For some reason we moms-to-be tend to have these super romanticized expectations of motherhood. We imagine a perfect beginning to an instagram-worthy new life shaded in pastel pink and baby blue. More often than not, though, those dreams come crashing down when reality sets in…starting about 2 seconds after we give birth.
We can register for all the things and nest our little hearts out, but preparing yourself for transitioning to motherhood is an equally important step in preparing for a baby.
By all means, envision yourself snuggling that little cutie, decorate Baby’s room, and brush up on your nursery rhymes, but spend some time preparing for the not-so-cute parts of new mom life too.
To help with that I’ve got some postpartum tips for you.
6 Tips for Transitioning into Motherhood Smoothly
These are some aspects of transitioning into motherhood that many moms agree might take you by surprise. While motherhood is full of sweet, irreplaceable moments, there are also some no-fun, slap-you-in-the-face things you should be aware of…
#1 – You Might Not Instantly Fall in Love
Hollywood makes it look like there’s this ONE moment, as the doctor hands you your newborn baby, that you fall madly in love.
But seriously, how often do people actually fall in love at first sight?
It takes time to get to know a person and our babies are more or less strangers to us when they are born. We haven’t had time to get to know their personality or to gaze into their eyes.
It’s ok that bonding with baby doesn’t happen immediately.
Sure, maternal instinct kicks in pretty quick and we do have that 9-month-long report built up, but if you aren’t instantly overwhelmed with adoration for the kinda gooey creature that just caused you a ton of pain, there’s no shame.
You will get there.
You’re not weird.
And it’s perfectly fine to take it one day at a time.
#2 – Sleep Deprivation is No Joke
WHY do people not talk about this more?! Well, apart from movies colorfully depicting the exhaustion of new parents for laughs, but in reality…it is SO not funny.
I truly hope that you’re one of the lucky few whose baby just naturally sleeps like a champ from day one, but more likely you’ll be in the majority of new mama’s who spend endless days and nights begging your baby to JUST SLEEP.
I firmly believe that lack of sleep is one of the top contributors to mental health concerns in new mothers.
Think about it.
Your body has just been through probably its greatest trauma ever, you are completely exhausted, learning to breastfeed, trying to navigate postpartum recovery, meeting the every need of a tiny human around the clock, and you’re expected to do all this on basically no sleep?
My best advice here is to have a plan.
They say it takes a village for a reason. Have your husband, parents, neighbors, and besties on high alert to come hold Baby as much as possible until you get back on your feet (which might take longer than you expect.)
On the bright side, we mamas come equipped with kind of a superpower that makes it surprisingly doable to feed baby at all hours of the night for the first couple of months. But it does wear off, so pump some breast milk and have your village on standby.
#3 – Some Things May Be Outside of Your Control
I would love to tell you that everything will be perfect, but honestly, you can probably expect something to get complicated sooner or later.
For some, breastfeeding begins like they were born to do it, but for others, it’s tricky from the start. Maybe Baby won’t or can’t latch or maybe Mama’s milk supply just isn’t cutting it.
I’ve known mamas whose babies are perfect, precious angels all day long, but in the evening scream for hours on end with no explanation other than the pediatrician calling it “colic.”
For us, it was reflux and sleep issues. My first baby literally threw up almost every day until he was 2 and both of my boys refused to nap without being held until about 18 months.
(Side note – Learning about these breastfeeding foods to avoid really helped!)
Nothing reveals control issues in a new mom like not being able to put your baby down for any amount of time without them screaming in protest.
The point is, we can’t control everything.
We can pray for healthy babies and do our best to set routines for our families, but we mostly have to let go of our expectations and go with the flow. Babies are VERY unpredictable.
It’s likely that your vision of motherhood won’t be exactly what you have in mind. But that’s ok. In fact, we grow into better parents because of it.
Have a plan, but remember that when the unexpected arises it’s ok to not be in control. Sometimes being a good mom just means loving your baby, rolling with the punches, and learning as you go.
#4 – You Might Grieve the Loss of Your Independence
“How do you take a shower?!”
My dear friend asked me this after having her first baby, just a few months after I had mine. Seriously, this is a really good question. I think at the time my answer was, “I don’t.” At least I didn’t while Daddy wasn’t home.
Being a new mom means a lot of sacrifice and a big one is independence. I don’t think I’ve used the bathroom alone in almost 4 years.
