Surviving the First Year of Motherhood

Its no secret that motherhood is the probably the scariest hood you’ll ever go through. From explosive diapers and nip-lash, to dangerously low amounts of sleep and hormonal imbalances, its clear: Mommin’ isn’t for the faint of heart. No matter how many books you read and classes you take, its really easy (and totally normal) to feel like you’ll never make it through the first year. In honor of both Mothers Day, and Mental Health Awareness Month, I teamed up with three moms to talk about how to survive the first year of motherhood.

*The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the respondents. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of Courtney Biber, Doula.*

1. How Old Is Your Baby?

Mom #1: 8 months old.

Mom #2: He is 11 months old. *crying emoji

Mom #3: 2 years old.

2. How would you describe your labor and birth (in a few words- sentences)?

Mom #1: Labor was long but my doula and husband kept me calm and centered. I was was so ready for my son’s arrival. Birth, I can remember a lot of it, but its also a blur… I only remember the first three or so pushes and the last one.

Mom #2: Long, but worth it. Things didn’t go the way we planned but I am 100% okay with how things happened. I felt heard along the way and had plenty of support.

Mom #3: I got induced. It was long and rewarding.

3. What do you remember the most about coming home and the first few weeks home with a newborn?

Mom #1: I was anxious and worried I would hurt him or break him, especially after a couple scary moments at the hospital. I remember thinking “Now that he is finally here, will I be able to take care of him and make him happy?” It took a few days to get into the swings of things.

Mom #2: The things I remember most are taking shifts through the days and night because our baby wouldn’t sleep if he wasn’t held. The cuddling, bonding and sleeping and then the draining exhaustion that followed when colic kicked in and my poor baby boy was inconsolable for hours, well into the night. There were days where our carriers were our best friend and eventually things just started feeling easier and my confidence grew. But the biggest thing I remember is being so in love with this tiny person who was so dependent on me and wanting to make sure I did everything I could to give him his best life.

Mom #3: I remember crying, a lot. I was very overwhelmed and scared. I was a new SAHM (Stay at home mom) and I was alone with my newborn. I did have visitors every few days, but that only lasted for the first two weeks. While recovering I was still doing housework.

4. When you returned home from having your baby, did you have help at home with things like meals, laundry, and dishes? If so, for how long?

Mom #1: When we came home, my husband did all of the chores as well as cooking. On the weekends, my mother in law would come spend the night with me to help with the baby and dishes.

Mom #2: My husband was able to stay home for the first 16 weeks or so and he took care of most of the house chores. We got food dropped off a few times, I took the baby out to eat with friends a few times during my maternity leave, my husband cooked some, and we had some frozen meals prepped.

Mom #3: Yes, to an extent. My husband’s family and friends had pre-made meals, and delivered meals during visits (the first week home). I did the housework.

5. Did you experience “Baby Blues” (mood swings about 1-3 weeks after baby was born)?

Mom #1: I don’t believe I had PPD or baby blues because I had been waiting for motherhood for so long. Every now and then, I did get anxious thinking about how my son was no longer in my tummy and suddenly, I had to protect him from the outside world. I would also get emotional reflecting back on our journey, from us trying to conceive, and going through the depression and sadness from trying, thinking it would never happen, then finding out I was pregnant, and then thinking about my labor and delivery… SO many emotions, lol.

Mom #2: Not exactly, any Baby Blues I felt were more so linked to lack of sleep and Postpartum Anxiety.

Mom #3: Yes? I question that because I feel like I had a lot more than just baby blues going on.

6. Were you diagnosed with any postpartum mood disorders? (Postpartum Depression, Postpartum Anxiety, etc)

Mom #1: I was not diagnosed with anything.

Mom #2: Postpartum Anxiety.

Mom #3: Postpartum Depression. (I was showing symptoms of depression and anxiety during pregnancy, too.)

7. If yes on 6, what has been the most helpful thing for getting through it. Medication, therapy, daily routine, etc?

Mom #1: N/A.

