If you are a parent, chances are you remember how difficult those early days were after you brought your baby home. Those first few weeks can be especially tough on parents with their first child.
For a new mom, it’s the time when your body isn’t wholly your own, when you are sleep deprived and so utterly exhausted that it seems to take an entire day just to make sure the baby is fed, changed and rested. Forget about taking a shower or actually cooking a meal. The first weeks require survival mode. Sure, there’s light at the end of the tunnel. Babies get older and ultimately easier. Life settles into a routine.
But for new moms, it can take months, if not years, to completely feel like a normal human again.
Just a few hours after we brought our first child home from the hospital, I realized that motherhood was much more difficult than I ever thought it might be.
The first day, shortly after we walked our daughter over the threshold of the house, we were hosting not only my brother-in-law and sister-in-law and their two kids from Georgia, but also entertaining a small crowd of about eight close friends, all of whom were childless and wanted to see us and our little girl.
In theory, a “Welcome home” party at my house seemed like a great idea. But that was before I gave birth and had almost zero sleep for three days straight while I tried to learn how to breastfeed and soothe a very hungry newborn. My milk took forever to come in. Our infant daughter screamed out in hunger. She turned more jaundiced by the day and she was losing weight.
And everyone, including people who had never even held a baby, had advice on what to do.
It was about an hour into our “Welcome home” party that I snuck away into the nursery with my newborn baby girl, sat in the glider in her room and bawled. We had so many people wanting to congratulate us and see our baby, family members who were scheduled for up to two weeks of coming to “help” us with the baby and yet I couldn’t feel anything but overwhelmed.
The next day we had an appointment with the lactation consultant, who gave us advice that I now feel is worth its weight in gold: She said to go home and cancel with the next family scheduled to come visit. We should do nothing but huddle together - my husband, our baby girl and me - and enjoy our time together as we got to know our daughter.
She told us not to worry about cooking, we could order in. Don’t worry about dishes, eat on paper plates if you have to, she told us. We should not go anywhere that we didn’t have to and we didn’t have to do anything social if we didn’t feel like it. We needed the time at home.
And so we did. We pushed back visits from our mothers for a couple weeks. We told friends we needed the time to ourselves. And although I didn’t feel like my “pre-baby” self until months later, taking the first two weeks to ourselves and our baby in our home was exactly what I needed at the time.
I couldn’t help but empathize recently with new mom Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex, when she teared up in an interview after a reporter asked her how she was doing with the media attention and a new baby.
“Look, any woman, especially when they are pregnant, you’re really vulnerable and so that was made really challenging,” the duchess told the reporter from ITV. “And then when you have a newborn - you know ... especially as a woman, it’s a lot. So you add this (media attention) on top of just trying to be a new mum or trying to be a newlywed it’s, well ...”
Both Meghan and her husband, Prince Harry, have been scrutinized in the British press this year.
“Thank you for asking because not many people have asked if I’m OK, but it’s a very real thing to be going through behind the scenes,” Markle added.
I couldn’t help but be thankful for the duchess’ candor about motherhood. While not many women will ever be in her shoes, it shows that being a new mom is never easy. It’s important to own up to that fact, because it helps other new moms realize that they aren’t alone.
Lydia Seabol Avant writes The Mom Stop for The Tuscaloosa News in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.