them.
Looking back, those feelings seem silly. At the time, it felt completely rational.
Thoughts constantly raced through my head:
What if my son starts crying and I can't calm him down? What if he stops breathing while I'm driving? What if I need to feed him and I can't get a good latch? What if a crazy person comes up to me and steals him from my arms?
Simply put, I felt like maybe I wasn't up to the overwhelming task of keeping this small person safe and alive.
One thing helped me adjust to the new normal, to gain the confidence and experience that I could do this, too. That thing was the passage of time.
Eventually I found out that I could find ways to calm him down. I installed a car seat mirror and watch him happily play while we were in the car. We got better at breastfeeding. And no, a crazy person never came by to snatch him away.
But what I know now is that the transition to new motherhood can be so powerful, so overwhelming, that your sense of normal is completely disturbed.
Tasks that were once rote can feel impossible.
Getting dressed can be traumatic.
A body that you once knew—your own—can seem like a foreign land.
For some mamas, new motherhood is natural and easy and nothing but joy.
But if you're like me and becoming a mom was physically painful and emotionally treacherous, know that you're not alone.
I've gone to grad school, dealt with my husband's multiple back-to-back to deployments, juggled several jobs and coped with family struggles.
But becoming a mother was the hardest thing I'd ever done.
It's so hard to imagine now, but in a few years you might be sitting where I am, juggling a full-time job and two wild toddlers and thinking about having more babies and knowing that even though life is hard, it is wonderful.
I want you to know:
That it doesn't get easier, you just get stronger.
That you can get help if you need it.
That every choice that works for your family is one to celebrate.
That every baby step you take in new motherhood is an investment in the confident mother you will one day become.
That each time you wake up and feed baby, each short walk you take around the block, each doctor's visit you arrive at on time (or not!), and every activity you are able to do outside the house—this is what is helping you to build the foundation of your new identity.
That small acts of faith and love will see you to through to the other side.
That one day you'll look back on this incredibly demanding time with affection and awe.
That becoming a mother is a kind of birth, too, and it's okay if it takes time for you to get used to it.
That you deserve your own welcome to this new world, mama.
And that we're so glad to be in this together.