The things the books never told you. And if they did, you’d probably rethink the role of a new mom.
I have often asked myself (in my most vulnerable moments) over the past 4 weeks, “why can’t I be as strong as everyone else out there in this world? So many other people are doing this, why do I feel like I can’t do it too?”
Often times I feel overwhelmed. This is obviously normal. But I cannot hide the emotions that come with new motherhood. It is an equal amount of happiness; intense love and overwhelming stress and worry. Love and pain all at the same time. Pain because I fear for her safety at all times (not to mention my breasts ache 24/7). I worry so much so about her safety that it literally drains me. I sleep with one eye open. I check to see if she’s breathing. I feel guilty if I know she’s pooped or peed and she’s sleeping in it. Do I wake her? Has she eaten enough? How do I know? Is she in pain? Does she like me? Am I doing this right?
I know I could be spending so much more of my conscious time thinking about more rational reasonable things. And even though I know this, my mind still wanders. It’s hard to convince myself to stop at times. And sometimes these ridiculous thoughts of “what ifs” just take over. Or the idea that I may not be a good mom overcomes me in times of extreme fatigue. Then I get mentally exhausted on top of already being physically exhausted. The idea that this new little person is all of my responsibility sometimes puts this anxiety driven thought process through my head. I question whom I am and if I’m capable of providing for her. I know it sounds easy-feed, change and bathe (repeat). Sounds so simple, right? But really, it’s all about learning the right and wrong and trial and error like I’ve mentioned before. In reality, when it comes to your own child, there really isn’t an exact right or wrong or schedules that you should follow. Eventually, I know I will “get this”. I will find a routine/schedule and I will feel more confident as a new mother.
This is why the books cannot prepare you for this emotional roller coaster you are about to endure as a new mother. It all depends on your little ones personality and how you will act or make your own judgments.
Getting to know Josie is a learning process and changes everyday as she is growing and changing herself. When I feel like I’ve figured it out, she shows me a new cry, a new reflex or looks at me in a different way. Then I have to remind myself that this is her trying to learn too. She’s taking me in just as much as I’m taking her in. She cannot process the difference between now and the past. She tends to think her and I are one. And when I pick her up to soothe her she is in her safe zone. I constantly want to protect her and shield her from anything that can cause hurt or pain. I sometimes feel I spend more time worrying than I do enjoying the newness of this experience. Then I ask myself, is this normal? Yes. It is.
I found this list (below) on a website. It gave me hope. It made me feel like I AM normal. That all these emotions and thoughts and worries and stressors are, in fact, completely normal as a new mom. And just knowing that they are normal, allows me to work through them easier. On top of having a husband who reassures me and consistently reminds me that I am a wonderful mother to Josie.
I wanted to share this so I can reflect back one day and see how far I’ve come. Also, to share with other “new moms” out there who feel this way but often hide from it or feel shameful to admit it. Or lead people to believe that they “have it all figured out” when really, they are swimming in emotions just like me. I have nothing to hide. And I know that I am strong woman. I know I can do this. And I know I love doing this. I just want the best for Josie. And sometimes the desire to give the best is so overwhelming that it literally takes over my mind. It’s a love that is completely indescribable. And as long as I’m living, no matter how old she is, it will never, ever, go away.
Healthy (or “Normal”) Postpartum Adjustment
- Some feelings of overwhelm and anxiety that decrease with reassurance
- Some “escapist fantasies” (a desire to run away) that occur when the logistics of mothering are challenging but go away when you baby is soothed, when you are rested, and when you are validated [Sometimes when she is crying and I can’t figure out why, I have this sense to run away. I picture myself running outside in my gym shoes, doing what I love—running. Usually she is just so tired by the end of the day she just has a hard time eating. But once she figures it out, she relaxes, takes in the milk and falls asleep peacefully. Then I feel content. Like my job was done. She is happy and that is all that matters at that moment.]
- Fears about harm coming to your baby that come and go, that you know are not “realistic” but that do not cause lasting distress, and that decrease as your experience and comfort with motherhood grows [Like I mentioned above. I fear she is not breathing. Is the blanket too loose, will she suffocate? What about SIDs? Should I be concerned when she coughs?]
- Sleeplessness that occurs from caring for your baby at night, while still having the ability to sleep when your baby is sleeping or when given the option to rest
- Fatigue that comes from late night feedings and interrupted sleep
- Some feelings of frustration towards your partner regarding differences in parenting choices or differing roles [I can’t say that I have frustration towards my husband…yet.]
- Moments of sadness, disappointment, or anger towards your parents when reminded of the ways that you were parented, but the ability to hold insight and perspective regarding your own relationship with your baby [I have this every single day. 24/7. I imagine my deep intense love for Josie and imagine why on earth does my father not love me?]
- Feelings of isolation that are caused by the increased time spent with your baby especially when a newborn, but also a desire and motivation to connect with others [I must say, living here in Texas, without family or friends, is hard. Very hard. Very lonely and I struggle at times.]
- Uncertainty that comes with this new job, and building confidence that comes with time
- A hesitancy and worry that comes with allowing others to care for your baby, but a willingness to do this when you are in need of a break [I worry about even my husband caring for her. Which I know is normal. But seriously ridiculous.]
- A decrease in eating that is caused by the logistics of being a new mom [I really, honestly, have no appetite about 80% of the time.]
- Temporary body aches and pains that are a result of childbirth and/or feeding [My boobs are trying to adjust to this breastfeeding job. It’s a lot of work.]
- Feelings of worry about your baby’s ability to latch or feed as you hoped that decrease with feeding improvement or that shift when a new feeding option is chosen [I worry that if my husband gives her a bottle of frozen milk while I rest that she will refuse my breast later. She hasn’t though. And I think I can say with confidence that I don’t think she will either at this point.]
- Acknowledgement of the challenge that comes with new motherhood, but also the ability to look forward to things getting easier [I know that I should soak up every little bit of what I have with her at this age. Because before I know it, in a blink of an eye she will be walking, talking and getting on the school bus. Time flies. I KNOW I need to enjoy these little moments together. And when I have the right mindset to remind myself of that, it feels so good to just look at her take in the world around her as I remind her how much Mommy loves her.]
- Increases in energy that come with increases in sleep [I’m a morning person. It’s my favorite part of the day with her.]
- Vulnerable feelings that come and go but that do not alter the way that you think about yourself