Becoming a mom is as exciting as you imagine. But it’s also a huge life adjustment. And while people gush about how wonderful it is to have a baby (and it is!), they rarely share how challenging it is to deal with being thrust into parenthood overnight.
When I would go grocery shopping with my newborn, older women would come over to my cart and coo at my baby. They would say things like, “The newborn stage is the best.” And I would think: If this is the best it gets, there’s not a whole lot to look forward to. Because at that point, I was exhausted and yearning to be kid-free for an hour or two, even to just do housework or run errands without constantly caring for my baby. Going from taking care of just myself, and considering my husband’s needs, to putting my baby’s needs first all of the time was a huge shift.
So, the next time you start to feel guilty that you’re not embracing motherhood like everyone thinks you should, know that you’re not alone. For most of us, becoming motherly doesn’t happen overnight. The fact is, there are a lot of ups and downs in the newborn months.
What You Need to Know About Parenthood
#1: You might not instantly fall in love with your baby.
Everyone has heard the same story from moms they know: “As soon as I saw my baby, I fell in love.” I don’t know about you, but I’m not the love-at-first-glance type. It took time for my baby and me to get to know each other and now I think she’s the most wonderful thing ever. But don’t feel bad if you don’t fall in love from day one.
#2: The first six weeks can be difficult.
Let me break down what those weeks looked like for me: No sleep, sore nipples and being anxious about everything. But life gets easier as you go on and get into the swing of things, especially if you have a supportive husband and extended family. Being able to hand your baby off to someone else so you can take a bath or run to the store by yourself is a game changer. Also, don’t give up on breastfeeding. Nursing has amazing benefits for you and your baby – it’ll get better!
#3: You probably won’t feel like a mom right away.
Parenting seems like it should be instinctual, right? But there’s a huge learning curve and it takes time to figure out the best ways to soothe your baby, your favorite nursing position, when your baby needs to sleep and just about everything else. I remember crying to my husband the first week because I felt like I was failing at everything (and…hormones).
But when my baby was four weeks old, I took her to a family gathering. Everyone held her and eventually she started crying. Try as the older generation might, they couldn’t calm her down. I finally grabbed my little one, went into a quiet, darkened room and nursed her to sleep. It was at that moment I truly felt like a mom – I knew exactly what to do to calm my baby down when more experienced moms had no idea what my child needed.
After that came more signs that I had mom power – my baby showed that she preferred me to others, gave me lots of smiles and I could actually laugh when she was crying instead of wanting to cry myself.
#4: Poopsplosions happen.
Listen: There are certain events you can’t control during the newborn months. These include frequent poopsplosions and crying. You just deal with them as they come – do your best, ignore the haters and carry on. (Note: If your little one seems to be screaming for no reason, it could be one of the 7 signs that your baby is tired.)
#5: You have to create regular naptimes.
Naptime is essential to your sanity. That’s when you get a much-deserved break to snooze a bit yourself, get stuff done or call a friend. But here’s the weird thing: You have to help your baby establish a good sleeping routine.
Around four months, babies start to consolidate their sleep. That means, your little one will sleep through the night and take three naps a day, if you encourage good sleep habits. But it’s crucial that you stick to a routine and respect your baby’s sleep needs in order to cultivate a regular sleep schedule. Learn from the expert – Dr. Marc Weissbluth – in the book Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child (it has near Bible-level status in my home!).
At first, your little one will need three naps a day (morning, early afternoon and late afternoon) and then eventually those will consolidate into two naps (morning and afternoon) and then one, big afternoon nap. You’ll shout “hallelujah!” and finally get laundry folded and put away.
#6: If you don’t let others hold your baby, you’ll regret it.
It’s really important to let your close family and friends hold your baby during the newborn months. It helps your child get used to other people. If you’re the only one who holds your baby all the time, your child will later refuse to be held by anyone else but you (hello: exhaustion).
My children have been surrounded by a big Italian family from day one and have no problem being held by others. Thank goodness! We were actually able to do a date night when my first child was eight weeks old while her grandparents watched her.
#7: You’ll get lots of unwanted advice.
Well-meaning family and friends are going to tell you what you should and shouldn’t do. But you know your baby best and what works for your family, so don’t feel guilty going against their advice.
The best way to respond to unsolicited opinions? Use the doctor excuse. It goes like this, “Thanks for that advice. I’ll check that out with my doctor,” or “The doctor said we need to be doing this, that and the other.”
#8: Flexibility is the name of the parenting game.
Just when you think you can count on your baby sleeping through the night, he’ll start waking up at 3 a.m. with teething pains. Or, the swing that always makes your little one happy suddenly makes her fuss to get out of it.
By nature, babies are unpredictable. If you’re a planner like me, disrupted routines can be irritating. Parenting teaches you the importance of being able to adapt to changing circumstances.
#9: You can make the newborn months easier.
Turns out, a few preparations before your little one arrives can make life less chaotic those first few months. From having your freezer stocked with dinners to purchasing the gear that makes nursing more comfortable. Get all the secrets to making life with a newborn easier.
Learning about what’s to come can help prepare you for the transition to parenthood. Everyone struggles with the adjustment in some way – even if it doesn’t seem like it from the outside. What helps with the overwhelm? Talking with other mom friends or joining a mom group (through your church, MOPS, La Leche League) where women are willing to share (and laugh) about their first-time parenting challenges.
Knowing you’re not alone and getting tips from parents who are in the milk-stained trenches with you is a lifesaver. And remember, it’ll take time to become “mom” and that’s ok because you’re in this for the long haul.
P.S. Want to make life with a newborn easier? What about labor and delivery? Girl, I got your back! Just grab my free (and printable) Due Date Checklist to find out what you need to do during the third trimester to be fully prepared.