10 Things I Wish I Knew Before Becoming a Mother

“Can you please pick me up some yarn?”

I called my husband in tears, crying over my stash of yarn running out. I needed to finish the blanket I was working on, but now I was stopped dead in my tracks. Felice went to a store that didn’t have it, which only made me cry more. I begged him to check at another store, which to his relief, they had it. Pregnancy brought on a lot more emotions than my episode about yarn, but luckily we laugh about it now. Pregnancy, in other words, is quite the roller coaster.

1.) You don’t have to love pregnancy.

When I was pregnant, I didn’t feel a connection with the baby that was growing so quickly inside me. Each day brought something new, but each day I felt like I was losing control of my own body. I had an extremely easy pregnancy with very little morning sickness and weight gain that only centered itself around my pregnant belly; and yet, I hated it and I felt guilty for hating it. I wanted to drink and eat whatever I wanted. I was tired of being tired. I was tired of being emotional. I was tired of not knowing who I would soon meet. I felt like I was having an out of body experience because it simply wasn’t my body anymore. I shoved these feelings deep down, fearful that if they were to escape through my lips that I would be harshly judged and criticized as a mother.

After Aria was born, I found an entire community of mothers who felt the exact same way. I had no idea that these were normal feelings to work through and knowing that made such a difference. I love my daughter with every bit of my being. Pregnancy, for her, was worth every moment – but that doesn’t mean you have to love it.

2.) You don’t have to know what you’re doing.

I was terrified to leave the hospital. The staff helped us so much that I wasn’t sure I could go back to managing life while simultaneously keeping this newborn baby alive. She was so fragile. I was so inexperienced. Already fearful on not having a connection during my pregnancy, I was again fearful of not being able to navigate through the feelings of simply having a baby depend on me. When everyone told me that babies would just sleep, poop, and eat, I had no idea how true it was. It was simple, right? So why was I feeling so overwhelmed and emotional?

When my mother left after staying over for a few nights, I felt like I was drowning in emotion and responsibility. I cried nonstop, not knowing exactly what to do or how to be a good mother. It did get easier, but it takes time. Be easy on yourself. You don’t have to have all of the answers. Postpartum Depression is real. The Baby Blues are real. Please, keep in touch with your feelings and seek help if you need it. You are not alone.

3.) Breastfeeding is hard.

I’ll be the first to admit that breastfeeding used to freak me out. I fully intended on feeding any babies of mine with formula because feeding from my boob? No, thanks. I felt this way for nearly the entirety of my pregnancy until a friend began to educate me a little more on how normal it is and what the benefits are. I still wasn’t sold on the idea of nursing, but once she latched on after being born, I simply kept going. I assumed formula would be more difficult to prepare, but to be clear, I had little knowledge on caring for an infant in either capacity.

The timing of her feedings were inconsistent, spanning from cluster feedings, to a couple hours apart, and then several. I fed on demand, no matter the time. The nights seemed longer because I was the only one who could feed her and I often felt exhausted and alone. She wasn’t latching properly in the first week or so, causing pain and discomfort for me. I almost quit, but turns out, it isn’t supposed to be painful. After getting through this initial period of learning what worked and what didn’t, we seemed to excel. We eventually got on a schedule and she started sleeping longer during the night.

The end of our nursing journey was a result of me returning to work and not being able to pump what she needed; I was becoming increasingly agitated at the process. It was more beneficial for us both to stop – her because she needed more than what I was supplying and me for my own mental health. It was an emotional process, but we ultimately made it five months, one month short of my goal. Formula feeding was a God send, but I often miss being a nursing mother.

3.) The sleepless nights are temporary.

“Better sleep while you can.” I cannot tell you how many times we heard this and by the end, I wanted to scream. I get it, she’s going to keep us awake! Well, the reality of it is that she did keep us awake for about 6 month. Each child and baby is different and unfortunately, there is no handbook. I can remember on one occasion driving around with Aria in the car seat at 2 in the morning just hoping she would fall asleep. Felice and I were so exhausted. We just wanted to get a moment in of rest. When she did fall asleep, we went back inside and she was wide awake again. We tried gripe water, gas drops, the swing, holding her, rocking her. Whatever the issue was that night, it wasn’t over until 7 in the morning. We crashed.

When I was back to working, I felt like I was running on empty. At that point, she was waking up once or twice during the night to feed and sometimes she’d be awake just because she wanted to be awake. The first time she slept through the night, I felt like a new person. Now, two years old with a consistent sleep schedule, the sleep deprived nights are well in the past.

4.) Your body will change.

I looked in the mirror at some point during pregnancy wondering if it was worth it. My body seemed to gain stretch marks overnight in areas that I didn’t even know stretch marks could appear. After pregnancy, it only seemed to worsen. I was left with sagging skin, dark circles under my eyes, and a human being that was completely dependent on me. I heard that breastfeeding would help the weight loss, but it didn’t. In fact, it seemed pretty slow until I started a program that was specifically designed for breastfeeding mothers. I felt amazing on some days, and other days just sluggish.

