Being a new mom is a lot harder than I thought it would be.
As a first time mother, I had in my mind that life with a newborn wouldn't be so hard. I thought I'd be able to work, do chores, and actually do something for myself during nap times. In fact, I was determined to be that mom that had "it" all together.
To put it gently: I had a rude awakening. In the first month of my son's life, I have learned more about this little baby and myself than I ever imagined possible.
The learning curve has been steep, but the lessons have been some of the best in my life. These are the five things I know now about being a new mom:
1. It's okay to not love every moment of new mommy-hood.
After the initial shock and awe of being a mom wore off, and I stopped staring at my baby's face every single moment of the day, I found myself starting to stress out over the realities of being a new mom. Breastfeeding and pumping constantly, learning how to get my baby to sleep, and the new idea that I was somehow attached to this little boy for the rest of my days overwhelmed me.
It took a few days, sob sessions with my mom and sister, and reaching out for help from family and close friends to realize that being a mother was going to be the most challenging thing I'd ever do. I'm told it will also be the most rewarding, but I'm still waiting a few months to reap the rewards of smiles, hugs, and kisses being reciprocated back from my little boy.
2. The middle of the night feedings are the worst. But after a month, they get a little easier.
In the first few weeks at home, I felt like I always had one breast out feeding my son. Morning, noon and night, that kid wanted to eat. I was told my son would want to eat every two hours or so. My son liked to eat for 45 minute sessions every hour and a half -- on the dot. This left me with very little time to get a bathroom break, let alone a meal or shower in.
I grew resentful of breastfeeding during the middle of the night, not only because I was in the learning curve of being a new mom, but also because I felt like my son was taking me away from getting my own much-needed sleep. Something I so desperately needed.
It was only after making a few tweaks to our sleeping situation, did things get better. Tweaks like my husband and I getting in bed at the same time we put our son to sleep, bringing him into our bed to co-sleep, and agreeing on who would change the middle-of-the-night diapers (I got lucky on that one). Those small changes allowed us to feel like we had some sort of routine -- even if it was absolutely haphazard -- and we were able to get more sleep. The more sleep I got, the better my attitude was about feeding my son at night.
3. Changing your idea of who you want to be as a parent in the first few weeks is inevitable.
I remember when I was a kid and I would talk back to my mom about how life wasn't fair. She would always say to me "just you wait until you have kids and you can do whatever you want." After I found out I was pregnant, I started getting all these ideas about the kind of mom I wanted to be -- one of which was how I'd wear my baby around the house in a carrier while I got chores done or went out to do errands.
Those first few weeks are when all the ideals came crashing down and I realized that I had a choice to make: do what I felt like I had to in order to be the mom I was idealizing myself as or do what I had to do to maintain my sanity. While I loved having my son in a carrier to have him close during the day, he wanted nothing more than to be in my arms, but would scream every time I tried putting him in the carrier. So we nixed the carrier and I spent more time holding him than being "productive."
4. Bathing never felt so good.
Before becoming a mom, I never in a million years would have anticipated loving taking a shower or bath so much. In those first few weeks while still recovering from childbirth, there isn't one thing better in the world than having hot water cover your sore, exhausted body.
Even though I no longer had tons of time to enjoy taking a shower, I thoroughly enjoyed the seven to ten minutes I would get before my son would start crying from the bouncer right outside the shower stall. Those few minutes when I was alone, without my breast in someone's mouth, or getting peed on during another diaper change were pure heaven.
5. The most important relationships in my life would never be the same.
It never dawned on me just how much my relationships would change once my son arrived in the world. Being a good wife somehow became exponentially harder as my ability to fully listen, empathize, and pay attention to any conversation went out the window with a baby in the room. That said, I've never looked at my husband with more gushing love than I do now, because I'm in awe that we made such a little miracle together.
I was also surprised at how much I came to truly admire, appreciate, and deeply love the women in my life. My mom, sister, grandmother, and mother-in-law have never looked more like Wonder Woman than they do right now. Even though they don't always have the same answers when I ask the same question, they know all the right things to try when I start getting frazzled. These women also have the uncanny ability to let me know how it will all be okay, even in the midst of the sleepless haze I've been wandering through life with lately.
Being a mom is a lot harder than I thought it would be. It has been the biggest reality check of my life -- and yet, it's provided some of the best life lessons for me so far. The learning curve, the struggles, the sleepless nights, and the amazing people I'm sharing the journey with have all been leading me to discover that my new identity as a mother is far from perfect, but it's just the beginning of a brand new journey I'm proud to call my own.
Rachael Roehmholdt is a holistic health coach who helps moms discover the art of extreme self-care in order to look and feel their best. You can read more of her writing at RachaelRoehmholdt.com and join her newsletter for weekly inspiration on creating a body and life you love.