Being a first-time mom is INSANE! No, I am not being dramatic, it really is. I read every book you can think of and felt so prepared for this new little bundle. I was a little bit older (27), and I thought I was a little more stable in my life and more mature, so therefore I could handle this and pass with flying colors.
The reality looked like this:
Living on a farm in South Africa, I had no access to pre-natal classes and mom friends. All the farmers in the area told me that “it comes natural”, just relax and don’t stress because your milk will go away (I don’t know about you, but being told not to stress because something bad will happen, in fact, makes me stress).
The day my baby girl was born was exciting and overwhelming. I was a mom, and it was the best feeling in the world. Latching didn’t happen the first time, but I was told to just keep at it, and it will get easier.
It did not.
I ended up pumping every two hours, slept for an hour, and then fed her, then pumped again. I was beyond exhausted (I also had a c-section). I was adamant that I will only give my baby breastmilk, because I was told that this is the ONLY way to do it. I pumped for 7 weeks, while trying to get my baby girl to latch every other day. Then I watched a YouTube video on latching, and wham! She latched, and I felt like the best mom in the world. Till this day, this was my proudest moment. All went well for about 3 weeks.
Because I pumped from the start, my supply was not as much as I would have hoped for. We managed, but I could see that my supply was dwindling. I went to my doctor and she gave me a pill that makes your milk supply increase. This worked so well for us.
Then the unfortunate happened. The area we live in is prone to political unrest, and protesting in our area started. We would go to town and could not get back home due to people burning tires in the road. This was so scary while having a 3-week-old in the car. This happened a few times, and as a new mom, hormones flying high, this stressed me out so much. I felt like I was supposed to protect my baby and give her the best life possible, and I couldn’t. It felt like everything was out of my control.
As luck would have it (even on those pills) 3 days later my milk supply dried up, just like that, over night.
The guilt that followed was unexpected. I felt like I failed my baby and as a mother. This is the most important thing for a mother: being able to feed her baby. So not being able to do that, brought on so many issues and regrets. The reason for my supply dried up is debatable, whether it was the stress, the pumping, or just a combination of all the above. I will never know.
We ended up giving formula, and I was amazed at how much more relaxed I was, and how content my baby girl was.
I want to write this part with so much respect, because postpartum depression is so serious and so hard. Every mom should take this seriously and seek help in any shape or form you see fit. But talk and don’t be ashamed of it, because I can promise you it happens more often than you think. All women just don’t feel confident enough to speak out about their experiences.
Although I never had postpartum depression, I definitely had a case of the baby blues – it took me roughly 2 months to feel like a person again. I did not feel like myself. I was emotional, irrational, paranoid, sad, lonely and misunderstood. The worst part about it is I live around people that didn’t think this is a thing, that don’t really believe in psychology and what it has to offer.
The good thing is there are people to help. Talk to a psychologist and work through this, for you and for your family. Don’t suffer in silence with the hope that it will pass.
Okay so by now sleep deprivation is a term you are well familiar with, and you have even Googled it a few times. But, that is not the sleep I am talking about. I am talking about your baby’s sleep.
The first few weeks are not that bad (sleep wise). Newborns tend so sleep when they should (well some babies anyway), but as the weeks go by your baby now has difficulty falling asleep. For me, this was the biggest challenge. My baby girl only napped for 30 minutes at a time and woke frequently at night. We even got a sleeping consultant to help.
The problem with sleeping is that your baby can’t do without it. They need it to grow, to recharge and to be able to interact with the world out there. The moment they don’t get this much needed sleep, they become overtired and overstimulated and this is something every single mom out there knows well – hell.
I have tried everything under the sun, baby wearing, rocking, singing, pacifier, swaddling, co-sleeping, own room, sleep training, block out curtains, white noise, no toys in the cot, sleep routine, routine in general, played with awake times. You get the picture. We tried everything you can think of. Some days we thought we won, and then at night everything would just start all over again.
The moment you think you got the handle on this, then they are going through a growth spurt of a leap or teething or, well, just a bad day.
Figuring everything out and getting to know your baby takes time. This is not something you want to hear because you need your life to get easier and to go back to normal or just to feel normal as soon as possible. The reality is, it does take time. My baby girl is 6 months old this week, and I am honestly only getting the hang of this now. I am a part of countless mom-groups, have family that help me, am constantly researching, and it still takes time.
But I can honestly say that it does get easier, I feel more like myself now. Our baby girl is easier, and I even think that it might be because I am more relaxed. My hands don’t start sweating the moment I hear her cry, I don’t start panicking if she does something new, I don’t freak out over spit up anymore, and I don’t stress as much to take her somewhere.
In short, I think my hormones have finally balanced out.
Don’t laugh – its real! hormones after giving birth is crazy, I cried so much for no real reason, overreacted about everything (my poor husband), and I was just so stressed out everyday all day. This has since improved a lot, I can now take a breath because I know my baby is okay.
This phase in our lives makes me look forward to the next one, because I know what to expect, I know the ugly side of a lot of things now and know that everyday is not always amazing and sunshine and roses all over the place like a lot of moms would have you think. But in the end, it is more than worth it. The rewards of being a mom are amazing. It takes over every little part of you and gives back so much more.
To all the newbie moms out there – you hang in there! Don’t let people “mom shame” you for doing anything, and it does get easier!
About the guest author:
I am a new mom of 27 years old, living in South Africa with my sweet little baby girl Paige and my amazing husband.
I love to write and share my experiences of being a first time mom, and all the obstacles that we all face as mothers whilst juggling other parts of our lives.