Motherhood

We really need honest conversations about the transition to motherhood

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February 14, 2021

It took me 9 months — and 3 days — to fully understand the magnitude of my transition to motherhood.

Physically, my pregnancy was smooth, and logically and emotionally I thought I had everything under control. I am a planner, so when I got pregnant I researched how to take care of a newborn, find the right hospital, pack a “go bag” for the hospital, and where to find discounts on all that baby gear.

And I did my best to take care of my body by eating healthy food and exercising regularly. I even took a prenatal yoga class so I was sure I was ready.

My son was born in a hospital, and the days we stayed there after he arrived were amazing. Surrounded by my husband, nurses, and doctors, and with food magically appearing and no work or home responsibilities to attend to, I could have stayed there forever.

But since my impression of life with a new baby was still 100% rosy, I was looking forward to going home and getting back to my “normal” routine — in my defense, I think I still had some epidural drugs in my system.   :)

Then, my real education began.

Overnight, I went from being an individual leading an independent and carefree life, to a mom responsible for an incredibly cute but confused, vulnerable, and often uncomfortable — and vocal about it — little person.

Especially in the first couple days, he was uncomfortable because of my lack of understanding about breastfeeding. Since breastfeeding is “natural”, I assumed that actually doing it must come naturally as well, so I never bothered to take any prenatal lactation classes or find a Lactation Consultant in advance.

As a result, despite days and nights of bleeding nipples and breastfeeding marathons, my son was crying nonstop. Our first visit to the pediatrician (our temporary one) was deflating: I was told simply to “keep trying” and everything will work out. But when my son just didn’t seem to be doing well with that approach, we gave him some formula and for the first time ever he slept peacefully for 3 hours straight.

The next day, we were lucky enough to find an amazing Lactation Consultant on short notice, and with her expertise and high-precision scale she was able to confirm that for several technical reasons we could not have known, breastfeeding wasn’t yet getting him enough milk. She showed me how to keep trying while establishing backup approaches such as a pumping machine so my son wouldn’t have to go hungry again. What a relief, for all of us.

Little did I realize at the time, though, this was a perfect example of the gap between expectations and reality in our modern culture. New moms are told in a number of ways, both directly and indirectly, that they can do it all. For proof, just look at the Hollywood stars hitting the beach in bikinis seemingly just moments after they give birth. All over social media and TV, new mothers are portrayed as these perfect creatures who are impeccably dressed and giddily happy.

I wish I never saw those images and instead was able to witness actual raw motherhood, which is both beautiful and overwhelming, where you love it one day but might dread it the next. I wish I was able to have honest conversations with other mothers about the realities of motherhood and how the process is difficult for lots of us. Fluctuating hormones, soreness from childbirth, pumping every 3 hours day and night, cooking but still somehow hungry — all while taking care of a tiny little baby who’s in the midst of a lot of new transitions as well.

For me, it was even tougher emotionally. Far from family and with limited adult interaction, the loneliness I felt was crushing, and something I was totally unprepared for.

But the reality is that this is all normal. Not only do mothers’ bodies need to recover from Olympic-level physical stress, we also have emotional needs that our society often does not know how to talk about, let alone address. Once a baby enters the picture, the new cuddly child becomes the center of attention — in moms’ greatest moment of need and support. This realization was the beginning of my journey to understand and embrace motherhood as it actually is, and help other mothers get the support they need at every critical step of the way.

Though I grew up in India, until I had my son I never realized the significance of many of its lovely mother-centric customs and practices. When a baby comes into the home, whole families and even extended communities come together to proactively support the mother with special food, massages, childcare, and advocated rest.

Without the benefits of these traditions, which nourish new mothers both physically and emotionally, even well-meaning family and friends, or all the gifts and money in the world, are not enough to protect the new mom from navigating the complex journey of new motherhood on her own.

I thought I was alone in my struggles, but after speaking with countless other moms and hearing different versions of the same story over and over, I realized that my challenges were not only not unique, they were practically the norm. Few moms were aware of any meaningful forms of support available, and even once they knew what to look for, they found it difficult to find a trusted and skilled provider.

And so Newmom.me was born. Our mission is to enrich the lives of mothers and families by helping each new mom learn about the support available for each phase of her journey, and to help her find the best local providers.

We are just beginning our journey, but already we are seeing change in the affirmation of service providers who have dedicated their careers to helping mothers and babies, and in the heartfelt hugs from other moms who finally get the validation they have craved that their personal struggle was not only theirs, and will not be in vain.

Wishing all the moms a happy and healthy motherhood.

Puja Kapoor

Founder, Mom & Doula in training

Newmom.me