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What Being a First-Time Mom is Really Like

There’s a fine line, I’ve realized, between reality and what people want to think is reality, and it’s especially apparent online. It’s so easy to look like you’ve got it all together and that things are picture perfect, but really, Facebook, twitter, and blogs are just teeny tiny glimpses into our lives. People don’t want to see the pictures of poop explosions or frustrated moments during the day; they want to see the smiley, happy baby. I’ve been writing this off and on for the past five months. It’s nothing profound; it’s just something that isn’t often said, and because life is ever-changing, that’s probably why it continues to feel incomplete. I shouldn’t even have to share this disclaimer, but it needs to be said: I love my daughter more than life itself. Now that that’s out of the way…here’s what being a first-time mom is really like:

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I’ve been a mom for almost half a year, and while it’s been one of the most fulfilling experiences of my life (seriously, seeing her actually gaze into my eyes for the first time is a moment I’ll never forget; watching her smile fills my heart ten times over, and hearing her first laugh? I felt like I was going to melt away), it’s also been one of the hardest things I’ve ever experienced. It’s not easy. Motherhood, I’ve learned, isn’t for the faint of heart.

My brother sent me an email two weeks after Julia was born and he said something that took my breath away and then proceeded to make me cry. Not only did he clearly remember what those first few weeks were like with their son (who was almost a year at the time), but he was about to be right in the thick of it again—he and my sister-in-law welcomed their second baby into this world a few weeks later!

What he told me was simple, but exactly what I needed to hear. He asked how things were going with everything and then said, “It’s okay to say it’s not super great at this stage.”

It was so refreshing to see those 11 words.

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I need to be honest even though it’s not what you typically hear in regards to babies, and let me preface it by saying that I am completely and utterly, head over heels in love with my daughter. But, I wish I could say that I loved every minute at the beginning. I wish I could say it was all lullabies, endless cuddles, smiles, giggles, and rose-smelling poop, but that was definitely not the case.

Those first few weeks feels like you’re on a roller coaster of mixed hormonal emotions fueled by a lack of sleep, a recovering achy body, and a brand new person who depends on you for everything. They were rough and it was definitely not “super great” at the beginning. I think people—myself included—expect to hear how wonderful parenthood is from that very first sleep-deprived, pooped-on, exhausting moment.

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There were nights when my husband and I stood in the middle of our dark, white-noise induced room at oh-dark-thirty and we just cried. Cried because we couldn’t get her to stop crying. Cried because we were both so, so tired. Cried because she was cluster feeding or confused on the time or just didn’t like the way were were holding her. Or, sometimes we were just too tired to cry, so we just looked at each other with sleepy eyes and hoped things would eventually get better.

There were nights when we made up the most ridiculous (and, I hate to admit this,) explicit lyrics to songs, because we couldn’t remember one single lullaby or soothing song after so many hours of not sleeping. (Baby Got Back by Sir Mix a Lot and Jeremiah Weed by Dos Gringos spring to mind.) But at those moments, the moments when our baby started to calm down and nod off, it really didn’t matter the words coming out of our mouths. I said a few extra prayers those nights that she wouldn’t retain the lyrics from those songs.

There were nights when my husband slept sitting up while bouncing on a yoga ball, because it was the only way he could get her to sleep. There were nights when we’d take shifts sleeping and the other would sooth her. There were nights when I fell asleep listening to my husband “SSSSSSHHHHHHHing” in her ear. There were nights when we didn’t leave the rocking chair, or move a muscle for that matter, because we feared she’d wake up and we’d have to start the process all over again.

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There were days when I longed to produce more milk than my body would allow. There were days when I wanted to scream—but I was just. too. tired.—if we went to base one more time for yet another weight check. There were days when I wanted to throw the SNS (feeding device) across the room. There were days when I just wanted to stay home and be a new mom. There were days when I was over it.

There were days when I was pooped on, peed on, and covered in spit up and tears. Days when my arms were exhausted from holding my newborn, and days where I didn’t change out of my sweat pants or take a shower.

There were days when two weeks felt like two months.