I did lose the baby weight and then some, leaving me with the extra skin as a result. I was told that it took nine months for your body to create a human life and it takes time for your body to heal. It didn’t help how I felt, but as I delve further into motherhood, I no longer care as much. I feel it is a reminder of the amazing task that my body took on. I was the vessel for another human life and I’m reminded of it everyday.

5.) Relationships will change.

My friendships have changed. My marriage has changed. Every aspect of my life, in fact, has changed. I knew changes would occur, but I’m not sure I was prepared.

Before pregnancy, I went out to drink often. My friends and I would go to the bars and simply dance the night away. Many nights are a blur, the flood of alcohol to my system alleviating those memories from my very grasp. We had a lot of fun, but since becoming a mother, I’m no longer in that phase of my life. I often joke that I’m now domesticated when I was once so open and free with my time. I no longer have the time to make friends the main priority in my life and as a result, many have ended. My circle, once overflowing, is now extremely small. My best friends and I have been through many phases of life together, and I’ve been blessed enough to be around those who understand my ever changing world.

My marriage has changed too and I believe for the better. We struggled as new parents. I want that to be clear, we struggled a lot. But, alas, we also grew and became a better team. Felice and I make direct attempts to have time together, apart from our hectic weekly schedules. We now have a movie night once a week, rotating who picks what we’ll watch. We just made it through the entire Harry Potter series, and have now made it to anime.

6.) Fights will happen.

When I say fights, I mean stressful, emotional, overwhelming arguments. I wanted to crumble, Felice wanted to crumble, and instead of communicating, we took this exhaustion and frustration out on each other. One night in particular, I met my small group at church. Felice was left with Aria, who was still being nursed at the time. I was late coming home and he was stressed from not wanting to use what little pumped milk I had in the fridge. I felt like I was falling apart from running ragged while he felt frustrated by dealing with a screaming baby that he felt he couldn’t feed. Instead of communicating how we were feeling to each other, it ended up being one of the most epic fights in the history of our relationship.

We still occasionally let our emotions take control. We aren’t perfect, but we are now more open to listening and communicating how we are feeling in the moment.

7.) It’s okay to want a break.

Aria kept crying. It seemed like anything I tried to do made matters worse. I put her down in her crib and walked out of the room to gather what bits of myself were left. I cried for a moment, then walked back in to pick her up. Breaks. They come in all different forms. There are the breaks we need, just a moment, to pull ourselves together for the battle we are facing and there are the breaks we need for our mental health and overall well-being.

The first night away from Aria was difficult and I can’t say that I’ve been open to doing it often. It doesn’t stem from a concern of her being cared for; we have a great support system with those we fully trust. This feeling of being away from her is a personal issue because when that happens, I feel guilt, anxiety, and shame. The first night was for a work Christmas party where we were going to be out late. We got home late and I woke up when I knew she’d be waking up herself.

Then, there was the entire weekend I was away. I still felt the guilt, anxiety, and shame, but this time it was her dad watching her. I was away for a weekend girls’ trip and I was constantly thinking about what they were doing, how they were doing, and what I was missing out on. The trip was beneficial for my friends and I; it reminded me that there are other sides of myself outside of being a mother. I still battle with the same emotions, but I believe I always will.

8.) You need time for yourself.

Time for yourself is different than needing a break. This is the time for you. This is not for your partner, your friends, or your family; again, this is the time for you. Breaks are often needed to get a moment to yourself, but it is important to set apart time for yourself. Bathing, cooking, and cleaning are not parts of self-care, they are basic needs. All of this is so important to differentiate because for awhile, I didn’t understand it.

It gets more difficult with more kids and the differing schedules between them, but at the moment with just Aria, our schedule is pretty amazing. She is in bed by 8, leaving the rest of the night to do as I please. Most of the time, I do actually clean and get ready for the next day. If I’m lucky, I get the last hour to crochet, read, and more recently, the time to write.

9.) Time will pass more quickly than ever before.

I can barely remember what it was like to not have a child soaking up every minute of my life. To be honest, I don’t know that I’ve ever had a free moment since I worked multiple jobs while attending college full time, but this kind of busy has been different from any other thing I’ve experienced.

My daughter is two now. I still can’t quite believe it, but her two year old self is sassy and temperamental! I can’t believe how much time has gone by. I look up and see a toddler when yesterday I could’ve sworn she was still an infant. One day she was crawling, the next walking and running. They develop so quickly – it all seems to happen in the blink of an eye.

10.) You’ll discover a strength you didn’t know you had.

I don’t know how many mornings I’ve gotten up with only a few hours of sleep. I’m still thinking of how immediately after giving birth, I was able to walk around and entertain the visitors to the hospital. I can’t believe that I can still manage to carry around a toddler on my hip despite my wavering strength. The strength, this specific strength, is one that we discover and never quite knew we had.

I’ve been pushed to my breaking point, and yet, I still wake up every morning knowing that we’ll be okay.

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