Becoming a mom is exciting, exhausting, amazing, and overwhelming. This is the single BEST piece of advice I was given as a mom-to-be that saved me in the first week of motherhood.
A few weeks before I had my first child, I was talking to a friend (who had just had her first baby a few months earlier) about all my excitement and fears about what was coming. During that conversation, she gave me some advice that ended up being my lifeline the first few weeks of motherhood. To this day, it’s the single best piece of advice that I was given while preparing to meet the little boy who turned my world happily upside down.
Today, I want to share that advice with you in hopes that
if when you find yourself overwhelmed by all the changes to your life, your emotions, and your body that first week of motherhood, you can find a little hope.
Motherhood is amazing, and you’re going to be a wonderful parent. But you need to know something important:
In the first week of motherhood, you will be likely be exhausted, uncomfortable, and overwhelmed. And during that time–at least once–you are going to wonder what you got yourself into.
If you’re like me, you will start to question whether you are really cut out for this motherhood thing…not in the general how-will-I-raise-this-beautiful-child? sense of the phrase, but in a very real and scary I-can’t-do-this-and-do-you-think-the-hospital-has-a-return-policy sense of the phrase.
Then, when you realize what you just thought, you will probably start to feel guilty for having such “un-motherly” thoughts.
In the moment you have that thought, I want you to stop, and remember what I’m about to say:
It’s the hormones talking, not you. Just hang on, and it will get better.
Have you ever looked up what happens chemically in your body after childbirth? Your hormones are going crazy that first week. Progesterone, estrogen, oxytocin, and prolactin all change drastically in the days immediately following childbirth (if you want all the nerdy scientific details like me, read more here).
The “baby blues” are a real thing. The emotional roller coaster typically peaks around day four and usually resolves after about two weeks.
Basically, you’re probably going to feel a little bit crazy those first few weeks. That’s okay.
You’re not broken. You’re not a bad mother. You’re just going through a huge transition and your body needs time to sort everything out.
That is critical knowledge for exhausted new moms.
I remember the moment my friend’s advice hit home for me. After a difficult delivery and stressful hospital stay where my baby ended up in the NICU for three days, I was finally home. I was in bed with him, and I had just finished a feeding. I tried to adjust how I was sitting, and winced at the pain. Completely drained, I laid the baby on the bed, and I started to cry.
I didn’t want to be crying.
I didn’t want to be in pain.
I didn’t want to be exhausted.
I wanted to be one of those glowing mothers who snuggles her baby and smiles, ready to take on the world with an infant in tow. But instead, I couldn’t even sit up in bed comfortably.
I doubted myself.
I doubted my strength, my willpower, my patience, my ability to sacrifice. I doubted pretty much everything. And in the middle of all that doubt, with tears streaming down my face and unsteady breaths on the verge of sobbing, my friend’s advice came back to me:
It’s the hormones talking, not you. Just hang on, and it will get better.
Then I laughed.
It wasn’t loud, and I didn’t think anything was particularly funny, but it was so reassuring in that moment to know that what I was feeling was totally normal. It was empowering to recognize those emotions for what they were: the result of an extremely stressful and tumultuous week.
I took some more deep breaths, picked my little man back up, looked into his eyes, and I began to talk to him.
“We’re going to be all right,” I told him. “I don’t know what I’m doing, and I’m going to make a lot of mistakes along the way, but we will figure it out. Okay?”
Then, I began to tell him the story of how my husband and I met and fell in love. I think in that moment I needed to remind myself of all the good things that had led to this moment–how his birth was the culmination of so many years of waiting, hoping, dreaming, working, and struggling to create a family of my own.
It didn’t get easier right away.
In fact, a few days later (day 8 to be exact), I spent an ENTIRE day crying every time I tried to talk. Seriously. No sleep + needy baby + sore mama = lots of tears.
But my friend was right. It really was just the hormones and the general exhaustion of everything I’d experienced. After a couple of weeks, I started to feel more like myself. I still got overwhelmed with motherhood (for that matter, I still get overwhelmed with motherhood), but I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
One Final Tip:
Once you identify where your emotions are coming from, you can do a few things to help get you through those first two emotionally tumultuous weeks:
First, give yourself an emotional break.
