While walking with one of my best friends last week, we talked through just about every aspect of our current lives. Of course, in one way, shape, or form every topic always came back to our children. At one point she looked and me and said “Why didn’t anyone ever tell me?!” I didn’t quite know what to say, I definitely didn’t have an answer. The conversation rolled on but that comment really started to marinate.
Fast forward a week and I’m out for a birthday celebration for a friend. I start chatting with a brand spankin’ new mama. Her 2 week old little man was home and this was her first outing. Once you hit motherhood, pretty much every topic is on the table, and your pride has walked out and slammed the door in your face. Everything is fair game. Naturally, with my experiences, we started talking about breastfeeding. Nearly the same comment comes out of her mouth… “No when ever tells you…” and it hit me like a ton of bricks.
Why are we holding back?
What’s crazy, is that these are the same things I remember thinking when I was in the thick of it. The thick of newborn life. When I was connected to my pump for the 8th time that day, and I was pleading with God to let my boys nap just ten minutes longer so
I could unhook and get my parts washed. The heat of the moment when you see another mama go through the heartbreak of losing a pregnancy, or a child, and you literally feel your heart break into pieces with them. Those times when you would do just about anything to get a couple solid hours of sleep, but you can’t seem to put your snuggly little love down after he falls asleep.
Each of these times, and countless more, I asked myself “Why didn’t anyone tell me?!”
Why didn’t anyone tell me that the smell of my baby’s head would give me some crazy sort of high? Why didn’t anyone tell me that from the moment that my kids were born, I would forever be terrified of losing them? How come no one told me that I would struggle to keep my emotional shit together? Or that I was not going to feel myself for a long time? Why didn’t anyone tell me that I would feel guilty for wanting to feel like myself again?! Why?
Darn secrets, they’re not good for anyone.
Why are we holding back? The more I pondered this question the more I started to realize that I really don’t think people are intentionally not telling the truths of motherhood. Every baby shower I’ve ever been to asks for you to write advice on a little card. You write down the expected- always keep an extra set of clothes for you and the baby in the car, re-pack the diaper bag as soon as you get home, nap when the baby naps…. but seriously who the hell actually does that? Are these all good pieces of advice? Sure, I suppose. Are they honest? Sort of.
Are they what the new mom needs to hear? I really don’t think so.
Even just two years out from the all night feedings, insane amounts of diaper changes, and laundry out the wazoo, I look back and smile. My heart does a little flutter dance and I long for those days again- when my sole focus and responsibility was to snuggle and feed my babies. When every thing was brand new. Our new family, their first baths, their first steps, or the first time they said “mama” – every last thing seems to have a heavenly glow in my memory. In the hardest moments, I wasn’t quite sure that I wanted to go through that all over again, but as fleeting as the stage was, so were those feelings. I think herein lies the problem. Those moments come and go so quickly, and we’re sleep deprived and so infatuated with our new addition that we just don’t completely remember the depth of the struggles.
Next thing you know your friend is expecting and she comes to you, because you’ve been there. And you tell her everything that you can think of, but you forget to mention those “I don’t think I can go on moments” because that newborn glow blinds you.
Put on your sunglasses sister, it’s time we chat
That newborn glow is wonderful, and so necessary. Without it, I’m not sure many would go on to have more children. But, it really doesn’t help us help each other either. We were so prepared physically for our boys. We had the clothes and supplies to rock this new gig. However, looking back there are definitely times that stand out to where I wish I had been better prepared emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.
We had people coming in and out so often, it was rare that I went one full day alone with the boys. Despite this, I have never felt so alone in my life. People checked in, texted, called, and brought over meals. I ALWAYS had someone that I could reach out to. But for whatever stupid hormonal reason, I felt like I was in this game alone. Thankfully, my husband was my saving grace and did his best to help and relate to my feelings, but it was tough.
After my boys’ first round of vaccines, Greyson had a rough evening. He cried uncontrollably, and vomited, and I lost it. I believe in vaccinations, hell, I give vaccinations on a daily basis at my job. But in my overtired, over hormonal, dazed state, I second guessed my every move. I snapped at my husband, and broke down sobbing on the nursery floor. I couldn’t get over my fear of losing them, and the overwhelmingness of my life off my mind. To top it off, I also felt guilty for feeling that way. I was too blessed to feel that overwhelmed. I thought that it was ridiculous.
Help us, help each other….
Up until this point I really held it all in. No one really seemed to notice if I seemed off, or no one said anything. Without a shadow of a doubt I know that I had postpartum anxiety. Then, though, it was hard to see. I wasn’t depressed. I was the happiest that I had ever been. My dream of being a mom had come true, I had an incredible husband, awesome career, and beautiful home. I loved this life so much. The problem lied in my fear of the future.
