You have visions of falling instantly in love with this tiny human you’ve created. But sometimes that doesn’t go as planned. Your hormones are out of control, you may be on various medications that alter your mood, and you’re on a mental and emotional roller coaster.
Everyone assumes new parents are thrilled about this adventure, and moms are afraid to admit that it is much harder than they thought. People don’t want to talk about it. But I do in the hopes of helping to prepare other new moms for what I was ill-prepared for. I was in a dark place for several weeks. And after probing my girlfriends, come to find out, I wasn’t the only one. So why didn’t anyone warn me?
You already know all the benefits of becoming a parent, so I’m not going to explain how truly amazing it really is. This is the nitty-gritty.
Here are five things no one tells you about becoming a new mom.
Pregnancy is hard enough. And then we have to go through labor and recovery. Expect to cope with new bodily changes after pregnancy, like the fact that you can’t even go to the bathroom without a squirt bottle or walk without pain or fear that you'll rip open stitches. And that seven-pound baby you pushed out is likely going to be the only weight you lose for quite some time.
If you’re breastfeeding, anticipate pain and discomfort. From aching, engorged breasts to blisters and cracked nipples, it’s not all as magical as everyone makes it out to be. At first. The bonding experienced through nursing will eventually come, but it might take a while.
From day one you’ll wonder if you’re doing a good job. Just know that you’re doing the best you can. Google is your new best friend. Is his poop the right color? Is he getting enough to eat? Should I swaddle him? You’ll have so many questions you’ll feel like your head is going to explode.
Then there’s the anxiety. You won’t be able to sleep at night because you’ll be so paranoid that your baby will suddenly stop breathing. You’ll worry that every sneeze means he’s coming down with a cold. And just try to resist the urge to obsessively squirt hand sanitizer onto everyone who comes within a 15-foot radius of him.
You’ve heard of mommy guilt, right? Want to enjoy a glass of wine? Guilt. Have to give your baby formula? Guilt. Need to hire a babysitter? Guilt. It’s never going to end so get used to it. There are lots of tears too. Tears when he won’t latch correctly. Tears when he gets his first diaper rash. Tears when he won’t stop screaming and you're all out of solutions.
I had a severe case of the baby blues. In fact, it’s estimated that 70-80 percent of new moms experience it. When my daughter was a few days old, I told a family member that I couldn’t wait to get back to work. They must have thought I was pretty cold-hearted. I didn’t really mean it. It was just so hard to be home with her all day by myself because I had so much anxiety and the lack of sleep was wearing me thin. It might take some time to make that true mother-child connection you've been dreaming about. And that's OK.
It’s a common joke that new moms don’t get sleep, but you have no idea what you’re in for. For the first couple weeks, maybe months, you’ll walk around like a complete zombie because you’re so tired. People will talk to you. You’ll stare at them with bloodshot eyes, having not heard a word they said. You’ll be so dizzy and light-headed that you won’t feel safe driving, and nothing that used to matter will taste as sweet as the dream of just a few hours of shut-eye. I used to dread nighttime because I knew I would spend it trying to calm a colicky baby.
You’ve come to terms with the fact that you won’t be able to travel like you used to. But you also can’t leave the house without taking at least 20 minutes to prepare beforehand: The baby must be fed, clothed, have a clean diaper, strapped safely into his car seat, have a well-packed diaper bag… It takes time! It will be much harder to go anywhere if you’re breastfeeding. Babies eat every three hours. Purchase a nursing cover and gain some gumption because nursing in public will become inevitable.
Date nights will now be spent watching a movie and pausing every 10 minutes while Junior screams. Dinner will turn into chicken nuggets and frozen pizza because who has time to cook?
The beauty of it all? You’ll never be lonely again. This baby that depends on you for absolutely everything will become your right-hand man, your mini-me, your sidekick, your best friend. Along with those tears of frustration will come countless tears of joy.
The advice I kept hearing over and over again in the beginning was, “It will get better.” As annoying as that is to hear, it is so true. If it wasn’t, people would never have more than one. Hang in there, Mama.
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