There were many things that I expected when I became a mother …and then there were many things that I did not. Looking back on this past year as a stay-at-home-mom, here are five things that surprised me the most.
1. Sleep Deprivation
With the arrival of baby, I could not believe how sleep deprivation from the night feedings and eventually the baby sleep regressions (Helloooo sleep training! More on this later) would wear the life out of me. What happened to the night owl that used to thrive on pulling all-nighters in college? What happened to the woman that used to poo-poo the concept of naps? Well she isn’t here anymore. While I had thought that I still had the sleep rhythms of a spritely 21 year old, this new momma could not see straight with such broken up sleep. When they say “Take a nap whenever your baby does and leave the chores alone”, take the advice. If you need your partner, close family or friends to help hold baby just for you grab that 30min of Z’s or to simply wash up for the day, do ask for it. It will help you keep your sanity (My husband will attest to it!).
2. Post-baby Body
They warn you… but they don’t warn you. Yes, there is the whole post-delivery sutures and ickiness, but it was the “muffin top” that really got me. While there is the small percentage of celebrities and “that friend of a friend” who bounce back in a few weeks into those skinny jeans, the majority of us normal people do not. You’ll have a full wardrobe of your carefully curated clothing and shoes sitting inactive for a good many months, while your boyfriend shirts and the one pair of jeans that you had to go out and purchase in order not to become “sweatpants lady” is on heavy rotation. I felt like people were “just being nice” when they said things like “It took nine months to grow the baby, so it will take nine months to shrink”. But fear not, it is true and there will be the day that you will get the joy of discovering that you can re-fit into your original clothing again.
I have a great support system, but I never really knew how great until I had the baby. Prior to having a kid, I always believed in being self-sufficient and not being a “burden” on other people with requests. But with post-delivery recovery, the lack of sleep, and a baby that will not be waiting for you to even take a pee break, learning to being open to people’s generosity was humbling. It redefined the word “gratitude” for me. Say yes to those who offer their help (They want to!). Even if you do not have close friends and family around, simply going to your local mom group or baby activity class at the community centre will allow you to receive and, in turn, share and remind you that you are not alone. Being receptive to generosity opened my life and my relationships grew.
4. You Mean Babies Don’t Know How to Simply Go to Sleep?
Again, on some internet forum or from that “friend of a friend” you will hear about the baby with the dream schedule: He/she sleeps from 6PM to 6AM by three months. The rest of us? Yeah, sorry. No dice there. If you do not have a great sleeper, get ready for sleep training somewhere along the line between 4 months to a year.
I sure never knew that you had to teach a baby to sleep. My LO was addicted to her soother and could only sleep with it in her mouth. This meant that every time it fell out, which was several times a night, I would have to get up to find it. This was a recipe for a baby that frequently went into distress and a mommy that couldn’t function in the mornings. At nine months my husband and I decided enough was enough and that we had to buckle down to train baby to self soothe and sleep on her own. It took a lot of tweaking to see what method worked best for our baby and sticking to our guns even when we wanted to give up. It took three long weeks with just as much crying from me, but in the end was worth it for the LO and parents’ sanity. Whichever method you end up choosing, you will thank yourself for committing to it when you and baby finally get uninterrupted nights of sleep, and more importantly, more patience and endurance to take on the next morning.
5. Changing the Question of “What do I need to do?” to “What do I need to be?”
While I knew that I had been given the big duty of caring for a little being, I was surprised to find that it bothered me so much that I was “stuck” at home and couldn’t account for what I was doing in a quantitative way: I wasn’t bringing in income, didn’t have the time nor energy to upkeep the home in the way that I was accustomed to, and with baby’s feeding and sleeping schedule I couldn’t just fill my calendar with social events like before. For someone who was so used to always asking herself, “What do I need to do next?”, I felt like a failure to adapt to this new, stay-at-home mom life. But one night, while washing off the day’s frustration in the shower, it dawned on me that with all the fuss I was putting into “being productive”, I had forgotten to ask myself “What do I need to be?”.
I needed to be patient. I needed to be kind. I needed to be grateful for a loving husband and a healthy baby. I needed to be OK with not being busy just to be busy. I needed to be content with the here and now. I needed to savour the privilege of being able to stay at home to witness a little girl grow and come into her own personality each day.
How did you settle into motherhood? Was it as you had imagined? Or was the experience full of surprises?