The secret to surviving the first few months of new motherhood? Understand how your life will change.
Dear Fellow Newbie:
I get it. Trust me. I am here in the motherhood trenches with you. I'm the one standing there with her breasts out, babe attached, nipples cracked raw, bags under her eyes, brain broken, rocking the saggy sweats.
If you are anything like me, you do not sit still well. Your body aches to move, your lungs to expand. You want nothing more at the end of the day than to crawl into bed knowing you have been productive, that you have used your mind and your body and your time well. That you contributed.
But then you went and had a baby, and suddenly this isn't possible—at least, not to the extent you're used to. "Productive" means something different now. So you've eaten all the chocolate and dabbled in a glass of wine, and... now what?
Here's what I've learned—and what you need to know—to thrive in those first few months of motherhood.
1. Your brain will break
The first week was fine. Then the mastitis hit, and the baby stopped sleeping, and the mommying reality started to really hit home. And then the baby broke my brain. But I think that's OK, because I can still form sentences and I'm hoping I can piece it back together again. Even if I can't, I'm not the only one, right?
2. Your heart will break, too
Your heart will feel so full, because your baby is just so beautiful and adorable and perfect. And then it will break, because he is inconsolable and you cannot give him everything he needs. And because the flowers in the vase are dying, and the garbage needs to be taken out. And because, well... everything.
3. You'll become a worrier
I never used to worry much: Stuff happens and life is unpredictable. But then I had my son, and now I worry. A lot. And it kills me that I can't stop the inevitable, because something down the road will hurt him—a person or event, and that hurts.
4. You will never be the "you" you knew from before
You went into labor as the same person you have been your whole life, your identity locked down (-ish). And then, X-number of hours later you walked out a parent. That's not a transition to scoff at.
5. You will question everything
I was convinced that my 4-week-old hated me because he wouldn't stop crying. Completely irrational, but when you haven't slept in a couple of weeks it seems logical. And you will ask yourself what you got yourself into. A lot. And you will wonder what the heck just happened in his diaper. And why that's happening on his scalp. And was that twitching a seizure? And is that supposed to look like that? You'll probably be Googling quite a bit...
6. You'll be welcomed into a brand new club
You're in the "parent" club now. If you let it happen, you can form friendships and bonds with people you hardly know, all because you share the same experience of, "What on earth am I doing and why did I decide to have a baby, again?" People I had never met before have made me feel human again because we admitted our mistakes and fears about our new roles. Share your experiences. You won't regret it. You'll have friends for life, who will do just about anything to help you out. One mom friend literally held the breast pump to my chest when I had mastitis and a fever of 103 for three days straight. You, too, can find your boob holders.
7. You will ache for an old piece of you
Oh, my. How I so longed to go to a concert, to go camping, to stay up until all hours of the night (on my own terms), to have a drink without calculating the timing of breastfeeding, to walk out the door in less than five minutes, to use both hands to cook dinner, to go pee without having a baby latched on.
8. Sitting is productive—really
This is a tough one for me. I'm still trying to convince myself of it. But I feel like it's true, in my gut. Sitting here, with the little one, is allowing us to get to know each other. And that has to be okay, at the end of the day. There isn't a physical thing to show for the day, but I have strengthened the bond between my son and myself. And, hey, he's still alive. I kept a human alive with my boobs. While sitting. That's something, right?
9. You are a newborn, too
You are a newborn parent! I don't know about you, but I've never had someone this dependent on me every second of every day. So, try to be forgiving. And cry it out. And question everything. And learn how to use your hands and arms and voice again, in their new ways, with this new life.
10. It is all, in fact, worth it
It totally is. I am so utterly devoted to my little man, and for each hour less I sleep, I get just one more experience to laugh at, cry over, and remember. I'm drinking him in for all he's worth. So, go, smell your baby's head, cry with him, laugh when he poops explosively, and remember that of all the people in the world, he is utterly and completely besotted with you, too.
11. This tenuous time you're in? It'll pass
And you'll forget the exhaustion and how much you just want to give up sometimes in the middle of the night. One day you will miss that sweet milky breath, and the little fingers wrapped around yours, and the utter connectedness.
This is totally survivable; but for tonight, there's always more chocolate.
At least I hope so.