“Giving birth is a little more than a set of muscular contractions granting passage of a child. Then the mother is born.” – Erma Bombeck
Dear New Mama,
I am definitely not the person who will give the most practical advice on motherhood. I actually prefer not to give ANY advice on motherhood since being initiated into this tribe. What I’m sharing are my lessons from the past 1112 days of motherhood which I would have wanted as a new mama in the early weeks of this lifelong journey. They are lessons of self compassion, self care, realistic expectations, breathing room, and all of the other things which feel compromised with the additional responsibility that comes when bringing new life into the world. When I went into labor the first time, I packed a hospital bag as my water broke forgetting slippers, a robe, and a welcome home outfit for my soon-to-arrive baby boy. Instead I packed like I was going on a writing retreat with journals, meditation CDs, and books (“for some light reading”) during labor and our hospital stay. I thought my maternity leave was going to be a 12-week sabbatical when I finally had a chance to write a book while my baby napped on cue. (Every new mama feel free to laugh here at my unrealistic expectations).
You would think I learned my lesson when my second child arrived a few years later. I adjusted my expectations, but had not completely surrendered myself to the intense transition of new motherhood. I left the books at home, and this time came to the hospital with coloring books, colored pencils, and crystals intending to create a birth mandala while laboring (yes, this really happened!) Don’t underestimate the powers of a creative creating mama.
As a woman with a love for creativity and motherhood, I struggled with how I could have it all and not lose myself and my creativity in the process. I devoured anything I could get my hands on about new moms who were living their passions to find balance between both worlds. Now I’m a few years into my motherhood journey. We just celebrated my daughter’s 1st birthday last week, and sadly the feeling of new motherhood is fading away. This is what I wished I told myself about 1100 days ago…
1. Don’t stress about the baby book if you keep a journal. Write in it during those free minutes. Don’t worry if it’s not first thing in the morning anymore – just do it when you can. Other than bonding and caring for your newborn, this is a huge creative feat. You will write more than just your child’s first tooth and date – you will write about the experience of teething, the faces your child makes when he dreams, and the scent and soft breath of your baby curled perfectly on your shoulder after a feeding. You will look back and rediscover who you and your child were becoming, what your thoughts and fears were as a new mom, and the moments will seem like a lifetime ago a year from today (I promise!). One month after my daughter’s birth, I told a writing friend I wasn’t writing enough. She shared there was a season for sensualizing and a season for synthesizing. New mamahood is an entirely sensual season. Allow the moments to soak into your soul for all future synthesizing.
2. When it comes to reading, for the love of God – don’t choose your maternity leave to read something like Angela’s Ashes (or any other story about starving babies and/or babies dying). I was consumed by this book (not in a good way), and shared I was reading it with my coach who suggested I switch gears and read Anne Lamott’s Operating Instructions instead. (One of my best pieces of advice my whole maternity leave.)
3. Read Operating Instructions if you haven’t yet. This is the book I recommend to every first time mom. This was medicine for my soul and I began looking forward to my 2 am and 5 am feedings because of this book. Seriously. (If you connect with me, I’ll give you my other recommendations since I obsessed over what to read my second time around, but Operating Instructions is still my favorite for new moms. And remember… NO Angela’s Ashes!)
4. Guard your time. In my second month of motherhood, I was invited by friends to three different activities/time commitments which totally didn’t speak to me now that I was home with a baby. Becoming a mother made me recognize my boundaries. If something is not an all-encompassing “YES!” then it’s a no. Your time is sacred.
5. Allow yourself to rest. Rest (or write) when the baby rests. Appreciate yourself. Acknowledge how far you’ve come and all that you’ve learned. And if you’re still trying to figure out what that is – doodle all of the things you didn’t know pre-motherhood, and you would probably have a very entertaining book! Allow yourself to move. Ask your body what it needs in the moment. Is your body craving some hot yoga after a 1-year hiatus? I was amazed by muscle memory and sensations in my post-pregnancy body. Walks were my sanity during witching hours and nap revolts (they still are). Experiment on your walks between strollers, carriers, wraps, etc. for a change of position and perspective.
