Becoming a new mom in my 20s meant a lot of things. At a time I should've been figuring out my path, who I was, who I wanted to be, I became surrounded by bottles and diapers. I was grateful for my daughter but with so much changes during those first months, it's hard to feel confident. Honestly, I didn't know what the hell I was doing. I probably would've felt more secure had someone said, "You're doing a great job," so, yes, there are things new moms in their 20's actually need to hear more often.
(Actually, those necessary things shouldn't only happen early on, but regularly and often. There's no reason any mom should feel alone in her parenting journey, especially because of her age.)
After the birth of my first child, I felt so lost. I could've been on another planet and it wouldn't have mattered. At 24 years old, I'd moved two hours from my family to the state over so I could be with my partner and honestly, I was incredibly lonely. Some of his family made me feel at home while others, well, not so much. I spent a lot of my time attempting, and failing, to nurse my baby, while dealing with severe depression and going days (if not weeks) without a compliment. It can definitely take its toll on a new mother's self-esteem and overall happiness, for sure. If you are a new mom: I see you, I hear you, I am you. Take heart in the below, even if you don't have someone saying the following things to you on a daily basis, because you're amazing and deserve to hear it.
"You're Doing A Great Job"
Through the day-to-day routines, it's not often a new mom hears how she's doing. The thing is, this is a critical statement. It could be the difference between a tired mother feeling worthless and wanting to give up, and a new mom realizing someone recognizes her efforts and, as a result, brightening her day.
"Every New Mom Makes Mistakes, But It's OK"
When my daughter was a 2-year-old toddler, she fell off the edge of our bed and busted her forehead wide open. I think I cried harder than she did because, in that moment, I felt like a complete and utter failure for not protecting her all the ways I promised. Sure, it happened in an instant, but the regret lingers long after. I feared how she'd feel about me as her protector. It was a form of betrayal in my mind.
If someone had pulled me aside and told me mistakes happen, that it'll be OK, I may have felt better (or, as new mom worries go, maybe not, but it's worth a try).
"You're Stronger Than You Think"
I can't count the number of times I thought I wasn't cut out for parenting. It's so much harder than I ever could've prepared for. Once I had postpartum and a partner that worked way too much, I thought there was no way I could do it. I'd cry a lot, alone, and wonder if I'd ever be good enough for my baby. If I could hop into a time machine, I'd go back and tell my past self all the ways I was so much stronger than I realized.
"I Know You'll Figure It Out"
Part of being a new mother means not knowing what to do in certain situations. I had a hard time figuring the whole breastfeeding thing out (even with a lactation consultant), how to sleep train, and really, every moment of every day of my child's life. Those times I was in tears, doubting my choices to do this or that, it would've been cool to hear someone say, "You'll figure out out" or something like that.
While I'd taken a lot of great advice from other mothers, it really came down to my parenting style and eventually yes, I did figure it out. In fact, I'm still figuring it out and probably will for the rest of my children's lives.
"I Believe In You"
Much like diving into following my passion for writing as a full-time career, the phrase, "I believe in you" would've made all the difference in the world when I was up all night fighting to nurse a baby that refused to latch, or to get her to sleep when the teeth started cutting through. Those moments felt like they lasted forever. Having someone in my corner to remind me I'm the champ really would've helped me push through.
"I'm Proud Of You"
Much like having someone believe I could be a great mom, I wished so badly for someone — anyone — to tell me how proud they were to watch it all unfold. With my parents many miles away, friends that had gone on with their single lives, and again, a partner who worked a lot, it was up to me to whisper these things to myself and hope it could be enough (it wasn't, really).
"Is There Anything I Can Do To Help?"
The angels sing when someone offers a new mom any kind of relief. Whether it's to watch the baby for a bit, a home-cooked meal, or an offer to clean the house up, I'd have taken any and all of it. It's really overwhelming to go from young, single gal to brand new mother. There's so much to get done, it feels impossible some days (and is). To receive an offer of help would've literally given me new life.
"Ignore The Criticism"
No matter how old you are when you get pregnant, there's going to be someone who wants to nitpick everything you choose to do with your baby. I've had a few of those, however well-meaning. With everyone so quick to judge, the only words I'd have loved to hear when we chose to go to bottle-feeding after my daughter never caught onto latching was, "You do you and ignore everyone else."
"You've Got This"
The sum of all these things come down to this: as a new mom, we want someone to remind us we can do anything, including becoming a great parent. If no one is rooting for us, it's so easy to fall into the depression trap forever feeling like we're failing at everything we do. I still remember those early days with my newborn, and how incredibly frazzled I was trying to pump and feed a fussy, tired baby. It took the words of my partner, who was home at the time, to tell me all the things above. In that instant, I felt less alone because I had someone in my corner to root for me. As a result, it made me feel like I really could do anything.
Parenting is really hard, especially for the first time. If you know a new mom, tell her these things as often as possible. If you are the new mom, know that, mother to mother, I believe in you, I'm rooting for you, and you've totally got this.