No matter how old you are, how ready you think you may be, how many articles you’ve read and the preparations you’ve made – being a first time mum is a shock to the system that will absolutely challenge every ounce of your being. Here are some raw thoughts of a new mum that many might relate to.
First Time Motherhood: The Tears, The Smiles And Everything In Between
Motherhood. No matter how old you are, how ready you think you may be, how many articles you’ve read and the preparations you’ve made – being a first time mom is a shock to the system that will absolutely challenge every ounce of your being. It is not just because hours after giving birth you’re expected to take care of a newborn whilst not being able to physically move or sit up in the bed to even pick up your child – no, the hardest, most heartbreaking, and crippling part about being a first time mom is drowning in endless negative opinions, unsolicited advice, constant critique and judgements that feed into your already fragile mental state- further highlighting the myriad of fears, doubts, and insecurities you have about being able to master motherhood.
It’s the debate over what’s best for your child, breast feeding or formula. It’s the obsession over getting the highest rated, most expensive products for the baby and setting the perfect routine to make sure your baby isn’t fussy and always perfect. It’s juggling the responsibilities of managing your household and raising a newborn with no complaints, a flashy smile, and perfectly curled hair. It’s the millions of misleading Instagram posts that highlight the glamorous motherhood lifestyle, your newsfeed drowning in pictures of perfect new moms with full faced selfies minutes after giving birth, traveling the world with their newborns, bragging about how it’s the happiest experience they’ve had, and making it all look so effortless and beautiful. Of course there’s nothing wrong with that picture because motherhood can be all of those things and more, but failing to address ALL of the different realities that come along with motherhood leads to impossible standards, unmet expectations, and a lot of very sad new moms who find themselves feeling lonely, helpless, overwhelmed, and broken from exhaustion and self-neglect. Why? Because they’re sacrificing everything just to measure up to that unrealistic image of being a flawless social media mom and our own moms who did it all on their own without any help at all….and they don’t miss any opportunity to tell us about it.
There are some images of motherhood that are often swept under the rug and dismissed as our own mothers attempt to pass down to us the art of suffering in silence, because God forbid should a woman complain. It’s the image of a new mom looking in the mirror and realizing she’s not even had a shower in who knows how long, let alone have the time or energy to do her makeup to take a decent picture with her new baby because she’s too damn overwhelmed figuring out how to feed her or get her to sleep. It’s the mothers who spend first few weeks crying in private because they’ve done everything to try to figure out breastfeeding and on top of already feeling incapable they’re constantly humiliated and critiqued over the ‘breast is best’ campaign, guilt tripping them that formula is poison. It’s moms who carry on breastfeeding despite the excruciating pain, and the moms that have to give up but live with the emotional pain of being questioned and shamed for it daily. It’s moms who spend days with little sleep because they have no support and they find themselves rocking their crying baby to sleep with tears also streaming down their own faces, wanting to just throw their hands up and give up in the middle of the night because they just can’t do it on their own anymore.
These images are all disheartening realities of new moms thinking that they’re failing at motherhood because they realize that they can’t do it all by themselves, like all the women from their mothers’ generation did- who birthed and raised ten kids without any YouTube tutorials and self-care breaks that allowed them some ‘alone time’. It’s the mom who’s made herself sick googling the ten million things that might be wrong with her baby because she sneezed a few times or has a weird rash. Or the mom who feels resentful at the fact that her husband gets to go out and enjoy himself with friends while she’s stuck at home another night without an hour to herself, stuck in an endless routine of feeding, burping, pumping, and cradling on repeat. It’s the frustration when daddy spends an hour playing with baby and deems it ‘the easiest job ever’ – ignorant of the constant attention, energy, and work it takes to occupy an infant on a daily basis, where you must sacrifice every moment of everyday. Or the mom who finally gets all done up and goes out for the first time in weeks since her baby’s birth only to fall asleep at the restaurant and ten minutes into the movie realizes she can’t even sit for long on those silly, rigid cinema seats because the stitches have not yet healed from her hard labor. Or the mom sick of feeling inadequate because everyone points out her excess baby weight without considering that she has no time to even sleep let alone work out.
These are all real images that exist but for whatever reason are sidelined and overlooked because as women, we’re expected to always pretend things are perfect and talk about only the beautiful joys motherhood brings – a narrative that fosters feelings of shame and inadequacy to all the moms struggling to figure things out and do their best.
This isn’t to say that motherhood isn’t the most incredible experience in the world, because it is. But it’s time we start talking about how incredible experiences aren’t just born overnight, they’re forged from ALL those moments of struggle, raw emotions, sacrifice, pain, and heartache which are all very real things wedged between your baby’s first smile, their addictive newborn smell, the feeling when they fall asleep on your chest, and all the times they look up at you with beautiful glimmering eyes full of so much inquisitive wonder. I love my daughter more than anything, I’d do anything for her.
But contrary to what I’ve been told, what I’ve read, and what I’ve seen in movies – there was never one moment where I looked at her and it magically eased all the pain and exhaustion, making me believe that the sacrifices of motherhood were worth it. It just didn’t happen to me that way; that golden moment didn’t exist.
My reality was clouded by the false images of ‘how things were supposed to be’ and how I was supposed to feel, clashing with how I actually felt- and that meant I didn’t have much time to bask in all the joy and glory of motherhood amid the shock of my painful recovery after labor and the sleepless nights looking after her. It’s been so so hard and being my own worst critic makes it even harder.
What I can say is that once I finally said “get lost” to all the judgemental voices, both around me and in my own head, I was finally able to ask for help so I could take a break, have a hot shower, and lock myself away in my room for half a day to catch up on sleep- and THEN looking into my daughters eyes after taking a much needed break, motherhood never felt more beautiful. Sacrificing your own mental and physical health is never worth it. Motherhood won’t feel magical if you lose yourself to neglect and depression. Letting your husband watch the baby for a few hours won’t kill you, and asking your mom to keep her the night so you can sleep won’t interfere with your bonding. Do things your own way, whatever feels right to you, and forget about the world imposing their opinions or letting judgements interfere with YOUR experience. Just like every woman’s labor and recovery is different, so is their firsthand experience at motherhood. You are allowed to feel things and do things at your own pace. You carried a child inside of you for 9 months and birthed her into this world all on your own, only with the grace of God. You sacrificed your social life, your comfort, your alone time, your body, your everything. You alone are responsible for creating life and forging a miracle. So you get to do your own thing by raising this kid the way you want and know best. That’s it. You’ll never be the perfect mom, there’s no such thing – but what you are, is enough- and don’t ever forget it. And so – in 2018, I experienced motherhood. I felt life inside of me and now I get to see her live, breathe, cry, smile, play, laugh, and look up at me every single day – an actual part of me now exposed to the real world. Motherhood made me feel weak, helpless, numb at first, but now I feel invincible.