nine things that surprised me about motherhood.

I’ve been a mom for almost four months now (how is that even possible?!) and I’ve been thinking a lot about what has taken me by surprise in these first few months. I think when you become pregnant, you develop a lot of assumptions and expectations about what motherhood will be like, and maybe 10% of those turn out to be true. Almost four months in, here are nine things that caught me by surprise:

1. Breastfeeding is hard. Like, really hard. Like, I-understand-why-some-women-don’t-do-it hard. It took Everett and I a full fourteen days to get the hang of breastfeeding. A breastfeeding class was included in our birthing class package, but since we signed up so late (oops!), we missed this class due to Everett’s scheduled c-section at 39 weeks. I had talked to a few friends and skimmed over the breastfeeding sections of The Girlfriends Guide to Pregnancy (aka, the only book I read while I was pregnant), but nothing prepared me, or my boobs, for what was about to happen. I had a wonderful experience with the nurses at Sutter, and many of them watched me breastfeed and told me I was doing everything right, which was confusing and frustrating because it still hurt so much. Those first two weeks were torture. I was sore, bleeding, and basically dreaded every single time I had to feed Everett. Brett was as helpful as he could possibly be, but him and I were both totally clueless. And truth be told, I still don’t know what went wrong. After two weeks, it just got better. One day it hurt like hell and the next day it didn’t hurt at all. Maybe Everett and I just needed time to figure it out? Maybe I just needed to toughen up? It wasn’t until after breastfeeding had gotten better for me that a few friends opened up about their similar struggles. I went into breastfeeding pretty blind and optimistic, assuming it would hurt a little, but really….I had no idea. The good news is: after two weeks of practice, Ev and I became breastfeeding superstars. Everything healed (thank God!), and it became a daily bonding experience for us that I have come to truly enjoy. I have no idea if breastfeeding will be easier, harder, or about the same with our next baby, but at least I know what to expect the next time around!

2. My body bounced back fast. I’m not a crazy health nut by any means. I eat fairly well, walk regularly, and try to attend yoga or pilates 1-2 times a week. I didn’t start any of that until six weeks postpartum, and by then, I was feeling pretty comfortable with the way I looked. I don’t know if it was the breastfeeding, the fact that I was in good shape before I got pregnant, lucky genes, or a combo of all three. Either way, towards the end of my third trimester I was becoming more and more concerned about how my body would look after Everett was born. I was shocked at how big my belly had grown, and couldn’t imagine ever having a flat tummy again. I also kept picturing tons of extra flabby skin, but really…..everything just gradually went back to normal, give or take a few inches. I never would have spent so much time worrying about my body had I known how quickly it would bounce back.

3. My emotions are out of control. In the past four months, I have experienced some of my highest highs and some of my lowest lows. I’m a total freakshow. Crying one minute and laughing the next, I don’t even know how I feel about anything half the time. I thought I was a train wreck while I was pregnant, but I think I might be more of a train wreck now. Say it with me: Poor Brett.

4. It’s lonely. As much as I love staying home with Everett, it does get lonely sometimes. I went from a pretty active social life to a somewhat nonexistent one; from a mover and a shaker to a homebody. My days are spent with Everett and my nights are spent with Brett, and most days, I am content and fulfilled with that. But some days, I’m really not. My lowest lows have stemmed from the days/weeks when the loneliness seemed extra prevalent.

5. Everett felt like ours immediately. While I assumed this would happen, it still took me by surprise. From the first time I saw him, I knew he was our baby. It felt like a piece of me detached from my own body and morphed into the most beautiful human being I’d ever laid eyes on. It was overwhelming on the day he was born, and it’s still overwhelming every time I think about it.

6. My hair is falling out. I’ve said it before, but it’s worth mentioning again. I really cannot stress this enough: nobody, and I mean nobody, prepared me for postpartum hair loss. It’s real, and it’s gross, and it sucks. Big time.

