Dear New Mom,
I know you’re in some ways happier than you’ve ever been, soaking up all those newborn cuddles & feeling your heart expand to give out a kind of love you never before knew possible. But I also know you’re struggling under the weight of what feels like an obnoxious burden that was thrust on you just when you needed to rest & recover from birth.
Being a new mom is HARD. So hard. And what often times makes it even harder is all the people telling you exactly how ecstatic & blissful you should be. Please remember this: most of the people saying that haven’t had a newborn to care for in YEARS. They have largely forgotten how INTENSE this phase of life really is. Yes, it’s wonderful, but it’s also REALLY FREAKING HARD.
I’ll be honest with you & admit that I probably experienced a mild to moderate form of postpartum depression. I didn’t fully realize it at the time but thankfully I was already on Prozac for anxiety before & during pregnancy & was quickly switched to Zoloft after giving birth because it is considered better for breastfeeding. I believe this kept any PPD I experienced from completely devastating me. But even so, trust me I had my moments of utter despair & confusion. Moments of loneliness & uncertainty when I questioned why I had ever thought I should be a mom. Moments when I had to step out of the room & just cry or scream so that I could be sure I wouldn’t hurt my baby.
But that’s exactly what they were: moments, nothing more. They didn’t define me as a mom because I didn’t let them. Even on my worst days/nights, I somehow managed (most of the time) to give myself a little grace. That & venting to some truly wonderful friends (most of whom were already moms) is how I survived those first few weeks of motherhood that were in so many ways like one longgggg march of fatigue & confusion.
Here’s what I think you really need to hear as a new mom: it gets easier. Yes! It does! It really does! There is light at the end of the tunnel. And it may come sooner than you think.
If you’re breastfeeding, there will come a time when you don’t spend every waking moment with a baby attached to your chest. It WILL happen. I promise. Trust me, I was so, so close to giving up so many times. But I held out largely because so many women had told me that everything would get magically easier around six weeks. And to my great surprise they were right. I made a vow to myself that if it didn’t get easier by six weeks I would quit for the sake of my own mental health, but I am eternally grateful that it did get easier. But if that isn’t true for you & you feel like you need to supplement with formula or switch to formula entirely, DO IT! A mentally stable mom is the single most important thing a baby needs, so (within reason of course) do whatever you need to do to achieve that goal.
The next time someone says “Oh, just wait till she’s crawling all over the place” or “You’re going to miss this when he’s talking back to you someday,” just smile & nod & know that that person has not one clue what they’re talking about. Or better yet, you can be braver than I am & tell them to mind their own damn business. Because the truth of the matter is you may not miss the newborn stage. And if you don’t, there is NOTHING wrong with you. I know I don’t miss it! I have only come to love my daughter more & more the older she has gotten, & I have learned that every stage has its advantages & disadvantages. Thus the best thing we can do is try to relax & enjoy each one as best we can. Easier said than done of course.
The truth about motherhood, especially the newborn phase, is that it is the most intense emotional & physical experience of your life. There will be moments you love, moments you like, & moments you hate. But they’re all just that: moments. Give yourself the grace to experience every emotion that crosses your mind. And trust me, in those first few weeks every emotion known to man (or should I say woman?) will definitely strike your heart- often times many all at once, some of which may be contradictory. Just allow yourself to experience them all & remember that this will get easier. As time passes you will have more arrows in your quiver, so to speak, so even if the challenges you face seem “bigger” you’ll have more ammunition to throw at them. And you’ll have the confidence that comes from knowing you have survived every challenge you’ve faced so far. And that, my friend, is worth a lot.
If you’ve made it this far, congrats! Who knows how many times you had to stop during the course of reading this to nurse your baby, make a bottle, or change a diaper? But just know this: it gets easier, it gets better, & you can do this. If I can, anyone can.