Being a first-time mom was one of the most difficult times in my life. And while I know that many mothers feel this way now, I was completely oblivious to it at the time. Thanks to social media, I only saw smiling, happy, blissful photos of friends with their new babies. So I figured it would be bliss right away for me too. When I was pregnant, I looked forward to being a mother, but I had no idea how much pressure I'd feel once I finally became one.
Right away, I felt like I was inadequate at motherhood. I let my OB bully me into a C-section, I failed at breastfeeding, my son had rageing reflux, and my baby blues were erupting out of control. If my son wasn't crying due to his pain, I was crying due to my inadequacy at being able to comfort him or feed him properly. My anxiety kicked into high gear — something I had never struggled with prior to becoming a mom.
I remember vividly when one of my brothers visited from out of town to spend some time with my firstborn. It came time for me to rest (something my husband tried to give me in the evenings), but I wouldn't budge. I sat on the couch while a football game played in the background. My son slept on my chest as my brother and husband chatted. I wouldn't leave my son because my anxiety kept me glued to him. Finally, something within me made me get up. I gave my son to my brother to hold, and I dashed to the bathroom. I sat on the toilet, cupped my face, and sobbed. The pressure to be the perfect mother was quite literally way too much for me to handle.
Naively, I imagined that motherhood would be smooth sailing. I'd breastfeed my very easygoing baby, and I would quickly put him into his own crib and on a sleep schedule. I did all of my research and knew what society expected from me: to bounce back into being me and to make mothering look effortless.
Only, I failed. Until I finally decided after five long weeks to trust my motherly intuition. After a slow recovery from my C-section, trying to get my son to at least sleep in a bassinet next to me, and pumping, I took matters into my own hands. First, I decided to let my milk dry up. I chose what was best for our family, and that was the biggest key. Next, I stopped stressing about getting my son to sleep in his crib or bassinet, figuring he'd do it in his own time. If my son wouldn't sleep alone, I simply put him on my chest (when it was safe and never in the middle of the night). Finally, I gave my body grace. So what if I wasn't able to go on long strolls with my son shortly after, you know, having surgery? Big deal. I gave my body time to heal and recover, and turns out, that's all it needed.
Learning to be a mom the first time around is tough — really freaking tough. You don't know how your body is going to respond, and you sure as hell don't know how your hormones are going to react. It could be easy, or could go completely awry. Either way, you have to give yourself grace and time. You also don't know what kind of baby you'll have. Most of us aren't lucky enough to have one of those dream babies, so it's important to give them some grace, too. They did grow inside of you for nine months — they're kind of attached. Finally, trust your intuition, not society. No one knows how to raise your baby better than you.