For many of us, pregnancy was a time we’d all like to go back to, because before mamahood, there are expectations—and then there’s reality.
As a French friend of mine and fellow mama told me once, “When your baby comes out, you realize that actually, it was better inside.”
I’ve put together some of the more laughable mamahood expectations I had before I had my daughter. Of course, there were some dicey times in the beginning, what with postpartum body shocks and various fluids leaking out of me and my baby, but we’ll save those gory details for another post, shall we?
Today, sit down with a cup of coffee, and let’s share a laugh about all the crazy stupid things people told us, and what we told ourselves, about what mamahood would be like.
What other people tell you about mamahood
Do people tell you that you’ll cry (almost) as much as your newborn? No! Where’s the tough love, people? Knowing things like “Babies cry about colic, teething, and just about everything else” would have been useful, but no! This is what we’re told:
Expectation: “Just sleep when baby sleeps!”
Reality: I got this advice a lot, and I suspect it’s the case for many an expecting mama. I probably brushed it off, like, yeah I’m sure my baby will adjust quickly to the whole nighttime-daytime thing. Not so!
Even if my expectation had been to take naps with my baby, I just don’t see how it would have been feasible. The reality was that as soon as C was asleep, my arms were free, and I was finally able to do one of two things: eat or shower. Eating usually won out; breastfeeding gave me quite an appetite!
Expectation: “Don’t forget about self-care!”
Reality: Ahh, yes, the elusive “self-care.” The expectation is for your regular self-care routine to continue as before. When do you imagine this self-care taking place? When baby is sleeping? Ha! See above.
I already mentioned that showering became a luxury with a newborn. I don’t remember ever having a shower from start to finish without any screaming. I must have looked a fright in those days.
The reality is that there were always a million other things to take care of, assuming I had showered or eaten at all that day. Laundry was high on the list, as was doing dishes. I might have vacuumed from time to time, but it was rare.
In all seriousness, self-care is a very useful tool in helping you find balance in your life, whether you’re a mama or not. I definitely recommend taking time for yourself every day, but I found that it was highly unrealistic for the first few months!
Expectation: “Your body will bounce right back!”
Reality: We’ve all seen the stars who seem to have dropped the baby weight in a matter of weeks. How are they doing it? My money’s on an entire village made up of personal trainers, chefs, and nannies.
Still, even on my humble level, friends of mine assured me that it was possible. “Breastfeeding speeds up the process,” they said. Sure. I fully expected to have my body back quickly.
In reality, my postpartum body was far from its prenatal version. Recovering from a c-section was way harder than I had ever imagined. I’m not sure how much breastfeeding helped at all; it made me ravenously hungry and I found myself consuming way more carbs that I had in the later stages of pregnancy.
I dropped a lot of weight in a matter of weeks, but then I seemed to plateau… for almost a year. Only then did I begin to gradually lose the rest.
My body is still not back to normal, and I don’t think it ever will be. But there is more bouncing involved, yes.
What you tell yourself about mamahood
When you are expecting your first baby, you’re still blissfully unaware of the reality of parenthood. You’ve made room in your life for a new family member. You are so excited to finally meet him. You might even eagerly look forward to the day when you’re not big as a house. You’re only fooling yourself.
Expectation: “I’m going to meal prep every Sunday!”
Reality: I’m known as a highly organized, motivated individual. I should be able to plan my week’s meals in advance.
But for some reason, I am incapable of doing this. It might have something to do with busily keeping a small human alive. It might also be the fact that I have no idea what day it is, what time it is, or how I got here.
The most I can do is actually get food inside my house. It’s a miracle any meals get put together at all!
To be fair, I did go on a freezer-meal-making extravaganza before C was born. These meals did save the day for probably twelve weeks. But twelve weeks go by in the blink of an eye with a newborn.
Expectation: “I’ll be able to take my baby everywhere!”
Reality: My expectation was that my baby was going to sleep peacefully all the time in her stroller or bassinet or baby car seat or baby carrier or what have you.
