Becoming a Mom: What Your Friends Don’t Tell You

Written by: Aviva Cohen

Sleepless nights, cracked nipples and a body that I hardly recognized: these were just a few of the startling discoveries I made after having my first child. Why didn’t my friends tell me how exciting, exhausting, scary, and awe-inspiring it was to become a mom?

Now that I am a social worker at The Blossom Method, a Chicago therapy center for women and couples that focuses on fertility, pregnancy loss, premature births, genetic testing, and postpartum depression, I make sure to share the tips I wish I had heard a decade ago. Here are three nuggets of wisdom every woman should know:

1. Sleep is a mom’s best friend.

During those first few weeks, your baby will likely sleep a lot. If you’re like I was, you may want to wake your precious newborn for a cuddle or to nurse. Unless your doctor recommends otherwise, my suggestion is to let your baby rest.

One afternoon, I was on the phone with a friend while my sweet prince was fast asleep in my arms. I told my friend I was going to wake him up to play. "No!" She commanded. "Never wake a sleeping baby!" Being a new mom, I of course did not heed her words. After we hung up, I picked up my baby, and within seconds my calm little lamb had turned into a screeching lion.

Tip number one: let your baby sleep. And while your baby sleeps, you should sleep too. Don’t worry about cleaning your house in case friends stop by or doing a load of laundry. Rest so you can have the energy you need to care for yourself and your child.

2. Be kind to yourself.

I felt panicked during the first few weeks I was alone with my son. He wouldn’t sleep. No matter how much he ate, he was always spitting up and hollering. There were days I sat in the glider, holding him while he yelled. I picked a spot on the wall and tried to take myself out of the room. I felt like I was going crazy.

One day, my friend came over and saw me in a pair of men's pajamas, unshowered, with spit up all over me. Seeing the sadness in my eyes, she grabbed my hand, and said, "You will feel better. It just takes time." How much, I thought? I can't do this much longer!

Be kind to yourself. Being a new mom is hard. It is probably the hardest thing you will ever do. For the most part, it’s normal to feel overwhelmed and scared. Before it gets to be too much, reach out to your friends and family and ask them for help with errands or chores or to simply hold your baby while you take a nap. I know it’s hard, because we’re all trained to think we need to be independent, but we can’t do it alone.

3. Stop comparing.

During the first year after my son was born, I spent way too much time comparing myself to other moms around me. They seemed so happy and confident, pushing their strollers with their Starbucks lattes and adorable yoga pants. Why wasn’t I blissfully happy too?

I bet if I had asked, most of those women would have said that motherhood was also hard for them. They would have spoken of sleep deprivation, clothes that didn’t fit their new bodies and an existence that feels much like the movie Groundhog Day, with endless crying, burping, feeding, and diaper changes. No matter how cute we may look on the outside, we share the same struggles. I wish my friends had felt comfortable telling me this, instead of feeling like they needed to be perfect.

So now I am telling you, and I hope you will share this with others: being a new mom is hard. You feel blessed and fortunate that your baby is healthy. But there are real feelings of isolation, loneliness and sadness. You wonder how your life changed so quickly, with your needs always coming a far second. Just remember, you are doing a great job, even if you don’t know it. And you will get through this. I did, and even went on to have three more kids!

Lastly, and this is very important: remind yourself and tell every other new mom you know that you are all awesome and amazing. And if you or someone you care about is struggling with issues related to pregnancy loss, fertility, pre-term delivery, complex genetic results, or postpartum depression, please get support from resources like The Blossom Method. 

Written by Aviva Cohen, LCSW, The Blossom Method.  For more information and support - please visit us at The Blossom Method - a supportive and resourceful center for women, couples, and families as they face the many hurdles of the child bearing years and beyond. We provide a unique combination of therapeutic and counseling services, as well as education seminars, social events, and parent to parent support services.  We can easily be reached at info@blossommethod.com or (312) 854-0061.

Posted on July 30, 2013 at 9:33 PM