What if something happens to them? How could I survive? What if something happens to my husband? How could I do this alone? What if something happens to me? What if my children don’t remember me? Wrap this insane fear up with the tiniest amount of sleep and a dollop of crazy hormones and you have yourself a recipe for disaster.
So what did I do? I talked. I opened up to my husband, my mom, my friends and I reached out to my doctor. She explained that the data shows a huge benefit from exercise in postpartum mood disorders, so I started to go on walks and tried to get myself to an exercise class or two a week. All of this helped a lot. I started asking for more help, even though I could do it alone, I didn’t have to. Medication just wasn’t the right route for me at that time, but it definitely offers benefits of its own. If you feel any of these symptoms, please talk to your doctor and loved ones. It really does help.
So, what would I say to my pregnant self?
I feel like I have an obligation to start sharing the things that others may not. Motherhood isn’t always pretty, but it helps to know what might come your way. What do I wish I had known? Where do I start?!
- No one could ever explain the love that you are about to feel, but you aren’t alone. The love a mother has for her child is some kind of magic that will get you through when you don’t think that you can go on.
- Your life is about to do a complete 180. I don’t care what books you’ve read about parenting. When your child is here, your mama instincts kick in and you will do what you know is right for your child.
- You will be scared every second of every day that something will happen to your baby. It doesn’t matter if they’re 20 days old or 20 years old. You will always want them safe, happy, and healthy.
- You will find a way to function on very little sleep. I can’t explain how, but you will. The first time that you get a solid stretch of Zzzz’s you will feel like superwoman!
- You may very well feel very alone. You will be home all day with an infant that doesn’t talk back. Find a way to get out and have some adult interaction every single day, so that you remember that you indeed are a valuable member of this world. Remember, you are not alone.
- You and your husband may feel really close. You also may feel very disconnected. It will take time to find your new normal in your relationship.
- If you breastfeed, your boobs will hurt. You will get engorged, you will worry about not making enough milk, you will worry that you’re making too much. Just know that no matter how you feed your baby, you’re doing a great job. If you don’t breastfeed, your boobs will hurt when your milk comes in, and you have to give it time to dry up. None of this is fun.
- You might not be able to breastfeed even if you want to, or if you never wanted to (or wanted to), your opinions may change when you give birth.
- You will sleep again. This time is truly temporary.
Related post: Products to help babies sleep through the night
- You will feel like you’re failing. Sometimes you will feel like you’re failing every single day. You’re not, you are perfect to your baby.
- You will look pregnant for a while after you give birth. It doesn’t all just go away in a jiffy. Give your body some grace, and remember what it just did- performed a miracle!
- You will feel guilty over everything. Rest assured, you’re not the only mom who has bumped their kid’s head getting them into their carseat, or scratched them with their wedding ring during a diaper change.
- You will lose an insane amount of hair. It will come out in clumps in your shower, and you will be certain that you will be bald when you look in the mirror. Then it’ll start to grow back, and leave little pesky flyaways all over your head.
- You will cry. You will cry a lot- when you’re happy, when you’re sad, and when you spill your freshly pumped breastmilk. It’s okay. Just pack some extra tissues. And yes, there is use for crying over spilled milk.
- You are one freakin badass goddess superwoman. I insist that you look in the mirror every morning and remind yourself of that. You chose to care for another life, and put someone else’s needs above your own. You are a force to be reckoned with, and you will get through these bumps in the road.
This list is far from all inclusive. These are only a few of the things that I noticed while going through it myself. Your experience will be different, and that’s okay. I would love to have this be a working document that we can pass along to our new mama-to-be friends to let them in on what we’ve learned through our experiences.
Despite every crazy, unexpected, scary, or sad thing that has come my way during this motherhood journey, this has been the most impactful, heartwarming, and incredible time of my life. At the end of the day, there is no way to predict the future, but please know that you are not alone. You’re not the only mama up at 2 am for the 4th feeding that night. You’re not the only mama who smiles for the cameras, and cries herself to sleep, and isn’t quite sure why. I know that you aren’t the only mom who misses her pre-baby body. And certainly you will not be the last. Even in reading these, you may not fully comprehend it until your little arrives, but hopefully this lays the groundwork for you.
To all my mamas reading- I would love to know what you wish you would’ve known before you became a mom. Please let me know in the comment box below, so another mama can see and feel like someone told them.
Your Millennial [honest] Mama,