Today marks 6 months since I gave birth to A, and it all seems kind of surreal that we actually have a baby and that she’s growing and becoming not so much like a baby anymore… CRY! The one thing about parenthood I enjoy the most, and Kp would agree, is watching A learn new skills. The past few weeks she’s started rolling from back to tummy, but just this past week, she’s been seriously doing it non-stop. So much so that she’s napping on her belly right now as I write… (I thought she didn’t like being on her belly, so I kept flipping her back onto her back, but the moment I walked back out of her room she was on her tummy again… 4x later, I just decided to let her cry a bit and she finally fell asleep.)
Anyways, the past two months I’ve been able to really soak in motherhood a lot more than the first couple months, and looking back there were definitely some low points for me. Knowing what I know now, this is what I would say to my 1 week postpartum self, 1 month postpartum self, and even 2 months postpartum self:
Give yourself some grace…
At 1 week postpartum:
- It’s okay to feel like you have no idea what you’re doing. I remember myself watching the nurses and doctors handle A and I thought, ‘you have no idea how to even hold a newborn!’ While that was true, I still feel like I have no idea what I’m doing half the day, and that’s okay! Each new stage in A’s life has come with different skills you will need to learn and there’s no need to feel like you need to know it all before that stage arrives.
- It’s okay to cry… all the time. Your hormones are crazy, you just experienced a life-altering event, been in a labor for the longest time, pushed and pushed, and then when baby comes out, there’s no pause button to process what just happened. Holding back tears only makes it worse when you finally do cry, so just let it out… every single time, even if it’s in front of the doctors and nurses.
- It’s okay if breastfeeding doesn’t go as planned. You thought it would be painful, and it is, but you didn’t realize how emotionally hard it would be and how many variables go into feeding the baby. While you might have had this idealized picture of what breastfeeding looks like, when it doesn’t go as planned and it brings you to tears every time you try, know that it gets better… in a couple months. Just take each feeding one at a time, and if you offer formula, know that baby is still getting much-needed nutrients from that. But also, ask for help. Breastfeeding doesn’t come naturally, and especially as a first-time mom, you’re still learning and baby is learning too! It’s okay to ask every single nurse for help, and then still not know what you’re doing. And then have a lactation consultant help, and even then STILL not know what you’re doing! It gets easier…
At 1 month postpartum, I thought a lot of the things I felt then should have disappeared already, but they didn’t… give yourself some grace, michelle!
- It’s okay to not feel an overwhelming sense of love for the baby. I thought there was something wrong with me at 1 week because A didn’t feel like mine. Maybe it was still surreal to me at that point, so I figured give it some time and you’ll be in love. After all, people always seem to post about how in love they are with their babies in those hospital photos you browse through on Instagram. And then even at 1 month I didn’t feel this overwhelming sense of love for A. Sounds terrible, but that was just the reality for me. I didn’t really care to cuddle her or shower her with kisses all the time. Most of the time, I just wanted to give her to Kp the moment I was done feeding. That’s okay. You are still going through so many changes, breastfeeding is still hard, but give it some time and your love will grow, and your heart will explode.
- It’s okay to feel big and look pregnant. I struggled with this for a long time and even at 6 months, I still struggle with it at times. But you will come to the realization that you just gave birth to a baby! Sometimes I try to reassure myself by telling myself that I’m not really holding onto THAT much baby weight, but when I look in the mirror, actually, yes, my body looks and feels way different, and I tell myself that instead, I feel better. At 6 months postpartum now, my belly and body still looks nowhere near what it did before I got pregnant, but my belly did get smaller! I’m still learning this, but you just have to embrace the change… and maybe go for walks here and there, if not to get your body back, to get some fresh air!
Finally, I would tell myself, and even now continue to tell myself, enjoy each day. Even if not each moment is enjoyable… the waking up at 4am, washing explosive poops out of clothes, smelling like old milk… each day goes by so quickly. Seems like every parent has said this, and now that I’m a parent, I’m going to say it too, but time flies. I already miss the newborn cuddles and the precious stares from A, of course those come in the same territory as the sleepless nights and the constant, seemingly unresolvable crying, but even if the later two suck, embrace the first two because at 6 months A is so big already!