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But then, in a blink of an eye, those rough days and nights became few and far between. The light at the end of the tunnel started getting brighter, and before I knew it, the newborn phase was over and I felt like a new person.

The good moments started to far outweigh the bad. It’s amazing how your body adjusts and is able to live off a few hours of sleep. You start ditching the random, old-school songs and start making up your own lullabies that sometimes magically calm her down. You get into a rhythm and routine and life isn’t so hazy anymore. In fact, life starts becoming pretty super great.

It took a few months, but I feel like we’re on the other side of things now. We still have issues, of course, and new obstacles popping up every day and night for that matter (hello, sleep regression and
teething), but it’s a lot more manageable.

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She was using me as a jungle gym and discovered how fun it is to pull my hair. Good times 🙂

So how’s it going now right now? Honestly? There are moments when things are wonderful and moments that take me back to those first few weeks, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. My daughter, well, she’s pretty super great.

Like this post? You may like reading these:

10 Newborn Must-Haves
10 More Newborn Must-Haves
My Maternity Must-Haves
What’s in my Hospital Bag
5 Tips to Boost your Milk Supply
Bonding with my Baby
The Transition to Two Under Two
Wearing a Swimsuit Was the Last thing I Wanted to do

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22 Comments

  1. This was so great to read. With our son due in just a few months these thoughts have been on my mind. I have no doubt that we'll love him so completely and unconditionally but my mind also wanders to the place of us not knowing what in the world we're about to get ourselves into. Thank you for this!

  2. This is so perfect – so exactly what we go through. I was so stressed all the time…and now I'm only stressed some of the time! Motherhood really is a challenge, and I know our girls will keep only keep challenging us!

  3. My sister basically said the same thing to me as your brother did. She called me a week after baby was born, asked if I loved it, then said "It's okay to say no." Then I just burst into tears or something.

    But yeah, it gets better. Most parents obviously forget about all the craziness at the beginning because we end up wanting another kid!

  4. I love that you wrote this and loved how honest you were. I don't know why we feel the pressure to make everything seem perfect when it's not and I always appreciate when someone puts the 'real life' version out there – I really think it helps us (not-yet-moms or soon-to-be-moms) prepare for those days and perhaps feel a little less stressed when we know that for others, it wasn't rose-scented poop either.

  5. First time mom, second time mom… life with a newborn is HARD. There will be more days when it's OK to say it's not great, like three weeks into a deployment when your oldest is exhausted to the point of self-destruction but refusing to nap (or go to bed much more than 3 hours past bed time) and crying about how much he misses daddy, and the baby is still waking twice night and you go feed him because you don't want to wake his brother and you think it might just be teething, though he hasn't slept more than a 5 hour stretch in the entire 6.5 months of his life, and you realize that EVERY time you thought you were tired before wasn't actually really ever THIS tired, and that tomorrow you'll probably feel even more tired. SO tired that a rambling run-on sentence feels like a perfectly acceptable comment 🙂 I'm so glad you've found more good days to outweigh the hard ones! It does continue to get better. xx

  6. Such a great post. My first was so easy. Only cried when necessary and slept great as long as sleeping with us. I used to never understand why people said the newborn stage was so hard or that they were glad it was over. And then my son was born, who had colic and screamed all the time and it wasnt that great. In fact it was awful and I felt so horrible saying it out loud. But now I can say it. It was bad but once he turned 6 months it got much better and I could breath a sigh if relief and finally enjoy motherbood

  7. Great post, Jess! I know that there will be more tough times ahead, but I can assure you that the good times and memories will by far out weigh the bad!

  8. Thank you so much for writing this! About to be a first time mom anytime in the next 3 weeks, it terrifies me to know what it is really going to be like and how I'm going to be. Posts like this will really help me know I'm not alone when I'm feeling this!

  9. Thank you for sharing so honestly! I love this. Not a lot of people talk about what it's really like, and I appreciate this post. She's beautiful!

  10. While I have no kids, I am still delighted to read about the real experiences with newborns. It really is not always as easy as TV and family magazines let people believe but eventually there is light at the end of the tunnel. Parents learn the tricks and babies grow.