My reality was all-consuming panic whenever I had to leave the house for the first six weeks. Did I have everything I needed to bring for the baby? Diapers, wipes, burp cloths, the actual baby? What about what I needed for myself? Snackage, water, breast pads, extra breast pads, a change of clothes? How long have I been wearing this dress and when was the last time I showered?
Getting ready to leave the house took more time than whatever it was I needed to do outside the house. It was stressful and unpredictable and I almost never left on time (very unlike me). My newborn would inevitably poop or throw up all over herself just as we were backing out of the driveway.
So much for leaving the house. The other harsh reality is the logistics of taking your baby certain places. In Europe, our strollers need to navigate dodgy cobblestone streets and stairs instead of ramps. And you can forget about finding a changing table outside of your home. FORGET.IT.
Going anywhere was just so impractical with a newborn that I avoided it! Granted I am sure I was more panicked than was necessary, but it’s not something I look back on fondly.
Expectation: “It’ll all come naturally!”
Reality: This is probably the biggest misconception I had prior to becoming a mama, and the biggest disappointment. “Twice the pride, double the fall”, is it? I really had myself convinced that all I needed was a pair of boobs and a few diapers.
In reality, I still tried to be as minimalist as possible, but I found myself forever grateful for many tangible items that just made life so much easier (like baby carriers).
In terms of caring for my baby, I really thought that my primal mama instincts would kick in, and that I would just know what to do all the time. In reality, C’s crying was a complete enigma. I felt like I tried everything, and when she didn’t stop crying, I felt angry and upset and helpless.
With time it got better, but I vastly underestimated the learning curve mamahood would require!
The good stuff: what you least expected about mamahood
I’ve complained enough about new mamahood expectations versus reality! Time to tell you the good news: it’s not all hard. It will get easier!
Real talk: “They grow up so fast!”
Now, most people say this with a certain consternation that their children change so quickly. The only way to not feel so sad about this is to enjoy each stage and try to be present and live in the moment.
But I say, thank god they grow up so fast! With all the crying newborns do, you start to feel like it really IS hard being a baby. Personally, I was relieved when C showed a massive developmental shift. The colic, the teething, the diapers—your baby will grow out of all of it.
It’s easy to focus on all the things “going wrong.” “They grow up so fast” was my mantra to remind myself that “this too shall pass” and to enjoy the moment.
Real talk: “No, thanks—you know, new baby and all.”
I will be the first to admit that I used my newborn got me out of a number of social occasions. No, I don’t feel like going to the bar with you. No, I can’t make it to your aunt’s dog’s birthday party. No, I can’t check coats at your wedding. Sorry, but you understand—I’m a new mama!
The thing is, parenthood definitely gives you a new perspective. You won’t be the same person, I can guarantee you. Sure, you’ll regret missing out on some of the parties—maybe. I can assure you that staying home with your newborn is where you’re meant to be, and you’ll feel that in time.
Real talk: “It’d be nice to have another one…”
Finally… FINALLY. If you always wanted to have more than one baby, don’t be surprised if you suddenly change your mind when faced with the reality of caring for your first one.
But I promise, it gets easier, and soon you’ll think, “I’ve pretty much gotten the hang of this now. It might be good for my son to have a little brother or sister.”
Everything will get easier in time, and you’ll forget all the nonsense in the beginning. And just think: now you have some experience under your belt, and you want to have another baby, what could go wrong?
It’s a constantly evolving adventure
You can never know what it’s like to be a mama until you become one. Amiright?
Try not to let your expectations of mamahood disillusion you. Each developmental stage presents its own challenges—and its own sweet surprises. Keep an open mind. Don’t live in fantasyland, and just do your best!
Looking for more about new mamahood? Check out these posts:
Jessica is an American expat living the dream in Normandy. She is wife to a French hubby and mama to a Franco-American daughter, born in 2018, and one whippet. Passionate about all stages of writing, this Francophile created her blog in 2020 to help others navigate motherhood with a focus on conscious parenting and bilingual parenting. Bonne lecture !
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