Today, I’m finally writing a post about a topic I knew I wanted to discuss on my blog as soon as I had my little one 5 months ago: the reality of maternity leave (or… my own experience 5 months in). I want to start by saying that I’m very lucky to be mom to this little boy. I love him more than anything. He’s perfectly healthy and such a happy little man. I did not struggle with conceiving, my pregnancy & delivery went very well and I get a full 12 months paid leave (yay for Canada). I have an extremely supportive and helpful husband too. I consider myself extremely fortunate and blessed.
Now, that said, I want to discuss how things have been going for me since the birth of my son & the challenges of motherhood simply because I feel like not a lot of people talk about this. I did not suffer from post-partum depression, luckily, but I did get pretty bad Baby Blues. These are very common after birth and can last for up to two weeks. The huge hormonal shift that happens post-birth, combined with the diminishing adrenalin from the birth plus the sleep deprivation generally causes baby blues. At the time, I felt like I was the only one feeling like this and kept comparing myself to others. You often see gorgeous photos of new moms with their babies, everyone happy, smiling, moms looking rested and like they have their lives together (yes, a bit like the photos in this post), because we’re not going to share the bad moments. It ain’t pretty. But these photos don’t show how things are truly going. Just because everyone look happy and well-rested, doesn’t mean they are. Most probably, they are struggling too.
I feel like we are extremely informed and prepared when it comes to pregnancy, giving birth, taking care of a newborn and breastfeeding, but no one prepares us for the reality shock that hits you like a ton of bricks when you finally arrive home from the hospital with your little bundle. Now, some may have felt super comfortable and happy from day 1 and that’s awesome. But on my end, the shock was real. Baby blues were real. I wish more moms would have shared their experience on the first weeks with their newborns, because I’m sure a ton of people (maybe most) feel this way. Talking openly about it may actually help a little. So this is what I’m doing. If I can help one new mom out there and make her feel a little better, mission accomplished.
The first weeks with my baby were like business, I was on a mission: take care of this child, because I’m the mom and this is my job. I was pretty cold and showed barely any emotion at the hospital. It upsets me to say this, but I didn’t feel connected at all to my newborn. I was too sleep deprived and felt too depressed to enjoy these first moments. I was questioning everything, wondering if I was made to be a mom. I remember the first days when I would do laundry, just the smell of the baby detergent was giving me major anxiety. I didn’t even have the desire or energy to get him dressed in all the cute clothes I had. He pretty much lived in the same 2 pyjamas. I wouldn’t get out of the house unless my husband came with us because it stressed me out. Baby would cry very easily (as most newborns do). Just stopping the car at a red light would make him cry. I would get angry at slow drivers and get stressed when I saw a stop sign coming up. No thanks, I’ll just stay home. I tried ”not caring” and not letting that stop me from living my normal life, but hearing your baby scream his heart out is tough. They say the baby will adapt to your lives, not the other way around. Yes… sure. On some level. But that’s easier said than done.
It’s very easy to compare ourselves to others, to other moms, especially now with social media. I know I did, way too much. For days I wondered how come I did not feel this comfortable and looked this happy. Everyone is different, every baby is different, every mom is different, every family is different and it’s o.k.a.y. Luckily, after 2 to 3 weeks, the baby blues went away! However, I have been struggling with this new job (and huge responsibility!), especially the first 3 months. The newborn stage is hard (to say the least). Baby doesn’t react much, they just sleep, eat and cry. Lots and lots of crying (and I did not have a colicky baby! If you do, you’re a super mama, you’re my hero). I had a hard time accepting that this new child was my only job. I had to put absolutely everything else aside for the moment. Everything that makes me ”me”. Taking care of my baby was all I did, day and night. Yes, sometimes I did get help which was great. But you’re so tired that you basically have no energy to do anything, even if you get a baby break. I would relax in the tub and go to bed early. I barely had the energy to do anything else. Some days I would wake up super motivated and think today is the day I’m going to accomplish a ton of things… but then baby would be super fussy all morning and drain all my energy and I wouldn’t get to accomplish anything that day, besides taking care of him. The day I accepted this, accepted that I had to put aside everything else, accepted that he was my only job and my only priority, I felt better. No to-do lists. No expectations. Accepting it made this job easier.
Once the newborn stage passed, mostly when he started smiling and having longer happy moments, it all changed for me. I fell in love. Some feel the connection the moment the nurse hands them their baby, some feel the connection only months (or years) down the road, and it’s okay. Doesn’t mean you’re a bad mom. After 3 months, things have been starting to get easier and easier, more predictable, more fun, and I get a bit more ”me” time! I barely got out of the house the first 3 months, but when the Holidays were over and baby J was past that newborn stage, I was on a mission to get my life back! To make this mat leave a pleasant experience and to start enjoying life again!
Here are 8 things I have tried and found helpful in order to be a HAPPY MOM! Glad to share them with you, let me know your tips in the comments too, I’d love to hear them!
