Navigating the uncharted waters of new motherhood is like surviving one wave just as another more monstrous one crashes down. You discover a new soothing technique, and feel a tinge of pride like you were the first parent ever to figure out this clever trick, only to wake up the next day to find it’s no longer relevant. Suddenly you’re back to fighting to keep your head above water. Motherhood is exhausting, mentally and physically (and I’m only dealing with one baby and just getting started!), but it’s also rewarding in ways I didn’t know were possible. What I’ve learned in my first eight weeks of motherhood is that you have to keep your sense of humor and take each wave as it comes at you. Aside from learning how to care for another human being, motherhood challenges you with reestablishing your identity. Not to mention your personal hygiene, the never ending laundry, and even your relationship with your own mother. But these lessons are some that will make for smoother sailing in the lifetime ahead.
Here are eight takeaways from my journey thus far.
I Am Mom
When I hung the Christmas stocking that said ‘Mom’ on the mantle I looked over my shoulder waiting for my own mother to appear. I am mom, I said aloud. The words felt like a foreign language escaping my lips. My tongue stumbles over each syllable. For the rest of my life, I am mom. Who ‘Mom’ is and what she stands for is up to me to decide. After thirty-three years of trying to grasp my identity, I felt like I was playing the game of Life and had been kicked back to square one. I had to recalibrate who I was and how I would incorporate that into this Mom character. I wrote out my Ten Commandments of Motherhood so I could remind myself daily of who I am and what I want to stand for in this new role. Then I went around the house repeating ‘I Am Mom’ until it began to roll off the tongue.
You’re (No Longer) So Vain
I used to be a “pretty girl”. My hair was brushed and in place, I didn’t leave the house without wearing my face. I’ve never seen my mom leave the house without wearing lipstick; those were the values instilled in me. Enter life with a newborn … There was one day I left the house wearing an adult diaper, my hair was so knotted in the back that I thought I might have to cut the ponytail holder out. I had so many spit up stains on my sweatshirt it created a polka dot pattern. And I didn’t realize until I got home that my pants were on inside out. In the early days of parenthood, a good day is when you have time to brush your teeth. You have to practice love and compassion with yourself and understand that the personal hygiene bar is low. Before motherhood, I’d heard of the new baby scent, but what they don’t tell you is that there’s also a fragrance specific to new moms. It’s a combination of dry breastmilk, spit up, body odor, and urine (yours and the baby’s). Not quite as sweet as new baby scent but equally as memorable.
Eventually you’ll find your footing, and brushing your teeth will become a norm again. Although long showers and a solo soak in the bath will remain a luxury.
Another Wardrobe Change?!
Being pregnant during a pandemic, with both our families across the country, people kept saying, “You’re going to miss out on the help in the early days, like dealing with the laundry.” Now I understand what they meant. Honestly, how can such a little person go through so many wardrobe changes in one day? And thanks to the spit up, leaking breast milk, unhinged pee hose, and poo that occasionally sprays out like a busted fire hydrant, I’m constantly changing my own clothes and our bedsheets. I’ve learned there’s really no way to slow down the constant flow of laundry, but eventually you’ll find your rhythm and learn clever ways to take cover from flying feces. Although, I’ll admit now, it’d be great to have some help with the laundry.
Buttons Are The Enemy
Once the zipper was invented, why did baby clothing manufacturers continue to make outfits with buttons? These tiny buttons were designed to torment parents — there’s no other reasonable explanation. Every time I dress my son in an outfit with buttons it becomes this episode of mounting pressure like I’m attempting to diffuse a ticking bomb. And let’s not get started on buttoned bibs — why aren’t they all velcro?!
Thank You Mom
I don’t think I ever gave my mom the proper recognition she deserved. She carried my siblings and I for twenty-seven months in the womb. Dealing with the postpartum recovery each time. My gosh, did they even have disposable ice pads back then? My mom is a saint. All moms are saints. Naively I hadn’t realized that before.
Making the Most of Every Moment
Nothing has been a better lesson in mindfulness than parenthood. During the pregnancy my husband and I participated in a Mindful Birthing course, which included meditation practice and tips to help us be more present in the birth and beyond. Those nine weeks of training have been a gift to our everyday parenting experience. It helped cultivate patience with ourselves, each other, and our son. It’s also helped us to be more present and appreciative of every moment. I’ve practiced these techniques every day since his birth. It’s true, the better you care for yourself, the better you can care for others. Being kind to your mind is a big part of that. Mindfulness and meditation practice provide a little extra sunshine to each of my days, therefore expanding its warmth to those around me.
I’ll Never Be The Same
So many things that mattered to me pre-pregnancy, primarily my own successes, have lost a lot of weight. As the youngest child, I too often thought about ‘Me’ and my wants. Now someone else’s needs are more important than my own. What that creates is an opportunity to be a better version of myself. In fact, I find my little one inspiring exactly that. You can still find time for your passions, it may just require a bit more creativity on your end. For example, if your passion is writing you might use talk to text to write articles and stories. Motherhood also helps narrow down and prioritize your interests. I’ll never be the same, but I’m certain I’ll be so much better.
A New Meaning to ‘Good Morning’
I’ve never been more excited to wake up in the morning. Peeking over the bassinet to see that beautiful little smile and watching throughout the day how everything surprises him is a joy like I’ve never known. And the way he looks at me … I never knew someone could melt my soul with their eyes — every single time.
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I still have moments when I feel like I’m on the verge of drowning, but each day I get a bit stronger. Mostly, what my short experience with motherhood has taught me is how lucky I am to be Mom.