I knew everything there was to know about motherhood before I even had my firstborn.
I was and always have been… a know it all.
I knew babies needed to eat (how to feed baby up to 1 year), they needed to sleep (28 things to do if your baby won’t sleep), and they thrived on routine (25+ sample routines). I knew how to to breathe during labor so I wouldn’t need drugs and how to get a baby to latch on without a fuss. Oh boy did I know it all.
Then life happened. And babies have their own personalities. And I was not as self-disciplined or consistent as I’d always thought and – well you know – life happened.
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Life and motherhood in all its glory. One of the best things I’ve learned since becoming a mom is this…
The 4 Phases of Early Motherhood
Of course, every mother is different. Some linger longer in some phases and others move through them quickly but the point is that they are all normal. They are all okay. They are all part of life.
1. Pregnancy and New Baby Fog
Let’s be real, when we’re pregnant we are just Feeling All The Feels. We want to sleep and we’re in a fog. If we have other children to take care of it’s especially hard to get in enough rest.
Even if we power nap. Whether it’s nausea or just sheer exhaustion, we feel that we’re somehow wrong, bad wives/mothers, and just unable to cope. These feelings will come and go with hormonal surges, but they’re very real.
Then we have our bundle of joy. We feel overjoyed to have a precious one, but we often have our needs go unmet because we’re too scared to ask.
We work hard to not fall asleep all day and to stay awake to feed baby at night. Sometimes it feels like we’re in a Weird Fog, but hey, at least the pregnancy exhaustion is over.
Best parts about pregnancy and new baby fog:
- excitement over future child
- excuse to exercise less and eat more (and regret it later when we have to implement exercise with our babies)
- the joy of bringing a new baby home
- the cuddles and squeezes and soft skin (easy ways to enjoy your baby)
- taking the opportunity to let life slow down and savor these precious moments
2. Survival Mode
Around the 3 to 6 month mark we’re likely into good daily routines (if not here are 25+ that might work) and learning how to find the new normal. We’re knee deep in naps, feeds, changes, and trying to make sure everyone is well rested and not overtired and cranky. The focus of life has sort of shifted from Outside to Baby Centric.
We’re likely not as active in the community or our social circles and – if we’re stay-at-home-moms – find ourselves staying at home nearly all the time. Let’s face it, running errands with little ones isn’t easy. Sometimes it just isn’t worth it.
We know some things are worth it and some things aren’t… but honestly… most days it feels like an uphill battle. We feel lucky if the dishes are done, the laundry is done, everyone is clean, and no one is screaming.
In survival mode… you don’t set the bar too high.
Best parts about survival mode:
- You let the Major things be Major and the Minor things be Minor. Like your hair… doing hair is debatable.
- Your extreme stress helps you to tweeze out the things that actually matter and, when survival mode is over, you realize some things aren’t worth the increased blood pressure.
- People feel sorry for you and want to help. Even if you look like you “have it all together” those wise older moms aren’t fooled.
- It can only get better from here.
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3. Emotional Roller Coaster
We are going through similar emotions as our children. In fact, sometimes it’s hard to get a grip on our emotions because it seems we’ve moved from sweet quiet baby mode to Wild Loud Toddler Mode (7 ways to get your little one to be less noisy). We learn how necessary empathy is and we also learn that sometimes its necessary to let our kids sort out their own feelings.
They are loud and excited and fun and crazy and though it’s a hard time, it is such a memorable one.
The best parts about this phase are:
- the hilarous things your children do and say
- the millions of cuddles and hugs you get during these sweet years (it’s good for their brain, you know)
- you see immediate results with your parenting choices (even if others don’t agree with you)
- they love us to the moon and back and they show it all day long
4. Forward Looking
The next phase we enter into has some breathing room. Some time to ourselves. Of course life seasons change and we may leave this stage and enter back into the others at any given point, but this season speaks of promise.
Now you get to plan vacations that won’t make everyone more stressed and worn out. You can have longer conversations, learn more about your children, and enjoy their personalities.
They start going through struggles and you are able to speak into their lives and shape their hearts. It’s still intense, but in a different way somehow.
Best parts about this phase:
- you can use the bathroom or shower without worrying something is going to break or someone is going to dump all the sugar all over the kitchen
- you can learn your child’s likes, dislikes, and quirks, not just how they react to things they like or things that disappoint them
- you have breathing room and space to do things like mommy vacays and life planning
- pinpoint an issue
- draw out how it’s affecting you
- label what you don’t like about it
- determine areas of responsibility
- figure out how it’s showing up
- say what you’d rather happen
- brainstorm solutions
Last Saturday was probably the best family day we’ve had in years. Maybe ever. We hit up a birthday party, ate lunch at an Irish pub. The kids dropped their food, wouldn’t stay in their chairs, and were loud, but it was fun. We went to the beach and they waded in the water and played in the sand and my heart was so full.
Full of joy that this phase is so fun.
Full of pride that we’re coping with 5 kids and still alive.
Full of hope that though the job of a mom is never easy, some seasons are less intense.