1. The first 2-3 weeks – let it all out
If you feel like crying 10 times a day, that’s fine, don’t hold it in, let it out. Talk to your hubby, mom, friend, anyone! Try not to question yourself too much, don’t try to come up with solutions to everything, just let it out. Cry. Talk. Things will and do get easier after 2-3 weeks (and if it doesn’t, please seek help, it’s common. You’re not alone). Plus, remember that you just gave birth! Your body is going through so much and needs time to recover.
2. Join a Mom & Baby class (or 5)
After the first 3 months, I felt more comfortable going out alone with baby, so I signed up to a bunch of classes. I never though I would enjoy hanging out with other moms (strangers!), but I really do! Now… yes it’s a challenge to get a baby and yourself ready on time for a class. Sometimes you’ll need to wake him up from a nap because you need to head out, deal with a poop explosion when you get there, deal with a crying baby because he didn’t nap long enough before class (doing yoga while trying to put a baby to sleep is a great workout!), not look so hot because you barely had time to get dressed (forget putting makeup on), feed your baby in the middle of the class, etc. But at least you WENT! You may feel completely exhausted by the time you get home, but it’s absolutely worth it! You’ll feel so good about what you’ve accomplished. Plus, talking to other moms that are going trough similar challenges is amazing. I did mom & baby yoga classes, baby massage, story time and nursery rhymes and next is swimming classes!
3. Get dressed every morning
Staying in your pyjamas all day won’t do any good to your mood. Showering, getting dressed and taking 5 mins to put makeup on will make you feel so much better all day. Yes, you may struggle to even make that happen in the first weeks, but give it a shot!
4. Don’t Google too much – talk to other moms instead
It’s so easy to grab your phone and Google every question or concern you have about your baby. The first weeks, oh my, I must have googled 25x a day! Even in the middle of the night. I like to figure everything out and find solutions immediately so it doesn’t stress me out, but turns out it didn’t really help that much. There are so many answers and different opinions out there that it’s more confusing than anything. Plus, things change so much throughout the years. What helped me the most is talking to a couple of friends who recently had a baby & joining a supportive mom group online (my favorite by far: Convey Motherhood – A supportive place for moms).
5. Accept the help
I’ve always been the type who prefer doing things myself. I like doing things my way and sometimes I feel like it’s more draining to get help from others and to explain everything. But in this case, it’s important to accept help. Hubby or friends/family… let them do their thing. Even if it’s not exactly how you would do things, it doesn’t mean it’s wrong. Let them figure it out (as long as you’re comfortable, of course). Let people babysit while you nap or shower, let them bring or cook you food, clean your house or walk your dog. Let them do anything that can help you out. Even if it’s a 20min break, it does wonders.
6. Have some ”me time” every day
The first weeks, this consisted in having a 15min break at the end of the day to take a bath. Now, since baby goes to bed earlier at night, I get to work on a few personal things at the end of the day. I lack energy for sure, but sometimes just relaxing and only worrying about yourself can give you a bit of an energy boost! Do one thing a day for you. Paint your nails, prep a healthy snack or meal, watch a tv show, take a bath, do a face mask, etc. You’ll feel like yourself again.
7. Lower your expectations (and your to-do list)
This is one thing I did wrong the first few weeks. I would wake up in the morning with a list of things I wanted to accomplish. At the end of the day, I realized I barely got anything done on my list and it would bum me out so bad. I would say, the first 3 months, the only thing on your list should be taking care of your baby and resting when baby is resting. After that, it’ll be easier for you to accomplish things. Now he’s old enough to sit or play while I prep dinner or vacuum (I could barely get 2 mins to get dressed before, he would just cry when I would lay him down on my bed!). It gets easier, promise!
8. Enjoy the present moment and don’t worry about tomorrow
This is another thing I did wrong. I was constantly thinking and worrying about the future. Worrying about creating bad habits with baby, wondering if I’ll ever have a regular life again, worrying that I won’t be good at providing what he will need as a toddler or older child, stressing about having a 2nd child, etc.! Take it one day at a time! My friends would tell me to enjoy the newborn moments because they are so small and cute and they grow so fast. I was all ‘yeah but this is so demanding, I can’t wait for him to be able to take care of himself’! But now, I miss my tiny newborn. I’m enjoying every moment with him now, because he changes every day!
Maternity leave isn’t easy. It certainly is no vacation (hubby used to joke when I was pregnant: ”You’ll be on vacation for a year!” very funny dear). Thankfully, things are getting so much easier (and more fun!) for me every month. Still challenging every day, for sure, but I’m getting the hang of it. I hope you found this helpful. I could go on and on about this but I feel like this post should end at some point haha! It’s okay to struggle with motherhood, it doesn’t mean you’re not meant to be a mom or that you’re a bad one. It’s just difficult. You will have good and bad days. But overall, it’s the best job in the world. You’re doing great mama, keep it up!
Feel free to share your own experience in the comments, I would really love to hear about it and discuss further! Thank you so much for reading!