7. Unsolicited advice is the worst. I got plenty of it while I was pregnant and now that Everett’s here, I have advice flying at me from every direction. It’s annoying. People give advice out of love with the very best intentions, but it’s still so, so annoying. Even more annoying? I’ve caught myself doing it too. Shame on me. I think as mothers, we often have a tendency to a) think our way is the best way, and/or b) want to make sure everyone around us knows just how capable we are. And the thing is—just because x worked for your baby doesn’t mean x will work for my baby. And just because y happened to my baby, doesn’t mean y will happen to your baby. I’ve asked plenty of friends about their experiences with sleep training, teething, etc, and gotten lots of helpful tips. The difference is: I asked. If I don’t ask, please don’t tell me. And if you catch me offering unsolicited advice on this blog, feel free to call me out in the comments. Actually, don’t. I’d probably cry. See number three.

8. How open-minded I have become. It took becoming a mother for me to really see how judgmental I had been about certain aspects of parenting. From small things like using pacifiers to big things like cosleeping, I never realized how strong my opinions were about various parenting topics and methods until they blew up in my face. I am doing things I never thought I would do, saying things I never thought I would say, and basically feeling ashamed and embarrassed at how many times I questioned another mother’s tactics. Suddenly, I find myself open to all sorts of things. Oh, you cosleep? Good for you! You want to breastfeed till your baby is two? Go get em, tiger! More power to ya! I am much more understanding, empathetic, and compassionate towards other moms than I was before I had Everett.

9. The big big joy that comes from the small small things. Everett’s first smile. The first time he said “goo” and wrapped his hand around my finger. The way his eyes follow me when I walk around the kitchen. The way he kicks crazily when he’s in the bath, like he’s trying to swim or something. The tiniest things put the biggest smiles on my face, and I never knew I could find such joy in something as simple as a look or a sound. Everything he does amuses me, and reconfirms my decision every single day that I was, indeed, meant to be a mother.

Mommas, what surprised you the most about becoming a mom for the first time?

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34 Responses to nine things that surprised me about motherhood.

  1. Lesley says:

    Love this honesty. I’m so there with you on almost all of the above. I think the biggest thing that surprised me was the innate sense of protection I felt for Anna in her first few months. If she was crying, and someone else was holding her, I was almost panicked. I felt the need to always be the one to soothe and comfort her. I didn’t like the idea of leaving her with other people. Even thought I needed a break, I just couldn’t really hand her off. I realized how strong our hormones are in how we are programmed to care for our little ones.
    Lesley´s last blog post ..Where I come from

    • Ashlee says:

      I was definitely like that for the first month! I’m not quite as protective anymore, unless we’re in a big group of people or a crowd. Then the “momma bear” in me comes out. Rawr! 😉

  2. Lacey says:

    the thing that surprised me the most with my son was breastfeeding. before I became pregnant (& even during most of my pregnancy!) I was certain I did NOT want to nurse him. and then, he was born and the nurses asked if I wanted to give it a try and apparently, I said yes. and it hurt for the first couple of days and he didn’t nurse for long periods of time so he was supplemented with formula at night for a bit. but once we came home and got into a routine and it was just me and him, I came to love it. and that surprised me. a lot. and then as he got older and started to wean himself, I found myself sad. sad that I would no longer have this connection with my little boy. but now that we aren’t nursing, I’ve found myself enjoying watching him eat big boy food.

    also, I was super surprised at the fact that I wanted to co-sleep. I always thought that wa scary, until we brought him
    home and I just wanted to be near him, all the time!

    • Ashlee says:

      Lacey, I was JUST talking to my husband about this last week. Not only was I surprised at how hard breastfeeding was in the beginning, I was also surprised at how much I love it now! We’re on a schedule where Everett eats 6 times a day, and I truly cherish each and every time. I hope he doesn’t get teeth for a while so it can continue to be pleasant 😉

      • Lacey says:

        c: when Landon (my son) started getting his teeth, it really didn’t change for me. it maybe hurt more the first day but that was only because he was intentionally biting. once he figured out that he wasn’t supposed to bite me, everything went back to normal! hopefully Everett isn’t a biter!

