I remember so many people telling me the first year of marriage is the hardest. When it turned out to be true, it wasn't something I was particularly happy about. Weirdly, I don't remember anyone having to remind me that the first year of motherhood would be tough, which may be just another reason why the first year of motherhood is definitely the hardest.
My first year of motherhood was basically the second time I was out of control of my admittedly charmed life. For my entire childhood and young adult life, I had been told and encouraged that so long as I worked really hard, I could achieve whatever I wanted to do in life. Infertility was the first time that lesson was debunked, at least temporarily, but hard work won out in the end, when my partner and I were eventually able to move 4,000 miles from our home, start new lives, and adopt our baby girl.
So the first real time I was completely out of control of a situation, was when my daughter was born and joined our family when she was just 3 days old. And boy, was it hard. Some days, no matter how much work and effort I put in, she wasn't going to take a full bottle or stop crying when I needed her to. Then again, the first year of motherhood was also the year that taught me more about life and my own strength than at any other time in my life. A tough year, yes, but worth every single day.
Because There Are High Expectations
Before you bring a baby in your life, I think it's safe to assume you have really high expectations for lots of cuddles with that cozy newborn who happens to be dressed in cute outfits and swaddled in the sweetest patterns. Turns out, those expectations aren't always accurate. The first year of parenting isn't all cute. Heck, it isn't even half cute.
Because You Sleep The Least
Even if your baby happens to be a great sleeper, or if you sleep train successfully, you'll still sleep less than ever in that first year.
If you're anything like me, the lack of sleep makes every other thing you do harder.
Because The Learning Curve Is Unforgiving
In the first year of motherhood, the learning curve is so steep. Every day will present you with new questions and skills to learn in order to keep your baby alive and thriving. I remember, when my daughter was around 6 months old, wondering why I still felt like I didn't know what in the world I was doing.
Some days we managed with no surprises, but other days seemed like we were starting all over again, trying to figure out how to get her to sleep or eat more solid food. The learning curve in being a new mom is practically alpine.
Because Your Body Hasn't Done This Before
In most cases, although not in my case as an adoptive mom, the first year of motherhood tends to be marked by having a body that's still recovering from growing and birthing a baby. Your body literally hasn't done this before, it hasn't grown a baby and recovered and put itself all back together again. If you're breastfeeding, add that to the list of ways your body just hasn't functioned like this before, and all those physical things make the first year as a mom that much harder.
Because Your Body (Usually) Won't Be The Same
Even if your body takes a little less time to recover, or you feel like the recovery is easy, your body might not be the same as it was pre-baby. That's a hard thing to get your head around, no matter how confident you are, and it can impact how you feel about a whole host of other things.
Because Of All The "First Failures"
For me, being a mom was the first time I really had to face failure after failure. I had to get used to the idea that just because I couldn't get my daughter to nap or she fussed all afternoon didn't mean that I was a failure of a mom. As a truly product-oriented person, this made the first year of motherhood tough.
Because Of The Pressure To Hit Certain Milestones
In the first year, you're really getting to know your baby and trying to figure him or her out. You don't know that it's going to be totally fine even if they doesn't meet their milestones right on schedule. You don't know that they're just going to be a sleepy baby who likes to nap more in the day than any other baby you've ever met. You don't know that they're never going to stop moving once they begin crawling. The milestones you read about in books serve to add extra pressure to an already intense job as a new mother.
Because You Feel Like You're Not In Control
I found it difficult that I couldn't really leave the house after my daughter went to sleep, or if she was napping. I often felt trapped by nap schedules and the sheer task of packing her into the car. That feeling didn't last the whole year, and has now been replaced by worrying about taking a toddler into any public space, but it took several months to get used to and find ways to feel a little bit more in control.
Because Your Life Has Changed
It goes without saying that becoming a mom is a huge lifestyle change, from having relative autonomy over your life, your schedule, and your body, to simply being responsible for another human being.
Because It Takes A While To Find Mom Friends You Like And Trust
When I first became a mom, I didn't realize that I'd really need and rely on mom friends. I had a few, but it took a while to find mom friends I genuinely liked and trusted. Before that happened, being a new mom was quite lonely, and it felt like I was on my own without resources to either commiserate or ask advice. Once I found a good group of mom friends, the world of being a new mom didn't feel quite so lonely anymore.