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Becoming a mom for the first time is such a mixture of fear and excitement. You may have been planning this for months or it may have come as quite a surprise! No matter how you get there every woman goes through similar feelings and emotions during this vulnerable time.
I became a mother for the first time at the age of 20. I was young, dumb and really unprepared. Thank goodness I had the help of my mom and several other women who guided me through the weeds of those first few weeks, months . . .ok . . . years!
I remember obsessing over EVERY. LITTLE. THING. I worried if I was feeding my kid the right things, exposing him to the right educational toys, if I had his sleep schedule right on track. There were a million things for me to compare how I was doing this motherhood thing to how YOU were doing it.
I felt like I always fell short and had so many questions. I thought someone forgot to give me the manual for raising my kid as I walked out the door of that hospital. Well, guess what, there isn’t one. Not ONE of us has it all down. Not ONE of us has it all figured out.
I worried why I wasn’t losing the baby weight when I was breastfeeding. Would the stretch marks ever go away? Are those even MY lady bits? Where did MY BODY GO???
I am here to tell you 5 things I wish people had told me early on. Not just how many dirty diapers to expect each day or what milestones your kids should be passing at each age. The gritty stuff. The hard stuff. The truth.
You will have a new body and it is not what you expect.
No one could have prepared me for the way I felt about my body postpartum. I was in awe at the life it had conceived, nourished and birthed. I was part of such a miracle! However I was also in disbelief.
In the immediate postpartum period you can expect:
- To bleed for a couple of weeks, yes weeks. You not only delivered your child but also have a dinner plate sized wound in your uterus where your placenta has detached. However if your bleeding increases greatly, you are seeing clots bigger than the size of a golf ball, or your discharge has a foul odor call your MD right away
- Your breasts will increase a size or two as your body learns how much milk to make for your baby. They will feel swollen and painful to the touch at times, you may even experience hardened areas on the breast if milk collects and does not get removed properly. If you don’t breastfeed this may still happen while you try to suppress your supply.
- If you have stiches from an episiotomy or tearing, it takes TIME to heal. It will be painful to sit and move around for the next few weeks. You can reduce this pain by sitting on one side or the other not directly on your bottom or taking sitz baths.
- Pooping is NOT as scary as you think . . . your doctor will probably advise you to take a stool softener for a few days to a few weeks. Listen to them! You may get constipated when you are taking pain medicine, maybe not eating like you normally would and recovering from birth.
- Yes you will still look pregnant, at least 3-6 months pregnant. It takes weeks for the uterus to return to its pre pregnancy size so do NOT be disappointed when you still have a belly after birth. It’s supposed to be that way!! You may even experience intense cramping after birth especially when you breastfeed. That’s the uterus contracting to tighten up after baby’s arrival.
- Your hair will start to fall out. All that thick luxurious hair you gained during pregnancy, will start to fall out. You may even see some clumps on the shower floor after washing it.
- Emotions will run HIGH! Giving birth will make you feel some of your highest highs and lowest lows. It is guaranteed to make you feel like you are on an emotional rollercoaster. Your hormones will go through a big adjustment period after having a baby trying to regulate themselves. You may feel anxiety you never had before, experience the “baby blues”, and even have a short temper where you used to feel so calm and relaxed about things. Give yourself lots of time to adjust to this period, however, pay attention to you and if something doesn’t feel right follow your gut and talk to someone. **More about this later!**
When you don’t love what you see in the mirror.
Even after adjusting to the next few weeks and months ahead you may not feel like “you” anymore. There may be stretch marks you hoped would go away and didn’t. After breastfeeding your breast may look different than they did before having that precious bundle. You may be struggling with acne again postpartum. It may be taking a while for all the baby weight to come off that you hoped would melt away with breastfeeding like people said it would.
When you give birth, not only is a child born, but a mother as well. Your baby has changed you in every way possible. No longer are you the young girl or woman you were before but now a mother that has earned every single mark that her body bears from conceiving and giving life to the new person in front of you.
Sometimes it is hard to be proud of that and cherish it. Sometimes we have to mourn the loss of who we were and embrace who we ARE! Mothering is not for the faint of heart. It pulls at you, tugs at you, requires you to give everything you have inside of you.
