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What No One Told Me About Motherhood
The first parenting shock: They let you take the baby home. Like, without supervision. Only then do the real surprises unfold. Here's what readers told us was most unexpected for them as they embraced this whole mama thing.
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After I gave birth to my son, what surprised me most was how much I needed my mom. I expected to want her to visit and to get to know her new grandson but I never anticipated how much I would want her to take care of me. Despite my partner's good efforts and best intentions, nobody was able to take care of me as well as she did. My mom cooked me three meals a day and cared for my every need. As a result, I was able to focus all my attention and energy on my new role as a mom.
—Jordana in MA, mom to Lucian
I had no idea that the nature-nurture balance of was tipped so heavily toward NATURE. My two children couldn't be more different from each other; their differences were readily apparent the moment each one arrived. Parenting my kids requires completely different approaches, which has caused me to open my eyes to differences all around me.
—Asha in OR, mom to Mimi and Luke
From the moment I saw my daughter's brand new face—neither mine, nor her father's—I realized she was her own new person and always would be. It's a strange thing to create this person and carry them inside you and provide for their every need, and then watch them turn up their nose at your best cooking and say, "No hugs!" I love watching my 18-month-old develop her own preferences and ideas about the world, but it somehow never fails to shock me when she does.
—Kylie in IA, mom to Beatrix
It's amazing how "dirty" is relative now. Before becoming a mom, I'd Purell my hands after touching a doorknob, now I can handle having poo and pee on my hands and clothes and not bat an eyelash!
—Yuzhi in NY, mom to Ellie
No one told me that it was possible to not produce enough breast milk, despite my best efforts and that supplementing with formula would not make me a bad mother. No one told me that this happens to women often, actually, and that my bond with my daughter would not suffer because I had to bottle feed her, too.
Finally, thanks to loving words of wisdom from real-life mamas around me, I made peace with the situation. And just in time, too, because my daughter is extraordinary. I'm so glad I didn't waste any more time judging myself.
—Heather in IA, mom to Hazel
No one had ever told me that when I had to dig down deep and be the strongest advocate for my daughter while being her greatest source of comfort, I WOULD. Every parent should know that there is NOTHING you can't do when you have to.
—Anissa in GA, mom to Peyton, Rachael and Nathaniel
I was surprised that parenting was easier than I thought it would be. We hear such horror stories of the lack of sleep, no time for friends, the messy diapers and the temper tantrums, but it really wasn't that stressful (at least the first year)! I think babies react to your energy so if you're happy, relaxed and calm then your baby will be, too. Knock on wood!
—Susan in NY, mom to Trevor
What no one ever told me was how much I could learn about myself from my own kids. I've realized that being a mom and needing to give up myself in the process, as I was told, is not true; my children have showed me that my overall happiness makes them happy too. These adventurous, curious little people have complemented my life and helped me become a more fun person. I worry more, plan more and sleep less, but I am also happier and more excited about the world because I get to see it through my kids' eyes, and I can't think of any other moment in my life when it all looked so beautiful.
—Carol in NY, mom to David, Liam and Aidan
I didn't realize how silly I'd be. I'm normally pretty reserved. But whenever I'm with my little guy, I'm constantly talking, singing and making goofy faces and sounds. It's hard to say which of us enjoys it more!
—Julie in IL, mom to Collin
Being a Type A multi-tasker, I thought being a supermom would be easy. But after a couple weeks of crankiness, fatigue and frustration, I realized I couldn't go to work, exercise, cook, clean and take care of my baby every single day. Splitting up more duties with my husband and giving up something on my agenda every day saved me mentally and physically!
—Rajasree in MN, mom to Maya
Until the birth of my daughter I didn't know how great it could feel to let go of the many things I felt I needed to control. I knew my life would change when I became a mother but I didn't know that most of my planning was basically pointless because the baby dictates how things will go (at least the first 2 to 3 months).
Embracing the go-with-the-flow attitude and trying not to predict and plan everything turned out to be liberating, and I'm happier being flexible rather than stressing when something doesn't go as planned.
—Jessika in NY, mom to Courtney
I had no idea that Noah's birth meant the death of the old me. Birth is not always easy. It can be painful and messy and somewhere in the middle of it all, I lost myself. It took a year to find my own ground again. I never knew that I could love someone so much and simultaneously be in such a crisis of self. My grandmother said, "You must first mother the mother." And that's what I did while also mothering my infant son. By the time we celebrated his first birthday, I knew what it was to be his mother. For a long time during that first year, I was trying to discover it as I went.
