Being a first-time mom means doubting pretty much every decision you make. It's all so new and overwhelming, it's difficult to know whether you're doing a good job or causing long-term harm. While much of it is a learning experience, where you either figure it out or fail trying, there are many times when I should have given myself more credit. As a first time mom, nothing can be perfect all the time. You can't make every right decision or be the best mother in the history of the universe right off the bat. Although, if you're like me, you'll definitely go down trying.
When my daughter came home from the hospital, I remember staring at her like, "Well, what now?" Seriously, what do you do when you first bring that little nugget home? It's surreal, right? I'd spent all that time arranging her room, folding little onesies, and talking to a stomach that didn't talk back, so I kind of forgot what the end result would be or how I was going to handle it. When you're pregnant, it's all a construct, then you're faced with this new reality of having to actually do all those things you dreamed about. Only, it can feel like a nightmare. Sure, I loved my new baby, and yes, I was so excited to have the chance to mother her, but I lacked the confidence and follow-through I thought new moms needed in order to care for an infant.
Even after overcoming a long struggle with postpartum depression (PPD), I couldn't believe I was doing a good job or that I'd ever be good enough for my new child. Maybe it's all part of being a parent, but here are some times I should've given myself more credit. If I had, maybe I'd have felt more secure in my choices and life with a new baby wouldn't have felt so damn hard.
When I Held Her The First Time
There's a lot to be nervous about with a newborn, if only because they're so fragile. When I first held my daughter, it felt like I'd break her. The fear kept me from engaging as much as I should've. Thinking back on this time, I see I had it under control. There was nothing to be so fearful about. That was my baby who I waited nine months for. If I'd stopped and told myself, "You're doing good," maybe I'd have volunteered to hold her more while we were still in the hospital.
When She Wouldn't Latch
From the moment I knew I was pregnant, I swore I was going to breastfeed. Then my new baby refused to latch. It was frustrating and stressful and honestly caused a delay in our bond. I remember trying so hard, I'd just lie back and cry along with her. Why is something so natural so difficult? I knew my daughter was frustrated (and hungry), too, so I felt like such a failure. However, I kept trying. This is the most important part I never gave myself credit for.
When Breastfeeding Failed Altogether
There came a point when I couldn't continue with breastfeeding. I was too anxious and came to hate something I should've found comfort in. There was no bond and, if anything, it was hindering my daughter and I from getting closer. I felt awful about the decision to switch to formula, but I'd tried nearly everything to make breastfeeding work and , well, it just wasn't. Instead of following through with my original plan, I had to change it. At the time, I didn't see it as a good decision. I know now it's what any mother would've done in my circumstances. It wasn't a failure, it was a "tried, and tried something else."
When I Couldn't Dry Her Tears
Babies cry. A lot. My baby cried. A lot. So many days, when it was just the two of us, I felt utterly useless when I couldn't figure out how to "fix" her sorrow. Was she hungry? Need a change? A burp? What? A mother's instinct is to make it better, so when I couldn't it was easy to fall into a "why me?" pity party (and stay there). Now, I see those times for what they really were: typical. I was doing my best and that's all any mother can do.
When She Wouldn't Sleep
Oh, goodness. The sleeping and lack thereof was the most infuriating part of being a new mother. I didn't get it. If she was tired, why wouldn't she just go to sleep? Hell, I was tired and I wanted to go to sleep.
A few times (especially when I had PPD), I'd have to step away and count to 10 or hand her over to my partner before I lost control of my emotions. Fatigue haunted us all, but in those early days, it was the actual worst. I wish I could go back and give my tired self a hug as a reminder it won't last forever and honestly, I wasn't doing too bad.
When I Agonized Over Formulas
After I let go of the dream of breastfeeding, I spent a lot of time comparing formulas. I'd cry over them (again, PPD), make lists with pros and cons, and even when we I settled on one, didn't feel like it was the right one.
In the end, and especially now that I look back, it's obvious I was being extra cautious and considerate because I loved my baby so much. I deserve credit for that amount of research.
When I Felt Like I Wasn't Enough
Motherhood (and pregnancy, and life in general) is exhausting. It takes every last bit of energy out of every day. When my girl was born, it wasn't about me anymore and that's a hard adjustment. Instead of doing whatever I felt like, it was my job to do everything possible to give her the life she deserves. Many times during those early days, weeks, and months, I doubted I was enough — that I could ever be enough — and it messed with my ability to let my instincts take over and just mother.
If I could go back, instead of spending so much time internally tearing myself down, I'd flash a picture of the future (now) where my daughter is happy and thriving because of every decision I made when she was a newborn.