When I was pregnant with my daughter, I was preparing myself for two things. One, childbirth (something that has petrified me of my whole life) and two, making sure we had all the ‘things’ we needed for a newborn. What I wasn’t preparing for was my emotional transition to motherhood. I would soon find out that one of the hardest parts of having a baby was experiencing such a sudden shift in my identity on the day my daughter was born.
The first few months of motherhood are hard. Not only are you physically recovering from childbirth, coping with lack of sleep, and dealing with a rollercoaster of hormones, but also, you are in a constant emotional tug of war. Human babies are uniquely dependent on their mothers for survival. It is that necessity and an unimaginable amount of love for your child that is constantly pulling you towards your baby. And what you’re pushing away is – your work, your hobbies, your friends– your –your entire prior identity.
My world changed overnight. Many parts of my life were put on pause while everyone else carried on. Although I understood that it’s a natural progression and something most women have to grapple with, it was a challenging ambivalence to live with. I loved so many parts of being a mom, but I missed so many things about my old self and life.
There are a lot of things that got me through the first few rough months of motherhood, but the one thing that I least expected proved to be the most instrumental– having a community of other new moms for support.
My husband and I joined a local National Childbirth Trust (NCT) group hoping to learn how to change diapers, swaddle, burp a baby, and other practical skills we thought we’d need. There were 7 couples in our group, all to-be first-time parents. Throughout the course, our instructor kept emphasizing that we should start a WhatsApp group, hang out after the classes, and get to know one another. We were all so wrapped up in our own lives, work, travel, etc. that we must have begrudgingly met at the local pub once or twice during the course. That was until, in a span of a few weeks, all our lives changed forever. We all embarked on the journey of parenthood.
These women, also new moms, may not have known the old me that well, but they understood the new me. When I met them just a few weeks ago, they too had their interesting lives, passions, and hobbies. And now, here they are just like me: sleep deprived, thrown into the trenches of motherhood, obsessing about burps and feeds, and investigating everything their babies do. They understood how I felt, they could relate, and they could provide support. When I was with them, it didn’t feel like the whole world was passing me by while my life was put on hold. It felt like we were conquering something together. Once practically strangers, we were making a huge transition in our life, together. I’m grateful and fortunate to have had a sense of community and friendship through that life-changing time in my life.
The one piece of advice that I like to give all expecting mothers emerges from the one thing that I think truly got me through that transition: having the friendship of other new moms. As difficult as the physical aspects of childbirth, postpartum recovery, breastfeeding are, most moms have usually prepared themselves for it, either through reading or speaking to others. However, the transition takes an equal, if not more of a toll on you socially and emotionally too. So, I would advise you to invest time and find your community. You won’t regret it.