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  • jcleland185

My Struggles as a First-Time Mom Post-Partum

Updated: Jun 23, 2020

This is me with my oldest daughter, Evelyn, within an hour of her birth.

I always wanted to be a mother.

When people thought about their futures, mine wasn’t about the career I was going to have or where I wanted to live, but I would always wish for the same thing: I wanted to be married and have kids by the time I was 25 years old. (I know... that sounds crazy to some people, but it’s what I wanted). I wanted to feel that baby kick in my belly, take the cute milestone photos, and have a beautiful baby that shared my features.

I had my first baby when I was 22 years old. After thirteen hours of contractions, walking up and down the hospital halls 3476 times and pushing a baby out my hoo-ha, I went from being a woman thinking of my future to experiencing one of the biggest moments of my life and living one of my biggest dreams: becoming a Mama. I embraced my new little bundle of squishy cuteness and time stood still… until the initial thrill and shock wore off and reality started to sink in.

My partner and I were full of so many emotions in the blink of an eye: we were full of joy, nerves, questions, what ifs, and to be frank, we were scared shitless. (Not exactly how I pictured it; so much more amazing and terrifying than I could have ever imagine before that baby came out screaming).

Not only were we young, and obviously naïve to the whole thing, but I personally went through a lot of struggles, mentally and physically during the first few months of gaining my new title of Mom.

Let’s take a look back…

My relationships changed

You name it, and that relationship changed when Evelyn joined the family.

It’s funny how people say “you will learn who your true friends are” because it’s TRUE. People I used to see weekly wouldn’t bother to see me or reach out anymore. It was a tough reality that I was able to see and realize who had my back no matter what. I understand that most of my friends were in the height of the partying and adventure stages of adulthood when I was becoming a Mom, so most of them had NO IDEA what I was going through and that motherhood didn’t mesh with their current lifestyles. The silver-lining to this is that I did also realized that the friends I had (and still have to this day) are some of the most supportive, understanding, and loving people in the world, and I am thankful for them every day for being there for me and my children.

My relationship with my family changed, especially my Mom. Nothing quite brings you together with your Mom than becoming one yourself. We were able to talk all about when she was in my place, my childhood, and all the other things about pregnancy and motherhood. Thankfully, all the family relationships grew stronger and happier as we bonded through the nostalgia and the moments of watching each person be promoted to grandma, grandpa, uncle, etc.

The biggest relationship change of course as between me and my partner, Connor. Our child bonded us forever in a way nothing else can. I got to see him upgrade his title from the funny, sweet man I fell in love with to the nurturing, protective, strong Dad who would do anything for that little bambino. I couldn’t help but just watch him as he changed her, fed her, and rocked her to sleep. Having a baby is like falling in love again, with your baby and your husband. I couldn’t believe I could love him any more than I already did, but seeing your partner step up and be that protective figure is a whole new level of love.

I couldn’t recognize my own skin

I’m not sure about any other woman, but I LOVED being pregnant. I loved watching my belly get noticeably bigger with every weekly belly photo, and my silhouette becoming something it had never been before. It was a beautiful feeling, but that positive feeling completely changed for me once I was no longer pregnant. I went through a lot of initial stages.

1) First of all, no one warned me that right after delivery, you only basically go back to the same size you were at around 5ish months pregnant. It makes sense, since you gain weight and your skin/uterus/abdominal muscles get stretched, but I didn’t realize it would be so drastic.

2) Of course your skin gets stretched (and stretched and stretched), but I didn’t think my skin would become so squishy. I also found stretch marks I didn’t know I had during pregnancy. This is something I had never experienced, and I was not fond of it.

3) My clothes fit so funny. Yes, I wore simple, stretchy and comfy clothes for the first six or so weeks, but even after that, my clothes never fit the same. That was so hard to deal with, especially at a stage of life when others my age were rocking booty shorts and crop tops; when the first thing I did in my day was get dressed and I couldn’t find an outfit that made me happy, it set a hard tone for the rest of my days.

There are so many other physical changes your body goes through after giving birth, but it also affected me mentally. I didn’t recognize my body or the skin I has lived in up until that time. That time period living in between no-longer-pregnant and not-back-to-normal was disconcerting and effected my self-esteem.

With the support of my partner and my friends, I had to rewire my thinking to love my body again. My body CREATED A HUMAN BEING, physically growing and nurturing my child, and still was nourishing my child after childbirth. THAT’S INSANE to think about. This new body came with my shifting identity from just Jenn, to Jenn the mama. Thankfully, I slowly kept pushing for positive affirmations for myself in my mind, which was helpful for me at the time, as well as in my future post-pregnancy stages.

Breastfeeding is HARD

I never really questioned breastfeeding my baby. The moment she was born she was put on my chest, skin to skin, and wiggled herself right up to my chest and began to feed instantly. It was such an instant bond that was so comforting. I learned how to fix her latch and rotate feeding on both sides. I was super thankful (and lucky) my initial introduction to breastfeeding was a positive one.

