“It made me feel like a bad mom.” Real Life Advice for New Parents and Parents-To-Be
It’s been five years…I became a mom five years ago. I remember the day vividly. At the time, I was working as a healthcare consultant for The Advisory Board in D.C., and was working from home.
I was 39 weeks pregnant. I was convinced that I was going to give birth later than 40 weeks because I had been a late baby. That morning I woke up cramp-y and I remember feeling a bit apprehensive as my husband left for work. But nothing was happening and I assumed it would be a normal day. But man, I thought I was ready.
By mid afternoon, what felt like minor cramps turned into major cramps. I kept waiting until I was extremely uncomfortable and after talking to my mom (and a dear friend who had just had her baby boy – hey, Caroline!) I decided to call my husband.
By the time he got home, we needed to get to the hospital. I remember holding onto the handle by the car door just hoping we’d make it in time. We did.
Within an hour my son was born and our lives were forever changed. I had a beautiful and healthy boy. I was completely star struck by this tiny little human.
But I also quickly realized that what I had envisioned for motherhood was not necessarily the reality for me. I had fit my expectations into a tiny box of perfection. Being the determined (dare I say, stubborn) person I am, I struggled with trying to fit my new life into that box.
The most striking difference for me was this very different and innate sense of responsibility. This new, little life relied on me. I didn’t feel prepared:
What if I failed?
What if I wasn’t a good mom?
Why did I feel completely overwhelmed?
None of the Instagram posts and Pinterest pages about becoming a mom addressed this. The birthing class didn’t address this. My doctor or the nurses didn’t address this. It seemed like other moms carried all this in stride and made it look easy. Was I doing something wrong?
I navigated my new life on little sleep and with a slew of emotions – happy, in love, scared, overwhelmed, sad, frustrated….you name it, I felt it. The negative emotions got shoved under the rug, and I relished in the moments when I felt like I was on a high of happiness. This was probably not the right approach, but I’m not ready to get into that just yet.
I remember one day I was feeling particularly frustrated — I hated feeling frustrated with my baby; it made me feel like a bad mom — and received some advice from my mom as well as a close friend’s sister.
This is the advice I feel compelled to share and hope that it helps any other parent out there who may need it:
Sometimes babies just need to cry. You aren’t doing anything wrong.
If they need to cry, it’s okay to put them down. It’s okay to place them in their crib and walk away. (I really struggled with this. If I couldn’t soothe my baby, I felt like the ultimate failure.)
You need time for you. Yes, this little one relies on you. But you need a break sometimes. Take it. (I was also, and am still, terrible at this.)
Ask for help and accept help. (Looking back, I wish I asked for more help. I wish I allowed for more help. But, I am so grateful for the enormous amount of support that I did receive from family and friends.)
Megan Brown recently shared a post about post-natal care and education, and I couldn’t agree with her position more. A support network and more education for parents are crucial to address some these life changes that may take you by surprise.
I have never felt love in the way that I do for my kids. It is such an incredible emotion. It’s hard for me to write that I’ve had challenges, too, because this kind of love makes my heart feel like it could burst.
But my reality was (and still is) a combination of love and other emotions at times. These emotions push and pull at each other. There are times when I feel lost. Times when I feel alone.
And while I’m not ready to share all those details of my experience in #momlife just yet, I hope this message today resonates with other parents who might need these reminders.
If you are feeling alone, overwhelmed, or just looking for advice, know that there are so many women in our network that would be willing to help – including me. Don’t be afraid to be honest, don’t be afraid to ask for advice, or to get a cup of coffee and share your feelings. We understand and there’s no judgment. That’s the beauty of this fitness and wellness community.
It really takes a village. I’m so very grateful for mine.