10 things I wish I’d known about the first year as a new mom

1) You will be so be tired

I know that is like understatement of the year, but there’s no other way to say it. The sleep deprivation will be so intense that you won’t even believe it’s happening. The worst of it takes place during the first few weeks with your newborn, and basically carries out until your baby sleeps through the night. Which for some is as early as 6 weeks, and for others as long as 2 years. For me personally, at almost one year, we are still waking at least twice at night

The best advise I can give for dealing with this, is to be gracious with yourself, and to just accept it as part of this season of life. I spent months thinking that I had to jump back into society as a functioning adult again, all the while living on 4-6 hours of sleep at night (I’m a person who needs a solid 9 by the way). But I have succumbed to the fact that in order for me to be my best self, I need to limit my obligations outside of being a wife and mother as much as possible, and allow this season to pass without expecting too much of myself.

Which carries me to my next point…

2) It’s okay to do nothing besides care for your baby

There are a lot of opinions out there on this subject, this is my personal stance on it. I have been all across the board with this one. At first I grasped this pretty well, because when you have a newborn that’s really all you can do (especially if you breastfeed). However, as time went on, I put a lot of pressure on myself to constantly be productive, maintaining a job, and a household, having hobbies, friends, all while still caring for very small and needy child.

What I learned, is just because they start sitting on their own, sleeping in their own room, eating solids, crawling, and even walking… doesn’t mean they don’t still need you just as much as they did when they couldn’t do any of it. I still find myself having to stop multiple times a day to breastfeed, and to rock him to sleep. Not all babies require that, but mine does. Trust me, I have tried every sleep training method in the books, because I thought it just wasn’t practical in my life to spend an hour breastfeeding and rocking every time I wanted to lay him down to sleep. I have days where the list of to do’s flows through my brain, but lately I’ve been able to shut that off and instead say ‘This won’t last forever, and one day I’ll miss it’.

3) Your body will be different

Girl, let me be the bearer of bad news. Your body will look and feel different. Obviously right away that makes sense. But long after your stitches are healed and your uterus shrinks back, you will still have remnants of the life you once carried. Your tummy will sit a little differently, your hair will change, your skin might even change (thankfully mine did for the better!). This doesn’t mean you will have the classic ‘mom bod’, you might though.

And that’s just scratching the surface, internally there are many changes as well. No one will push pelvic health recovery, your doctor will check you at 6 weeks and send you on your way even if you still feel.. how to I put this?.. different. It’s up to you to do your research and maybe even see a physical therapist if you feel you need one. But trust me, you do not want to ignore this one, I’ve read enough internet horror stories for all of us.

Personally even with all of the changes, I’m learning to love this body more than my old body. This body is a bad ass, it grew and birthed my baby boy, and has continued to nourish him for nearly a year now. Not to mention somehow has learned to function on half the amount of sleep it was used to getting. My body is definitely not perfect, but I’m proud of what it’s capable of, and that’s the mindset you really need to have going into pregnancy, or else you’ll struggle HARD with the changes.

4) Everything takes a little bit longer than you think it will

Think you can wake up and be out the door in an hour like the old days? Think again… I have always prided myself on showing up both prepared and on time, but now days if I show up at all, I consider that a win. There will inevitably be a blow out, baby will get hungry, or get his/her clothes dirty, you’ll run back into the house for things you forgot 3 times, and then once you’re out of the drive way you’ll turn around and run in again. Basically things just don’t go as planned.

I’ve pretty much surrendered to this one, although there are some things that can help leaving the house in the morning go a lot more smoothly. I’ve found that if I prepare the night before that really helps; packing the diaper bag, planning your and baby’s outfits helps a lot, as well as minimizing your morning routine as much as possible. I now shower at night and for the most part wear much lighter makeup if any at all. This way I can be out of the house semi on time most days.

5) Your marriage will take a hit

Your marriage, relationship, partnership, whatever it is, it will suffer, at least at first. Let me tell you, there’s nothing like sleep deprivation and postpartum hormones to test even the strongest of couples. It’s one of those situations where he’s either helping or he’s in the way. Unfortunately in the beginning, hubby’s needs take a back seat because you’re pretty much giving 90% of your time and attention to the baby, and the rest towards basic survival like eating and sleeping. I have a previous post on this topic where I explain, in greater detail, about my personal experience with this, but simply put you might hate your husband for a while. Don’t worry though even if you do hit a rough patch, a year later we are stronger and happier than ever. I couldn’t be more happy with our marriage, it just takes a little time to figure out a good balance.

Thankfully I had been to counseling in preparation for getting pregnant, I just wanted to make sure my head was on straight, and I had Ryan sit in on a couple of sessions. I highly recommend this to any couple whether you’re thinking about starting a family, or are already pregnant. It helped us so much to really understand each other’s personalities and how to effectively communicate with one another. I can’t stress it enough, I think this is one of the most important things you can do for your relationship pre-baby, to make sure you’re both in a really good head space before you take on a challenge like becoming first time parents.

