Maybe this wasn't a good idea: giving yourself grace as a new mom
“There will come a time when you’ll wonder what you got yourself into. And that is totally ok and normal. I still do sometimes and my kids are teenagers.” I remember the first time my midwife said this. My husband and I were there for a checkup relatively early in my pregnancy and I nodded along. Of course, I agreed, having a baby is a huge life change and it’s totally normal and healthy to grieve for what you could have had with a different choice. It seemed so logical and normal. My midwife said versions of this statement multiple times during the course of my pregnancy. “You’ll ask yourselves why did we have kids?” “You may have feelings of regret and that is ok!”
Fast-forward 9 months, my son is 8 weeks old and it’s 3:30 in the morning. We are awake and he is nursing for probably the third time that night. I haven’t slept for more than 3 hours straight since he was born and in an effort to get him sleeping on his own and avoid reflux, I’ve taken to holding him upright for at least 20 minutes after he falls asleep. My whole body aches from exhaustion, a feeling any new mom knows too well. I’m deliriously sitting up in bed and this baby isn’t falling back asleep, meanwhile my husband is sleeping soundly on the other side of the bed. A little voice inside my head said "maybe this wasn’t a good idea;" And with that thought came a wave of guilt and shame as I held my baby who I loved more than anything. How could I regret having him, even for one second?
This was a really tough moment to face as new mom. When the sun came up a few hours later I was still feeling bad for my 3 am thoughts. I thought back to my midwife’s comments and tried to give myself a break. Three to five am are dark hours as a new mom, it’s the hardest time to be awake on your own, knowing the morning is coming so soon but you aren't sleeping. I can only imagine how much worse I would have felt if no one had warned me that this was normal. Later in the day I went to a post-natal yoga class (tip for postpartum: find something to do each day of maternity leave to get you out of the house!) and shared how I had felt that morning. Everyone else nodded: totally normal, they had been there too, and I felt a lot better.
Having a new baby is hard: sleep deprivation, hormones all over the place, and keeping a baby alive with your body if you are nursing. On top of those things you’ll have the assumption from everyone around you (including comments from strangers) that you must be so happy and in love. Babies grow up and it gets easier, but when it is your first baby you can’t visualize that, all you can see are the sleepless nights and constant needs as your new normal. What I learned starting at 3:30 am that night is it is possible and even normal to love your baby so much your heart hurts looking at them, but also wonder about the what ifs. I’m so grateful my midwife prepared me for those feelings and if you’re pregnant or a new mom, tuck this reminder away for the moment when things feel especially tough.