Becoming a parent is a life changing, earth shattering, ego bruising, patience building, terrifying, electric, hilarious, messy and never ending process. As a single person, most of the time you are only responsible for you, then perhaps you find a mate and you become a unit, mutually responsible to and for each other. Then you decide to add a little being to the mix and that’s where it gets complicated. For mothers who are able to get pregnant, this experience begins here. It’s much more difficult for the mate (the person not with a small parasite growing in their belly) to bond with the baby or even see how their life is already changing. How every decision they make affects someone else. Moms see this in the foods they eat or choose not to, the drinks they cannot have anyone more, the hot tubs that are not allowed and the extreme sports they cannot participate in. Because the fathers don’t really have to change their life during pregnancy, they experience the changes once the baby arrives.

As a new mom of a toddler and one on the way, I have noticed some growing pains along the way. For me they started once I became pregnant. Even though I chose to become a mother, I never would have understood all that it entails.  I thought I’d share some of these things I’ve experienced, along with some quotes from other moms, to normalize this experience called Motherhood. If you’re a father, please feel free to post your growing pains here too and I’ll add a post for ya’ll.

1.) You go from couple to family overnight! All of a sudden you are a Mom not just wife or girl friend and a Dad, not just husband, partner, boyfriend. You have this little person part of the “group” now and they take up all the attention and time. Before it was “what do you want to do honey” and now it’s “do you think little so & so will let us go out to eat without throwing a fit?” This structure change takes some time and sacrifices from each party, including the child. It is important to remember that you are still a couple, not just a mom and dad. You need to find times to go on dates, to do activities together that are couple friendly, not family friendly. Find a baby sitter, ask a friend, ask a family member, DO IT!  Keeping your relationship fed keeps your family structure strong. This keeps your children balanced, keeps you balanced.

This mom put it this way: “Pregnancy wasn’t too bad for me…the weight gain was hard esp when I ate healthy and worked out and still gained 60! But I wanted to be a mom so bad I didn’t care. Grtting into a routine even with my hubby and adult time was hard and is still a struggle. We have made a pack to have at least one night away from baby a month. Now that she’s five months we plan to do that more often. Its def helping! Motherhood is tiring but so easy…esp when you’re ready to be a mommy!”

2.) Sex life? What sex life? After a full day of work, boogers, lunches, dinners, picking up after the crazy kid, changing diapers, commuting to and from work, play grounds, slides, walking the dog (or at least thinking really hard about walking the dog/s), feeling guilty about not walking the dog, feeling guilty about yelling at your kid for bitting the dog, feeling guilty about everything! So, after all of that, how can you possibly come up with the sexual energy to make sweet passionate love with your partner?

Here are my tips: take showers together. This is a perfect environment for a “quicky”.

Afternoon sex! Do you have kids that nap? Are there days that you both have off? Put the kids down or have them hang in their room for quite time and get busy. I’m sorry if it’s hard to get the idea of your kids being awake out of your head, but eventually they will begin to respect your personal time and give you a break.

After you put the kids down for bedtime, go into your bedroom immediately and have some sex or at least play around. Do not go to the couch and sit down, do not clean the dishes. Your show is not as important. It does not improve your mood, decrease depression, increase your dopamine and exercise your heart like sex and orgasms do. Let me repeat that ORGASMS literally help you fight depression. So, make sure its good sex.

3.) Your body is not just “yours” anymore. If your pregnant, the baby is literally taking everything it needs to survive from you and leaving very little for mom. When you breast feed, the same things happen. This can cause anxiety, depression, weight gain or loss and frustration. Then your child will want to be carried, held, picked up, put down, and basically use you as a jungle gym (for years!). I’ve heard moms speak of never getting to go to the bathroom without someone knocking on the door, having a breakdown outside the door, putting their fingers under the door and who knows what else when all you want to do is just sit down and read your book or magazine in peace! It is important to continue eating well and taking your supplements to help your body thrive too. It’s also important to find small activities in the beginning to allow yourself some separation. Take a walk, a bath, get your nails or toes done, go grocery shopping ALONE. Don’t feel bad to lock that bathroom door or to put them in their room with the baby gate attached, so that you can have some alone time.

Listen to what other moms have said:

“Learning to accept my body as it changed and grew [was] super difficult for someone who has been self conscious her whole life and learning how to share my life with the new addition, really difficult to navigate between taking care of baby and taking care of yourself and also your marriage”

4.) Breast feeding. For me, this was the most difficult experience I had during the first year of my son’s life, and it is for many women. It didn’t get easier for me until my son was around 5 or 6 months. I luckily had a great support system, went to breast feeding support groups and had some great friends who were currently breast feeding. Here is what one mom said, “Pregnancy was pretty easy for me…becoming a mom was overwhelming at first. I never produced enough milk and had to supplement from day 3…that was a big challenge for me.”

5.) Children are their own little selves. Just because they are your child doesn’t mean you know them. When I was pregnant, I thought I knew this baby I was growing in my body. Then after 22 hours of labor I pushed out this child that did not look like what I thought for the last 9 months. Don’t get me wrong, I loved him and was immensely happy to be finished with the birthing process, but I didn’t know him. At all. It took months for me to get know my son a little bit, but it’s taken me his entire lifetime for me to understand that he is not mine to control, dictate, or understand. This is because he is his own person, his own self and it has nothing to do with me. I am here to love him, support him, protect him, guide him and teach him, but I can’t make him be just like me.

