Monday, August 12, 2013

5 Tips for First Time Mamas

Being a mother is one of the best and worst things that will ever happen to you. It will bring out the absolute best in you. It will also make sure you know what your limitations are. A very good friend of my recently had her first child, a darling little girl, and as I spoke to her a week after delivery, a wave of memories came flooding back to me of what it was like my first time around. Terrifying. Sweet. Intense. I had so many worries, irrational fears, and a whirlwind of hormones and emotions to envelop my whole experience. As I shared a few bits that I had learned through having children, I remember how wonderful it felt to know that the seemingly insane things I was experiencing were downright normal. 

Here are five all-too-real trials from being a mama the first time around and a few things you can do to make your transition smoother.

Pure Exhaustion
It will exhaust you. To the ends of your physical limits. Because you will be on-call 24-7 with no real hope of reprieve. Before, regardless of your busy schedule, there was always the option to rest. Call in sick, skip a class, cancel dinner plans. A new mom doesn't have these options. You will want to be there for your baby for every groan, cry, and mumble, even while your body screams for sleep.

Truth: Call for help and walk away. If you can so much as hear your baby, you won't be able to rest. And you'll need to, at some point. Call your mother, a close friend, your hubby, or someone you trust your child with. Feed your baby, (leave the care-giver with formula if you need to) and walk far away. Or at least far enough that you can't hear your new bundle of joy- and take a much deserved reprieve.

Hormone City
Right after your baby is born, your hormones are so out-of-whack that you will cry when you're happy, cry when you're sad, scream when you're mad, yell when you're happy.  Sometimes, you'll be so overwhelmed with joy at having your new infant that you won't be able to contain yourself. At other times, you'll be so frustrated that you will want to hit something

Truth: We've all gone through it. This is less of a solution than a pat-yourself-on-the back. While you will do your best to control your crazy emotions, just know that we've all been there. The desire to scream at your husband because he can't pat the baby the right way. The desire to curl up in a ball and sob until you have no tears left. It's not rational and not always controllable. Just know you aren't alone and you aren't crazy.

Your Not-So-Hot Bod
You will walk out of the hospital looking pregnant. Fitting into your maternity clothes. And most will leave the hospital at about the same weight they were when they walked in. Your skin will be flabby. Stretchy. Possibly covered in stretch marks. You will likely feel unattractive (disgrossting was the word I felt as I walked out that first day). You may feel judged by others for not looking glowing and radiant. And chances are, you know you won't ever look quite the same.

Truth: Give yourself a one year break and get over yourself. You are a mom. You have made and will make numerous sacrifices for your baby. One of those may be your perfect body. And you know what? Thank goodness! I would trade a perfect body for my darling little girl any day of the week, month, or year. Why? Because she is far higher on my priority list than how I look to others. Far higher. Does that mean I am OK with not giving myself proper care? Of course not. It only means that I have come to realize that when I walked out of that hospital, my world was now my husband, baby, and me, not my husband, me, and my sexy body. Feel free to work to lose the weight and return as much as possible to get yourself back into shape- but give yourself at least a year before you start telling yourself what your body should/could look like. It took nearly a year to 
make your baby- allow your body at least that much time to recover.

My Baby Deserves the Best!
At some point in time after you are presented with your little one, you will probably be overwhelmed with an innate desire to care for your baby in the best way possible. For me, it was like my bringing my daughter into this world also came with an invisible contract, where I promised to always protect her and take care of her, an emotion that has only become stronger. I wanted to give her the best love, care, food, clothes, anything she needed to grow. I felt like in this regard, there was no room for failure.

Truth: There's more than one way to be a good mama! Too often we feel judged or shamed if we don't 'measure up'. "Oh, you're formula feeding? Hmm..." or "Wait, you didn't wash all of your baby's clothing twice after you bought it? Hmmmmm......" Too much time is spent judging other moms of perceived shortcomings and too little is spent in the realization that there are MANY ways to be a great mother! YOU were chosen to take care of your little one and YOU have the last say in what is best for them. You will know them better than anyone else and you have every right to decide what is best for them. Formula or breastmilk. Cry-it-out sleeping or nuzzling them until they drop off. Each baby is different and requires something different from their mamas. So while what you do may not be what your friends or (heaven forbid) what your mother-in-law did, you know what your child needs and you will be able to give it to them.

You'll Be Okay

Just know that it's going to be okay. You will have shortcomings and failings. At some point, you will probably feel like the worst parent in the world and that your baby deserves something better than you. Please know that you, like your infant child, will learn and grow. You will be able to figure out what they need. You will learn how to balance your schedule so that you can accomplish more than just feeding and washing your little one. And as long as you are trying each day, you WILL be a good mother, even if you don't feel like it right now. Your little one chose you. And you are meant to be its mother.

I hope this isn't a downer article- being a mom IS wonderful and amazing, but I feel like the tough times are easier when you know that everyone has struggles with motherhood.


  1. You said: " So while what you do may not be what your friends or (heaven forbid) what your mother-in-law did, you know what your child needs and you will be able to give it to them."

    If only that was true, but it isn't! Not all advice that mothers-in-law give should be dismissed out of hand. After all, they were young mothers once too and may actually know what is better for a child than a first time mom does. Some women have no understanding of what their child needs, and in that case it is lucky when the mother-in-law helps out with useful advice, especially when that advice is also supported by child development experts.

    1. By no means does this article advocate ignoring advice from mother-in-laws, but there is a good chance that you will raise your children differently from your MIL. And, barring huge issues of safety, that is ok. Just remember that the best advice is sought-after advice. Seldom do others welcome unsolicited advice.