by Karen Gibson
“Sometimes, when you pick up your child, you can feel the map of your own bones beneath your hands, or smell the scent of your skin in the nape of his neck. This is the most extraordinary thing about motherhood – finding a piece of yourself separate and apart, that all the same, you could not live without.” – Jodi Picoult
No matter how much you prepare for motherhood, the emotions you have when you hold your newborn baby for the first time can feel like you’re about to embark on an unpredictable rollercoaster ride. My daughters are currently 20 and 26, and when I reflect on their birth, I immediately can feel the overwhelm mixed with unconditional love that flooded my heart. Thoughts swirled in my mind from worrying whether I could fulfill my mommy duties successfully or how would I know what to do so I wouldn’t ruin my daughters’ lives?
If you’re just about to enter the new motherhood tribe, let me reassure you that you’ll be an amazing mother. You will cry out of frustration, exhaustion and question your competence. However, you will also be amazed that you created this mini human whose mental strength possesses the power to push your buttons in seconds. As soon as you’re ready to climb into bed to cherish much needed sleep, you’ll be awakened by your bundle of joy reminding you that you are no longer the center of your own universe. You surrender that position to your child.
Every mom is different, yet we seem to constantly compare whether we are competent and wonder if our child is reaching milestones according to society’s expectations. I wish I had known more about the four phases of being a new mommy. First, pregnancy and new baby fog followed by survival mode take time to adjust as your body experiences so many physical changes affecting your mental state. Next, the emotional rollercoaster seems to steal your previous freedoms, which sometimes might feel like you no longer can control your sleep schedule, when you’re able to take a shower or engage in your favorite hobbies that brought you joy. Lastly, when you enter the forward-looking phase, you enter the season of promise. Time slowly becomes more manageable as you create routines so your little one begins to understand that mommy’s schedule is the key to both of you experiencing more peace, less stress. Of course, just as life shows us, seasons change, and sometimes we find ourselves back on the emotional roller coaster.
Finding a new motherhood tribe helped save my sanity. I joined a mommy baby hui club which offered me an amazing resource for other new moms who wanted to learn and connect with others in the same stage of life. The most important lesson I learned from the early phases of being a new mom is to have a healthy perspective. Just as sleep deprived and hungry babies throw themselves into tantrums, moms who lack much needed rest and self-care will find themselves falling into the rabbit hole of pessimism. I found myself expecting the worst outcome for my child, which is one of the most destructive mindsets a mom can experience.
As a seasoned mom of adult daughters and a private tutor offering parenting tips since 1999, my advice to new moms is to remind yourself that many of your plans will not turn out the way you want them to, and that’s okay. It’s also okay not to feel okay. It’s, in fact, normal, to feel that you’re not meeting your perception of a “good mom.” Remind yourself that you know what you’re doing and you’re doing an incredible job.
Schedule time for your partner. Schedule an early bedtime for your little one so you can spend quality time with your partner, even if it’s just watching TV, cuddling or chatting about your day. Part of the problem of marital challenges after childbirth is that you’re tired and you lack the time to spend with your partner since your baby’s arrival. It’s a lot harder to go out together and enjoy the things you used to do. Your partner may feel left out, and you may resent what you see as a lack of support. I remember learning how weekly “date nights” were vital to preserving relationships. Whether you are a single parent or a couple it is very important for you to balance your needs along with the needs of your partner and the needs of your children. No matter how much time you spend with your children, if you are not taking care of yourself, your children will suffer.
Lastly, remember that it’s okay to ignore advice. Don’t sweat the small stuff. I remember stressing with worry when my first-born didn’t have a bowel movement for ten days. I called her pediatrician daily, only to learn that it wasn’t a medical emergency. She pooped on the eleventh day. If I only knew to find perspective in the midst of a mental breakdown on those days I felt I was failing and incapable of raising my daughters, I would have saved my sanity on multiple occasions. Most importantly, don’t attempt to be the perfect mom. You’ll drive yourself to nervous breakdowns and never live up to your unrealistic expectations. Just enjoy your little bundle of joy and trust in both of your journeys.
Karen K.C. Gibson created “Letting Go with Aloha,” a parent coaching service for overwhelmed parents who struggle with raising resilient, responsible, and respectful children. She recorded 100 parenting tips during the global pandemic, which developed into a book, “One Hundred Parenting Tips Inspired by the Pandemic” published by Balboa Press, a division of Hay House. It’s available on Barnes & Noble, Google Play, and Amazon. Her first book, “Mama’s Gotta Let Go: “How to Let Go without Losing Your Sanity” helps parents learn that it is possible to parent with peace, instead of pain. She is also the owner of Brain Builders (private tutoring services for students 1st through 8th grade) since 1999. You can find her on Letting Go with Aloha, Facebook, Instagram and TIKTOK.