What the first year of motherhood is really like
23 Mar 2018 AFROPOLITAN WOMEN
By: Natasha Archary
Have a baby they said. It will change your life, they say. Whether planned or a complete surprise, a baby does indeed change your life. What no one tells you, is just what the first year of motherhood is really like.
Yes, growing life inside you and becoming a mom is incredible. But why do we as women not tell new or expectant moms the truth: The first year of motherhood is one of the most difficult life experiences. Rewarding and fulfilling no doubt, but difficult.
A study of over two thousand first-time moms suggests that the best ways to describe motherhood would be “chaotic”, “exhausting”, and “stressful”. Yup, that sounds pretty accurate. The UK study went on to call the first twelve months with a baby, “an uphill battle that is emotionally and physically draining”.
A staggering fifty percent of the moms polled admitted that the more negative aspects of motherhood far outweighed the positive. The sleepless nights, feeling completely inadequate to care for this new life, the seemingly endless crying, the around the clock feeding, changing and sleeping routines, leave most moms feeling like they’ve lost their identity.
Because women naturally assume the role of primary care-giver (unless circumstances do not allow it) it’s easy to underestimate how a baby can impact a woman’s life.
The first year of motherhood broken down
- You’re new at this
You’ve read every book on pregnancy, motherhood and preparing for a family. You’ve also watched “What to expect when you’re expecting” so many times you feel like an expert already. What none of these self-help manuals share with you is that every baby is different, so too are their needs different. One mother may have a baby who self soothes, another a baby who suffers with chronic colic and cries continuously.
A newborn presents so many challenges to new moms and they don’t come with instructions, it’s basically you and your baby. Learning and figuring things out as you both get acquainted. It’s a wake-up call going from experienced in most aspects of life in general to a novice.
- Unwanted advice
Here you are trying to get through the new hurdles with baby , minding your own business, coping as best you can and boom: unwanted advice from other moms.
“You really should breastfeed, it’s the best you can do for your baby.”
“I just stuck a pacifier in my little one’s mouth straight after birth.”
“No, no, no! You really should put her down as soon as she’s asleep. Rocking her only creates a needy baby.”
As if the self-doubt that a new mom goes through isn’t enough, there we are as women judging another woman on how she’s raising her child. We really need to stop this culture.
- Lack of sleep
This is unlike any of your late-night partying or studying till the wee hours of the morning phases. This is sleep deprivation like nothing you’ve ever experienced. “Mombies”, as new moms are popularly known, are edging on by with the few hours sometimes minutes of shut-eye they are able to slip in daily. That we survive the day to day on the little sleep we manage to get – some back at work straight after baby – is remarkable.
A baby changes your relationship with your partner, in some respects for the better, strengthening your bond as you raise the little one together. In some ways it causes an intense amount of pressure and tension between the two of you. Scheduling intimacy soon becomes the only way to ensure you have some alone time. Not an easy feat to manage with a newborn, you may go weeks or months at first before finding your rhythm as a couple again.
- Body identity
It’s true, your body will never be the same again (Post baby body blues – Don’t be ashamed) and, in many ways, it’s not entirely yours anymore either. Well, for as long as you’re breastfeeding anyway. It’s a journey of rediscovery as you grapple with your new identity: Milk producer. Jokes aside, breastfeeding is not as easy as the nursing books make it out to be. Plugged milk ducts and mastitis is a common occurance and most moms struggle on in silence because ‘breastfeeding is supposed to be as natural as breathing’. It often is, but there are moms who find it tough to navigate and find momentum to breastfeed with the absence of pain.
The journey of motherhood is a beautiful experience. Babies bring so much love and teach you a new meaning to your strength. It’s also incredibly unpredictable and overwhelming and perhaps it’s time we stopped sugar-coating what it’s really like. In doing so we may just be helping new moms understand that the post-natal depression is completely normal, so we stop beating ourselves up for feeling down instead of what the books say we should be feeling.
What would you tell a first-time mother knowing what you now know? Tweet @KayaFM95dot9 with #KayaOnline