6. Nourish yourself. Eat good foods. When people ask if they can bring food; say yes. I began making quiches during new motherhood because I could eat them for breakfast, lunch, or dinner; freeze them, and feel like I had a meal at my fingertips. If you are not a new mom but have found this post, and you know a new mom: offer to visit, hold the baby, and come with food. Or even better, come with food and her favorite coffee drink and she will probably think you are the most thoughtful person alive.
7. If you thought your maternity leave was meant to be a sabbatical when you could write a book/tackle another creative/entrepreneurial endeavor/figure out the rest of your life – be extra gentle. Give yourself permission to only do what makes your heart sing. If writing lights you up, write. But if you feel like you SHOULD be doing something because this is “free time” – stop yourself for a second. Have you truly had free time since this little person arrived? Let me rephrase that: did you shower today? (And if you did and you didn’t get a chance to do it until late in the afternoon – acknowledge that is because you didn’t have any free time until then.) Then give yourself a break.
8. Some people are going to tell you not to write/create/etc. at all and just ENJOY your baby. This didn’t work for me either. Find your happy medium and don’t compare yourself to other moms. Sometimes I felt like a failure when I read about moms doing everything, but life isn’t either/or with our passions. A week after my daughter was born, I attended a few short writing workshops as part of a writing festival in my town. I probably would not have been up for a full day/weekend of it, but a few hours really invigorated me. I’ve been in a virtual writing group and mastermind group for the past two years. My groups were so important because I had just moved cross country, and my connections held my creative visions when the haziness of new motherhood set it. (P.S. A week after my son arrived, I cried for 24 hours straight and had a major mama-meltdown during his first bath).
9. Forgive yourself daily. This has become a consistent practice over my past 3.5 years of motherhood. Two months into my new-motherhood journey I forgave myself for… not doing more during my maternity, not having Christmas shopping done, not writing more, not losing more weight, not saving more or having less debt, not thanking people for baby gifts at a faster speed, etc.
10. Find community or build a community you love. I was blessed to share my first maternity leave with good friends and their new bundles of love. I didn’t necessarily need or want a new mom’s group at that time. My second maternity leave was different. We moved from New Jersey to California when I was 31 weeks pregnant. I found community at a local resource center for moms which has become my lifeline. Connection is such a vital part on any journey to motherhood. It takes a village. If you don’t have friends who are in the same area/life stage, or community resources, I’d encourage you to build a community you love with other like-minded mamas either in your own living room, at the park, or on-line. If you need any inspiration, check out some of the blogs below from other mamas who want to share about the journey to new motherhood.
I’m so excited to be part of this blog hop for new mamas and a contributor to the New Mama Welcome Pack. I created the exact resource I would have wanted as a new mama balancing her creative joy with motherhood and 60 other contributors have offered some incredible goodness too. Click here to view more details and enjoy the blogs below.
Being a first-time mama is an amazing experience. The New Mama Welcome Pack blog hop is a celebration of this life changing event! Follow the links to discover more unmissable advice, stories and essential tips. And if you’re a new mama who wants to rock motherhood without guilt, overwhelm or losing yourself, check out the New Mama Welcome Pack here.
New Mama Welcome Pack / Lotte Lane / Dreaming Aloud / Zhendria / Birthing in Conscious Choice / Natalie Garay / Eli Trier / Knecht Ruprecht / Lise Meijer / Naomi Goodlet / A Lifestyle By Design / Story of Mum / Like a Bird / Holistic Mama / Birth Geek / Joyful Parenting / Stroller Packing / My Healthy Beginning / Mums and More / Kate Beddow – Growing Spirits / Ellen Nightingale / Stacie Whitney / Maternity Leavers / Photography for Busy Parents / Close Enough To Kiss / Atelier Susana Tavares / Offbeat Family / Katie m. Berggren ~ Painting Motherhood / Winship Wellness Blog / Liberate From Weight / Jessica Cary / Art + Craft / Raising Playful Tots / Peaceful Mothering / Play Activities / Lauren Nenna / Nurture You / The Adventure Mama / Be Wise Be Healthy / b.a.d.momGoodmom / Doula in Your Pocket / Making Mom Strong / Adrienn Csoknyay / Joyful Parents / Alison Hummel / Simple Solutions for Photos / Lynne Newman / Euphoric Birth / Mumpreneur Mentor / A Walk in the Clouds / Parenting on the Fence / MiaMily