If you feel like you’re struggling to adjust to the seemingly instant changes that birthing a human can bring, don’t worry, you’re not alone.
Motherhood is one of the biggest, if not the biggest, transitions that a woman will experience in her lifetime. It can, at times, feel like you’re even losing your identity of who you were before the little ones came along. Keep reading to learn more about the three phases for adjusting to motherhood.
The struggle of adjusting to motherhood
1. Becoming a mother
There are the physical changes we undergo as we become a mother, where our bodies become shared spaces.
- Our organs rearrange themselves to make room for a baby.
- Nausea, aches, pains that didn’t exist before show up.
- Our breasts start making and leaking milk.
- We can no longer eat or drink things we may want
- Our pelvises and cervixes expand.
- For some, our abdomens are cut open for our babies to be born.
During and after pregnancy, there are mental shifts where our brains adapt and rewire to hyperfocus on what our babies need. It’s considered the cause of the “mommy brain” phenomena leading to brain fog, limited short-term memory, for us to have more brain capacity to take care of our babies.
For me, the above changes and shifts were what I could describe as fine. Some physical parts were less tolerable than others, such as nausea that showed up nightly for an extended period, sleeping difficulties, and the reduced coffee intake.
The mental shifts made sense to me as well. From an evolutionary standpoint, our brains want to keep our babies safe, not that I particularly enjoy asking my husband to repeat himself multiple times or forgetting things as often as I do.
2. Stuck as a mother
Then there were the parts I wasn’t prepared for, like when I felt so, so alone, even when surrounded by people or while holding my son. This left me feeling crazily confused and disconnected. How could I feel alone when holding my son, this amazing sweet being that I always wanted?
Read next: Feeling Lonely As a New Mother? Steps to Overcome
As I’ve thought more about it, the consistent presence of people outside of my household was temporary. I found myself alone, trying to do something I had never done before.
I had – and still have – my husband. He has been amazing and learning right alongside me. As a mother and a woman, I felt enormous pressure to do everything the way it “should” be done.
I found myself becoming stuck in recurring cycles of anxiousness.
I felt sad I wasn’t the mother I wanted to be; shame about feeling disconnected; frustrated, then mad at myself for being frustrated. I was trying to control his responses to my attempts at mothering, and I couldn’t. It wasn’t enjoyable. I had moments where I didn’t want to be a mother.
This couldn’t be what motherhood was.
Figuring it all out felt impossible. Honestly, a lot of these thoughts and feelings still arise. But when caught in my own cycles of shame and guilt, I was less present for my son than when I was actively trying and making perceived wrong choices. I had to find a way to be mindful of what was coming up for me, then do my best to be present with him.
3. Evolving as a mother
In motherhood, I’ve probably offered myself more kindness than I have ever. I’ve let myself feel more feelings than ever. I’ve had to learn that it’s okay not to be okay.
That I don’t have to be the “perfect” mother. I can be good enough.
That’s the piece that has been the absolute hardest. The fact that I had to focus on me – and my thoughts, feelings, and experiences – when all I thought I needed to do was focus on him.
To be present, I’ve had to become more aware of myself. I’m challenged daily to unlearn my old patterns and to learn new ones. This includes being kind to myself, letting myself feel what I feel as it shows up.
There can rougher days with moments of overwhelm and agitation, and I can still experience joy. I can feel multiple feelings and emotions at once. I probably won’t figure it all out now or maybe ever. I’m constantly figuring things out.
Final thoughts on adjusting to motherhood
All this to say, there are so many moving parts to becoming a mother. Physical, mental, and psychological parts that impact everyone in different ways, in big ways.
Our bodies become less of our own, our brains forget things, and we have to adjust constantly as our babies are forever changing. Then we have to tune into ourselves. As mothers, we are forever learning, forever adapting.
Change is hard. Motherhood is change. Motherhood is hard. So not just for me, but for all you other mothers out there too – it’s okay not to be okay.
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Kelsey is a mother and a licensed professional counselor specializing in perinatal and maternal mental health. She founded the private therapy practice, Like A Mother, to provide support to women on their transitions into motherhood. She hopes to help mothers to (re)discover themselves, foster self-love, and find their innate resilience.