We all have different experiences when it comes to motherhood, but for me, becoming a mom was a million times more draining, sad, and dark than I ever would have imagined. The commercials definitely do not paint motherhood in this type of way. They show the pretty parts. Just like social media. We seem to mostly scroll through happy babies and joy-filled mamas. And these are definitely parts of motherhood, but there is so, so much more. There are the nightly crying sessions (by both baby and mama). There are the deep and real feelings of rejection and failure when your baby screams every time you are just trying to feed them. There is that chart you are obsessively tallying how many wet diapers your baby had. There is the paranoia that keeps you on edge every minute of every day. There is the fear that they are not getting enough milk as you drive again to the hospital to weigh them, hoping for just a few more ounces. There is the pressure, the anxiety, the uncertainty.
A year ago, I was in a dark place. You wouldn’t have been able to really tell by the smiley pictures I posted on social media, but internally, I was struggling. I was utterly exhausted from pumping and nursing and nipple shields. My brain was bursting with feeding schedules and numbers of wet diapers and ounces of weight gain. They told me it would be hard, but I think this is the problem. Hard is just not specific enough. Hard I could handle. Hard is like a 20 mile run. It’s hard and painful, but you know that you’ve got it. You have the experience and miles prior to back you up. It hurts but deep down you know you will hit that 20th mile. That is hard. I can do hard. But motherhood is not even comparable. As a new mom, you don’t have those previous miles as back up. It is all new and you absolutely question: Am I made for this? Can I handle it? Can I make it to that 20th mile? Motherhood is much more than hard and exhausting. I feel like that was a lot of what I heard. And my thought was okay, but I can handle not sleeping as much. I did it in college, I can do it now. But here’s the thing. It is more than just not sleeping. It is the physical element of it all. It is the rocking, the shushing, the nursing for hours on end. That is what makes it all so exhausting, forget the barely sleeping part.
I really wish someone more specifically told me how it was going to be hard, not just that it is hard. Because like I said, 20 miles is hard, but rejection, failure, lack of sleep is something entirely different.
While Lance and I did a fair amount of research and preparation before Hudson’s arrival, there was still so much that happened in those first couple months that I was mentally not prepared for. So, if you are a soon-to-be mama and have done the big things they tell you to do, like taking a birth class and buying all the latest baby gadgets, but haven’t thought as much about what life will actually be like with your new baby and changed body, this is for you. Here are the 5 things I wish someone told me before becoming a mother:
1. You will spend HOURS Each Day Nursing
In one of the baby books I read, there was a section about breastfeeding schedules. It was this neat, laid-out chart. It specifically stated the feeding times and stated how the baby will spend about 15 minutes nursing on each side. I can clearly remember reading this a couple weeks before Hudson was born and thinking, I got this, this will be easy. I will just follow this schedule, set a timer, and we will be good. While this book had a lot of helpful information, the way it made out breastfeeding to be was so far off from my experience. I was absolutely unprepared for the physical demands of it all. I was unprepared for how I would feel when Hudson refused to latch and screamed and wanted nothing to do with me. No lactation class can fully prepare you for that type of rejection and failure. Even when things got a bit sorted after seeing a lactation consultant a couple times, I still was completely overwhelmed with the way nursing quickly took over my life. All my decisions seemed to revolve around it. It controlled what I could eat, good-bye butter and ice cream. It controlled what I wore, no more buttons and dresses. It limited me. I knew every couple hours I would be tied to the glider for close to an hour. It would not be relaxing or peaceful or sweet. There would be tears, sore muscles, and milk everywhere. Breastfeeding in those early days was way more of a time commitment than I was prepared for. I wish I knew. A year later, it is entirely different, Hudson nurses for about 5 minutes. It now is sweet and peaceful and comfortable. And this is the stage that is easy to remember and pass on to others; however, it definitely was not always like this. It changes quickly, but if you are an expecting mama and plan to nurse, try to get mentally prepared for both the physical demands of nursing and the time you will invest. It is 100% worth the struggle and the time and the initial discomfort, but know that it takes time for both you and baby to learn and get into a good rhythm. Be patient. Don’t set timers, just listen to your baby, they will let you know when they are done. And watch lots and lots of tv, or have something to help pass the time.
2. You Will Become Obsessed with Poop
If you look back on my camera roll to a year ago, you will find lots of pictures of Hudson’s poop. I needed evidence to show to his pediatrician to try and figure out why he was so fussy and uncomfortable all the time. I felt like a scientist when it came to baby poop. I was obsessed with color, texture, frequency. I can specifically remember many of my google searches leading me back to this nice chart. I had no idea I would care so much or be so interested in someone else’s poop. You become a parent and suddenly you care about things you never thought you would. Prior to baby, I had no idea how much the poop could tell you. For us, it was the mucus and strands of blood that helped us figure out the cow’s milk allergy Hudson had, which is a very common allergy, especially for C-section babies. I say all this as a reminder that your baby will likely not poop in the way you expect. There might be days where there are no tally marks for poopy diapers and you will be freaking out. There also might be days where there are tons of poopy diapers but there is also blood, and you will be freaking out even more. This may sound strange, but I do wish I had done a bit more research of the types of baby poop in terms of color and texture. I think this would have saved some valuable time and stress.
