Just about the time mom gets used to the ever changing landscape of pregnancy, it's time to give birth and take the baby home. Mom will look forward to this, but it can be difficult to realize that mom knows very little about life after birth. The early days, especially the first month, are full of changes for mom as she transitions into her new life, and there are surprises at every turn.
To make this transition easier, it's good to know what to expect as much as possible. The first month is different for every mom, but there are a few things that all early parenting experiences have in common. Knowing what to expect helps mom prepare for the help she will need and the materials she'll want to have on hand to make life simpler.
Babies are wonderful, but they are also demanding. No one can be fully prepared for sleep depravation or the demands of motherhood, but going in with eyes open will help with all the changes coming. The first month is a tender, delicate time full of empowering and frustrating moments. Mom needs to give herself time to heal, rest, and practice self-compassion. After mom survives the first 30 days, she'll feel like a superstar.
20 It Won't Be Pretty
Not to make that first month post-birth sound like a scary film, but there is a lot of blood associated with childbirth, and the bleeding doesn’t end when the baby comes out. Mom will leave the hospital wearing an adult-sized diaper and will want to keep either diapers or large pads on hands for weeks after giving birth.
Whether mom has a v-delivery or a C-section, she will still bleed because the placenta comes out in both cases. It does let up, but it is ever present during that first month.
19 Emotions Will Be Everywhere
Even if mom doesn’t suffer from postpartum depression (PPD) or postpartum anxiety (PPA), she will still feel like her emotions are all over the place. She can thank hormones for this since her body will be trying to find a new normal after birth, and her hormones will be all over the place.
Besides being majorly in love with her baby, she may also experience fear, resentment, and sadness that she can’t shake. Her feelings may fluctuate so much that she’s not sure what she feels, and as soon as she gets somewhat used to an emotion, it changes. This is all very normal for the first month, but if mom starts to feel too stressed, it’s always a good idea to reach out for help.
18 Help Should Be Specific
Everyone will say they want to help in those early days after the baby is born. However, not all help is equal. Some people’s idea of help actually puts more stress on mom and causes her to feel strain, even though the opposite effect is intended.
Mom needs to be very specific about what kind of help she wants that first month, and it may be different for each woman. Some women want friends to come over with prepared meals and help with chores so bonding with the baby isn’t interrupted. Others want friends to entertain the baby so showers can be taken in peace. Whatever mom needs, she needs to ask for it so helpers actually end up offering help that is wanted and useful.
17 Sleep Deprivation is Mind-Altering
It’s often said in a joking way that parents lose a lot of sleep that first month. It’s not a joke, and the effects of sleep deprivation cannot be understood until they are experienced. Mom will likely feel not only exhausted but extra emotional, stressed out, and like her brain is covered with a thick fog.
This situation gets better, but it is one of the hardest parts of parenting in those early days. Mom needs to catch sleep where she can and make sure that her partner is signing up to help equally with night shifts when possible. It’s easier to split the sleep deprivation so mom doesn’t fall out from the effects of not enough rest.
16 Worry Shows Up
There’s no fear like the fear mom will feel when it’s time for her to keep a person alive who can’t help himself with anything. All other fears, of spiders or heights or small spaces, may not go away, but they won’t reach the level that mom fears doing something wrong or something happening to her child that is detrimental.
For some women these fears stem from postpartum anxiety, and they have to seek help to manage them. Others usually find that the fears let up as each day goes by, but a combination of hormones, sleep deprivation, and parenting responsibilities add up in the beginning to make mom concerned about every small thing that could go wrong.
15 You May Resent Your Partner
No matter how fabulous mom’s partner is, she may find in those early days that she seriously resents him. Carrying the pregnancy and giving birth all fall on mom’s shoulders, and while it’s possible for a partner to help once the baby is finally out, mom will likely find that she still feels like she is doing most of the work.