  3. I think the biggest thing that surprised me was how awful post-partum depression could be. I just never even thought it would happen to me. But it did and it was debilitating. But once I started sleeping a little more, I was able to claw my way out of the dark pit.

    People would ask me, after my boys were born, “How are you doing?” and be totally caught off guard when my response was “Terrible! I feel like a crazy person!” I still remember the look on my neighbor’s face when I said that and promptly burst into tears. It is kinda funny…now.
    Shannon/Flourish´s last blog post ..Wedding at The Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento, Ca

    • kelsey says:

      Shannon, I can totally relate to what you said! I dealt with PPD, too. Having a newborn was such a terribly wonderful time for me. I am hoping not to have it next time around, but am much more prepared for it now!
      kelsey´s last blog post ..How We Get Rooney to Sleep So Much

    • Ashlee says:

      Shannon, thanks for sharing. I know a few people who struggled with PPD and I think they all would agree that it was quite a shock. I laughed at your story about your neighbor, I’m sure they still remember that day too 😉

  4. Kathleen says:

    I actually expected breastfeeding to be hard, but it was super easy for us. I see it as God’s gift to me, teaching me to love my body again, because we had trouble conceiving and then I did not get the birth I wanted (also a C-section after a long and painful labor). So I was feeling betrayed by my body, and because of breastfeeding I no longer feel that way.

    It took me more like months to lose the weight, and things are just different now. And that’s okay, but I wouldn’t say I exactly “bounced back.” Although, speaking of breastfeeding, I expected it to make more of a difference early on, but I finally noticed around 9 months that I could eat what I want and not gain weight. Still abusing that privilege at 13 months currently.

    The emotions also surprised me. I was crying so hard when we left the hospital! And even now I have to be careful what I read or watch because it affects me so much more.

    • Ashlee says:

      I’m glad breastfeeding was easy for you. That really IS a gift! I will be the first to admit, I plan to abuse the crazy calorie burning that accompanies breastfeeding as long as I can 😉 And I’m with you on the emotions…ANYTHING about motherhood makes me cry. I’m a hot mess.

  5. Amber says:

    I love this post. I’m to be induced on Monday with my first baby. I’m so nervous and excited at the same time. I feel so overwhelmed.

    • Ashlee says:

      Congrats! I think it’s totally normal and expected to be nervous, excited, and overwhelmed at this point. Wishing you an easy labor, safe delivery, and healthy babe!

  6. I love this post too. I can relate with the breastfeeding one ..I had a tough time with it. Yes the losing of the hair is the worst part of it. Hugs
    Julie@my5monkeys´s last blog post ..The Next Big Thing Book Review

  7. kelsey says:

    oh, i could write a book!

    1. breastfeeding doesn’t work out for everyone, even when you REALLY want it to and try really HARD.
    2. babies are born with birthmarks. (i KNOW, right?!)
    3. the weight of love and responsibility is overwhelming.

    oh! and i have to agree, unsolicited advice is the worst. having a blog makes people think they know me and our situation, and they love to share things from across the globe. i have almost stopped blogging because of the madness.
    kelsey´s last blog post ..How We Get Rooney to Sleep So Much

    • Ashlee says:

      I so appreciated your honesty about breastfeeding on your blog! You are right, it doesn’t work for everyone. Ev doesn’t have a birthmark (at least, I haven’t seen one yet), but that probably would have surprised me too!

  8. Allison says:

    Love this! It’s going to be like a million years before we have kids, because of the whole going-back-to-school thing for me, but I love reading posts about being a mama. Makes me excited for my day! 🙂
    Allison´s last blog post ..The Allison Bookstore

  9. Sarabell says:

    Thanks so much for this! I find myself bookmarking so many of your posts to come back to when the time is right, and this is one of those I definitely know I’ll love re-reading down the road.
    Sarabell´s last blog post ..Brussels Sprouts and the Lies We Told.

