I gave birth to my first (thus far, only) daughter in November 2015. Pregnancy was hard on me - we were in a new place and had virtually no support system other than my husband who worked night shift on top of taking a full load of online classes. I struggled with antepartum depression and anxiety. There was a lot going on in my extended family, as well. And yet, I still had this vision of myself post-baby: exercising and pursuing other hobbies regularly, cooking balanced meals, helping my husband keep the house clean and tidy, being stress-free at work, socializing with friends, and spending quality time on my marriage - all with my baby smiling contentedly up at me from her bouncy chair.
Uh, yeah. You don't have to be a psychic to figure out that it absolutely did not work out that way.
It's not that I didn't realize it would be hard. I just believed in my soul that I was up to the task. I truly believed that, given my talent for planning ahead, my love of organizing things, and quite frankly my stubborn personality (don't ever tell me I can't do something!), I would excel at life as a new mom. Parents who have been through this already are reading this and either wanting to pat me on the head and say, "Oh, you sweet summer child," or they're straight up laughing at me. And looking back, I'm laughing right along with them!
Ever since my daughter arrived, I've been realizing how unfair (and sometimes ridiculous) all of the internal and external expectations put on new moms are. Some of us spent the better part of a year growing a human being from scratch, others went through different trials to get their children into their lives. I know how tired you are. Your body might still be healing from doing the hardest work it has ever done. You might be fatigued from the months or maybe years of mental gymnastics and worry involved in adoption or IVF. If you have a newborn, you are almost certainly sleep deprived. You might be overcome with worry: Is she happy? Is he eating enough? Should I be putting her in her own room to sleep? What if he stops breathing in the middle of the night? Is it me, or does her head look flat? I didn't pump as much today; what if my milk supply drops? Is this diaper cream too harsh for her skin? Did we get enough tummy time today? Am I doing enough to help him develop? The list goes on and on. As new moms, sometimes we feel totally inadequate and unprepared. I am here to tell you, Mama: you are doing a really great job.
You might feel pressured to keep up with other moms in your circle, or worry that your baby isn't hitting their milestones at the same rate as other babies their age. Maybe you feel a lot of pressure for your home to be immaculate or for your meals to be home-cooked and organic, nutritionally-balanced and Instagram-worthy. Mama, please don't get so caught up in creating the perfect, Pinterest-worthy life - it doesn't exist. Don't compare your whole movie (outtakes and all) to someone else's highlight reel. Their lives might look perfect on Facebook, but I promise you - they are struggling, too. Why not get together and talk about it? Things feel less scary when you're with someone else who gets it.
This season of life is so amazing! There are new smiles and new noises and new abilities (my dad called them "party tricks" when my baby was tiny). Every day is different... and it also can be really hard because sometimes it seems like every day is the same. I believe all the tears and frustration you're experiencing are building you up to be an amazing mother. I believe all those late nights and the loneliness that can sometimes characterize new motherhood will transform you into an even stronger person than you already are - and that's saying something, because I think you're pretty tough as it is.
If you're waking up every morning feeling defeated by your to-do list before you even get out of bed, if you're nursing or pumping or formula-feeding around the clock, if you find yourself staring at piles of spit-up-or-worse-stained laundry, mountains of dishes, and you haven't had the chance to shower in days, if you're struggling to reconcile the idea of going back to work after giving birth: You are doing the best you can, and that is all anyone can ask of you. You are enough. You are doing enough. Please be gentle with yourself.