I’m in that stage of life where I look around and it seems like a baby is born to someone I know every other day. My social media feeds start to become filled with photos of squishy toes and cheeks and love letters from sweet mamas to their precious babies. And I love it! I get it, and I’m in it and I love seeing those sweet photos and the celebration of love between a mother and her little one. And I did and do still love taking and sharing pictures of my children. But sometimes, through a story, or a photo... I’m reminded of what that time was like for me not so long ago. I’m 19 months past my second baby being born, but I still feel like I’m just barely to the point of taking deep breaths again.
One of Bowen's newborn photos - taken by
Neither of my pregnancies had any complications, for which I am so very grateful. But that’s not to say that they were easy. I have friends that enjoy every minute of their pregnancies and seem to float on air as they grace through 9 months of human growing. I am not that person. But nevertheless, waiting to meet my very first baby was magic. I planned and dreamed and hoped and cried (thanks hormones). I prepared and planned until every last book was read and every blanket was folded and impatiently waited for my bundle of joy to arrive. And when she did my heart grew 1000 times and I felt like I was finally living out this dream that I had imagined and hoped for. There aren’t words for the moment I met her for the first time. But….BUT….it. was. not. easy. Maybe you’re a new mom who hasn’t struggled in the ways I’m about to describe. You’re tired and you get overwhelmed at times, but overall you’re doing okay and just loving life as a new mom. If that’s you, bless you. I hope you can be a light in the darkness to some other moms around you who’s stories don’t look like yours. Because let me tell you, I would have given my left arm to have had more support during my difficult time as a new mom.
Let me give you a short overview of my journey into motherhood 4 years ago. I have to start by saying.. even before I gave birth, I knew that I’m "hormonally" sensitive. I’ve learned enough to know that when my hormones aren’t happy... Avery isn’t happy. I heard a doctor say once that women go through more hormonal changes in the first 3 days postpartum than men go through in 12 years.. TWELVE YEARS. I’m just gonna let you sit with that. Anyhow, on top of that, my milk took 5 days to come in. Which I’m not sure what that looked like for you if you nursed at all, but 5 days is a long time to wait on the milk you’re planning on feeding your baby. Too long. Right there and then I realized I was more thankful for formula than I ever expected. As the weeks went on I came to discover that my milk supply was not going to come easy. I struggled to feed my baby as much as I thought she needed, struggled as I worried if her weight was okay, struggled and wondered if she was crying because of hunger or something else. At one point during her first week home she had been screaming for hours. I actually called the Labor and Delivery Floor of the Hospital in tears, practically begging them to help me figure out what I could do to soothe my baby. We eventually put her in her car seat at 4am and drove up and down the highway for 40 minutes. It didn’t work. I want to cry just thinking about that if that gives you any indication about how traumatic it felt.
Elliotte at 1 week old
When she was 2 weeks old, we packed up our house and moved 2 hours away to a brand new city where we knew no one and my husband started a new job. I don’t recommend that. Then after a month or so we realized something else was going on. She cried, and cried and cried. Colic was the only word we had to describe it. All day every day it seemed. And she was spitting up what felt like half of what I was giving her. I adjusted my diet, cut out dairy, caffeine (bless me), and whatever else google told me might just help. No luck. Finally when she was around 4 months old, we talked with her doctor and tried some acid reflux medicine. Praise the Lord, she finally seemed to scream a little bit less. She still spit up buckets a day, and she was still at the bottom of the weight charts. But she was happy and thriving, and we finally got a chance to breath. And all of that was just in the first 6 months of being parents. Just a few months later I also faced some unbearable anxiety tied to my hormone shift from weaning. And I don’t even need to mention the obvious – the sleepless nights, the fact that she wasn’t a great napper, we were still trying to figure out nursing and supply issues, still trying to figure out how the heck you put a baby on a sleep schedule, still didn’t know anyone very well in our new city.. and on, and on, and on. Other than my and my husband’s memories of that time, we have no proof of how trying it was. All the photos I have from birth on are of a smiling, happy, beautiful baby girl.