3. You Will Also Become Obsessed with Ounces
I had no idea how stressed I would get over Hudson’s weight gain. In my head, it was all pretty simple. Baby is hungry, baby eats from mom, baby gains good weight. This is seriously what I was expecting and again this expectation was far from our reality. Baby might be hungry, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he or she will eat the way you want them to. You will do everything you can just to get them the ounces they need. You will use syringes, supplemental nursing systems (SNS), really anything to get them milk to get them to gain weight. I did know that babies lost weight in hospital, but I had no idea how much they could lose in such a quick amount of time. In two days Hudson was already down 10% of his body weight. I also was unaware at how his weight loss would feel like entirely my fault. I felt so terrible in the hospital. I felt like I wasn’t giving my baby enough nutrients and that it was all my fault. If you choose to exclusively breastfeed and do not supplement with formula, it can feel like a ton of pressure on yourself to make sure your baby is gaining enough weight. I became a bit of a crazy person when it came to ounces. I would drive to the hospital every week to weigh him. I would weigh him, then nurse him, then weigh him again. I would quickly do the math in my head to see how many ounces of milk he took from me. This may sound crazy, but this was my life those first couple months. I am so happy I was able to nurse Hudson, but for someone with my type of personality, it was really difficult not knowing how many ounces of milk he drank per feeding. This little method of weighing and subtracting the two weights, helped calm my anxiety. Just know that as a new mom, you brain will think only in ounces. Your life will temporarily revolve around the ounces. Just embrace it. Pretty soon, they will be hit the double digits in weight and your worries and concerns will drastically decline.
4. You Will Not Feel Normal
Every time I sneezed or laughed I would have a sharp pain on my C-section incision. I dreaded when I felt a sneeze coming on and I tried to avoid laughter, which sadly was not very difficult in that first month. My experience is slightly different since I had a C-section, but I was surprised at how long it took for my body to recover and feel normal again. I definitely had a mindset that I would bounce back super fast. I am young, healthy and tough. I can give birth and get back to normal life. I don’t need that much recovery time. I will be good. This is what I told myself, but I was so wrong. It doesn’t matter if you are 24 and in good shape, having a baby is trauma on your body. You will not be the same after. And you definitely will not feel normal in that first month. It took me a solid four months to begin to feel like myself again. And if I am really honest, it hasn’t been until recently, like a year later, that I have felt really normal. I can leave the house with just a backpack with wipes and a snack and I know we will be good. This confidence takes time. It is a huge mental and physical adjustment. It takes a lot of getting used to, but you do hit your normal again, it is just a new normal. Last week I ran my workout in my sports bra, no shirt. This is a big deal. In college, this was normal. If it was hot, I would be running in just a sports bra. I also had abs, not really 6 of them, but I had a solid 4. Let’s just say postpartum life did not give me any pack of abs and there was absolutely no way I would be running in just a sports bra. And here’s the thing, last Wednesday, it was humid, I had 4 hard mile repeats, and I was wearing a long sleeve (the clouds deceived me). I went to the bathroom and I had a choice. Suffer in my long sleeve or just not care and rock the postpartum look. To be fair, my body has gotten back into a similar shape as I was pre-baby (definitely less abs, though). While my stomach and everything doesn’t look that much different, it is more of an internal feeling. I felt so insecure, timid and unsure of myself as I left the bathroom stall with my sports bra on. I tell this story because I think it’s important. The things we used to do all the time, the way we felt about ourselves and our bodies, will forever be changed. We are not the same, but that doesn’t mean we can’t still run in sports bras. I get it, that might not be your thing, but don’t be afraid to do the things before baby. Maybe for you it’s that bikini stuffed at the bottom of the drawer or that dress gathering dust in the closet. It might look and feel slightly different, but there is no reason postpartum you can’t rock it.
5. You’ve Got This
You’ve got this. You do. It might not feel like it in the moment, but you will figure it out. Your baby will get enough milk, however you choose to feed your baby. They will grow and gain enough weight. They will have normal poops, sort of. All those little worries and daily anxiety attacks will eventually begin to fade. You were made for this job. There is no better mom for this child than you. You can do it. I wish I could of told all this to myself a year ago. I am not even sure I would of believed myself. There are some really hard days in those early months. It is easy to question if you were made for this role, but you were. God knows what He is doing. He has you where He wants you. He will equip you. Trust His plan. It might look very different from your expectations, but He knows exactly what He is doing. You’ve got this because He’s got it.