6) Your life will look nothing like it did before.. and that’s okay

I mean nothing. The way you structure your days, priorities, friendships, holidays ect… Even the most normal and familiar parts of your life will look completely different. This takes some getting used to for sure. You’re no longer just doing one thing, your mind is in constant anticipation for the next diaper change, or breast feeding session. Once they become mobile, you’re constantly glancing in their direction, and interrupting conversations to say “no no, we don’t ply with that” so many times that you forget what you were even talking about. You will probably find yourself taking advantage of services like Amazon Prime, and grocery pick up a lot more often. To sum it up, say goodbye to life as you know it.

The crazy thing about it is even though your world is completely turned upside down, you wouldn’t even dream of going back. I do think about the old days sometimes, though I had a lot more time, I had a whole lot less fulfillment. It truly gives life a new meaning when you become a momma, so once in a while you may miss the days when a trip to the store that didn’t include blow outs and meltdowns, but trust me, you will not want to give up your sweet little squish for anything.

7) Breastfeeding is HARD… and not for the reasons you think

I read over and over again, while I was pregnant, that breastfeeding is hard. Everyone talks about issues with latching the baby correctly and cracked nipples. While that is true, honestly cracked nipples were the least of my worries. I mean it doesn’t feel good, but your vagina straight feels like it just blew up, so comparatively that is a non issue.

What I found difficult about breastfeeding was the sheer amount of responsibility it is, and it falls solely on you. When baby wakes at night you’re really the only one who can give him what he wants, finding a time and place to pump at work, having to make sure everything you wear has easy boob access… Then there’s trying to maintain your milk supply, and not being able to eat and drink what you want, yes folks that goes far longer than just pregnancy. At least for me it did. Some woman drink coffee and alcohol while breastfeeding, I personally choose not to, and my baby showed signs of a dairy allergy early on so I’ve had to cut that as well.

I definitely don’t mean to sound ungrateful, I am extremely blessed and thankful that I’ve been able to breastfeed for a whole year and counting. My baby and I both love it. And by now I’ve gotten used to all the ‘rules’, so they don’t bother me anymore. But I did want to shed light on the fact that it is not just hard in the beginning, it’s a sacrifice for the entire length of time you’re doing it.

8) Postpartum depression is sneaky

I denied for so long that I might have PPD. I thought depression was thinking harmful thoughts towards yourself and not getting out of bed, but that is only an extreme version of it. If you start to notice yourself being more sensitive, i.e. crying over small things, picking fights with your partner, or getting really angry (if that’s out of character for you). Turns out those are signs of depression as well. I personally also fell into the thinking that I wasn’t allowed to have PPD. I had a heathy baby, a supportive family, and little to no stress going on in my life outside of mothering.

What I’ve realized though is that validating your feelings and seeking help is really important, maternal mental health matters. Don’t think you’re a bad mom just because you need help, taking care of yourself is the best thing you can do for your little one. On the days where I was down right miserable, I wasnt able to show up effectively as a momma the way he deserved. Once I let go of my pride and seeked help for the way I was feeling, even just simply recognizing how I was feeling for what it was, I was able to start the healing process.

Seeking help can look different for everyone. If you’re having thoughts of self harm, by all means seek professional help! For me it was enough to reach out to a couple of friends, and also find healthy outlets such as prayer/ journaling and exercise. The important thing is that you recognize it, and do something about it before it gets out of hand.

9) Your baby is constantly changing

This is another one where you’re like, duh, but hear me out. While they are growing and physically, they are also changing developmentally. What worked last week, may not work this week. For example there have been times where he only sleeps while I hold him, and then the very next week or month, he refuses to sleep while I hold him and wants to be put down. Just as you get used to one stage, they’ve reached a new one.

This keeps you on your toes, that’s for sure. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve been like, ‘I’ve finally got this baby thing figured out’, and then back to sobbing in frustration the next day. The thing that helps is, for one, just recognizing that this will happen. Just because they’re almost sleeping through the night at 3 months old, doesn’t mean that at month 4 they won’t go back to waking up every hour (true story). That’s also helpful to know because while you’re going through the more difficult seasons, you can keep in mind that this too shall pass.

10) Your experience will be unique to you

Lastly, you will have your own unique experience because every baby is different, and every momma is different. You may find that you relate to some of these but not all of them, and that’s okay. You may have struggles that are completely different from mine, or you may find the whole thing a lot easier than I described. As long as you go into it without expectations, you’ll be able to handle whatever gets thrown your way.

If you are expecting, or thinking of starting a family soon, you’re probably trying to gather as much information as possible. I can’t promise that this will cover everything, but I hope it is a helpful source to guide you through the process. This first year has been a crazy and beautiful journey, so get ready for the ride of your life.

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