Mother’s Day is always a time I reflect on being a mom, so I wanted to share some of my thoughts on the blog. It’s been six years since I had Tot, but I thought about being a mom and the things I would have known before becoming a new mom. In content creation and social media, there is a blurred view of what parenthood is like for moms. It’s not always matching outfits, made-from-scratch meals, and being highly productive throughout the day. I try to keep things real in my content, which can be challenging, even now. It takes a village to raise a child, so I wanted to drop some words to help you get through the good and not so “bad” times.
When you are in the latter stages of a pregnancy – and honestly, for some time before then – it’s normal to get slightly concerned about what is expected of you. If it’s your first child, this is uncharted territory, and while a lot of it comes naturally and you’ll have plenty of advice on hand, every new mother doubts whether they’re ready. Of course, whether or not you are ready will make no difference to the fact that that baby is coming – so it will be “lights, camera, action” soon. And for many moms, it’s not a case of “what to expect when you’re expecting” as “what’s expected of you when you’re expecting.”
When new motherhood, and even pregnancy, are portrayed on TV and in film, there is a tendency to sanitize it somewhat. The reality of bringing a new life into this world is fantastic, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t also a testing time. And it would be misleading to suggest that you will be carried through the end of pregnancy and the beginning of motherhood on a cloud of happy hormones. You’ll get some of those, without a doubt, but this is still a demanding experience, and you must know that – because it would be easy to feel that you were a little strange for not having the same experience that’s often projected.
You’ll love your new baby, but that won’t make it easy.
Being a new mother means that you are responsible for a new life that requires constant monitoring and attention – and you’re doing it. At the same time, you are heavily sleep-deprived, and after a physical exertion unlike any other, you’re likely to experience. And you’re doing it for the first time, so every time something happens, it’s going to be the first time it has happened. Imagine how things were when you started a new job: with that level of responsibility and pressure, anyone would quit. You can’t quit when caring for a 1-month-old baby, of course. And you won’t want to, but it will be hard.
Don’t let anyone tell you that it isn’t okay to bring in outside help if the opportunity arises. You will be raising this child, but it’s better for you and them that you aren’t driven over the edge by lack of sleep while your body recovers from the previous year’s strain. And love is one of the most powerful forces in this world, but melatonin (the sleep hormone) and oxytocin (the stress hormone) are powerful, too, so you should know what your body needs. In the long run, it’s also what your baby needs.
Postpartum depression is a thing
Pregnancy was a great time for me, but there were moments I felt like I had lost myself throughout that time because so much of who I was as a person was wrapped up in running long distances. I wasn’t doing that later in my pregnancy. I was eager to regain that part of myself quickly after becoming a new mom, but things were different. The responsibilities of life changed, along with my body changes. It became a challenging time in my life.
People don’t like to talk about it, but somewhere between 10% and 20% of births are followed for the mother by a case of depression that is anything but mild. Those numbers mean you’re not sure to be affected by postpartum depression, but it’s not rare. It’s worth recognizing it if it happens, reaching out for help, and having a support structure around you that can notice the signs. You’re not alone if you feel like you’re not a good mother, are no use to your new baby, or struggle to bond with them. That’s a familiar feeling for a lot of new moms.
It’s even more common to have low mood, anxiety, and tearfulness issues in the first few weeks after delivery. This is not necessarily postpartum depression; it may be a milder condition known as the “baby blues,” which affects more than half of all mothers with newborns. It’s completely normal and reacts to a considerable change in your life.
If a low mood persists beyond the first ten days, it is worth seeking assistance. Therapy and a medication program can effectively counter postpartum, as with any form of depression. It’s essential to lean on those around you during this time; the depression will worsen if you try to shoulder the load alone, and you’re not a failure to seek help.
Being around new moms is good, but this isn’t a competition.
In the early days, one thing that will help is being around other people who are dealing with the same things you are experiencing. It’s one thing to understand the stresses and feelings you’re dealing with academically; the assistance of people you know can be invaluable. It’s quite another thing to be able to relate directly, and this is where the camaraderie of other new moms can be priceless.
If you’re not a first-time mom, your husband, best friend, mom, or even an older kid, can empathize when you talk about different pains, exhaustion, and all the other things post-natal life entails. They can say, “That must be rough; I’m here for you.” But someone going through the same things can say, “I know. It’s a lot, isn’t it? What I find helps is…”. You can exchange stories and tips, and you’ll be able to enjoy the support of someone living the same things you have been. They can have your back, and you theirs.
New mother groups, where you’ll tend to find these buddies, are an invaluable resource but beware, the one mother in the group who seems okay. She’s not some supernatural being; she may have the same stresses and be good at hiding them. Or she may be one of the fortunate ones who doesn’t have the same physical and mental battles; they exist. She may also have a small army of assistants, new-mom doulas, nannies, and other hired help. By all means, envy them, but don’t feel like you’re less than them. Comparing yourself to the person having the easiest time will never be good for you. Some people are just lucky.
The internet is a great resource, but it isn’t always realistic.
Social media is constantly on our faces; seeing other people thriving where you are struggling can be challenging. That is why it’s important not to compare yourself to others. Also, it would be best to remember that social media is a highlight reel, and most people will not post when they are struggling or not having the best day.
In anything requiring advanced learning, the internet can be invaluable with crucial bits of advice and articles. With that said, we’ve all been in a situation where we are halfway through an article, and the writer says offhand, “This is easy to work around; just use [piece of equipment that nobody would realistically have in their home].” As a new mother, you might read through a listicle on coping with a situation, and the writer will say, “Just hand the baby over to the nanny while you get this ready.” And you’re sat there asking, “Does everyone have a nanny?”. The answer is no, but they’re worth it if you can get one.
Advice online, on social media, forums, and elsewhere must be taken with a grain of salt. You will only sometimes have the resources other mothers have. Sometimes you will have those resources, but the advice will be very partial. Someone might be advising new mothers on any element of the process and, in one sentence, suddenly say, “Of course, if you have [piece of technology] in the house with baby, you’re actively evil and a terrible mother.” The internet is great, but it isn’t moderated, and one mother’s opinion is not scripture. Do your best, accept help, and let your baby judge your skills. In the end, no opinion other than theirs matters.
Enjoy your journey into motherhood, and know you are doing your best. Give yourself credit and love for all you do, which will be reflected in your child’s love for you.