Editor’s note: Read about Colleen Nichols’ experience of having a baby with a little help from technology in Love, Marriage, Science and a Baby Carriage.
A college friend recently had her first baby, and after exchanging a few texts, I was reminded that there is a bit of new mom advice that every first-timer needs to hear. The days are long, and when you're unsure of what you're doing and experiencing, it's helpful to know that you're not the only one who thinks motherhood is hard.
1. The first few weeks (and even months) are a complete mind game.
I remember feeling so confused and stressed and overwhelmed and scared those first few weeks after we got home from the hospital. Add a huge serving of guilt on top of it all, because I had a perfect and healthy newborn who I absolutely loved. It's difficult to navigate through all those emotions on a good day, but when your hormones are out of whack — forget about it.
2. You will mourn your former life.
And possibly even wonder if you made a mistake. Even if you're a magical unicorn who experiences no negative side-effects of motherhood, you will mourn the fact that your life isn't like it used to be. You'll see your childless friends' status updates about brunches and midday naps and day-drinking, and you'll wonder why you gave it all up.
But trust me, you'll realize why in a few months and you won't long for your former life in the same way. Rather than looking back and feeling like someone is rubbing salt in an open wound, you'll be able to look back and say, "Man, that was great; and so is this."
3. There is no grace period.
Any other time you've started something new in your life, you've experienced a grace period of sorts. Whether it's new job training or the honeymoon phase of a new relationship, rarely are you ever thrown into action and immediately expected to understand and excel at all the curveballs thrown your way. Nope, just motherhood.
4. The nighttime is scary.
For the first 12 weeks or so, I recall having the most intense anxiety every day around dusk. The sun would start to set, and the fear would sink in because I knew the endless battle we were gearing up to fight. It's one thing to nurse and hold a crying baby during the day when you're used to being awake, but it's a whole 'nother ballgame in the middle of the night when your body and mind are begging for sleep. This is normal, and it (gradually) fades.
5. You will feel useless.
My husband would leave for work and come home 12 hours later to find me in the exact same spot on the couch. I hadn't showered, I was probably crying, and there were most likely food crumbs and wrappers in the near vicinity. At the time, it felt like those days would never end, and I had a real concern that I'd actually grow into my couch. But I promise, you will be up and moving like a real human again in no time. Enjoy the Netflix while you can!
6. You will learn to laugh at it.
The first time I felt brave enough to accept an invitation to a play date, my son had a blowout of epic proportions within two minutes of introducing myself to a group of women I'd never met. To add insult to injury, another mom had to point out to me that there was poop not only all over my son, but on me as well. In all my concern to survive the play date, I hadn’t thought to pack backup clothes. So, yes, my kid spent his first play date mostly naked, while I smelled like poop. We're really into making lasting first impressions.
Listen, you're never going to get out of this parenting thing unscathed, so you might as well learn to laugh at yourself and not take things so seriously. It's much more enjoyable that way!
7. This too shall pass.
When you're experiencing a difficult or trying time, it's not easy to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I've been there, sister! The "hell period," as one of my friends so accurately described it, does pass. I'm not promising a utopian motherhood once it does, but I am promising you that you'll embrace, enjoy and love motherhood more than you can possibly imagine.
Colleen Nichols, 28, is a freelance writer and life coach (colleennichols.com) in Richmond, Va., living with type 1 myotonic muscular dystrophy.
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