True colours of early motherhood

The moment a woman finds out that she is pregnant, she sees her whole future flash in front of her eyes. It is one of those moments when she experiences the most diversified emotions. Beautiful and scary at the same time. 

After the first emotions settle, she starts to plan. She chooses a name for a baby, shops for baby clothes, organises a nursery, signs up for pregnancy yoga, gets everything ready and impatiently awaits for the arrival of the baby. When she has got some extra time left, she may plan even further ahead. She studies lots of maternity books, she learns about baby sleep, about the birth, she plans activities for the first year, she plans what solids she will start with, or even when she will start to work on having a second baby.

In most cases, her biggest concern is the birth. She spends a lot of time researching the birth process. She talks to other mums, reads articles and forums on the internet and does everything to ease the fear for the upcoming birth.

This is all ok and only natural. However, when a baby is here she learns very quickly that the birth was just the beginning. Suddenly, she is thrown into a brand new world and finds out that despite her consistent preparations she is not prepared for anything at all.

How is that possible?

Well, the truth is that people and media do not like to talk about certain things when it comes to motherhood. There are plenty of information available about how to get through the pregnancy and the birth, but you cannot find a lot about what comes afterwards. And even the information that are available on this subject are often wrapped in a bubble of distorted ideas.

If you take a good look around, you learn that people mostly talk about motherhood as though it is something that gets you to the highest point of happiness. It is true motherhood brings to your life a flood of love and happiness, but in most cases not right away. It is a process that takes time. Beginning of motherhood is often accompanied with lot of tears and emotional struggle. However, since the environment gives mothers the false impression they should experience nothing but pure happiness from the very beginning, if these feelings do not arrive, they feel like a failure and struggle alone in silence. It is a vicious circle.

I find this one of the main reasons for all the postnatal mental issues. If the expectations of future mothers were more realistic, they could avoid experiencing the frequent postnatal mental issues, from baby blues to postnatal depression.

What is it we should expect from motherhood then?

I wish I could tell you everything that springs to mind on this matter, however, this post would be unending if I did. What I can do though is to mention the most important things every future mother should know in order to reduce or even prevent any kind of postnatal mental issue. I know I cannot speak for every mum out there, but I am positive that below are the most common factors a new mother experiences.

 

  1. There is no way for being prepared for motherhood

The first thing every new mum needs to realise is that it is simply not possible to prepare for what comes with motherhood. It is definitely ok to study the right books and talk to other mums, but this should be perceived only as a support crutch with the main purpose to help ease a future mother’s mind throughout the pregnancy. No matter how ready you think you are for what is to come, believe me that you are not. The arrival of a first baby is simply a shock. I am not telling you this to scare you and I am also not telling if the reality is going to be worse or better than your expectations. I am only telling you that it is very difficult to genuinely judge what is to come with motherhood.

  1. Breastfeeding is a skill and can be tough work

As a future mum everyone asks you whether you would want to breastfeed. Everywhere you look, you see the benefits of breastfeeding trying really hard to encourage you to breastfeed your baby. However, no one tells you that breastfeeding often does not happen naturally and requires regular practice, that can take weeks, or even months. Personally, it took me by surprise when I found out a baby does not suck from a breast automatically. And what hard work it can be to teach a baby to do so. And that sometimes despite all your efforts and practice, it just does not work in the end.

I definitely support breastfeeding but after what I experienced while practicing it, I now say that breastfeeding is good but only if it does not affect your mental or physical wellbeing. If that happens, all breastfeeding benefits do not outweigh the benefits of a healthy mother. 

  1. Maternal love is a process that develops

Another thing most future mothers do not know is that maternal love for a child does not have to arrive right away. It is a process that develops. Personally, it took several months for my love for children to be fully settled and formed.

Of course, for some mums it is love at first sight. However, for many it is a process that takes time: days, weeks, or even months. And it does not have anything to do with the fact whether you wanted your baby or not. Even if you love your baby at first sight, it still takes some time for your love to develop.

