Becoming a first time mom is simultaneously the most wonderful and the most overwhelming experience. No matter how often you hear "everything will be different", there is no way to prepare yourself for what life as a new mom is like. You just can't understand it until you're in it. Life with a new baby is hard. It's also magical and wonderful and the most beautiful thing in the world.
James is seven weeks old now (CRAZY!)! He is just the sweetest, best little boy. His smile is my favorite thing ever and he is such a joy! :) I had my postpartum doctor's appointment last Friday and I am completely healed up and good to go! I got the OK to start working out again, but was told to hold off on ab exercises for a bit longer until my ab muscles are fully back together. They are about a fingertip separated still, which is normal. It is recommended that women wait six months after giving birth to do ab work, as doing it too soon can prevent the ab muscles from coming back together. EEK! No thank you! I would like my ab muscles to re-join, please! Ab work can wait!
Anyways, I did my first postpartum workout Friday evening and it felt AMAZING! I had refrained from exercising (aside from walking) before I got cleared by my doctor because, to me, the risks of working out too soon after giving birth were just too great (I will do a blog post about these risks in the near future because I feel like they are not talked about enough!!). I also have been going on runs every day which has felt so great as well!! I am unbelievably happy to be able to exercise again. I'm sore and I love it!
Over the past seven weeks I've learned SO much about myself, my body, babies, and about becoming a mom. And I know I still have A LOT to learn!! Being a new mom is hard. Don't get me wrong, it's the best thing I've ever done and I'm truly loving every minute of it. But it is HARD. Here are some things I think that every first time mom should know:
1. You will be sleep deprived. Yes, you've heard this many times. But nothing can prepare you for the absolute lack of sleep. Newborns have to eat every 2-3 hours. But do not expect your newborn to sleep 2-3 hours at a time during the night. 2-3 hour stretches are the most incredible thing when they happen, so enjoy them! James has gotten to the point where he only wakes up twice during the night (usually) and it is so so nice. You will be woken up frequently, and you will probably be awake for anywhere from a half hour to 2+ hours trying to feed, change, and comfort your little one (who will probably be screaming or crying the whole time). You will be tired and exhausted, but your body will adapt. And it gets better. It does, I promise! So hang in there! :) The first 2-3 weeks are the hardest!
2. Your body will be different. Again, you've heard this before and it seems like a totally obvious statement. But I didn't really grasp how true this was. After your baby is born, you will look 6+ months pregnant for a few days, and after that your uterus will take time to go from the size of a watermelon to it's normal size (a pear). Your tummy will be poochy, and you may still be swollen for awhile. Everything will be squishy. You may have stretch marks. I do...SURPRISE! Mine weren't visible until after my baby was born...such a cruel joke! haha I have some pretty intense ones all around my belly button. At first I had a VERY VERY hard time with this. I was very depressed about my stretch marks and felt pretty darn unattractive what with the poochy tummy and squishiness. Add in all of the out-of-whack hormones and lack of sleep... and, well, it was very hard for awhile. But as the weeks have gone by, my tummy has become less and less poochy. I'm sleeping a tiny bit more. And I'm coming to terms with my stretch marks. Remember that MOST women get stretch marks, and they are from the fact that you carried your sweet baby. :) Be patient with your body. It's done an incredible thing and it needs time to recover and heal. You will learn to love your new body. Give it time.
3. You will love your new baby more than you thought was possible. Again, you've heard this before. But trust me, you don't understand...you will LOVE your baby... like a whole new kind of love. It's like that baby is your little person and you just will think he or she is the most amazing, perfect, sweetest human being on the planet. You'll be fiercely protective and you'll want nothing more than for that baby to be happy and healthy. When your baby cries, it will break your heart. When he or she smiles at you for the first time, it will make you melt and feel like the most important, amazing person ever. That little human is EVERYTHING.
4. Your time wont be your own any more...at least at first. And that's OK. Nothing can prepare you for how much time newborns take up. They require constant attention and care. Diapers need to be changed, babies need to be fed, bottles and binkys and clothes need to be washed, and sometimes (most of the time) your baby will just want to be held. At first, this can be overwhelming. You'll wonder how you are supposed to do this and how you are supposed to get anything else done besides caring for your baby. But as time goes by, you'll get the hang of it. You'll get a system and a schedule down. You'll get more proficient at feeding and changing your baby. You'll learn to take advantage of 10 minute naps and moments of quiet. And you'll realize that this phase of constantly needing you is fleeting and it is the most precious time ever. Cherish it. You'll have time for yourself again soon.
5. Breastfeeding is hard. Wait wait wait...it's such a natural thing, how hard can it be, right? But it can be very very challenging, both physically and mentally. Trouble with latching, cracked nipples, inadequate supply, the baby falling asleep while eating before getting his or her fill and then waking up ravenous and angry, the amount of time it takes to nurse a baby (think 20+ minutes for a feeding)... these are just some of the things that you may come up against when trying to breastfeed. If you have trouble breastfeeding, IT'S OK. If you decide not to breastfeed, IT'S OK. If you decide to formula feed, IT'S OK. If you decide to do a combination of breastfeeding and formula feeding....IT IS OK. You do whatever works for you and your baby. As long as your baby is getting fed and is growing and healthy, you do whatever is best for YOU and YOUR baby. Don't let anyone shame you or guilt you. You are doing the very best you can. It is ok. :)
6. It's ok to feel overwhelmed. The truth of the matter is, that becoming a first time mom is overwhelming. It's overwhelmingly wonderful, overwhelmingly different, overwhelmingly hard, and overwhelmingly rewarding. When you have your first child, you are thrust into this crazy new world. Your life is turned upside down and spun around a few times and when you finally are able to look around again, everything is different. Life will never be the same. It will be better. Don't worry if you feel completely overwhelmed or in over your head at times (or most of the time!). That's normal. You will figure things out. Your baby will start sleeping more. You wont always know why your baby is crying - sometimes there legitimately is not a reason (look up PURPLE Crying!). Don't stress too much! Stay calm - calm parents have calm babies, as my dad always says. :) Babies are mysterious little things, and every baby is different...but over time you will start to figure out YOUR baby. You'll begin to learn your baby's different cries and what they mean. Hang in there. Sometimes you will mourn your old self - your old body, your freedom, etc...that's normal too. It will take time to adjust to your new life. No matter how much you love your baby, it will still be hard at times. And the important thing to know is that it is normal to feel overwhelmed, or out of control, or even sad. Don't be afraid to ask for help or to talk about how you are feeling. Even writing about your feelings can help. Remember that it WILL get better. You can do this, mama!! :)
Bottom line, being a new mom is THE VERY BEST!! I am loving it so so much. Every day gets better and better and more wonderful, and I love James more every single day, which is crazy because... how can I possibly love him more than I already do?? I love motherhood, but it is definitely challenging. Which is why I wanted to write this. Because new moms need to know that it is HARD at times, but it does get better and easier and it is SO worth it. It's normal to feel all of the things that you are feeling. You just keep doing the best you can and stay strong and reach out to people when you need to!
What tips do you other mamas have for first time moms? If you are a new mom or a soon to be new mom, what questions do you have? Feel free to contact me if you need someone to talk to!