Mom #2: Getting help early. Going to Therapy, setting a routine (For example: I made myself eat one meal without holding the baby, and worked on giving myself time for personal hygiene without holding the baby), practicing meditation/mindfulness, taking the baby into controlled social situations with people who understood my needs, so I was able to socialize without feeling the need to HAVE to hand my son over if I didn’t want to. As time went on, we had the people who would care for him while we were away come over and watch him for short amounts of time. This let my husband and I connect while building my ability to be away from the baby without easy access to video monitoring.

Mom #3: I tried going to therapy and taking the medication. The medication worked very well, but the therapy just gave me more questions and problems, plus doing all the appointments and tests hurt my family financially, so I had to quit. Now, I smoke marijuana and it helps me stay together.

8. What has been the hardest part of motherhood so far?

Mom #1: The hardest part of motherhood for me is wanting some “me time” occasionally, and feeling bad about it because right now all my baby wants is mommy. I also get a lot crap from family saying I am spoiling him and that he needs to learn to be with other people. Its hard with him growing so fast and knowing that I will never get these precious moments back.

Mom #2: Dealing with the postpartum anxiety. The intense fear it brings making you wonder if your child is okay when they are in fact in a very safe situation. The inability to take care of yourself because you HAVE to make sure your child is okay. It’s something you can overcome as long as you realize and ask for help, or those around you realize and help you to reach out.

Mom #3: The hardest part of motherhood was letting my mental illness consume who I was as a human and missing/not remembering amazing moments.

9. What has been the BEST/ most rewarding part of motherhood?

Mom #1: The best part of motherhood is the cuddles and the bond that we have while breastfeeding… Its such an amazing feeling watching him grow and learn, hitting all the different milestones and all the buildup to his progress.

Mom #2: Watching him grow up and teaching him to be the best human we can. The changes happen so fast. In a matter of 1-3 days he goes from being completely incapable of doing something to being able to roll over, sit, crawl, ”talk”, stand, like he has been doing it his whole life. He knows (and pushes) his boundaries, and has things that bring him great joy. He understands how to express his love for his family and continues to surprise and amaze me daily.

Mom #3: Being alive to see everything I would’ve missed. Watching my husband be the best father and our son learning new things everyday.

10. If you could tell all moms struggling to get through the first year of motherhood just ONE thing, what would it be?

Mom #1: You are not alone. Its okay to make time for yourself and its a must because it can get overwhelming sometimes, especially if you are a stay at home mom. Sometimes you get caught up worrying about everyone and everything else its easy to forget that it is okay to take time to breathe and relax. Reach out to other moms and don’t be afraid or embarrassed to ask for help or advice. Also, its okay to tell people that you appreciate the advice, even when its annoying. Especially when you so many people with different views and ways of doing things. Its okay to find your own way that works best for you, your family and baby.

Mom #2: Reach out. Please. Whatever you do, reach out. There are so many resources available and a lot of them don’t cost a dime. Many companies have an EAP (Employee Assistance Program) that you have access to even while on leave that may provide free therapy. Find a tribe. There are Facebook groups of moms who have gone through or are going through the same thing. There are meet ups and talk groups. Beyond that, there are postpartum Doulas, Doctors, etc. I promise, you can make it. You grew and gave life to a child, you can make it through this challenge too.

Mom #3: One thing I would say? Things will get easier and not taking my life, not letting my mental illness take me away from everyone I LOVE has been the most rewarding thing ever.

 I’d like to give a HUGE shout out to those mamas for taking the time to help me with this blog. I think they gave some really sage advice, and I just wanted to emphasize a few points that they made. 

-Communicate your thoughts and needs, early and frequently. Whatever you are going through, you’re not the first person to go through it, and there is help.

-Schedule “me time”, and “us time”, and don’t feel bad about it. Parenting is exhausting and can take a heavy toll on ourselves, and our relationships. It is good for you AND your baby for you to recharge your battery from time to time. 

-There is hope, and help. If you are struggling to find purpose and meaning in life, have faith that those feelings WILL pass, and there are people who CAN help you. If you don’t have a loved one or a close friend to call when the struggle becomes too much, call 1-800-273-8255. It is always okay to ask for help.

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