Despite carrying your child for 9 months, after they come into this world you realise they are a stranger to you in a way. You do not know anything about them and they do not know anything about you. Therefore you need to give yourselves some time to get to know each other and to go through everyday life. As your baby grows, your love for them grows too.

  1. The first couple of weeks are hard especially mentally

As the artist Sarah Walker once said, becoming a mother is like discovering the existence of a strange new room in the house where you already live.

Having a baby is a shock. Life as you know it, basically changes in an instant. All of a sudden you have a baby in front of you who constantly cries. You were ready for lack of sleep and were more than aware that a baby would cry. However, not everyone realises the extent that these two things happen at the same time and what an incredibly huge pressure it has on their psyche. You don’t sleep, you are desperate and drifting out to sea. It can be and feel like torture. All you do for a couple of weeks is feeding, soothing and changing so very soon you start to feel like an automated machine without their own life.

Trust me, this is not something one can pass with their feet up and a smile on their face.

Your life changes literally from one day to another, but you cannot process it from one day to the next. The process of adaptation always takes some time, and in the case of a child’s arrival this process is even longer and harder. Therefore, you cannot expect that you being tired is going to be the hardest thing that early stages of motherhood is going to bring. I know this sounds rough, but the truth also is everything ‘bad’ will pass one day. In the early stages you just need to understand that feeling mentally exhausted and overwhelmed is totally natural and that you need to give yourself time to get through all the changes gradually. You will get there I believe in you and with time you will too.

  1. Feelings of happiness do not arrive right away

Taken what I mentioned in a previous point, it is only natural that in the early stages you do not experience feelings of pure happiness as you had might have thought you would. These feelings too arrive gradually. 

 

  1. A baby cries a lot and often for no specific reason

As I mentioned above, babies cry. A lot. Often they do not cry only when they sleep, but they do not sleep for a long periods of time during the first couple of weeks. As a new mum you try and do everything you can in order to help your baby. If you cannot find a way to soothe them, you talk to someone or look the information up. However, very often despite everything we do, our baby just does not stop crying. This is extremely frustrating and often leads to a feeling of being a bad mum. But believe me, if you have tried everything you can and your baby still cries, it does not say anything about your ability as a mum. I know it is frustrating, but this will happen from time to time. Babies simply cry. Make sure your baby is safe and try and calm down. There is only so much you can do.

If you are ever worried about your baby always feel confident to ask the GP or health visitor as that is what they are there for. There will be a time when you may not want to bother someone but something that can take a few minutes for a GP to review and give you peace of mind is beneficial to you both, especially when there is a lot going on in your head.

  1. New mums often doubt themselves and their decision to have a baby

As I had previously said, early motherhood is hard especially mentally. This often leads to self doubt and regret about the decision to have a baby. This is also totally normal, common and natural. Especially, in the very early stages of motherhood. You learn things as you go, which is extremely hard and many times you have a feeling that everything you do is wrong. Sometimes you may even regret that you wanted to have a baby, which is only understandable. But do not worry, as time goes by all these feelings will gradually fade away. As we all understand and allow that a baby takes time to crawl, to also learn to walk and talk give yourself time to learn to find your feet.

I know some of this information may sound a bit scary, but I truly believe that if future mothers are more aware that the first weeks of motherhood are going to be a massive mental load, it can rapidly reduce a risk of postnatal mental problems. It does not totally prepare you but gives you an indication and allows you to understand there is absolutely nothing wrong in doubting yourself, or how you feed, or simply that you feel a bit of a mess. The process does this but it’s not forever. Nothing lasts forever. Everything “bad” will pass one day and sooner than you realise you are going to be happier than you have ever been.

Someone clever once said that being a mum is the hardest and the most beautiful thing in the world. Well, I could not say it any better. Every tear and every bad moment is so worth what comes later on with the next stages of motherhood.

 xx

About Ivana Poku

I am a postnatal depression survivor, award-nominated blogger and author of 'Motherhood - The Unspoken' that reveals the unspoken truths about motherhood, helps set clear expectations and, in the process, reduces the risks of postnatal depression.

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