New mom POV: This is so much harder than I could have expected and I feel like there is something wrong with me.

motherhood new parents postpartum postpartum anxiety postpartum depression Feb 05, 2024

As a therapist that specializes in working with new moms, and a mom myself, one of the things I hear often (and experienced myself) is how much harder the transition to motherhood is than one expects. As an expectant mom you likely waited in anticipation for your baby, imagining all the amazing moments you would have from birth onward. Visions of a beautiful birth, baby snuggles, falling in love even more with your partner as you watch them as a parent, and feeling that newborn bliss….

And then bam. You’re hit with the hard stuff. Reality may feel different from what you were expecting. Whether it’s a traumatic birth or birth that just didn’t go as planned, breastfeeding not going how you expected, feeling the crushing weight of sleep deprivation, feeling disconnected from yourself and/or your partner, experiencing postpartum depression or anxiety, or something else, it’s not always rainbows and butterflies like you were expecting. And this can feel devastating.

This can leave you feeling alone, guilty, helpless, and scared. You may feel like you are the only one feeling like this. You may be worried you’ll never feel like yourself again. You may feel scared of the changes in your identity and relationship. And you might feel like there is something wrong with you or feel so bad for feeling this way. You might be thinking “I am supposed to be soaking this all up, what is wrong with me?”

I know this all can sound like a lot and very doom and gloom. We’ll I’m here to spread some truth, dispel some myths, and share some hope with you. You can come out on the other side! The truth is that it’s not always being a mom that’s hard, it’s all the other stuff. You can love being a mom and have challenges with all the changes and stresses that come along with welcoming a baby and the pressure to do it all, on top of trying to crush mom life. It’s daunting and unrealistic! Let’s also be real that sometimes the job of motherhood IS hard (for example sleepless nights, trying to soothe a crying baby to no avail, caring for a sick baby, not having alone time etc.) That is valid and does not make you a bad mom. So let’s dig in to why the transition to motherhood (and motherhood itself) can feel harder than you expected.

  1. Unrealistic Expectations: One of the primary reasons new moms may find motherhood challenging is the presence of unrealistic expectations. Society often paints a picture of blissful motherhood, with images of serene mamas effortlessly handling everything and we often times internalize these messages or have unrealistic expectations of ourselves because we are high-achievers, deeply feeling, and sensitive. However, the reality is that every mom’s journey is unique, and it's okay not to have it all figured out from day on None of us do and we are constantly learning and evolving. You will face challenges. This is all to be expected and says nothing about your worth as a mom.
  2. Societal messages and pressures on new moms: You are a supermom! You can (and should) do it all. Enjoy every minute and soak it all up because it goes by so fast. You should be grateful. This is what you wanted, why are you complaining?... These are just a few of the indirect and direct messages mom’s receive. It’s no wonder you feel guilt, shame, self-doubt, and like you are a failure! These messages are harming moms and creating a myth of perfection. Be aware of these messages and know that you can push back!
  3. The Myth of Perfection: Many new moms feel pressured to be the "perfect" mom, juggling multiple roles flawlessly. As a therapist, I encourage you to let go of the myth of perfection. Motherhood is a learning process, and making mistakes is a natural part of the journey. Embrace the imperfections, and remember that your love and effort are what truly matter.
  4. Sleep Deprivation: The challenges of sleepless nights and exhaustion can be overwhelming for new moms. Lack of sleep not only affects physical well-being but can also impact emotional resilience and impact our mental health. It's crucial to prioritize self-care, sleep, and rest and seek support when needed. Remember, asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness.
  5. Shifting Identities: Becoming a mom involves a significant shift in identity. You are no longer just an individual; you are a mom with new responsibilities and priorities. But you are also still more than just a mom. This adjustment can be both beautiful and challenging. It's important to acknowledge and process these changes, allowing yourself the time and space to navigate your evolving identity and grieve the changes that have occurred. Over time you will rediscover, and discover for the first time, who you are with all of your identities, however this will take time. It’s not uncommon for moms to say it took them a year or two postpartum to really figure out who they are, what they want, and what they need.
  6. Changes in your relationship: One minute it’s just the two of you, cuddling on the couch, going on date nights and spontaneous trips and then overnight that changes when baby arrives. You may have envisioned growing closer to your partner during this time, however often times it’s the opposite. You may feel distant, just like roommates, or feel annoyed with your partner. You may also feel resentment towards your partner for how much your life has changed and feeling as if there’s has not as much, or for being the default parent. We know this feels bad and you can worry your relationship is doomed. I am here to tell you you can adjust as a couple, remember to extend grace to yourself and your partner, and identify one small step you can take to work on building your connection. 
  7. Comparison Trap: In the age of social media, it's easy to fall into the comparison trap. Seeing other mamas seemingly having it all together can leave you feeling inadequate. Remember that social media often showcases highlight reels, not the full picture. Your journey is unique, and comparing yourself to others is counterproductive. Embrace your own pace and progress.
  8. Mental Health Considerations: Struggling with postpartum depression (PPD) or another perinatal mood or anxiety disorder, or having a family history of mental health concerns can significantly impact the transition to motherhood. Experiencing a traumatic birth or past trauma can lead to struggles postpartum. It's essential to prioritize mental health and seek professional support if needed. You may not necessarily feel depressed or anxious, instead you may be feeling not like yourself, irritable, angry, overwhelmed often, etc. Be sure to check out our other blogs with more info on the real symptoms of PPD and PPA. Remember, reaching out for help is a courageous step towards ensuring your well-being and creating a healthy environment for both you and your baby.
  9. Health challenges for you and or baby: If you or your baby are experiencing any medical challenges or health concerns, or you have a baby in the NICU this is an added stress that can cause turmoil and disruption. This can also impact your ability to function, care for yourself, or care for your baby. It can be helpful to get support from other mamas that have been there too. Look for a support group to join to meet with other's who can relate or find a therapist you can work with 1:1. 
  10. Lack of support: Not all of us have support. And not all support is created equal. Sometimes we don’t perceive the help or support we have as helpful because it is not actually meeting the needs that we have. If you are socially isolated or don’t have family or friends around to come help you and check in on you this can make the transition to motherhood feel that much more overwhelming and isolating. We’ve all heard it takes a village to raise a child, however many of us are left with no village. Know that it can take time to figure out who your supports are and figure out what help you need and how to ask for it. 

To all the new moms out there that can relate to any of this, know that you are not alone in finding motherhood more challenging than expected. There is nothing wrong with you and you are not failing. As a therapist, I encourage you to be kind to yourself, embrace the imperfections, and seek support when needed. Motherhood is a journey filled with highs and lows, and it's the combination of both that makes it a truly transformative experience. You've got this, and remember, it's okay not to have all the answers – you're learning and growing every day, and none of us were meant to do this alone.

 If you’re wanting the tools and strategies to build confidence and feel like you again, we got you! Check out our course The Roadmap to Parenthood and enroll today here


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