Like probably every future mother, I was also conscientiously preparing for the arrival of my children. I read a lot, I asked, I listened … However, when they came into this world, I felt like I didn’t know anything at all.
Theoretically, I was armed, but practically completely disarmed. Yes, I knew I wanted to breastfeed, but I didn’t know how hard it would be to learn it. I knew I’d need to avoid stress, but I didn’t know that under the circumstances it would be as simple as avoiding breathing. I knew I was going to have a deficiency of sleep, but I didn’t know the mental impact it would have on me. These all are things no one gets you ready for. The more likely it is then for them to take us by surprise later and often also take control of us.
If you’re right at the beginning of your journey, I can feel what you are going through. I see in front of me a frightened, lost, fragile woman who desperately cries for help. Don’t worry, we’ve all been there. And happily, made it out of there. For many of us, it was mainly time that helped us. What some do not realise is that is also the progress of our children, which worked as a driving engine on the way out of that hell. Everything we go through has its purpose. However, if I could travel back in time, what would I have wanted to know earlier? Here are some important points I believe are mostly every future mother should know.
Being a mum doesn’t make you a supernatural being
I don’t know about you, but when I was a little girl, my mum was my perfect role model in my eyes. She never seemed to make mistakes, she had been everywhere, know everything. My mother was the best, most beautiful and amazing person in the world. Basically, she was something more like a goddess to me. Therefore, I was expecting myself to change into such a miraculous being after becoming a mum too. However, that never happened. I’m still just a human who learns and makes mistakes. I’m still just a human who feels, has desires, dreams and also needs for her own life… And I know that my mum was the same at the time when I perceived her as the embodiment of perfection.
The beginning of motherhood is difficult especially mentally
As a future mother, you are trying to read and educate yourself in the field of motherhood. You know you need to prepare yourself for sleep deprivation, frequent night feeding, understand and organising things such as how many baby clothes and nappies you’re going to need, what to buy for the household, what’s required to pack to take with you to the hospital etc… But where do you read about how difficult it will be mentally?
This is probably the most important point. You have to understand that the mental burden is very subjective and depends solely on each and every mother. Not every mother will react the same. However, with the arrival of a baby, it is necessary to prepare for a difficult time especially from the mental point of view. Take it that at the beginning your baby is basically a stranger to you. You’ll be getting to know each other, you’ll be learning to recognise individual sounds the baby will make, you’ll be learning how to feed them, putting them to sleep, soothing them … Now blend this all with constant crying, lack of sleep and zero experience in the role of mother, and you have a state suitable for a mental asylum. It’s a very difficult time but seriously please don’t worry.
Believe me, it would be strange if you did not feel mentally drained. Even if it doesn’t go as far as into postnatal depression. As a new mum, you’ll feel for at least the first couple of weeks as if a steamroller has driven over you (said in a very gentle way). The beginnings can mean streams of tears, questioning yourself and the decision to have children, constant wondering if you’re a good mother.
Remember, becoming a mother is the biggest change in a woman’s life, that’s why you can’t expect to go through it like a summer breeze. Of course, you are confused, lost and depressed. But please keep in mind that you will get through each obstacle eventually. Gradually you will become acquainted with the baby, you will make a progress together, you’ll see the baby laugh, grow, you’ll get back your sleep, your free time, your life … And soon you won’t be even able to imagine your life without the baby. That’s the moment when you know that the hardest part is over ;).
Maternal instinct is a process that develops
I say more about this point in the article How do you know you have postnatal depression?. Many mothers (including me at one point) expect that the moment they see their child, all their motherly instincts will immediately turn 180 degrees and that they won’t feel anything but unconditional love for the baby. The harder they take the shock when it doesn’t always happen. Personally, it took several months until my love for children was fully formed and settled. Maternal instinct is a process that develops. Therefore, don’t blame yourself if for some time you don’t feel like the mothers from the movies.
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.
Planning is mainly for keeping a peace of mind
Many mothers read various maternity books. I wasn’t an exception to this rule. I had thought through my attitude towards my children, how I’d raise them, what I’d allow them and what I wouldn’t, how I’d build up my authority, how I’d achieve what I wanted… Ha!
Let’s take it step by step. We all have certain values built up in ourselves, and we know what direction we want to lead our children. That, of course, remains within us and we keep it throughout the whole journey as parents. However, the smaller steps on the path of parenthood we can’t plan. Not all of them, anyway. I, for example, swore to myself that I would exclusively breastfeed, that I’d never raise my voice to a child, that I wouldn’t allow them to watch TV until they were at least three years old, that I’d never criticise them, that I’d give them maximum of my time, and never put anything else before them… I’d also study how to put twins to sleep, how often and when to feed them, how to teach them about their independence,… However, the reality had forced me to slightly re-evaluate a lot of things and some of them completely. Many of them were off the table quite naturally, with the idea of following them now seems quite naive. Although you love your children, you are also still just a human and so are they.
You do the maximum for them, but you find that in order to follow all your resolutions you’d need supernatural abilities and patience set in stone. It is certainly sensible to think through beforehand how you’d proceed in individual things, but don’t be afraid in certain things to just go with the flow and wave your resolutions if circumstances require it. Remember in order for your kids to be fine, you need to make sure that you are fine first. You need to balance things. If everything you do is “perfect”, but you feel like a walking zombie, it certainly won’t be any good for kids. They don’t say it likely that a happy mother = happy child :).
Children change your life especially in terms of emotion and values
They say children change your life. I always thought – probably like most people – that this statement refers to a practical change of life. However, the truth is that it has especially changed my mental life. It has changed my values, my priorities, my view of the world… That was the biggest change.
Love for children gives your life a new meaning
When I look back, I have to admit that all the difficult things we went through at the beginning, was worth everything that had come later. Love for kids. Most maternity articles talk about practical life with children, but a lot of them forget to point out the most important thing that comes with kids. The feeling that takes everything “bad” off the table and lifts you up to the heights you have never dreamed of before.
Do you think you know what to expect? You’re wrong
I intentionally put this point last, as it includes everything I mentioned above in a summary form. Probably every mother thinks she knows what to expect from being a mum. I thought so too. However, today I know I didn’t even have the slightest idea. Whether in a bad or a good sense. Remember that children open the gates to a whole new world that neither of us can understand until we become a part of it ourselves. Therefore, don’t spend too much time thinking about what and how it is going to be. Everything is going to be just fine ;).
For me, motherhood is a huge challenge that requires a lot of strength and devotion. As a mother, you cherish and protect your nest with a bottomless energy supply. You are often forced to step out of your comfort zone and adjust your emotions in the sake of children’s best interests. You are condemned to a lifelong fear about your children and a massive desire to give them the best for life. At the same time, however, you feel a dizzy love a happiness in which you completely melt.
Being the mother is the biggest challenge in a woman’s life. And yet the most beautiful. 🙂
Do you agree with me? If there is anything you would like to add to my list, please let me know in the comments below.