When I was pregnant, I never thought about after childbirth and all the things that would change. I also didn't think about the wide array of emotions I'd go through once my baby was in the world. Pregnancy was a time for dreaming and holding onto the hope that my baby and I would have the best relationship, and life, possible. Now that I'm more of a "seasoned" parent, there are some things about postpartum life I wish I could go back and tell my pregnant self because maybe, just maybe, I'd have felt more prepared for what was to come.
For me, postpartum life was grim. The early days were spent adjusting my expectations from what I thought motherhood would feel like, to the reality of motherhood and all that it entails. While I expected to feel tired and a little overwhelmed through the transition, I never accounted for actual postpartum depression, or even how that fatigue and overwhelm would never really cease. These things matter, because they affected the way I interacted with my partner, the way I took care of myself (or didn't take care of myself, as it where), and the way I parented my newborn baby. It was a struggle, but I eventually made it through.
If I could go back, here are some of the things I'd tell my pregnant self. Honestly, knowing is half the battle.
It's Not What You Think It'll Be
Pregnant me believed in all the unicorns and butterflies. She held onto those beliefs tight because, without them, motherhood felt too scary. I wish I could go back to tell my pregnant self it's not all unicorns and butterflies, but it's also not as scary as you might think, either. It's somewhere in between and in the best ways possible. Becoming a mother was destined to change me. I just wish I'd have known how much better I'd become because of it.
You Won't Instantly Adjust
As I said, my expectations of motherhood were a little unrealistic. Of course I knew it would be hard, but I also believed I'd get past it sooner than I actually did. I had a plan to get my "pre-baby body back" in a short amount of time, and I planned to get right back to work. I never anticipated how dramatically postpartum depression would shift my views.
I adjusted, eventually, but I wish I'd known how long it would take to get there so I didn't live my life disappointed when little to no progress was made.
You'll Feel Moments Of Joy & Pain Simultaneously
Being a new mom is confusing. Pregnancy gave me an idea of how drastically, and quickly, my hormones could shift, but that was nothing compared to the hormonal shift in my postpartum life.
Within mere seconds I'd go from the happiest I'd ever been, to so depressed I couldn't get out of bed. Even after my depression lifted, the confusing feelings continued. I've learned since that, well, that's just motherhood. Being happy and sad in the same breath is par for the parenting course. Like when your son says he's giving you half of his heart. I wish I'd have known how much of an emotional struggle it would be, pretty much forever.
Lean On Your Partner As Much As You Can
Throughout pregnancy (and my entire life before), I remained self-sufficient. I never thought that would change after delivery. Then I found myself buried in responsibilities and not knowing how to get everything accomplished by myself. Even though my partner worked a lot, he'd have helped if I had only asked. I didn't know how to open up to him for a long time after our child was born, either. What can I say? I'm stubborn. I thought if I continued doing everything, it'd all level out eventually. Really, all it did was delay healing, and contribute to the postpartum depression. Knowing what I know now, I wish I'd have leaned on my partner more. Not just for the physical things on the to-do list, but for my emotional health, too.
Don't Sweat The Small Stuff
I wasted so much time through my pregnancy worrying about things that, after labor and delivery, didn't matter one bit. I could've used that energy for something productive (like anything tangible that would produce real results) and if I could go back, I would.
Take Care Of Yourself First
While I did take part in daily yoga during pregnancy, that was about all I did. I didn't realize how traumatic childbirth and postpartum life would be, and didn't prepare for it. I wish I could go back and tell my pregnant self to exercise more, eat better, and take the time to do things that would benefit my mental health. If I had, I think maybe my postpartum depression wouldn't have been as terrible as it was.
Ask For Help (Even When It's Hard)
I've never been one to put myself out there when in need of help. I'd rather do whatever I have to, to pull myself out of something. With postpartum life, that's not always possible. There's just too much going on physically, mentally, and emotionally, to be the hero all the time. I'd love to tell my pregnant self to get used to asking for help because it could be the difference between getting better, and suffering longer than necessary.
Learn To Be Flexible
I love schedules and routines, and I'm my best self when my life revolves around them. When you have a baby, all that goes away (at least, temporarily). Had I not fought so hard, for so long, to stay on my schedules and to keep with my routines, maybe I'd have adjusted to being a mother faster. Learning to be flexible is something I still have to work on. Now I realize, and accept, that pulling me from my comfort zone is usually in the best interest of my children, and that makes it so very worth it.
It'll Be OK
No matter what I thought my postpartum life would be like, I can honestly say I was wrong about most of it. Until I was in it, I just didn't know. The biggest thing I wish I could go back to tell my pregnant self is, no matter what happens in those early weeks and months, don't let it pull you under, it'll be OK.
When I think about it, that pretty much sums up motherhood completely. So, throw your expectations aside and hang on for the ride. Regardless of the outcome, it's going to be OK. I promise.