I know we’ve said it a lot –especially the collective we– but yes, the world really did turn upside down 18 months ago. And honestly, as though there wasn’t already a lot going on, I got the added surprise in late October 2020, that I was becoming a mom!
As I look back on my experience, I have a lot of “I should have…” or “If I could go back, then I would…” and just general, “That was silly!” comments about that time so far. And so, in reflecting on the year, it seems appropriate to share with you the end of those sentences so you can take what works for you.
6 things that I learned after becoming a mom
1. You become a parent when you become a parent.
From the moment we begin to fathom parenthood, and what that might look like for us, we transcend and transition into a new state of being. When becoming a mom or dad, we love our future baby and already assume the world of responsibility (and new pounds!) that it brings. All parents, biological, adoptive, surrogate, partners, can speak to this unique transformation.
2. Labor never (EVER) goes as planned.
Labor is unexpected. It’s bloody. For me, it took 48 hours. I bounced, took baths, and clutched for balance. Words like meconium and the risk of uterine rupture put me in a state of panic. I couldn’t stomach seeing a pilates ball ever again. However, having the support of a birth partner –either a doula, your partner, or a family member– can make labor a little easier and safer. Choose someone informed, but mostly, someone who makes you feel loved, supported, and helps you keep calm.
Also, a few things I wish I’d known before labor: women might still feel contractions days after delivery, early breastfeeding is really hard, you can feel happy and sad at the same time, and peeing will be terrifying. But, mostly, whatever you are feeling is okay, and complaining or simply feeling terrified doesn’t make you a bad mother.
3. We are amazing!
Becoming a mom or dad means leaving a part of ourselves behind. Bathroom breaks and brushing your teeth become a luxury, so “me time” is quite hard to find. Hobbies might take the backseat for a while. And the after-effects of labor can go on for longer than what you think is normal. But, even so, we somehow gather the strength to tend to our babies. I believe the amount of sacrifice and love that goes into parenthood can’t be quantified, and that is what makes us so amazing.
4. Expectations are the mother of disappointment (& so is being judgy).
I had very rooted beliefs on “dos & don’ts” before I became a mom, and I used to judge parents who didn’t follow those principles. One of my biggest learnings in motherhood has been to let go. Most of my beliefs were constructed at a time when I didn’t know what being a mother was actually like and I hadn’t even met my baby yet. You never know what kind of parent you are going to be. And even on days when you think you have figured it all out, parenthood will soon throw you a curveball and make you restructure, again.
5. Can’t shed the mom guilt.
I have felt some form of guilt every day after my baby was born. The first time she spit up, I almost cried because I thought I had somehow caused this. I’ve put so much pressure on myself by trying to be the “perfect” mom when my baby simply needs “me”. The confident me, who doesn’t need to feel like the best, but more like herself. I know it’s easier said than done, but go easy on yourself, take care and every now and then try to squeeze in small things that make you feel like you.
I hadn’t worn jeans since I became pregnant, and was refusing to buy a pair of jeans 2 sizes up from my pre-pregnancy size. I did it a few weeks ago, it made me feel slightly like the old me and cheered me up more than I could imagine.
6. When becoming a mom or dad, don’t let other people’s opinions eat you up.
The moment your baby arrives (or even before), suddenly everyone becomes a baby expert. Try to receive these comments with love and acceptance, even if you or your pediatrician don’t agree. Then, do whatever works for your family and you. I could’ve saved myself a ton of awkward moments with relatives by just nodding and saying thank you when they gave their advice, instead of trying to convince them to share my opinion. There are some strong recommendations on safety that you should follow at all times –you will probably get them from your healthcare provider–, but many decisions about parenthood change from person to person. Try to rub on some butter and let the negative comments and unsolicited advice slide!
As I’m writing this, my baby is rolling all around her playmat next to me, and even though becoming a mom has probably been the most challenging experience in my life, I know I would do it all again.
Watching my baby discover the world is the greatest thing I’ve ever experienced; it has been the highlight of my year and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. In fact, in a few years, I might even give it another go!
To all new parents out there –we hear you, we feel you, and we are here for you. Hang in there.