Breastfeeding moms can’t pass that job off to dad, and many infants prefer the smells and sounds of mom because that’s what they knew in the womb. Even when dad tries to help, the baby may find a way to let everyone know that he or she prefers the company of mom. This is both flattering and stress-inducing, and most women find themselves resenting all the time their partners have that they don’t.
14 The Life Changes Are A Struggle
Mom will understand before the baby is born that life is going to change, but it’s unlikely she will be prepared for just how much. Besides all the new responsibilities of being a parent, she will also lose out on opportunities she had before, at least in that first month. Going out with friends is almost impossible while healing and nursing an infant, and even doing something as simple as laundry or reading or book will be interrupted by the demands of an infant.
While mom won’t want to trade the motherhood role for anything else, she may experience sadness, anger, or confusion over how much her life has changed. This is a normal feeling that will pass as her baby ages and her life isn’t dominated by nap schedules, dirty diapers, and feeding times.
13 Parenting Books Aren't a Big Help
Parenting books are fun to read, and there is great advice in many of them. However, most moms figure out early on that the techniques that work with some babies don’t work with all babies. Every child has their own set of needs, and they also are born with their own preferences. They won’t follow a step-by-step plan from a parenting book, no matter how hard mom tries to implement it.
It’s important for mom to understand early that she is raising her child and she is the one who will know what that child needs. Parenting looks different for every mom, and it’s okay if mom realizes her child does not respond kindly to popular parenting techniques. She’ll find her own way.
12 Plans Can Derail Quickly
We live in a time of technology and information, so mom may already know exactly how she wants to parent, down to the very smallest decision. What is obvious that first month is that plans change. No one’s plan goes exactly as they thought it would, and there is lot of on-the-job training with parenting.
The mom who desperately wanted to breastfeed may find she can’t produce enough milk to do it exclusively. The mom who never wanted the baby in the same bed with her may find that her child only sleeps well in a co-sleeper attached to the adult bed. Mom will shift and figure out a plan that will best accommodate her crew.
11 It Can Be Lonely
Who would ever imagine that it’s possible to feel lonely when never alone? Mom will experience this feeling in the first month after birth, especially when any helpers who might have been staying with her return to their normal lives and her partner returns to work.
Being with a baby all day is not the same as grabbing coffee with a friend, having a stimulating conversation with a partner, or working with a team at work. Being with a baby all day is wonderful and unique, but it can absolutely feel lonely in those early days when getting out of the house is hard and people aren’t checking in on mom as much anymore. This will get better with time.
10 Mom May Feel Forgotten
When a baby arrives, mom will no longer be the center of attention the way she was when she was pregnant. It’s not that this is upsetting in and of itself. Moms want their babies to take center stage. It can just be a little difficult that first month to realize everyone is dropping by to see the baby, not mom. While everyone will be concerned about the baby’s needs, mom may feel like people forget that she is recovering and not getting enough rest, especially if they don’t ask how she feels.
It’s not selfish to notice that the shift of attention has gone to the baby. It’s also not horrible to feel sad about this, especially when new grandparents only notice the baby and don’t check in just on mom. People adjust and usually come back around to a more balanced approach as time passes.
9 You Will Experience Weird Feelings About Your Own Body
It’s incredible for most women to realize how fast they can turn on themselves. The same amazing body that carried a baby to term, delivered that child into the world, and then provided food for this child to eat will be the body mom speaks of and views harshly in those early weeks after birth. The stretch marks are an angry red, the extra skin is just hanging, and none of mom’s pre-pregnancy clothes fit. Body shame settles in and threatens to steal mom’s joy.
It’s important to remember and praise the body, thanking it for what it has done for mom and the baby. It is forever changed, but that doesn’t have to be bad news. Mom can embrace what her body is now instead of mourning what it’s not anymore. It just takes time, and the first weeks can be a shock when mom sees her new body displayed in the shower.
8 Baby Cries Are Constant
Mom will feel a need to jump and react every time her little one cries. This is normal, and baby cries may make mom coo and surge with affection. They can also make mom feel like she is going crazy and like she wants to run from the sound after a while.
