Let me start this blog off by saying that motherhood is the greatest blessing of my life. None of my feelings of inadequacy, stress, or anxiety take away from the miracle that is my son; they are all parts of the journey. The life in his bright eyes and the joy in his smile are worth everything and anything that I could imagine.
All that said, motherhood is also the hardest thing that I have ever experienced, and its challenges morph and change each day. It’s very easy to feel overwhelmed about your baby’s sleep, development, and health. Ember had a rash a few weeks ago, and I think I lost even more hair than I usually do for a couple of days (thank you postpartum hair loss). Bloggers, family members, and the media in general provide parenting advice that is oftentimes contradictory. If one set of people thinks you are making the right decisions on how to raise your child, there are probably multiple sets that think you are doing it all wrong. I found myself looking at things with an “I should do x” or “I am supposed to do y” attitude, and it started to weigh me down. I kept asking questions like “if blogger so and so can get their baby to sleep for 12 hours straight, then why can’t I?” or “how on Earth should I introduce foods?”. You get the point.
About 3 weeks ago now, I felt like I hit a new level of mom anxiety and stress. I hadn’t slept for more than 2 hours at a time in weeks; My eyes were glossy, and my heart was heavy. Our “routine”, or lack thereof, started to feel unsustainable. I had never been committed enough to go through the hard work of defining a schedule of sleeping and feeding for Ember. Each day was vastly different, and while that may work for some families, it felt like the lack of structure was actually eating away our freedom.
Thankfully, I have the bestest mama in the whole world and that on one of my lowest days, she was at my house watching Ember. I clocked out from work so that we could all go on a walk together, and the warmth of the sunshine set off the spark in me to unload all of my thoughts on to my mother. I tried to hold in the tears until we got home, but that afternoon I cried and cried (and then cried some more); it felt wonderful. She helped me think logically and proactively to design a schedule that would better fit our family. Just because you are a mama, it doesn’t mean that you don’t sometimes need to be held by your mama as well. By the end of the day, I felt confidence that I hadn’t felt in months, and I had the drive to try something new. Since then, I honestly feel that life has never been sweeter. Ember is happier with a sense of routine, and I’ve paid more attention to myself and my husband as well.
At the end of the day, my son is such a wonderful baby; his smile and giggle light up the whole room. Even though I feel like I’m winging it as I go, he has hit every developmental milestone so far, and boy does he have energy. I’ve realized that no one knows my son better than I do, and I shouldn’t feel pressured to do something that doesn’t feel right for the both of us. On the flip side, I’ve learned that it’s possible to start something new if what I’ve been doing stops working.
The point of this blog isn’t to ask for sympathy or complain about motherhood. Rather, I just want to relay how important it is to take care of yourself and trust that you know what is best for your baby more than anyone else. It’s okay to be overwhelmed (motherhood is overwhelming), but there are ways to make it better. Being a mom is even more amazing when you have the energy and headspace to be your best self for your child. I play harder, have more patience, and enjoy the sweet moments now more than ever. So, what are some ways to avoid feeling overwhelmed? The following tips helped and continue to help me. Maybe they will help you too.
1. Talk it out: If you’re like me, I tend to blow my anxieties out of proportion when I keep them to myself. Sometimes we need a voice of reason to reel us back in, and sometimes simply vocalizing thoughts can bring peace.
2. Ask for help: Even my introverted self has to admit that we are social creatures. There is strength in numbers, multiple perspectives, and varied life experiences. Don’t waste the opportunity to connect with someone who can help and who has maybe gone through what you are going through as well. Talking with other new moms has been a game changer for me, as all of their advice is fresh.
3. Rest: While sometimes it’s out of our control as mamas, finding sleep and rest when possible is super important. I found that when I started sleeping even a tad bit longer in a stretch, my emotions became easier to control. Life is so much harder when you are running on empty. Pair this tip up with asking for help, and get someone to give you the opportunity to nap or stare into space.
4. Cuddle your baby: There is probably some biological explanation, but it just feels good to hold your baby close. In those moments, everything is okay. I can feel that I’m a good mama in my bones when he is close.
5. Don’t be ashamed to cry: I’m sure this is biological too, but sometimes it feels so good to cry. I am way less likely to project my negativity onto others through being cranky or angry if I let my guard down and be real. It’s going to come out eventually, so why not choose the time and place.
6. Read up: Look into reputable resources about parenting or talk to those you trust. Research and a solid network will keep you from being swayed into believing anything that you hear about parenting.
7. Try new things if something doesn’t feel right or isn’t working: Just like we know what is best for our babies, we need to admit when something isn’t working. There is no shame in starting something new, trying different methods, or doing something that you thought you’d never do before. Motherhood is an ever changing journey, and you never know where you’re going to end up. Be flexible, and be honest if something you thought you believed in changes. For example, when I first got pregnant, I thought I would never use a pacifier: however, Ember loves it, and I don’t feel ashamed for changing my mind one bit.
8. Do yoga: We breathe all day long, but breathing during yoga hits different. Even a simple 10 minute yoga session on YouTube has the power to relax my body and reframe my day.
All in all, give yourself grace. Feeling anxious and overwhelmed doesn’t make you a bad mom. It means you care, and your baby will be thankful someday for all of the thought you put into making sure that they thrive. I’ve found that motherhood is such a raw, emotional experience. I feel so much more, and I’m more in tune with what it means to live. That can be really stressful, but I can’t think of anything much more beautiful in the purest sense. I am a mother. I get to watch life blossom in my son, and I want him to see life blossom in me too.