Let me tell you something. Becoming a mom is hard. Within 24 hours, your entire life changes. In the midst of all the physical struggles, you have to find a way to mentally and emotionally make the transition into motherhood.
I spent nine months focusing on the day I would meet my baby girl. It was all I thought about. But I don’t know if I was ready for what would happen when I actually became a mom.
Sure. I was mentally prepared for pregnancy to be hard. I knew it would wreak havoc on my body, and that, by the end, I would feel like a beached whale. Obviously, labor was going to be excruciating. That wasn’t very hard to figure out when you imagine pushing a watermelon through a hole the size of an orange. But I was willing to go through it all because I knew, in the end, I would meet my sweet baby girl.
This Pinterest perfect culture makes becoming a mom look like the most angelic thing in the world. The darling newborn photos, the desire to meet your baby, and the excitement that, at some point, pregnancy will be over – these all lead you to believe that once you bring that baby home, everything is going to be perfect.
I don’t regret one moment of being a mother. It’s the best thing I’ve ever done, but those first two weeks are hard. And this is coming from a mom who had a vaginal delivery without complications resulting in a healthy baby and a healthy mom. I can’t even imagine what it must be like to have had a c-section, health complications, or postpartum depression. (My heart goes out to all you mommies out there…)
Let me be real with you for a minute – not to discourage you, but so you actually know what’s coming in those first couple weeks. And more importantly, so that when it happens (because it will), you don’t feel like a crazy person. It’s hard not to feel like a crazy person when you’re attempting to feed a screaming baby at 2 am. Everyone tells you that you won’t sleep, but they forget to mention everything else…
Congratulations! You have met your baby! It’s as amazing as everything you had imagined. You can’t believe Baby is finally here! You think, “Bring on the wine! Bring me my old clothes! Let me run a marathon! Gosh darn it, I’m just excited to be able to get out of bed and put my shoes on all by myself!”
(No, my young padawan. No… Let’s not forget what you just pulled off in the past 24(ish) hours. A HUMAN EXITED YOUR BODY. That my friend, takes some serious recovery time…)
For the first time after labor and reveling in all the joy of your new child, you decide to get up to pee… Suddenly, all those Life Alert commercials flash through your mind as you think to yourself, “I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up!” You literally cannot move. What the heck? Un-pregnanting yourself was supposed to fix the mobility problem. You wish you could go back to being pregnant because you could move more then, than you can now. Someone has to help you get out of bed, walk, sit down, etc.
(This will last for several days to a week. Your ab muscles are just pretty much useless at this point, and that really puts a damper on your physical capabilities.)
After someone pulls you out of bed, you try to walk to the bathroom. Whoa. It suddenly feels like there is a lack of oxygen in the room. You look around to see if anyone else is having trouble breathing, but they seem to be fine. You conclude you must be the only one having this problem because you’re sure that, somewhere, your innards are falling out. You run your hands over your once-pregnant tummy to make sure you’re still in one piece.
(For the past nine months, your body has grown to accommodate a little human. Your center of gravity changed, you learned to take shorter breaths, and your entire abdomen expanded. Your body doesn’t change back to normal as quickly as that baby came out. Buy a belly band and give it a couple days. You’ll learn to breathe normally again soon.)
You finally make it to the bathroom, but you quickly realize that you can’t just sit down like you used to. First, you have to make sure your peri bottle, tucks wipes, a pad, numbing spray, and clean mesh underwear are within arm’s reach of the toilet. And you better double check to make sure that peri bottle is full, because once you sit down, you’re committed. Everything is finally in place, and you decide to give this a go. You wince through the pain as you try to keep a steady stream coming from the peri bottle. After your delicate attempts to clean and numb your nether regions, you slowly pull on a pair of mesh undies and insert a pad the size of the Pacific. The whole ordeal takes about 20 minutes, and all you did was pee. As you leave the bathroom, you say a prayer hoping you’ll never poop ever again.
(This whole bathroom ordeal lasts for a couple of weeks, so make sure you bring as much supplies from the hospital as they will give you. The day you have to poop, it will seem nearly impossible. It will take a while, but you’ll make it. And I promise you that, someday, you will poop normally again.)
Once you make it back to your bed, you decide to try sitting up. Again, you can’t do this without help. But then you realize, how in the world are you supposed to sit without ripping any stitches? Any hemorrhoids you have make the situation even worse. You settle for lying down in any semi-comfortable position you can find, ask for more ice packs, and resolve to never move again.
The next day you prepare to leave the hospital. You’re excited to take Baby home to the nursery you’ve prepared and be in the comfort of your own home. A nurse wheels you down to your car. Again, you face the challenge of sitting, but this time you must also figure out a way to maneuver yourself into a car. But hey, you made it this far. You got this.
Coming home from the hospital is wonderful. That moment you walk through the door is all you’ve been hoping for. You bring your baby into the house, show him the nursery, snuggle in your bed together, and inhale that newborn smell… Then it hits you. You are solely in charge of this little life in your arms. No one else – just you. And there aren’t any nurses to bring you food or change your baby’s diapers. You’re on your own.