Forgive yourself for silently wishing that you could go back to how life was pre-baby. Tell yourself it’s okay to cry. Seek out people you can confide in, and let them know that you’re having a tough time. Tell them that you don’t need them to fix it; you just need them to listen. Basically, just be kind to yourself.
Second, give yourself a physical break.
It’s SO hard to be the mom of a newborn. Dad’s are affected, too (and I bless my husband for all he did for me in those early days), but there is no getting around the fact that YOUR body is the one trying to put itself back together after all the stretching and dare I say trauma of childbirth. If you’re breastfeeding, YOUR body is the one feeding the baby every two to three hours. And YOUR body is the one that will be awakened every time the baby needs to eat in the middle of the night. If at all possible, hand the baby off to someone else for a little bit between feedings and take a nap, or just go stand outside and breathe in some fresh air. A few minutes away will help you feel a little more like YOU again.
Good luck, Mamas! You’ve got this motherhood thing.
Do you agree with my advice? What is the best advice YOU received before becoming a mom?
Julie @ Logger's Wife
10 weeks. That’s how long it took me to finally be able to function with my second baby. My first was fairly easy. I only had crazy emotions for about 2-3 weeks, she was a great eater, and an even better sleeper. My second came 5 weeks early, didn’t sleep, screamed when she nursed, and my emotions were a wreck. I kept asking my doctor about PPD but she kept telling me it was just extreme exhaustion with some stress thrown in. I had never experienced that before. I remember laying on my bed, sobbing, more than once, asking God why he gave me this child. At 10 weeks, I finally came out of that fog. I can’t imagine not having my sweet little girl now.
So yup, totally agree with that advice. Hormones and exhaustion are a horrible combination. (visiting from Welcome Home Wednesday)
Julie, thanks for sharing your experience. I think so many women experience this, but I don’t think it gets talked about enough, and then they feel like failures. I hope a few women will read this and realize they are normal, like you and me. 🙂 I’m glad you were able to make it through the rough times, and I agree…I couldn’t imagine life without my crazy little boys now. 🙂
I wish I would have seen this before I gave birth for the first time! Beautifully said and great advice, my dear!
Thanks, Jess! Isn’t that first week or two the hardest? And you wonder if you’ll ever be able to function like a normal human being again. But you do…mostly. We’re proof. 🙂
This is definitely good advice! It was especially true when I had my second child. It totally changed our family routines but I had to remind myself that “This too shall pass!” Thanks for sharing at Welcome Home Wednesdays!
With my second, I didn’t think I would go through those same emotions, but I totally did! I had to allow myself to mourn the loss of our comfortable little routine and give myself time to adjust to the new normal. Thanks for stopping by.
YES.YES.YES.YES. Oh, yes. I was blown away by the hormones after my first. He had colic which you know, was fun, and I remember crying trying to get him to sleep. or eat. or just stop crying. or let someone else hold him.
I knew deep down it wasn’t PPD, which I think made it harder for me to accept. With my second, I prepared myself for all of the hormones, but each pregnancy is so, so different that it was just a whole other barrel of monkeys – severe jaundice, a 3 night stay at a children’s hospital less than 24 hours after being released from the hospital was so, so overwhelming, and I remember sleeping on a tiny pull out sofa, aching all over because I had just had a baby and crying because my less than 2 year old had never even spent the night away from me.
I think reminding yourself that it’s hormones is probably the BEST advice you could give a new mom. (so long as it’s given pre-baby, pre-meltdown. No one wants to be told that mid meltdown, as my husband learned ;))
Morgan, I love your candor (it’s probably why I love reading your blog, too). And I totally agree. This is definitely advice that should be given PRE-baby. P.S. – Husbands are great, aren’t they? Sometimes they just don’t quite know what to do with us, but they sure try! My husband learned the hard way NOT to try to make me laugh while I was in labor (it turns out that flexing your ab muscles even more in the middle of a contraction DOES NOT help the situation). 🙂 Thanks for sharing.
I am a new mother and I identify so much to your experience. I had those thoughts and felt terrible. I honestly WISH someone would have told me these things before…I had no idea what it would be like with a new born. Thanks so much for sharing for all mothers-to-be!
I’m so glad you found this helpful, and I’m so sorry I didn’t write it sooner so you could have read it before you had your baby. Even with being warned, I felt so much guilt and doubt. I’m glad you made it through!