I was hooked up to the electric double breast pump. The baby was hungry. And tired. And screaming. My eldest, then 4, was expertly directing his 2-year-old sister on which socks to flush down the toilet. My voice was hoarse from yelling at them to stop — but my recently C-sectioned abdomen was hurting just a bit more than would permit me to detach from the milking machine to rescue the purple-polka-dot Baby Gap pair. Tears were streaming down my face. To this day, I remember the thought playing repeatedly in my head:
What the f*** have I done?!?
Years later, I can reflect back on that day with amusement. But at that particular moment, I felt disillusioned with motherhood and overwhelmed with life.
Nothing can really prepare us for motherhood. It is a role we can’t truly comprehend until we are suddenly thrown into the thick of it. Kids and parenting and life are never quite what we expect.
For any new mothers out there, my main goal is to remind you that you are not alone. Parenting can feel like a rollercoaster ride in the dark. The ups and downs are both inevitable and unpredictable. I am hoping to share just a few of the things that have helped me to face the fear and discomfort, and a few that have added to the excitement and wonder of the ride.
1. There is No Perfect Mother: Practice Self-Acceptance & Self-Compassion
Many times, you will feel like you don’t know what you are doing. You will make mistakes. You will say things and do thing you swore you would never say and do. You will feel like a failure. You will question your knowledge, doubt your abilities, and occasionally wonder if you are losing your mind. And just when you think you’re headed in the right direction, you’ll be on a new road without a map.
It will be ok. You will find your way. Motherhood is an incredible journey that we will spend the rest of our lives learning how to navigate. And we don’t have to get it all right or love everything about it to be really, really good at it.
2. Sleep Deprivation is a Form of Torture: Get Help to Create a Healthy Family Life
The first several months are exhausting. Bone-achingly exhausting. My firstborn had terrible colic and reflux and fed every 1.5 to 2 hours. Unfortunately, I was foolish enough to establish a habit of nursing him to sleep, making me the only person to put him to bed for over 9 months. Words of wisdom: bad idea. Honestly, though, I got so run down, that I teetered on the verge of delirium. I had a hard time making decisions, let alone good ones. I am sure everyone has heard the sage advice to ‘sleep when the baby sleeps’. I know it is easier said than done. But trust me on this one: Get. Some. Sleep. Everything will be easier to manage if you get some rest. So leave the house messy. Stop worrying about the pile of laundry. Ask for help. The truth is, people want to help. And it is a win-win proposition if you provide some direction and let them know what you need.
3. Human Connection is Key: Find Your Tribe
Motherhood can feel lonely and isolating. We are not supposed to be doing this alone. Get out of the house every day if you can, even if it’s just for a walk or to pick up some milk. Interact with adults. Seek out other moms and find your tribe. In that tribe, find at least one who has your back. It is soul-destroying to surround yourself with women who pretend that parenting is 100% peaches and cream. We are all capable of torturing ourselves by looking at those way-too-perfect-family Instagram photos. They don’t help. What does get us through is a network of honest and thoughtful moms who don’t judge when we say ‘I hate my kid right now’. Women who understand that despite our different backgrounds, circumstances, opinions, strengths and frustrations, we are in this together and doing the best we can. The empathy, support and mutual respect I share with my female friends is priceless. My chosen sisters not only help me survive the rough patches, they also remind me what I value most — love & human connection.
This leads me to #4...
4. Create Your Own Good Family Life: Embrace the Challenge & Revel in the Unconditional Love
Motherhood unleashes more inner strength and more unconditional love in us than we could ever imagine. My children teach me to slow down and appreciate the little wonders and pleasures of life. They challenge me to be patient and to care for myself so that I can properly care for them. They inspire me to learn and grow and strive to be a better person. Being their mother is my greatest honour and privilege.
Welcome to Motherhood.