6.) The Mommy Guilt!!!! It could have been included in all of the above. It seems to be ever present. This guilt didn’t exist before becoming a mom, but somehow it shows it’s ugly head the moment you have your baby. Am I breast feeding correctly? Why is the baby crying? What am I doing wrong? I have no energy for my parter and that makes me feel guilty! Some moms feel guilty for putting their careers on hold, especially after spending so much money on college and our education. On the flip side, working mothers might feel guilty for leaving their babies and children in the care of someone else for the week days. It’s important to chose your option wisely and change your mind if you need to. Perhaps working part time is the answer. Perhaps it’s not. Studies have shown that children in daycares do not differ from stay at home children in test scores and emotional maturity. If you are in a family that needs you to work full time, it is important to recognize this is still a decision you are making. The more you can own your power and control in this process, the better you will be able to cope with the guilt. Your children do not blame you for working towards something you are passionate about in life. Nor do they blame you for taking the time to stay home with them and care for them during their early years.

Take a deep breath ladies (and partners). You are deserving of your own time. You are deserving of praise for the difficult job you’re doing and ROCKING! It may not feel like it most of the time, but believe me, you are wonderful at this. You are perfect for this.

Thank you to all the mothers who trusted me enough with their examples of growing pains. Here are more insightful quotes:

“Where do I begin? Everyone understands that your life will change but no one understands how fast and dramatic it changes. The overwhelming emotions and not knowing what you got yourselves into. The unknown of what is going to happen. As you have more children, finding that not all things are the same with each child and having to conform to each one individually. Having a set way of life and then having to relinquish your power to control everything. My OCD was and is hard to handle when you want things a certain way and you have multiple people who have their own ways. I could go on and on.”

“Nothing can prepare u for motherhood and u can never really be ready for it…the emotions, the unknown, and [] the crying and not knowing why or how to help her to stop. [Baby] was 2 months yesterday and we are just now getting into a good routine, but I’m going back to work in 2 weeks and I’m sure that’s going to be a whole new challenge that will result in some tears…and smiles- hopefully.”

“Patience. When a 3 yr old asks you a million questions that are all really the same question. Ugh.”

“The exhaustion was overwhelming. Especially when she would cry and I couldn’t figure out what was wrong I would have the moments of “I can’t do this.” Also nursing was really hard bc I didn’t produce enough and had to supplement and I felt like I failed at feeding her.”

“Pregnancy was amazing for me… After was a whole different story! I was exhausted and in pain from milk over production he would choke from it. But still feed 30 to 45 min each boob!I was scared to death of hurting him. [My husband] would be gone for 12 hrs and I would have to choose between eating or sleeping. Instead thanks to hormones I would do neither I would just sit there and cry for hours. 2 months felt like a life time but we got into the groove and hormones went away! All in the household was back in order.”

“Relinquishing control. Of my body, of my house, of other people, of basically everything.”

While my pregnancy went really well and was easy (still climbed into my 8th month and hiked up to the day I went into labor) confronting my own vanity was the most difficult part of pregnancy. Learning to be ok with the weight gain, the big butt, the thighs and the sausage toes. Also learning to tone it down on my athleticism. Watching my climbing level slowly diminish when I was at my peak was a bummer. I’ve only been a mom for just over 2 weeks now and there are nights that are tough but always followed by an easier night. I haven’t experienced the mood swings everyone talks about. What is most difficult now for me It’s the doing nothing. I know the baby needs time to acclimate to life outside the womb but I’m so psyched to not be pregnant any more I want to be active again and my mid wife and osteopath keep telling me to rest. I’m tired of resting!”

With baby #1 – it was grappling with the changes in my body for almost 2 years — 9 months of growing followed by 6.5 months of carrying extra weight while nursing and slowly returning to my normal size and weight. Still with baby #1 it was with all of the unexpected, unplanned events that happen when you bring another life into the world. As someone who plans, I had to learn how to be patient, flexible and plan less. Baby #1 was in the NICU for almost 2 weeks so that completely changed my plans and expectations of the beginning of my postpartum period.

With baby #2 I was more prepared for the unexpected and more prepared to give up more things in my personal time and life since I’d already grown and nourished another child. . . Nonethless it is still so challenging to be patient with myself and understand that with this second child I will take even longer to recovery physically because of c-section plus more obligations in my life giving me less time to devote to things like exercise — a toddler, graduate school, a managerial position in a high profile program. I continue to learn how to be flexible and juggle schedules. It’s just so hard to put myself first anymore, but it’s so important because I will be a better mom if I can learn to do that. Learning to ask for help has been hard for someone who wants to do it all themselves…I’ve learned how to be better at asking for help this second time around.”

It’s almost as if I made this decision to have a child without actually understanding the risks and consequences. But really how could you? There’s no way to know what your getting into until it happens. There’s no way to have enough money saved up, to have taken every trips, to have gone to every show before this child joins the world. And the good news is that even though it’s not quite as easy to do these things with children, it is possible. Now when I experience exciting things in life, like traveling, it is a deeper experience because I get to see the excitement and exploration on my kids face, and that makes me proud. Proud I’m the one going through these “growing pains” for this little one and the new one to come. I’m worth it and so are they.