Elliotte at 4 months old - when we finally started to see the light!
I say all this to tell you, I did not have an easy transition into motherhood. And I know there are moms out there who had an even harder time than I did. And what I really want to tell you is: I see you. I see the beautiful baby you have and how much you love them and how thankful you are for their new life. But I also see I see the struggle. I see the hard working, self-sacrificing, worrying, nurturing, wonderful mother that you are and I know how much work it is. You are not alone. Many moms have walked this road before you and come out on the other side. You can do this. But don’t try to do it all your own. Your knees will buckle and your arms will shake because you are a child of God with a loving Father, and you were never meant to be the adult. He WANTS you to cast your burdens on Him. Don’t forget that the Lord has a purpose in this season. It is not wasted. You can’t see it now, but you will look back and see the distance between then and now and be amazed at how far He has brought you.
Possibly one of the most unflattering photos I have of myself, but this is real life (less than one week postpartum with Elliotte)
That being said, I’m going to mention a few things I did that helped me through the new mom season, OR things I maybe didn’t do all that well, but I think would made a big difference. I’m not an expert. I very well may struggle with these things again in the future. This is simply encouragement from one real life mom to another.
1) Adjust your expectations: This goes for anything in life. But you’re just gonna need to lower your expectations of life with a new baby. And then lower them again. This is not a highlight reel. Yes, you love that precious child with every fiber of your being and your heart is a constantly in a giant puddle just looking into their tiny face. That feeling is every bit as wonderful as you thought it would be. But everything else? Just toss it out the window. You knew you’d be tired. But you didn’t expect this level of exhaustion. You know nursing would be a learning curve. You didn’t prepare for the blood and the latching pain. You knew babies cried when they were hungry. You weren’t ready for underdeveloped digestive systems that lead to hours of scream crying. You knew you were gonna have questions. You didn’t realize you would spent approximately 3 hours a day googling pictures of bodily fluids. But you know what? All that stuff doesn’t seem quite as rotten if you’re expecting struggles to happen. Take a deep breath, say a prayer, and tell yourself “You know what… today might be hard. But this too will pass”.
2) Don’t compare yourself to other moms and your baby to other babies: You have no idea what other families are dealing with – like I said, I have zero proof of how hard our struggle was. Everyone’s journey is different. Maybe that mom does have an easy baby. But maybe she had a complicated pregnancy or struggled to even get pregnant. Maybe her second baby is easy going but her first baby was a different story. Maybe she’s fit and lost her baby weight right away but she’s dealt with debilitating depression or her marriage is in shambles. You. don’t. know. her. story -- and there’s not a mom out there who hasn’t walked through hardship at some point or another. Don’t compare.
3) Things are always changing. Don’t worry yourself with the future of what may be. Focus on today. This feed, this nap, this issue. As the days go by so many things will get easier. Motherhood is never a cake walk, but month by month so often things will get better. Babies will sleep longer. They’ll eat less often. They’ll smile, and laugh, and sit up and play and crawl. Your hormones improve (and if they don’t, please take it from me - GET HELP) and you will gradually settle more into your role of “mommy”. And for most people, it just gets easier. Hang in there, mama. You’re doing a GREAT job.
4) Find other moms to talk to. Ideally you could talk to an experienced mom who is way ahead in her motherhood journey, as well as a new mom who is right where you are. Moms from your church, moms in your neighborhood, moms at the playground... even moms in a facebook group! Ask friends who aren’t in your season if they have friends in a similar season as you. I realized that making new friends isn’t really going to be your #1 focus right now. But a little bit of effort and vulnerability will go a really long way. Be honest with other moms about what you’re going through. Don’t leave anything out -- you’d be surprised how not alone you really are.
That’s all I have for today friends. But I hope if you are a new mom in this season and walking through some hard days, I hope you were encouraged. I hope you have a great support system and find a friend you can confide in. And I hope this podcast (blog) can be a tool to help you in your journey.