It’s normal to feel like baby cries move from cute to crazy making because they are meant to grab mom’s attention and hold onto it. Babies have their needs met by letting mom know what they need, and they do this through crying. Mom shouldn’t feel guilty if the sound of the cries sometimes make her frustrated. As long as she responds appropriately, it’s okay to get tired of all the crying.
7 Mom Will Feel Under-Appreciated
No matter how much mom loves her little one, she will be frustrated by sleep deprivation, sad that her life has changed so drastically, and inconvenienced by the demands of parenting. This doesn’t make her a bad parent, but it will make her feel ungrateful.
After waiting for the baby to arrive, mom may feel like complaining at all makes her a bad person. This isn’t true, and mom needs to offer compassion to herself as she makes this major transition. Being tired and stressed doesn’t mean mom doesn’t love her child. It just means she is a human being with normal feelings.
6 Babies Want Mom All the Time
It is both an honor and a stressor to be a newborn's favorite person on earth. A baby is used to mom's smell and the sound of her voice, and when the blurry vision comes into focus, it's mom's face the baby wants to see. The problem is that means mom doesn't feel like she gets many breaks unless her child is left to suffer with another person.
While a baby may like dad just fine, mom will likely feel how much the baby wants to be with her the most in the beginning. It won't always be this way, but the constant attachment can make the first month both precious and stress-inducing.
5 Issues From Her Own Childhood May Arise
What most of us don't figure out until after we have children is that we need help processing our own childhoods. Mom will likely go through an array of emotions related to her own parents and her own childhood after her baby is born. While some moms experience a surge of gratefulness for everything their parents did for them, others wonder how their parents could have made the decisions they did. It all depends on mom's experiences growing up.
Mom may also find she comes into conflict with her family if she decides not to raise her children the way she was raised. Her parents may see this as an insult and take offense, even if none is meant.
4 Healing Will Last Longer Than a Month
Don't expect the body to heal from something as major as childbirth in one calendar month. It won't happen, and it's best to set expectations properly to avoid disappointment. From bleeding to discomfort to hormonal shifts, mom will find that she is still trying to feel completely healed even after the first 30 days have gone by.
It's important that mom allows herself time to fully heal, not committing to anything she doesn't have to or anything that will derail her progress. The body and mind take time to recover from something as major as having a child, so don't rush the process.
3 Love And Anger Can Surge
The parenting journey is full of conflicting emotions, and mom will get a glimpse of this as early as the first month. Mom will experience intense love for her child, but she may also experience intense anger at the demands put on her by motherhood. Some women even experience postpartum rage that can be set off by a difficult birthing experience, a colicky baby, or hormones that won't regulate.
Mom is not a bad person for both loving and being stressed out by her child. If postpartum rage or anger reaches a concerning level, mom can ask for help. Postpartum rage is sometimes a sign of PPD, and there are ways mom can recover if she asks for help.
2 Mom Will Want Breaks and Then Have Mom Guilt
It's normal to want breaks from the baby, no matter how much mom loves her little one. Taking breaks and getting time for herself is essential, but mom guilt starts early and rarely lets up. When mom does meet a friend for coffee or goes on a much-needed walk, she will likely feel guilty for wanting and needing the space.
It's best to let these guilty feelings go as soon as possible because mom is a human being with needs and wants, and that doesn't compromise her ability to mother. Anticipating the mom guilt will help mom figure out how to cope with it before it takes control.
1 Self-Care Is Absolutely Essential
The first month is not the easiest time to practice self-care. However, it's such an important time to get started because of the demands made on mom's body and mind. Even if it's just little things, like five quiet minutes alone each day or a delicious meal eaten without holding a baby at the same time, mom needs to slip self-care into her everyday routine.
Because the first month is so hard, not getting run down is important, and little windows of self-care will help. Ask for assistance from others and take time to heal and care for the body and mind, right from the start.