But it got hard. It is NOT easy.

No one talks about how much time you need to invest into it (think you’re saving time not washing bottles? Think again) and how steep of a learning curve it all is! Yes, once you get over than initial hump in the first few weeks it is easier than bottle feeding, but those weeks are loooong.

First, I had to cluster-feed to get that milk production going strong. After three days on constant feeding and raw nipples, I finally got my milk in! Great right? Yeah… except my body was then out of whack with trying to learn and figure out how much milk to produce.

My let down (when one nipple leaks while the baby feeds on the other) was INSANE and made me so uncomfortable. I remember going suit shopping with my husband and in-laws for a three hour block, and going back to my sister-in-law’s house (where she was watching the baby) and having giant wet puddles under my boobs because my breast pads were overfilled with milk… like, how does that even happen?!

I remember questioning if my baby was getting enough milk. Is my let down too fast for her (I asked while she was coughing from it)? Is she actually getting enough? Too much? How can you know when you can’t measure breastmilk like formula? Should I wake her to eat if she falls asleep? There were so many questions with not many answers. I basically learned that if she was hungry, she would let me know.

Lastly, I have to talk about the painful part of it. You initially go through the pain of your nipple desensitizing to the feeling of being gnawed on 24/7, which thankfully can be helped with some good nipple cream (side fun fact: it’s also amazing for chapped lips, which mine always were since the baby sucks all the water out of you when breastfeeding!). Then it happens… you get your first clogged duct. Oh. My. God. It is horrendous! I had definitely never felt pain in my boob like that before. It was hard, red, and sensitive to the touch, which is so FUN when the best remedies are to have baby feed on it as usual, to massage the area, and apply heat to it. I shed tears and was very vocal about the pain I was in when my duct got clogged. I’m lucky it was fixed through these remedies before becoming full-on Mastitis, because I couldn’t imagine how horrible that would have been. (I’ve been lucky in my following pregnancies for that as well, thankfully.)

Breastfeeding is damn hard. I truly believed that it was not easy, but it was totally worth it. For me, my physical and mental health was challenged during the whole process, but I stuck it out and was able to have that special bond with my little girl that felt so right.

(Side note: we did do combination feeding with her once she was 3-4 months, so I am 100% for formula feeding as well, and I’m all about you doing what works best for you. Fed is best!!)

What am I supposed to do?

Your time at the hospital is filled with nurses checking on you and your baby, and making sure you can see how to change a diaper and bathe your new bundle… but then you drive home. It’s just you, your partner, and your baby. It became an overwhelming flow of questions:

Why can’t I calm my baby?

What does she need?

What do I do with my baby?

Should I always be giving her the pacifier?

What if I fall asleep with her on me?

Is this how you’re supposed to do it?

I was home with my baby on maternity leave with my first baby, which gave me ample time to obsess about the littlest things. I was trying to figure out how to create a new routine for me and the baby, trying new activities for the first time (hello first solo bath), all while trying to keep my head above water with sleep deprivation and baby brain (yes, you have a horrible memory post-partum).

When you have a new baby, every single person also loves to give you all the advice, solicited or not. I was listening to my mom and mother-in-law for what they have done, trying to remember the things the nurses told us, read through the pamphlets we received from the hospital, Googled a bunch of things… you name it, we got advice from that source.

In time, I learned that whether or not I valued the advice given to me, I needed to listen to my new-found mama instinct and follow what my heart and my head were telling me (okay, with encouragement from my husband and a call or two to my Mom to help validate me as well haha). I eventually learned how to filter the advice I was getting and listed to my gut. Every person parents differently, and that’s okay. There is no one right way to raise a baby!

~ ~ ~ ~

Yes, those first few weeks are a struggle, but I came out on the other side with such a beautiful relationship with my daughter. It took trial and error (lots of errors) to learn how to become a little family, figure out our routines and expectations, as well as how to deal with our lows and thrive in the highs (those first smiles?! Heart instantly melts!!). You realize pretty quickly that as long as your baby is happy and healthy, you’re doing a good job, mama!

Two more children later, and although I haven’t stopped making mistakes and learning through it all, I feel like I’m finally getting it right (third times the charm, right?). I am by no means perfect, but I have realized what is and isn’t important for my physical and mental health, as well as each of my baby’s well-beings.

Still feel like your struggles are overwhelming you beyond recognition? Don’t hesitate to ask for help! SERIOUSLY. Ask your partner, your family, or a professional for help. It truly does take a village, and knowing that support that help you be a better mother for your child is important. (PPD and PPA are serious, so please ask for help if you think you may be living with either).

I’ve learned that doing MY best is more important than trying to be THE best; as a new parent, you need to let go of that fallacy of perfection and trust your gut instinct. Ask for help when you need it, whether it be a how-to question or someone to watch the baby so you can have that mental break and go have a long-needed shower.

The struggle is real, but just keep swimming and tackle each day to the best of your ability.

You got this, mama!

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