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An Open Letter to First-Time Mamas

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Dear First Time Mama,

Welcome to motherhood. Whether you prayed and planned your whole life for this moment or were unexpectedly thrust into this role, there are a few things I would love to share with you. There were so many truths I didn't understand as a first-time mama. These are the truths people don't talk about enough. These are the truths I have learned from not only my experiences, but from the experiences of so many mamas I interact with each day. I hope you don't mind, but I have written a few of these truths down to share with you.

1. You are never ready.
None of the pre-pregnancy planning, research or experience with other people's children will prepare you for this ride.

Unlike other experiences, there is no living vicariously, because unless you live it, you will never get it. You can empathize, you can imagine, you can wonder and you can read as much as you want, but you are not a mother UNTIL you are a mother.

It is not giving birth that makes you a mother. You are a mother the moment you are entrusted with the responsibility of caring for and raising another human life -- whether it begins in your womb or not.

And when you are given this responsibility, it will be terrifying. You will feel like a child with so much to learn. You will wonder how the hell anyone did it before you. You will feel so many emotions that it may be hard to decide exactly which ones you are feeling the most.

2. Your emotions will soar.
In the first days or weeks or months or even years you may feel frustrated, scared, elated, blind with joy, giddy, unexpectedly calm, jealous, grieved, regretful, confused, overwhelmed and in awe. If you think this is a contradictory list, then you are right.

3. Being a mother IS a contradiction.
You will love your child, but sometimes, you will need time away. Then you may feel nervous or guilty about leaving. You will believe your child is perfect, but then one day realize he or she is just as flawed as you. You will wish you could cuddle and hold your baby forever, but then realize you don't really want to do this every moment of your life (at least not while you are in the bathroom).

And the thing no one will tell you is that this is OK. We can be good moms and be wrought with contradictions. We can be good moms and not know what the hell we are doing. We can make mistakes or lose our temper and still be good moms. We can be really bad cooks or terrible housekeepers and still be good moms. We can choose to stay home or work outside the home or (gasp) even travel for our jobs and still be good moms.

4. The perfect mama is a myth.
'Good' does not mean 'perfect.' Perfection is the lie sold to us by the media. Perfection does not mean you are a good mother, so stop trying to be perfect. Sometimes, people like to pretend (lie). They put on a smile and act like they know what they are doing or that they have it all together and we ALWAYS fall for it. For some reason, we always believe that other moms know more or can handle more. But, no one is immune to feeling overwhelmed. Underneath, we are ALL insecure and unsure at times. We are all just doing the best we can. Outside appearances are deceiving.

5. You have instincts, so use them.
Ask questions and do your research, but ultimately please do what feels right. You are unique and so is your child. Advice and recommendations are not mandates. You do not HAVE to do anything. You can make your own decisions. YOU are the mother. You can choose to breastfeed or give formula or a little of both. You can sleep with your baby, use a bassinet or allow your child to cry it out in a crib.

If jelly beans and lollipops before breakfast work for you, then don't let anyone raise an eyebrow. If you don't want your child to eat pizza and cake at a birthday party, this is YOUR choice. It doesn't matter if your way doesn't look like anyone else's way. There is no right or wrong way to parent.

6. You can and should ask for help.
If you are feeling completely lost or overwhelmed, it is OK to admit it out loud. If something is not working, make a change. It is not a failure to admit you need help. You may even be amazed to learn how many people want to help you, but are waiting to be asked. You are not alone and there is no shame in honesty. There is no shame in turning to whatever will make you feel whole -- whether it is yoga, deep breathing, weekends away, extra paid help or antidepressants. Your mental health is just as important as your physical health.

7. Being a mama is a long-term gig.
Being a mother is not an 18-year job. It is not even a lifetime job. You will always be this person's mama -- even after death. To this little human being, you have always been and WILL ALWAYS BE his or her mother. Does this mean you have to ONLY be a mother? Of course not. You can and should be more. What this means is that your role as a mother will not be defined by one moment in time. Rather, you will be judged by the total sum of the parts. If you struggle through the toddler years it doesn't mean all is lost. If you struggle through the teenage years it doesn't mean you have blown this gig. You have years to make mistakes and then make amends. You don't have to be good at every stage. You just have to be there and be YOUR CHILD'S mama.

I know you will be amazing as long as you are you. So I wish you the best, but more importantly I wish you a perfectly imperfect adventure.

Love and Light,

Nicole, aka Tiny Steps Mommy
(14.5 years and counting into my gig)

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This post originally appeared on Tiny Steps Mommy