Becoming a mom changes absolutely everything.
I read the books, listened attentively to friends and family and prepared thoroughly for my baby girl’s arrival. Her nursery was perfect and my hospital bags were packed, and as an added bonus, I wasn’t even nervous about childbirth. I was just ready.
Or so I thought.
The ultimate truth is, nothing at all can prepare you for becoming a first-time mom. (Nope, not even me, the most OCD, type-A person on the planet.)
With one beautiful, whirlwind of a year under my belt, here are my top takeaways.
You Will Change
I now look at my life as having two chapters — before I was a mom, and after. Quite literally everything has changed.
Having a tiny human who you love from the moment they are in your arms has a way of making nearly everything else completely insignificant. My heart really does reside outside of my body now and is instead waddling around on two teeny tiny feet.
Speaking of body, well that won’t ever be the same either. Despite trying to embrace my new “mom bod,” I know that to a certain extent I will always have insecurities, they are just different now. My hips (somehow) are even wider than before, my chest the stereotypical less full, less perky chest of a mom who breastfed, and my back hurts almost all the time. (My kid is 24 pounds, OK?)
Though I worked hard to lose the baby weight through a healthful diet and exercise (my anxiety calms best via endorphins) I believe that some things just don’t or won’t ever go back to “normal.” It is a new normal instead.
Professionally, I work differently now, too. While at the office I work harder, faster and with a fierce focus to get. shit. done. I love my career and what I do. But my heart is always with my baby, despite my brain and body being in meetings or on calls. I am very proud to be a working mom, but that doesn’t mean I don’t miss her like hell all the time.
In short, my whole identity has changed. I am a mama first, and everything else second. I am so grateful for that, and I do thank God every day. But I am also not ashamed to say that sometimes, the big change, the shift in identity, the dizzying moments of day to day motherhood is downright difficult.
You Won’t “Enjoy Every Moment”
It is OK to sometimes say, “This sucks.” I promise it doesn’t mean you love your baby any less.
Some of the words of wisdom people would share towards the end of my pregnancy or right after my daughter was born were sweet. Some, on the other hand, were straight up falsehoods.
My favorite? “Enjoy every moment.” I am here to say I did not enjoy every moment, and as I say that I feel an overwhelming need to profess my profound love for my child at the same time.
I just wouldn’t say bleeding nipples or icing my crotch was enjoyable. Neither were the days I would operate on two hours sleep, forget the last time I showered, or hide in the bathroom on my phone playing Candy Crush and crying for far too long thanks to the hormones. But I was, am, and always will be grateful for each moment. There is a difference. And it is OK to sometimes say, “This sucks.” I promise it doesn’t mean you love your baby any less.
Your Marriage Will Change
Our marriage is strong. We are communicative, in tune with one another’s needs and feelings, and truly tackle parenting as a team. But our marriage was not immune to the winds of change and challenges that come with parenting. The truth? No marriage is.
Gone are the days of casual happy hours or impromptu weekends away, everything needs to be choreographed and planned. Lack of sleep makes tensions high and patience low. Adjusting to a new normal means sacrificing time together for some necessary time apart.
But our marriage is now even stronger having run the gauntlet that is the first year of parenting. We miss our date nights, can sometimes be ships passing in the night, and miscommunications happen a bit more frequently these days.
That said, nothing can bring you closer than loving a tiny human you created together. And nothing made me love my husband more than watching him become a father.
Mom Friends are Lifesavers
Becoming a new mom is like this great equalizer, tying everyone who has ever had a child together into this one big, tired, mom pool of “been there, done that.” Having friends who are also moms is an absolute necessity, especially in the early weeks and months. Nobody can quite understand the emotions, the highs and lows, anxieties and overwhelming sense of love you are experiencing all at the same time. It makes you want to hug your friends who became moms before you and say, “I get it now.”
There are also bonus points for mom friends who have babies around the same age. Through my local mom’s Facebook group (I know, it sounds horrifying but it is honestly the best thing), or even DMing old high school pals who had babies at the same time as I did, I unknowingly created quite the little supportive tribe. It was, and is, awesome.
If you are the first in your circle to wear the badge of motherhood, don’t worry. Find your own local social media group for new mamas, or check out Peanut, an app that helps you connect with likeminded mamas nearby for company, support and comradery.
Women helping women, mamas helping mamas, makes the world go ‘round.
Plus, having someone to talk to at 3 a.m., who is up at the same time as you tending to a fussy little night owl makes it feel a lot less isolating.
Breastfeeding is Hard
I am sure I am not the only mom who had delusions of breastfeeding being the easiest, most natural thing in the world, right? It wasn’t.
Aside from the initial pain and fear over “am I doing this right?” It is a completely consuming, full-time and round-the-clock job that requires the full commitment of your body and brain.
Tongue ties, poor latches and reflux — I honestly didn’t even know what a lactation consultant was until I needed one. Plus the sound of my pump now makes me want to puke.
It was a bonding experience when it worked — and a crazy, stressful and frustrating experience when it didn’t. I wish I didn’t put so much pressure on myself to keep it up for seven months. I think the newborn time would have been a bit better for us if I hadn’t.
My best advice? Feed your baby how it works best for your family. If you want to nurse, explore every avenue to figure out what works for you. If you don’t, bravo for knowing what is best for your baby and realize you are just as worthy.
You Will Never Sleep the Same
It was so annoying when everyone told me to “sleep now” before giving birth. It is not like you can stockpile sleep and run on reserves. But even once my daughter started sleeping through the night, I still haven’t had a solid night’s sleep. Something changes.
Whether it is biology, new mama instincts, or endless to-do lists, I feel as though my brain never fully shuts off. I was never a light sleeper, and now I swear I wake just hearing my child roll over in the other room. There has to be some scientific explanation — but I don’t have the time to explore it. Trust me, it is just not the same.
Comparison is Toxic
Social media is a highlight reel that sometimes lacks realness. It is all too easy to get caught up in the pretty posts and moms who look like they are nailing every aspect of motherhood.
I’m not, they aren’t, and you won’t.
We will all have our highs, lows, and in-betweens. I just wasn’t up for snapping a selfie to post as I nursed and cried at 3 a.m., bags under my eyes, questioning a hundred times, “am I doing this right?” as I scrolled through others who were bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.
Don’t compare. It is a killjoy, and pretty toxic. Instead, keep on celebrating your triumphs, but take solace in the fact that your lows are universally shared, too.
Stay Off the Message Boards
During my pregnancy, it only seemed natural to look up the things I was experiencing on the internet. Ending up on a message board with other people who are going through the same thing as me seemed like a great idea — after all, wouldn’t it make me feel less alone?
But the boards seemed to be having a reverse effect, causing me more stress and anxiety. And just wait until you’re down the mommy message board rabbit hole whilst your tiny human is now on the outside. My best advice? Stay far, far away from the message boards where horror stories and zero fact-checking exist. Instead, contact your pediatrician for any major concerns.
Becoming a new mom is a life changing, beautiful experience. With each day comes challenges and triumphs, lessons and new experiences. My most important takeaway, though, is realizing that everyone will have their own. These are just mine — and I hope they help some feel less alone.
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