    I hope you three are doing well! Hugs from Alaska.

  11. Yes. Yes yes yes. On one hand, you love and adore your child. On the other, you wonder what it would be like without them, right? Like… it's freaking hard sometimes. Most of the time. But you just do it, right?

    I will say, it's gotten easier. Every month, it gets easier!

  12. ABSOLUTELY!!! This is so spot on! The sleepless/restless nights are horrible … even if you do learn to get by with little sleep. The bouts of endless crying are trying and frustrating. But those early smiles, the smell of clean baby skin, fresh out of the bath. Those little moments make you quickly forget the hard stuff {until it happens again an hour later, of course!}

    As for the advice your brother sent?! REMEMBER IT! Because its pretty fitting for ALL hard stages. We're in the "three's" with our oldest … and I think she's trying to pave the way for any terroristic activity her 1 year old brother MAY employ. Its rotten and rough and no fun a lot of the time … and it makes you thankful for bedtime. But you still love them … no matter what!

  13. So true! I remember my mom saying that those first tough months would go by so quick that I wouldn't believe a year would be here before we knew it. And she was right, of course. Moms usually are 🙂
    And now we will be doing it all over again in 7ish weeks. Although this time around Mr. F is here to help!

  14. I want a 3rd baby, but I am SO not a newborn person. I love other people's newborns, when I can hand them back and go sleep for 8 hrs straight without having something attached to my boob for 14 hours a day. When they hit 4 months old, I feel like there is some magic switch that flips and things start getting better. But yes, I've had more than one of those crying in the middle of the night because I don't know how to get a newborn to stop crying moments. Julia is so cute!

  15. Kids are the biggest little assholes. Seriously.

    And it's all 100% worth it.

    All of it.

    I'm not even going to hide the fact that I'm sitting here tearing up because I'm thinking of how much I love my freaking kid.

  16. I love this post and it is so true! I just recently posted something similar on my blog about our son. He's 15 months now, but wow, those first few months are like nothing you'll ever experience. It's just such a huge adjustment. Glad you're finally there and I love that picture at the end!

  17. Love your honesty in this post, it's so easy to look at some blogs and think "gee, motherhood sure looks easy" but it's really not.

  18. Oh my goodness, how I needed to read this post (and didn't even realize it!). We're pregnant with our first, living in Germany, and far from our family and friends. It's nearly impossible to imagine what life will be like when our little one comes into the world amidst the military life (which includes another possible PCS this winter and a possible command for my husband). Knowing that you've done it, and hearing your honesty about it, was awesome. Thank you. And congratulations on getting past the not-so-awesome days to to the more super-awesome ones. 🙂

  19. Oh this is SO spot on! I remember the first night we brought Mia home from the hospital we did our bedtime routine with her, I fed her and she was zonked out. Eric and I high fived each other as we climbed into bed (thinking that we were about to get a good few hours of sleep) We cuddled and totally bragged to each other how "we totally got this" and not even 10 minutes later Mia was screaming bloody murder and we were up the rest of the night. Ugggggh. The first month was so hard with extreme highs and crazy lows! But it's SO WORTH IT!

  20. How did I not comment on this? I must have five times in my head! 🙂

    Millie was the same way- so colicky, so exhausting, and when you add a little PPD and relationship issues in there, I was not a happy camper. It's been so much easier with Walter, but now we're dealing with the whole family shakeup thing that has made Millie's behavior…interesting. 🙂

    Anyhow, thanks for the honesty and not airbrushing how it really is for most/all of us!!

  21. I have a 5 year old and a 3 week old. So much easier the second time. This one is more laid back, but that may have a bit to do with the fact that we are more laid back. The first time around I was terrified of doing everything wrong. Neither of us had a clue. After all we were suddenly parents. It’s a hard thing to adjust to. I thought a lot of how much my life had changed and in the wee hours of the morning you can start to miss your life prior to parenthood. But the second time around, you’re already there, and the confidence level is so much higher. I’ll admit, I don’t know what it’s like having 2 very young children. I’m glad my first is more independent. But, yes, first time is the hardest.

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