  10. Everett looks like he really loves his mama in that picture! Love reading your life, Ashlee, so thanks for writing it 🙂

  11. Michelle says:

    Ashlee, I’m new to your blog and I’m not even a mom yet– but I loved reading your list. It feels good knowing that you can’t ever fully anticipate and prepare for the changes that come with motherhood and the new little person in your life. Thank you for your reflections!
    Michelle´s last blog post ..What does LOVE require of me?

  12. Michelle says:

    Love this post…now I just hope I get pregnant soon so I can join you in enjoying these moments!
    Michelle´s last blog post ..Quote of the Week

  13. Beth says:

    The big one for me was the opposite of your number two. I never thought I would have a problem bouncing back to my original weight. I had never had any issues with weight in the past, and other new moms I saw seemed to just melt back to their pre-baby bodies. Not so for me. Breastfeeding was not the calorie burner people made it out to be. Plus I was just so hungry all the time. Once I cut back on breadtfeeding, my appetite diminished and I was finally able to get back to the old(ish) me.
    Beth´s last blog post ..Two Pink Lines

    • Ashlee says:

      Well, you could have fooled me. I know you know your body better than anyone else, but from an outsider perspective, I think you looked PHENOMENAL after having Juliette! p.s. I am so freaking excited for baby #2. I not-so-secretly hope it’s a boy so he can be buds with Ev 😉

  14. Lottie says:

    i love how honest this post is especially as my first baby is due in november and i kind of feel like no-one will tell me the truth. so posts like this reaaly help 🙂
    Lottie´s last blog post ..tower of london.

  15. Danielle White says:

    I keep up with your posts Ashlee! This is a great reminder for me as a post-partum and nursery nurse. I often feel prepared for when my mommy-day comes because of all the teaching I offer parents at work. And I have a lot of expectations and strong opinions about breastfeeding and parenting (not only from many textbooks and classes, but also from interactions with new parents). So it is always a great reminder to be open minded with parents/patients and to support their wishes. To encourage them to love on their little one no matter how that looks! I’m so proud of all your invested energy into Everett!

    • Ashlee says:

      Danielle, I don’t know what rock I’ve been living under but I didn’t realize that’s what you’re doing now! Good for you! I cannot even begin to tell you how wonderful and amazing our nurses were after Everett’s birth. I will always be grateful to them for their help and support during those first couple of days. You have a very special job! I love that God is using your gifts in that way!

  16. Paulette Hawes says:

    Hey Ash –

    Yes motherhood is hard! And there are so many things that are unexpected. But in the end parenting is so worth the journey! I glad Dad and I took the journey and we love you, Brett and Everett so much!

    Love, Mom

  17. Natalie says:

    I loved reading this! I’m in my 35th week right now and getting so excited, so this was a timely post for me. I have heard SO MANY moms echo your feelings in #8, that it has made me really try not have too many expectations about how we’ll raise our daughter. I have lots of girlfriends with kids and I’ve had people ask if we will co-sleep, pump, nurse on demand, etc. (all related to #7 – am I right?!) and I just tell them – I have no idea because I don’t know what our baby is going to be like. Not sure how this strategy is going to work out for us, but we’re ready to find out!

  18. JEANNE IN tAMPA says:

    You don’t have this when you adopt. All this PG stuff IS OVER RATED.

    • Ashlee says:

      I think a few of these points would be relevant to someone adopting, but certainly not all of them. I’m not sure what PG stuff you’re referring to? What is overrated?

  19. Becca says:

    Totally appreciate your honesty in this post. I am having my first the end of October. I especially love number 5 on your list, gave me the biggest smile! Thanks for sharing.

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