I’ve faced many challenges in my life, I’ve had many amazing experiences, I’ve loved hard, I’ve suffered loss. But nothing comes close to the transformation into a first time mom. It is a roller coaster of epic proportions. It is tough. And it is beautiful. I still look at my son, now a year old, and can’t believe that I am a mother. It has been the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do, but it has also been my best teacher. Here are a few things I’ve learned in the past year:
Mental health above all else
There is so much pressure to do things right, and at the same time being told you’ll know what to do. You’ve just experienced a massive physical, mental and emotional event, with no time to process it, but thrown straight into the deep end. Then you can’t breastfeed. GASP! “But why not?”, “Have you tried this?”,”Have you used a lactation consultant?”, “But you know breast is best right?” etc. and this just from the manager at your local MR. Price! A complete stranger. I am a very private person, and after invasive surgery and after care, meet the world as a new mom…NO PRIVACY. You and your baby will now be everyone’s business. You are anxious, in love, confused, scared, exhausted and still recovering…Your mental health, understandably, suffers. I am here to tell you to make it a priority. It should be the most important thing they tell you in the birthing classes, online forums and at your check-ups. All the focus is on the physical and not nearly enough on the mental and emotional aspect. Your mental health affects everyone and everything around you. Especially your baby. TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF. ASK FOR HELP. ACCEPT HELP. DO WHAT EVER YOU NEED TO DO. BUT PLEASE, DEAR MOM, TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF TOO.
Humans are fragile, yet incredibly strong
Looking back over the past year, I probably could have done with some professional help for my anxiety after my son was born (A post all in itself). Even now thinking about his birth I remember it fondly, yet it was an emergency situation. At 39 weeks the umbilical cord wrapped around his neck and we had to undergo an emergency c section. From the moment we were told until they cut me open, about an hour passed, I had no time to talk through my fears with my fiance and I was completely unprepared as I fully prepared for a normal birth (and was made to be terrified of a c-section). Long story short, I completely suppressed the fear and never processed the seriousness of the situation. Long story short, I suffered incredible anxiety (resurfacing of the suppressed fear I would guess) until my son was about 8 months old. Only now can my shoulders relax fully, I can breath deep and I can enjoy motherhood. Looking at my son as a new born I couldn’t fathom how such a fragile being can survive this world. Looking back at the past year I can’t believe how much strength a new mother can muster.
The human body is incredible
If you sit and put real effort into really thinking about what your body did, you can’t feel anything but love and the utmost respect for your body. You literally grew a human being. Eyeballs, lungs, brain, spine the lot. Did you know that your blood volume increased by 40-50%. Both your heart and feet increased as well. And you produced more oestrogen in a day than non-pregnant women do in a year. How amazing are you?!
Intuition is real
I’ve always had a strong gut feeling, a sense of knowing, but I never realized how truly amazing this sense is until I had my son. I knew what he needed even with no signs that he needed anything. I would wake up in the middle of the night, and not even a minute later he would wake for a bottle or snuggle. I knew he wasn’t fed enough through breastfeeding and we switched to bottle (not without some unnecessary guilt – a post for another day). When he started solids I learned to trust our connection and my gut as to how much he needed and how often (again a lot of pressure on new moms here – insert eye roll). Every mother-child connection is different, and when I finally decided to trust myself and my son instead of all the experts (self appointed ones too ;)) everything started to flow. Whether you are a mom or not, this sense is incredibly strong in you, you just have to surrender to it.
The world of motherhood is brutal
Give me sticky, stinky nappies, spit up and crying. What I really struggle with is this crazy, weird world of mothers judging other mothers. It’s like they wait for any mom to make a “wrong” move and then they pounce! It’s ridiculous and stupid and needs to stop. Natural or c-section, boob or bottle, co-sleeping or not, none of it matters. Community matters. Respect for another mom’s struggle, offering support and help matters. Creating a space for vulnerability matters. Everyone makes mistakes. Mothers are no different, they’re just judged more harshly.
Dads have it hard too
They just don’t let it show. And that’s okay. We are wired differently, for good reason. Dads do their thing, and moms, theirs. As long as their is trust and support, try to give each other space to adjust. The adjustment as new parents is tough, it’s messy and it’s super confusing. As individuals and as a couple, everything changes. The pressure is surreal. Create space for the other person to go through the growing pains of becoming a parent. Love each other that little bit extra.