Mom Life

When Nothing Prepares You for New Motherhood

I remember when I first found out I was pregnant. I didn’t really know what to feel about it. I was nervous, scared and excited all at the same time. It was hard for me to conceptualize how birthing and parenting a child would change me without actually experiencing it. I naively felt like I knew what I was getting into.

What is it about new motherhood that is so starkly overwhelming? This is the one thing no one told me.

I sometimes heard from others, “Oh, you’re going to love every minute of it.” And sometimes I heard, “Oh, get ready! It’s the hardest and most rewarding thing you will ever do.” Sure other moms struggled. I knew I probably would too. But I was going to read the books and set my expectations low to enable myself to handle it. I was smart. I was savvy. I was informed. I was going to do this!

And then my son was born…

Everything felt so overwhelming. From learning to breastfeed to lulling him to sleep to figuring out what he needed from me with each cry, I was a mess. I was a smart girl, yet I felt incredibly dumb. How could someone who tried to prepare so well, feel like such a fumbling mess?

One evening several friends came over for a visit and share in all the ‘excitement.’ To meet our sweet boy. To congratulate us as parents. I pulled myself together enough hoping to conceal my true disheveled state.

It wasn’t too long before my son was hungry, and I decided to go upstairs to nurse him. I was still trying to figure this whole breastfeeding thing out. I didn’t want everyone to know how bad it was going, so I opted to excuse myself. Nursing in front of a group of other people…yeah, definitely hadn’t figured out how to do that yet.

My best friend came with me for support and just to chat. I remember sitting in the rocking chair, nursing my son with the alligator tears streaming down my face.

She asked, “How’s it really going?”

I couldn’t bear to hold it in anymore. The overwhelming rush of emotions hit me, and I told her the truth.

“It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done.”

So there I was a college-educated critical care nurse, who cared for people when they were at their sickest. I’d been in more emergency situations than I could ever count. I’d faced countless moments when a patient was about to die on me and I knew exactly what do to. CPR, shocking with a defibrillator, assisting with medical procedures—I’d done all of those things.

And yet, I could barely take care of a healthy baby. I felt so overwhelmed by everything. It was in that moment, and now too looking back, that I realized that there is nothing that can truly prepare you for new motherhood. You can read all the books, do all the right things, have tons of experience with babies, and still struggle.

What is it about new motherhood that is so starkly overwhelming? Here's your answer, along with the one thing no one told me.

Looking back recently, I realized it’s been over 18 months since my days and weeks as a new mom caring for a tiny newborn, feeling helpless and clueless.

In fact, the challenges of new motherhood was on my mind so much lately that I brought it up to a friend a few weeks ago. I told her my new mom stories and struggles. I told her how I read all this stuff and still couldn’t get it together. I went on and on and when I finished, she paused for a moment, digesting everything I just said.

And then she said something I’ll never forget…

She said, “You know, it’s the best moms—the smartest moms—that struggle the most. It’s because you are all trying to do such an amazing job. You want everything to go just right. And nothing about life with a newborn is by the book. And that makes it hard.”

So to all the new moms out there, past, present and future, if you ever feel like you are struggling, just know that it’s because you are doing a remarkable job. You are one of the smart ones. The best ones.

And even though, it seems like nothing is going right.

It’s actually going exactly the way it is supposed to.

And there is science to back it up.

When a woman becomes a mother for the first time, her brain literally undergoes transformative changes. Gray matter in your brain becomes more concentrated, and the areas of the brain that control empathy, anxiety, and social interaction experience considerably more activity.

These brain changes are what cause every mother to feel “overwhelming love, fierce protectiveness, and constant worry.” These changes are why new motherhood is so starkly overwhelming.

So, if you ever feel like nothing prepares you for new motherhood, it means you’re normal. It means you’re doing an amazing job. It means your baby is blessed to have a mother who is trying so hard to figure it all out. Just to get it right. Just to nurture and love him as much as he could ever need.

You are a new mom.

You are an amazing mom.

You are a warrior mom.

And that is more than any baby could ever ask for.

Want more on motherhood?

Join Amanda from Dirt and Boogers, as she and other moms unite in embracing the Seasons of Motherhood.

Embracing the seasons of motherhood

What was your experience with new motherhood? Do you think nothing prepares you for new motherhood? I’d love to chat with you in the comments and hear your ideas!

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9 Comments

  1. Great article!! The same thing happened to me. I was feeling so overwhelmed when my best friend came for a visit, and as I was telling her all about it, she said that the reason I was feeling like that was because I was so responsible that I didn’t want to leave anything to chance. I had a preemie who had health issues and had the bottle every hour and a half, as he couldn’t keep much milk in his tummy. I even couldn’t remember to eat!! It was a really difficult time, but everything improves with time. My son is now 6, healthy and happy. Thank you for sharing your story!!! Following you from Argentina!

    1. Hey Veronica. Thanks for such an encouraging comment. It helps so much to know that I wasn’t the only mom feeling this way. Hope you are doing well. We are currently stationed in Japan via the US military. Great to have you here.

      Lauren

  2. Stopping by from the Blogging On The Side Facebook group!

    You wrote this post about me didn’t you. :O) I have a three month old and there’s no doubt that mothering a newborn is sooo hard.

    THANK YOU for this post!

    1. Why yes I did 🙂 I wrote it for all the new moms because Lord knows I was a hot mess. I think it’s important to share that because I think it’s very rare for things to go smoothly. Maybe I’m wrong. And that’s okay. If this post encourages one person, then it’s a win! Keep plugging along 🙂

      Lauren

  3. Perfect. This is exactly how I felt, and looking back now I see clearly, the incredible struggle comes not from ineptitude, but because we are in fact very well qualified for the job! We just love SO deeply that it is overwhelming. It’s actually quite amazing. My son just turned 1, so I made it through, but I wish I had read this back then! I hope it gives other new mums some piece of mind.

  4. I found your article just after I read a blog about how all parents of our generation are selfish and narcistic because raising children seems so hard to us. And I felt SO bad, I started doubting myself because nearly every day with my precious 6 month old seems like a struggle. As I finished reading your article, it felt as a huge burden was lifted from my shoulders – I don’t feel like a vilain anymore… It’s so good to know, that I’m not the only one feeling overwhelmed sometimes… Thank you so much for the encouragement!

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