The First Year Struggle is Real
You are learning to be a parent. Your partner is learning to be a parent. And you’re both doing it on little to no sleep. People tell you the first year is hard but it doesn’t really sink in until you’re in the thick of it. What do first time moms describe as their biggest anxiety inducing struggles during the first year? The basics! Sleeping, eating and life adjustments rank one, two and three with new moms.
Sleep? What sleep?
I think we all knew what we were signing up for when we decided to have kids as far as lack of sleep. But it doesn’t really set in until you’ve laid awake on a couch all night long with your newborn on your chest who literally won’t sleep anywhere else. It’s not only the lack of sleep that weighs on first time parents, it’s the where and the how of it. We worry about where our baby will sleep and if it’s safe.
“My baby will only sleep in the car seat, is that OK?”“If I don’t co-sleep am I a terrible mom?”“I just can’t bear to leave my baby in the crib all alone!”
We worry about the best way to get them to sleep. We stress about routines and schedules. “Babywise”? Oh yes, we’ve all read it but that doesn’t mean it works. We even stress if our newborn sleeps too long. During that first year we question whether to let them sleep or to wake them up to feed them.
And speaking of feeding…
Did I mention how much anxiety that causes moms in the first year? We’re drilled to know that “breast is best” and nothing else.
Breastfeeding is hard no matter who you ask. If they tell you it was a breeze they are flat out lying to you. It never feels the way it’s supposed to in the beginning. Even if baby has an all-star latch and you are successful, it is still a huge stressor. You are now baby’s sole source of food. Between feeding on demand and attempting to get sleep in between, you lose all time for yourself.
If breastfeeding doesn’t work out the feeling of failure is overwhelming. On top of that no one taught us how to mix formula, there isn’t even any in the house and we don’t own any bottles because “breast is best” and we didn’t prepare for otherwise.
I so vividly remember when we realized breastfeeding wasn’t going to work for us. It was 7:00 AM; our son was a week old. He was hungry and screaming and there was just no milk coming out. My husband, who was supposed to be going to work, ran out to the store instead because we literally had no formula in the house. We had no idea what we were doing, just like everyone else.
So here we are running around on no sleep trying to keep an infant alive, while barely keeping ourselves alive. And there is so much more to adjust to.
Restructuring your whole life
There are decisions to make about money. New parents wonder how they are going to make it. Without paid maternity leave some moms can only afford to stay home with their newborns for two weeks. Without paternity leave some dads don’t get to stay home at all. Then there is the question of how to even afford daycare when you do have to go back to work. Putting the price of daycare aside, it’s not the ideal situation even if it were free. No parent really wants to leave their child with strangers all day. Talk about a panic attack waiting to happen!
Don’t worry, we all make it through the first year
So there you have it. The down and dirty of the first year. If you’re reading this and you have yet to have your first child don’t let it bring you down too much. There is enough beauty, joy and love in the first year to overcome it all. If you’re reading this and you’re in the thick of it, keep on going. Know that you are certainly not alone; you can do it. You will make it through. Find your support system and lean on them. If you’re reading this and like me you have just made it through the first year, then congratulations! You did it!
Stay tuned for the rest of this series with a deeper look at each of the elements of the first year that moms describe as their biggest struggle.