“Am I doing this right?” I asked as I sat in my daughter's room. My tiny, squishy two week old splayed out comfortably on the Boppy pillow on my lap as she nursed. “Of course you are,” my mom replied, reviewing our position. As I sat down and prepared to breastfeed, my mom carried my daughter into the room for me. She had started to walk out after, but I asked her to stay with me. “No,” I began as tears formed in my overtired eyes, “am I doing this whole thing right?” I emphasized as I gestured waving one hand between my baby and me. The initial weeks of being a first-time mom were filled with an unexplainable euphoria yet riddled with insecurity and doubt, and when I moved in with my parents during my pregnancy, I had no clue just how important and life-changing their support would be and what it would mean to me.
“Honey, you have been amazing,” she said quietly and sincerely, and stayed to listen to me ramble on about how I was feeling in that particular moment. Though my partner was just in the living room, I needed to ask my mother that question. My husband, though supportive and loving, had never been a dad before, much less a mother, but my mom had. She'd likely wondered the same things 30 years before. I needed to know that it was normal to question myself in this new role, and for me, only my mother could give me that reassurance I so desperately needed to hear.
When I got married and envisioned having children, I would've never pictured moving back home and in with my parents during my pregnancy. And I would've never pictured bringing my baby back to that very same home, especially during such an important and life-changing time. My version of life didn't ever include my husband and me living with my parents. I saw myself totally self-sufficient; someone who carried on without needing or wanting help. I'd always liked to do things on my own, in my own time, and in my own way, and I figured parenthood would very much follow suit.
I also knew the risks: that tension, disagreements, and annoyances were bound to happen. But I knew there were massive benefits, too, like having a place to stay without rent to worry about, like building a trove of memories as an adult with my parents and my daughter, like having a lot of help once she was born.
But when we starting trying to get pregnant and the test came back positive, my husband and I were in the process of moving back to North Carolina (where I'd grown up) from California. Since my parents knew our goal was not to stay in N.C. for too long before moving from there to England, where my husband is from, my dad suggested that we live with them for a while so they could experience as much of our new baby's life as possible before we left the country. We understood that having a baby and then moving across the ocean would be a hard pill to swallow as new grandparents, and we also wanted to keep our lives as simple as possible in terms of belongings and housing. It felt like a win-win situation for all of us.
I realized coming into this next season of life that it'd be a sacrifice to give up experiencing my first child's birth without being on our own. I knew our story would look very different from the lives of my peers, who had their babies and settled into a routine all on their own. I knew that since we were on the go, we might not have that same chance immediately after our baby was born. I also knew the risks: that tension, disagreements, and annoyances were bound to happen. But I knew there were massive benefits, too, like having a place to stay without rent to worry about, like building a trove of memories as an adult with my parents and my daughter, like having a lot of help once she was born.
I obviously loved and cherished this sweet baby — I'd spent years dreaming about how amazing it would be to be a mother — so why did I feel so inadequate?
What I didn't realize was just how much that help would mean to me on an emotional level. I had heard about postpartum depression and how it affects so many new mothers. Before birth, I just assumed it wouldn't be an issue for me. But those feelings of isolation, loneliness, insecurity, and guilt bombarded my mind at times. I felt the pressure I'm sure many other women feel to come out of the other side of labor and delivery as a seasoned pro, but in reality everything was so new, and I really had no idea what to do sometimes. Having the support system of my husband and parents around kept me feeling balanced and empowered.
There was a deep sense of relief in knowing that there was a constant hand to help if I needed it.
After coming home from the hospital with our newborn, and for the first two months of her life, I didn't want to be by myself with my daughter at all. Before she was born I treasured my alone time. But everything about motherhood was so new and so overwhelming that most times I didn't even want to nurse on my own in the beginning. Once my husband went back to work, I remember thinking how, if we were not living with my parents, I really would be by myself with my daughter for hours. Feeling like I wouldn't want to be left alone with my own child scared and surprised me. I obviously loved and cherished this sweet baby — I'd spent years dreaming about how amazing it would be to be a mother — so why did I feel so inadequate?
Because of my mom's presence (and my dad's, at times), and her willingness to listen to me when I needed to talk things out beyond just the first week of motherhood — like my fear of being completely on my own — loneliness was never an issue for me. There was a deep sense of relief in knowing that there was a constant hand to help if I needed it.
Living with my parents never made me feel like an inadequate, incapable new mother. It actually empowered me to be the best new mom I could be. I was blessed to have a mother who was sensitive to not "take over." She let me do all the mom things even though she might have wanted to intervene at times. She was careful not to tell me what to do and how to do it in every situation, but she was there in the background when I overwhelmingly needed her.
Because of the round-the-clock support and encouragement, I'm convinced it helped me bypass postpartum depression. I'm not saying I didn't have the rollercoaster of emotions that come with one of the biggest changes in life — I obviously had to deal with the hormones and the never-ending lack of sleep — but being with my family gave me the security and peace of mind to not get stuck by the negative thoughts that come with depression. I might not have had that otherwise.
Now that we've moved out of my parents' house and are successfully living on our own for the first time as parents, I can see the value of that initial three and half months even more clearly. It started out as just an opportunity to give my parents more time with their new grandchild, but it turned into one of the best decisions I could have made for my own well-being. I didn't realize how much motherhood is actually still a road of self-discovery — because wasn't that what my 20s were for? — but feeling peace about my new identity as a mother is something I'm so grateful for. And I owe so much of that to my own mom.