On top of all that, your back hurts. Your muscles are sore. Lying down and getting up requires assistance. Walking and all general movement is difficult. Part of you wonders why the hospital didn’t send you home with a walker. That would have actually been helpful.
How are you supposed to take care of a baby when you can barely take care of yourself?
Breastfeeding? Well, you’re just praying no new problems come up. Dealing with your sore nipples and leaking boobs is enough. The last thing you need to add is a baby screaming from hunger and you with bleeding nipples. Plus, you definitely do not want to leave the house to see the lactation consultant. You tell yourself you will never get back in the car ever again. Once was enough.
That’s when you realize you have an appointment to see the pediatrician… tomorrow.
Over the next couple of days, you slowly watch as all the responsibilities in your house pile up. The floor gets dirty, the dishes need to be cleaned, the laundry pile is growing in your room. It begins weighing on your mind as you sit there feeding your baby. Where has the time gone? How can it take so long for a baby to eat?
To make matters worse, the baby isn’t sleeping anymore, so you’re not sleeping anymore. The first 24 golden hours of your newborn’s life have passed. You try to sleep, but how can you when Baby wakes up every couple of hours? And no one can help you sleep. You’re the only one with the boobs Baby is crying for. Even if someone offers to bottle feed, you still have to pump, so what’s the point?
Cue the tears. Lots of tears.
The tears abruptly awaken you to all the hormones raging through your body. People thought you were emotional on your period? Well, they were wrong. Everything your husband does seems so annoying, but then you cry the moment he leaves the room. And everyone can just keep their mouth shut about anything you do or say. If they make one peep, they’re going to meet The Hulk you’ve been suppressing all these years.
Just a few days ago, you were a self-sufficient woman. You were able to clean your whole house, cook dinner, run errands, and do the laundry, all in one day. Within a 24 hour period, life has dramatically changed. You don’t even know if the pants you’re wearing are clean. All at once, you can’t do anything. You feel totally helpless. You want to be supermom, but you just can’t. All your other mom friends seem to have it all together. People are offering to help you and bring meals. You wish you could tell them you don’t need anything, but you can’t. You already feel like a helpless, lazy, burden to your husband, so why would you want to drag your friends and family into it?
Now that you’re home, people want to come see the new baby. Half of you wants to have your friends and family over. You want to feel a sense of normalcy and get in touch with the outside world. The other half of you wants to tell the world to leave you alone.
In the midst of all this, you begin to realize that your body is not your own. You’ve always had the freedom to take a shower when you want, give a hug, deny a kiss, cuddle when you pleased, or deny being touched when you were tired. Not anymore. Now, you have a human attached to you 24/7. Baby is sleeping on you, crying on you, eating on you, spitting up on you. There is no break. You just want five minutes where NO ONE is touching you, but it doesn’t come.
And sex? Whoa… No. You can just stay on your side of the bed there Mr., for the rest of eternity.
You also have this new body that’s making you feel very insecure. Stretch marks, leaky boobs, baby weight – what’s a girl to do? You’re old clothes don’t fit, but neither do your maternity ones. You have nothing to wear. The lack of a shower and clean clothes already make you feel gross, but seeing this new body just makes you feel even worse.
After a couple of weeks, you begin to feel like your body is healed. You decide to give cleaning the house a try. Then you realize that was a bad idea because the blood is flowing like the Mississippi river. Seriously, why did you buy a house with stairs?
(The bleeding doesn’t last forever, but it takes about month for all fluids to completely stop. Give yourself a break. Every day you do too much adds another day to the recovery process. A nurse once told me, “It took nine months for your body to get this way. It’s going to take nine months for it to go back.” That was very helpful and true advice. Keep it in mind.)
Why didn’t anyone tell you becoming a mom was so hard? Pregnancy had an end. Labor had an end. But this, motherhood, this doesn’t end. You begin to wonder, will you be able to get through this?
Yes. The answer is yes.
One day you will be sitting with your baby in your arms, and he is going to look up at you with those sweet, precious, little eyes. Everything around you will stop. All the pain and the heartache will disappear. In that moment, you will know that this is all worth it, and that nothing else really matters.
Those first two weeks are the hardest, but it passes. In a couple weeks, it will all look and feel different. You begin to figure out what your child needs and what soothes him. It’s amazing how quickly babies change, and how you learn to change right along with them.
When your baby is about three months, you will start feeling like a normal human again. Life will start looking brighter and things will start getting easier. When your baby is about six months, the two of you will develop a new rhythm that will last for a while. You may even ask yourself why you thought motherhood was so hard. And somewhere along the way, your body heals itself and recovers from the trauma of pregnancy and labor.
In the midst of all your concerns and frustrating moments, your days will be FILLED with joy. You will snuggle your baby, listen to those sweet newborn sounds, watch him sleep, and smile as your baby discovers the world for the very first time. The brief challenges will be overshadowed by all the days brimming with love for your child and delight in being a mother.
You will know, without a doubt in your mind, that this is all 100% worth it.