At a playdate last week, the moms shared our “mini vacations.” Tales of spending 20 minutes by ourselves at the grocery store, or taking an hour on the weekend to walk around Target ALONE. I’ve told my husband before how much I envy his solitary 30 minute commute to work every day.
This is something we don’t usually think about before having a baby, but you’ll probably miss the luxury of being able to “just run in” a store on your way home or schedule a doctor’s appointment without consulting multiple calendars.
After a few months, you might go a little nuts, so try to get some time alone at least once a week. Make it a priority. You’d be surprised the difference it will make to give yourself time to MISS your baby. It doesn’t mean you don’t love being with your sweet little one, it just means you’re human. And humans need some independence.
Related – Self Care Gift Ideas for Moms
#5 – Your Interests May Change
How do you usually spend your weekends? Hiking, dancing, crafting, baking? Hubby and I laugh about this now. “Remember our old hobbies?”
It may sound a little sad, and maybe on one hand it is, but you know what? Nowadays, I’d truly much rather sit and do play dough with my toddlers than spend two hours decorating a cake or reading a novel. I’m totally cool with that trade-off.
While, of course, I miss some of the things I used to have time to do, when given a choice between taking our kiddos with us on an adult adventure or taking them to do something they’d love, we are usually going to pick the latter. Know why?
It’s more fun.
We LOVE it. We actually prefer to do activities for our littles. Not EVERY time, but most of the time. I didn’t anticipate this at all before kids. It’s not that we “give up” our old likes for our children, it’s that our likes change.
I remember stressing about how I would hide all of the baby paraphernalia in our house. I searched hacks for hiding toys in a living room and looked for the most neutral colored high chair possible, but in the end…I just don’t care about that anymore.
My life is messy. It’s full of colors and usually kind of sticky. And I love it (most of the time.) And I really think you will too.
So don’t give up your hobbies just yet, but keep an open mind that you just might take on some new ones.
# 6 – You Might Feel Like a Failure and a Mom Boss at the Same Time
This one is a sensitive subject. I think any mom of young kids would agree. From pretty much the moment your bundle of joy is born, there’s this whirlwind of emotions at odds with one another.
You feel like you’re killing it just long enough for the next thing to come along and humble you into your pit of mommy guilt. Maybe there’s a healthy balance, but I haven’t found it yet.
This mom thing is hard.
And when you actually feel like you’ve gotten something right it’s the best feeling in the world.
Then there are those moments, those many moments, when we just blow it. I warmed the milk too much, he rolled off the couch, I snapped the buckle onto Baby’s skin, I let them watch too much TV, I forgot the thing, I bought the wrong kind, I yelled, I shouldn’t have said it that way, I just…can’t…do…this.
And you are left feeling like a total failure.
Until they reach out for you just to snuggle, or they get so excited to share the new thing they can do and you remember that your perfectly imperfect little one, who is resilient and forgiving and loves you more than anything, is going to be just fine. And so are you.
Because you also blew the bubbles, and made extra cookies, and built the fort, and tickled him until he giggled his loudest giggle ever and you know that because you’ve been there for every giggle along the way.
Yeah, you’re gonna fail a lot. But you’re gonna not fail too.
For the Other Things You Don’t See Coming
Hopefully this helps you to start expecting the unexpected. Motherhood is FULL of “unexpecteds.” You can’t plan for everything, but if you’re like me and you want to have a bit of game plan, here are my tips:
Have help on standby – Make sure to have at least 3 people you trust who you can “just say the word” to and they’ll be there. You’ll need it.
Have new mom friends to vent to – If you don’t have them already, make some mama friends who “get it.” Not feeling alone is half the battle in the new mom trenches.
Give yourself A LOT of grace – Most of all, lower your expectations on yourself. You’re not going to rock everything. You’re just not. And that’s really REALLY ok.
So, while you’re checking off all of those last minute to-do’s to prepare for Baby, start preparing your mind and your heart for some of these not-so-expected new mom realities.
Of course, there will be more that takes you by surprise.
And when it does, you’ll do what every other mama does…you’ll just do it. You’ll do the hard things and get through it because you have to. And because, believe it or not, you actually can do this.
About the Author
Ashley Bass is the founder and author of Oh Yellow, a blog dedicated to all things pregnancy, baby, and new mom.
Between changing diapers and being silly with her littles, Ashley dedicates her time to encouraging young mothers and moms-to-be. Check out her resources at oh-yellow.com.
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