Like most first-time parents, I lied to myself. I told myself I wouldn't become "that mom" and swore my kid wouldn't be that "loud baby." I had grandiose ideas and picture-perfect plans, and while I was well aware that life wouldn't care about either, I figured I was so prepared I could handle motherhood like a boss and, as a result, completely enjoy the experience. I was wrong. In fact, there was no end to the ways I set myself up for disappointment when I became a mom, and the entire ordeal was as humbling as it was educational.
Now, I'm not saying I was disappointed in my baby or in my decision to become a mother. If parenthood has taught me anything, it's the undeniable fact that something incredible can also be something difficult and painful and exhausting and unpleasant... all at the same time. The good and the bad are so closely connected, that you can't take one without the other. But motherhood isn't really marketed in that way, is it? As women, we're often told that motherhood is the "end all, be all" of our very existence, and if you don't love every minute of it you're selfish or broken or incapable of being "in the moment."
Well, I was in the moment, people. As a postpartum woman struggling with depression, breastfeeding difficulties, and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from a difficult pregnancy and complicated labor and delivery, I was in many moments. And since I had a very narrow-minded idea of how motherhood was "supposed to look," I was incapable of handling those moments in a way that would've made motherhood more manageable. Instead, I set myself up to feel disappointed, alone, and unworthy as not only a new mom, but as a human being.
That's not how a new mother (or anyone, for that matter, regardless of their reproductive choices) should feel. So take a page from my book and learn what not to do, my friends. And, please, don't set yourself up to feel disappointed by doing any of the following:
I Didn't Think I Should Ask For Help
I truly thought that asking for help was an admitting failure. I mean, what kind of a mom would I be if I didn't do absolutely everything by myself? All the time? With no support?
A typical, human one, of course. It just took me a while to learn that lesson.
I Thought Feeling Constantly Sad Was Normal
I had heard all about the "baby blues," so I was relatively familiar with the notion that once I gave birth I would be "sad" as my hormones stabilized. The problem? I felt more than sad. I felt a weight I couldn't get out from under; a dark cloud that made it hard to view parenthood in a positive light; a constant feeling of dread that scared me.
Turns out, I was experiencing postpartum depression... and while it is common, it is not typical and not something any new mom should face alone.
I Didn't Trust My Instincts
As a new mom I was constantly second-guessing myself. The idea of being a mom and actually being a mom are, as you can imagine, two completely different things. I didn't trust myself to learn as I went, and that made every choice — from the minuscule to the monumental — excruciating.
I Didn't Talk About Postpartum Depression
When I realized that I was suffering from postpartum depression, I allowed stigma and judgment to shame me into silence. I didn't speak out, or try to talk to other moms about this experience. I didn't talk about it with my partner, or ask my own mother if she had ever experienced anything similar. I felt like it was a dirty little secret I had to keep to myself and, as a result, I suffered for far too long... and on my own.
I Didn't Trust My Partner
I mean, I trusted him... but something strange happened after I had our son. It was like, all of a sudden, I had to be the one to do all things baby related so I could know, without a shadow of a doubt, that things were being done the "right way" and my son was undeniably safe.
For the record, my partner is an incredibly capable and invested father. In many ways, I truly believe he's a better parent than I am. But I felt this innate feeling of protection and ownership over my son, and didn't want my partner changing diapers or putting him in the car seat or babywearing him or rocking him to sleep.
Because I didn't rely on my partner, I burned out incredibly quickly. Finally, and respectfully, my partner took charge, literally took the baby from me, and ordered me to get some sleep. That truly made all the difference in the world.
I Didn't Think I Deserved A Break
What kind of mother would I be if I wanted to spend time away from my child? What kind of parent would I be if I admitted that, from time to time, I needed a break? To do non-parent things? To remind myself that I am more than a mother?
A typical mom, that's who. Again, it just took me a while to learn this valuable lesson.
I Thought All I Needed Was A Glass Of Wine
"Mommy wine culture" is real, and is often marketed to exhausted moms who feel like they're seconds away from breaking down. I bought into that culture for a while, I won't lie, and thought that as long as I had a glass of wine (or three) at the end of every exhausting day, I would be just fine. I was "handling" parenthood. I was like all the other tired moms who survive on wine and coffee alone.
That's no way to live, my friends.
I Didn't Leave The House With (Or Without) The Baby
To be honest, I was just scared. I didn't have enough confidence in myself to go out into the world as a new mom with her brand new baby. Understandable, to be sure, but it also made me feel lonely and isolated.
I Thought I Had To Appear "Perfect"
No one is perfect. No mom is perfect. Trying to appear perfect is, honestly, an exercise in futility.
Still, I felt this palpable need to look like everything was fine. My partner and I weren't married when I found out I was pregnant or when our son was born (and we still aren't married, five years later). I was on the receiving end of more than a few people's judgment regarding my marital status, so I think I felt obligated to show them all that you don't have to be married to be great parents.
Trust me... proving a point wasn't worth it.
I Focused Too Much On The Milestones
Is that a smile? Is my kid rolling over "on time"? Is he saying a word when he "should"?
You can drive yourself up a proverbial wall if you focus so much on milestones and whether or not your kid is reaching them "at the right time."
I Wasn't Kind To Myself
This is, without a doubt, the most profound way I set myself up for disappointment as a new mom. I was so hard on myself that I didn't let myself appreciate how much I was growing and learning and evolving, as a person and a parent, on a daily basis. I wasn't giving myself room to make mistakes and learn from them. I wasn't showing myself the very grace I would tell all my new mom-friends they deserved.
Be kind to yourself, new moms. Because motherhood isn't going to look exactly the way you envisioned it. In so many ways, it will look infinitely better.