—Liz in MA, mom to Haliyah and Noah
The most surprising thing for me was learning how quickly you can see that strong and independent personality. My son required a lot of extra NICU-brand TLC when he was born. He didn't notice any pain, nor any discomfort. He was just hungry! And he made sure we were all in the know on that one!
—Wendy in NJ, mom to Max
No one told me that I would learn more from my children than I would teach them regarding how to approach life. (Almost) every day, my two sons wake up happy and excited to see what is in store for the rest of the day and most days when I ask them what was their favorite part of the day, their answer is "everything." I love that and try to imitate their life view!
—Kimberly in NY, mom to Michael and Sean
What surprised me most about parenting? That it would bring my husband and I closer together. I know that might sound like a no-brainer, but everyone had told me to prepare for not having time for ourselves and for our relationship after the baby. I was worried that somehow the lack of sleep, extra stress, etc. would be a challenge to our relationship. And while in some ways that can be true, I have found co-parenting has made us an even greater team. We share responsibilities, collaborate on problem solving, celebrate each other's achievements and talk about the amazing love we share for our son. I'd say we're closer than ever.
—Kellie in IL, mom to Camden
I was most surprised by how much I realized my mom loved me. We have always been really close, but it wasn't until I held Tommy in my arms for the first time that I understood her love because I felt it towards him. Since he was born, I have made sure to let my mom know how much she means to me as well. Not only have I felt an increase in love with my son, but I've also felt a stronger connection to my mom.
—Jessi in MO, mom to Tommy
My biggest surprise after giving birth to Nolan was the incredible bond I felt toward him. I didn't realize I had such a huge capacity to love another person until I met my son. It was actually quite overwhelming.
—Megan in MN, mom to Nolan
After the birth of my first child, I quickly learned that parenting advice is not one-size-fits-all. Oftentimes the best solution is a combination of tips, instead of just one particular tactic, that you've collected from experienced parents. It is important to remember that parenting is trial and error, so don't be afraid to make mistakes!
—Deirdre in NJ, mom to Maren and Sullivan
What surprised me the most about becoming a parent was that I trusted myself. Like a steadfast mother cat, hauling her kitten confidently to a safer place by the scruff of his neck, I somehow seemed to know what to do with each baby, each time. I never did end up looking at a book and I've never second-guessed anything I did upon instinct. My babies were almost always happy, and so was I.
—Carol in MA, mom to Maeve, Fiona, Aoife, Liam and Charlotte
My first child was a boy and my second was a girl. Before I became a mom of two, no one told me how truly different raising boys and girls (any child frankly) can be. They also forgot to tell me girls can shoot tinkle just as far as boys during a diaper change. One lesson (among many) learned the messy way!
—Katie in IA, mom to Thomas and Lucy
No one told me that I'd doubt my own mom-abilities every step of the way. That I, someone who always had the answers or problem-solving brainstorms, would be left questioning the most natural of things like eating, sleeping and pooping.
No one told me I would develop a "vocal mama-bear complex." Unafraid to tell people to check themselves—from getting too close to me when pregnant in the supermarket to telling teenagers to stop making obnoxious noise around my sleeping baby stroller.
No one told me being a good mom means using every trick up your sleeve—that my new iPhone would spend most of the day playing Baby Einstein or white noise in the crib or play area instead of in my hand doing email or Facebook.
No one told me that getting to be a mom would be work—that I'd spend my twenties trying not to get pregnant and my thirties learning just how hard it would be to get pregnant.
No one told me that one child would mean so much to so many of my family and friends. That being a mom is not just a gift for me but a gift that I share and others celebrate with me.
No one told me that I couldn't be a mom, though I lost faith in myself. And no one told me that being a great mom is something that you only do well when you let others help you believe in yourself even when you can't.
—Shena in FL, mom to Emma
I was determined to let intuition guide my parenting decisions. Getting and then staying pregnant had been difficult, but as my due date approached I was certain I'd ultimately feel grounded in my role as a mom—I'd be a natural, of course. I'd innately know the most appropriate ways to care for my babe.
Silly mama. My first few months with my son were wrought with merciless feelings of insecurity and self-doubt. Terrified of making the "wrong" choice for the baby and my family, I scoured books and websites and polled fellow moms; I let what "experts" say trump what felt right to me, then scolded myself harshly for not already knowing the answers.
After nearly a year in this job, I can I say that I'm finally able to recognize—let alone trust—my own intuition as a mom. Only now do I know that it's OK for parenting confidence to be fluid. I wish I'd been easier on myself in those early, wild days.
—Lexi in MA, mom to Arlo