No matter how many Google searches we engage in during our pregnancies, no matter how many parenting and baby care books we read, no matter how much well-meaning advice we get from friends and family members—nothing truly prepares new mothers for the journey until we begin those first steps into life with a newborn.
The truth is that motherhood is never easy, but those early days may truly be the most difficult, even though we tend to look back later with our rose-colored glasses firmly in place. After all, if we dwelled on the difficulties, we might not choose to have another.
While motherhood is not for the faint of heart, there are some things new mamas should keep in mind when they set foot on the long, twisting road of parenthood, to put things into perspective when they hit that first hill.
The “I’m Not the Boss” Blow
Probably the first—and arguably the hardest—bump in the road of parenthood that a new mama has to navigate around, is the realization that they are no longer their own boss. No matter how well-prepared you are for the demands of a newborn, it still comes as deep shock to discover that you are no longer in charge in the same way you once were.
Walking through the door of your home with your baby for the first time after you are discharged from the hospital, you realize how much has changed since you walked out of that same door only days ago.
Over the course of those first weeks, a new mom is constantly reminded that they no longer get to decide when to sleep, when to eat, when to shower or bathe, or even when to go to the bathroom. It’s much more than realizing you can no longer simply grab a purse and walk out the door when you have to go shopping, or want to have lunch with a friend—that you were prepared for. But when you discover that you can’t take a moment to go pee because your newborn is having a longer than normal feeding session, or that it’s 3 AM but you can’t go back to bed because your baby will only sleep while you are walking him around the bedroom patting his back, you realize that your new boss is an eight-pound tyrant, and your life is no longer your own.
As difficult as this realization is, experienced mothers will tell you that this will pass! While motherhood is forever, you will find your new normal, and eventually, you WILL get your power back. It may take a few years, (Yes, this is hard to hear when you are overwhelmed and exhausted) but eventually, the tides turn, and you are the boss of the new little person in your life. You will get to tell HIM when to sleep and when to wake up. You will tell him when it’s time to eat and when he’s had more than enough macaroni and cheese. It will happen, I promise. And then you will begin to miss feeling that tiny warm head resting against your heart at 3:00 AM when you and your baby were the only two people in the world, and there was no one who had ever needed you more.
Most New Babies Hate Sleep!
This is important for every new mother to know. While it’s true that a very small—and very lucky—percentage of new mothers are blessed with a newborn who wants to sleep through the night and has to be awakened for feeding, the vast majority of babies hate sleep. Most babies will prefer for you to be awake all night so that you can tend to them, even if all they want is to be held and rocked. You’ll find that even the best baby monitors will be your enemy as well as your best friend. While on one hand, you love to look at your little one, sleeping peacefully on the monitor, you will soon realize that this is only a tease. Within minutes of falling asleep yourself, the monitor will alert you to the fact that your baby is awake and demanding to know where you are. Surely you didn’t expect her to sleep alone?
One question that new mothers will get asked ALL the time, is this: “Is she a good baby?” And what the knowing person is really asking, of course, is “how much sleep is she letting you get?”
One fun response to this question when you are exhausted is this: “No, she’s a bad baby, and she’s plotting to take over the world.”
Ban the Plans
While every mother plans the kind of mother she wishes to be, it’s important to note that your baby might not have read the memo. You might have imagined that you’d be strolling around town on daily outings with your baby in a carrier or stroller, only to find that your baby screams whenever you leave the house. You may have imagined that the two of you would sit cozily in the nursery rocker each evening and you’d read your baby the newest, cutest, best baby books, while he gazed lovingly back and forth between your face and the book when in reality your new baby only wants to chew on the book. You may have thought you’d have a cuddler, only to discover that your baby likes to have her space.
The good news is that, as the days pass, and you fall more and more in love with your baby, you will forget that you ever imagined her any other way!
You May Experience Husband Hate
No matter how much you love your husband or partner, you are likely to feel at least fleeting moments of hate in these early months. This is normal and natural and results from the fact that while your husband is also a new parent, he’s still basically still his own boss. He sleeps through the baby monitor alerts because only you can breastfeed. While you are struggling to get your baby to stop crying and take a nap so you can fold laundry, he calls to tell you something unrelated while he is eating his quiet lunch at the cafe near his office. And he’s completely doomed to a dressing-down if he dares to ask you to get him so much as an aspirin because you are caregivered out. Frankly, he can take care of it himself.
No matter how hard it can be to feel like there is no way the man you love can possibly understand how things really are for you during these early days, don’t worry. Millions of new moms have felt the same way as you—probably since we were up walking a teething baby around the cave while our sleeping caveman snored from the fur pile.
These resentments are completely natural, and eventually, you and your loved one will find a new normal and the level of romance you’ve lost will return.
While these early days may feel like an emotional rollercoaster, for every dip and drop, there is also a peak. There are a lot of difficult moments but also moments of sheer joy and wonder at the new life you’ve created that make it beyond worthwhile. And while you might truly feel you will never sleep through the night again, experienced mamas will tell you that before you know it, you’ll be pounding on your child’s bedroom door at noon on a Saturday to tell him to go out and mow the lawn. You will get there, rest assured.
The wisest words a new mother can hear are, “The days are long, but the years are short.” Well, that and “Sleep while the baby sleeps.”