5 Things I Wish I Didn’t Panic Over as a New Mom
Becoming a new parent can be an exciting and daunting experience. You want to do your best so you might constantly worry about doing the wrong thing. Katharine Chan shares the 5 things she wishes she didn’t panic over when she became a new mom years ago….
When I gave birth to my first, I had no idea what I was doing. I read books and talked to many moms, but going through it was a totally different experience.
I played hostess while recovering. I said yes to every visitor. I looked in the mirror and got upset with how my body looked. I didn’t pee or shower because I thought my baby needed me.
If I could turn back time, I would tell myself to stop panicking over these things...
1. It May Not Be Love at First Sight
In every movie and TV series that shows a woman giving birth, the scene is portrayed as a magical moment. Her hair and make-up are perfect. The baby is cuddly and gorgeous. And when she looks into her little one’s eyes while cradling them in her arms, it’s love at first sight. The heartfelt ending leaves everyone happy with tears of joy.
I was in labor for almost 36 hours before receiving an emergency c-section. I was an exhausted, overwhelmed, emotional wreck. When they placed my daughter in my arms, the first thing I noticed was how tiny she was. No chubby cheeks, dimpled arms, or plump legs. More sharp nails and a bird-like frame with skinny fingers that clawed at my breasts. When her eyes would briefly open, she looked like a fragile alien.
It took a while for me to learn how to hold her properly. It was awkward and I was afraid of hurting her. I didn’t want to squeeze too hard but I didn’t lose my grip and drop her.
There were moments when I thought I wasn’t meant to be a mother. I wondered where my maternal instincts were, whether they would kick in. I was disappointed in how unmagical the moment was.
It took weeks to get comfortable holding her and months to develop our bond. But now, I can’t imagine not having her in my life. Every day when I pick her up from school I feel the tremendous amount of love I have for her.
If you don’t feel an instant connection with your baby, don’t fret. You’re meeting a person for the first time and it can take a while for you to get to know one another. It will happen eventually, it just might not be very dramatic.
2. Breastfeeding May Not Work Out
Breastfeeding was an emotional rollercoaster with my first child.
Before I gave birth, I told myself I wouldn’t set too high expectations. However, when it came time to breastfeed, I fell into trying to do what was considered “best” instead of what was right for me.
I knew all the health benefits of breastfeeding– I remember having to regurgitate them all in my university exams. But when it came down to actually doing it, I found it was a lot harder than I’d imagined.
She just wouldn’t latch. Her mouth was too small. I had thrush and nipple pain that ripped through my body during every feed.
I developed a clogged duct which turned into mastitis and inflamed my breast tissue. It was incredibly challenging, but I managed to exclusively breastfeed for 6 months.
However, going through all that didn’t make me stronger; it taught me that I need to treat myself with more compassion and kindness. It was a reminder that I need to put my mental health first and do what is right for me and my baby.
Breastfeeding may or may not work out. And if it doesn’t, that’s okay. All that matters is that your child is healthy and being fed. There’s nothing wrong with using formula.
Related: My Battle With Breastfeeding and Mastitis: A Mother’s Story
3. Visitors Can Wait
We had at least 5 or 6 groups of visitors see us during our short stay at the hospital. From family, and friends to acquaintances, I kept saying yes to those who wanted to see the baby. I wanted to please everyone.
When we arrived home, I was playing hostess and trying to make all our visitors comfortable. After they’d leave, my husband and I would take turns cleaning up and holding the baby. We barely had a moment to ourselves.
Although I appreciated the gifts, food, and social interactions, I really needed time to rest and recover from giving birth.
My husband and I needed time and space to ourselves so we could adjust to our new lives.
When a baby is born, a parent is also born. As an introvert, I kept denying my needs and draining my energy by saying yes to every visitor. I looked like a mess and didn’t want to see anybody, but I was too afraid of disappointing them by saying no.
Instead of panicking about what everyone else wanted, I should have focused on taking care of my own mental, emotional, and physical well-being.
When we had our second baby, my husband and I decided to put our mental and emotional health first. We didn’t have any visitors for the first two weeks, except for my mom and sister. And that made a huge difference in my postpartum recovery.
4. You Don't Have to Stay By Your Newborn's Side 24/7
During those first weeks, I stared at my daughter for hours on end. My eyes were glued to her, watching her chest rise and fall as she slept. I wanted to stay close in case anything happened. I didn’t want to miss a minute. I was afraid if I left her side, she would feel like I abandoned her since she didn’t know where I was. She couldn’t yet understand that I was coming back.
As a result, I didn’t properly take care of myself. I resisted the urge to go to the bathroom so I could stay with her until someone took over for me. I didn’t even shower. All my personal needs fell to the bottom of my priorities.
It wasn’t until a community nurse came to visit that she said to me, “She’s asleep. She’s perfectly safe. She will be okay. She’s not going anywhere. You don’t have to watch her the entire time. Remember to give yourself room to breathe.”
And it clicked. From then on, I started leaving her side for brief moments to get a glass of water, grab a bite, change my clothes, wash my face, and do my postpartum exercises.
5. Bounce Forward Into Your Amazing New Body
The social media photos that celebrities and influencers post of their miraculous fit postpartum bodies have completely distorted reality.
After you give birth, your body does not instantly return to what it looked like before getting pregnant. Although my baby and the placenta were out, I still looked pregnant. I had a lot of fluid build-up and my uterus needed time to shrink.
So when I looked at my body in the mirror during those first few weeks, I got extremely disappointed and upset at myself. Giving birth puts your body through the wringer. I had saggy skin, belly rolls, stretch marks, and scars.
It took a while for me to adjust to this new body. However, I learned to deeply appreciate it for what it did and what can do. My body created an entire human being with eyeballs, ears, a nose, a heart, a mind, and a soul.
Therefore, there is no such thing as a “pre-baby body”. Instead of trying to bounce back into your old body, bounce forward into your new and amazing body. It deserves every bit of kindness it can get.
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Katharine is the author of three books, has been published in scientific journals, and has co-authored chapters in health research books.