What it really looks like to be a struggling first time mom.
When I was pregnant, I never thought that I would be a struggling first-time mom.
At that time, I thought I was ready for motherhood. I had been educating parents for a number of years, I’d read all the books that I could find, and I had a plan in place of how I would do things. Most of my friends are not yet parents, so I knew that I would have to try and learn everything I could from books or articles online. In preparation for motherhood, I also joined all of the Facebook groups that I could find on topics such as sleep and breastfeeding. I believed that being a part of these communities would help me through my struggles once my daughter was born.
I thought that I would know what to do when the hormones kicked in, and I felt confident I could handle the newness of motherhood.
After having our baby, the baby blues set in.
This was the first thing that I was unprepared for. Trying to explain to your husband why you are crying, when you have no idea yourself, is very frustrating. Feeling out of control with your emotions is even more difficult. However, after a few days of non-stop tears, I started to feel like myself again.
Fast forward a few weeks, and sleeping became our next struggle. Our sweet baby decided that she did not want to sleep. She would have a ‘witching hour’ between 5:00-9:00pm every night. I had read everything I thought I needed to know about sleep, but none of it was working.
My anxiety started to rise.
Every book that I had read said to put your child down awake and not asleep. But when I put her down awake, she would scream at the top of her lungs. Some things I read online said that if I let her scream she might develop an insecure attachment… so I would pick her up. I would try to rock her to sleep and let her sleep in my arms. But the Facebook group I was on said it was extremely unsafe to ever let a baby sleep in your arms… so I would put her back down in her crib. This cycle would go on and on all night long, until all of a sudden it was morning and neither of us had slept.
I was not prepared for this.
There were so many feelings of guilt, shame, and blame that were associated with being a mother. All of learning I had done did not prepare me for what it would feel like when I couldn’t live up to what the books told me to do. I am usually a rule follower, but babies do not like to follow rules.
I was not prepared for the guilt that came with falling asleep in the rocking chair with my baby in my arms. I’d wake up with such shame that I wouldn’t be able to fall back asleep. I would blame myself the whole next day, and think about all of the horrible things that could have happened. It was such a difficult time of my life. I had no idea I could love a little human so much, yet feel so unsure about what this new life was.
Would she always need me this much? Will I ever have a free minute again?
If only I had gotten her used to a bottle earlier.
I don’t think I can do this any longer.
I’m not fit to be a mother.
I am too tired to take care of my child.
These moments were the start of my journey with anxiety, guilt, and shame. Over the course of the first 4 months, I struggled. My thoughts became scary at times, and I was not sure who I was anymore. I had never felt this anxious and unsure in my life. Family and friends began to feel concerned, and it was at this time that we sleep trained our baby. We knew that it was the best thing for all of us (and it was).
Every mom that I have talked to since giving birth has told me that they have struggled at some point in their transition to becoming a mother.
Moms that I thought had it all together have told me that they have had these same thoughts, feelings of insecurity, and doubt. Other moms have told me that it looks like I have it all together, and I assure them that alike them I certainly do not.
Going through this experience of anxiety has made me very passionate about finding ways to overcome these feelings. The research I have found shows that 1 in every 5 women will struggle with postpartum depression and/or anxiety. Those numbers seem high, but they are only the diagnosed cases. There are so many people out there who struggle in silence, and do not get the help that they need. The more we talk about our postpartum experiences, the more other women will know that they are not alone.
My journey improved after seeking support, and making changes to my immediate environment.
I started finding time for myself, sleep training our daughter, going to therapy, and quitting breastfeeding. After realizing those Facebook groups were not a safe space, I left the groups and found nonjudgemental support. I started making exercise and healthy eating a priority.
Each person may need different supports, and make changes in different ways. Instead of assuming that we will all figure it out on our own, let’s try to be open and honest with each other. This is how we make sure that no one has to struggle in silence. We put enough feelings of guilt and blame on ourselves, so can we stop judging and making rude comments to others? Not one of us knows completely what another is going through. Instead of judging each other, and trying to be better than each other, let’s remember that we are all in this together.
If you are going through something similar, please join our online community of moms who support each other without judgement.
This is a place where you can find information you can trust, and a community who will support you through all phases of early motherhood.
Mama, you are not alone, you can feel better and you will love motherhood.