It also strengthens you. Allowing you to know things about yourself you would have never thought yourself possible of. It redefines your heart and soul. Shows you selflessness you never knew you possessed. It will show you what it is like to love someone SO MUCH it physically hurts. You will find out what its like to be so incredibly angry at someone and in the next instant have them melt your heart.
When your looking in the mirror wondering where “you” went, just know that the very best version of yourself is staring back.
Its OK to Cry.
I remember crying often. About everything. I remember feeling things that I wasn’t sure I was “supposed” to feel. Wasn’t I supposed to feel overjoyed and so in love with my baby? Wasn’t I supposed to stare into his eyes and know my purpose?
I’m sure many woman have that. I did not. From the moment my boys were born and for months after it took me a long time to bond. I felt so much guilt. I wondered if I loved them the way I should. I berated myself for not being a good mom. I felt detached instead of attached.
Why? Maybe it’s because I am prone to worry and anxiety. That made it hard to attach for fear of losing them or something terrible happening. Could it be my hormones?
It really doesn’t matter. My point is . . . it is OK to feel WHATEVER you are feeling. Do not beat yourself up for your emotions right now. A lot of times you are not in complete control of them anyways. Allow yourself to process the emotions of your postpartum period.
Don’t go through it alone though. Tell someone, anyone what’s going on in your head. Your postpartum mind is like a dangerous dark alleyway at night. You wouldn’t walk through that alone would you? Of course not!
However some emotions and feelings do need to be checked on by a medical professional. If you think you may have postpartum depression or anxiety please seek help right away! It doesn’t have to be that way, there is help available!
Find what works for you.
I’m sure you have already experienced a lot people who offer all their best advice/tips and tricks for raising children during your pregnancy.
Everyone thinks the bottles they used were the best, that you shouldn’t pick that baby up every time they cry or you will spoil them, never let them sleep in the bed with you or they will never leave, don’t give a pacifier or they will have nipple confusion . . . the list goes on and on.
I’m here to tell you this was my BIGGEST regret the first time I became a mom. I allowed others to make me doubt myself and make decisions for my family. I am by nature a people pleaser, OF course I wanted to do EVERYTHING right. So I followed your advice. But what I ignored time and again was the still small voice inside me telling me what was best for me and my baby.
Trust your gut. I’m going to say this again for the people in the back, TRUST YOUR GUT!!
No one knows what is best for your family but you and your husband. Not your mom, not your grandma ( sweet as she is ), not Brenda. Especially not Brenda.
There is a time and place for taking others advice. Questioning ourselves can be a good practice if done correctly. However do not discount your own gut feeling about the situation in question.
Ask for help, you aren’t meant to mom alone.
I recently saw a post on social media saying that it would be more helpful to throw postpartum showers instead of baby showers.
Why? Mothers need more support at home adjusting to the new life in front of them. We need someone to come hold the baby so we can take the shower that’s been put off for 3 days. The dishes are piling up in the sink and the laundry is overflowing because we are the mercy of the baby at our breast or the baby that won’t let you put him down for sleep.
Long ago we used to take care of our children together. All the women in the community would pitch in to get the daily chores completed. The care of someone’s child or baby was assumed by all. We were never alone in the day to day. We had a tribe.
Find your tribe. Do not think if you have to ask for help it makes you incompetent or less of a mother.
Find your new normal.
The birth of a child is bound to upset whatever normal routine you have.
However,what worked before may not work now. That’s ok. Do not try to fit into the mold of what your family looked like before. Again, find what works for you right now.
You can’t get dinner on the table, order out for now. If you need to hire someone to help you get the house clean, do it. Can’t get out the door for church on Sunday morning? Watch online or find an afternoon/evening service. Don’t try to fit a round peg into a square hole.
It won’t always be this way. This period when your baby is small and demands much of your time and attention doesn’t last forever. It just seems like it does when you are in the think of it. The days are long but the years are short.
I hope you find this not as discouragement, highlighting all of the negative things that you may encounter after becoming a first time mom. I hope you find it as encouragment, all women who have children have experienced these feelings at some point. You are not alone, we are in this together.
It’s ok to not be ok, to ask for help, to speak up for yourself, to change.