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Motherhood is Hard - Let's be Real

Rachel O'Reilly

By: Courtney Ward

Motherhood is freakin’ hard, let’s just get that out there.

I have focused a lot on the positive aspects of being a parent, but I wouldn’t be completely genuine if I left out the challenges. 

I experienced stress and anxiety, challenges of the toddler transformation from baby, and realizing that as an adult, I wasn’t totally prepared to have a child. These things are enough to drive a Mom to Betty Ford. The obstacles we face as new parents are monumental, but they can also change us for the better, if we face them head on and check our pride at the nursery door.

I have to admit, having a baby was sometimes pretty stressful. Sure, there was total happiness and bliss too, but that first year almost felt like a long blackout. Thank goodness for iPhones and an extra iCloud storage option, so I can look back and remember them.

The major life change, being 100% responsible for another human being, the complete lack of sleep, and all of the second guessing -- it was basically like parenting boot camp and sometimes, it was a bitch. I remember being covered in breast milk, researching how to “sleep train” my baby, with my phone ringing off the hook with an urgent work issue, my daughter crying because she only wanted me to hold her. This isn’t one isolated memory; it was just a typical morning, with no weekend in sight. These experiences are why I want to write this, to share my story to help other people feel more normal.

I remember the endless to-do lists and worry in my head from self-diagnosed postpartum anxiety. I could never have the house clean enough. I physically could not relax, or let the voice in my head go silent, even in the shower (which was always my own quiet place). I wanted everything to be perfect, but this drove me to want to escape from myself. I needed a reality check.

My stress level that first year was ridiculous, and a lot of it was irrational. I used to wake up from dreams and physically pop out of bed, breathing so heavy from fears that my baby was going to fall off a cliff on one of the hikes we took or run into the street when I wasn’t looking. The amount of responsibility I felt to protect her was so great that it almost broke me.

Eventually, that reality check happened; I called in reinforcements and went to therapy. And let me tell you, that shit helps. I learned how to take things one day at a time and to make a little time to do what I loved, like taking a long walk or going to yoga. In those early years, you have to put yourself on the back burner, but you also have to make time to take care of yourself where you can. You have to learn how to nail time management and use excellent judgment all the time. The world has tools and you can’t be afraid to use them, and if you have resources you can ask for help (friends, family, a therapist), you can’t be afraid to ask for it.

I think what makes it all so hard is that nothing in life really prepares you for being a parent. There is no all-inclusive guidebook.

It’s not that there isn’t information available -- there is. But with all of the information out there - it’s almost overload. You can find an article that contradicts every belief you thought you had, and an article that contradicts each of those articles, too. People have a million parenting styles (and there’s no shortage of judgment from either side on pretty much every issue). The truth is, a lot of parenting is simply winging it, and learning to trust your gut -- and knowing that that’s what most of us are doing.

Three and a half years into it, I realize the progress I’ve made. Parenting is hard. But I’m proud to say that the hardships of the early years of motherhood have given me more confidence. I now feel like I am easing out of survival-paranoia-crazy-parent mode, and back into my old self again. You know, only slightly paranoid. I finally feel like I have a bit of bandwidth to go out with girlfriends and relax a bit. Mostly, I’m truly proud of this little human I’ve been raising. She says “thank you” to strangers, and is genuinely concerned when her pre-school friends drop their popsicle….

The beginning years of parenthood may feel like the hardest years of your life. But I assure you, if I survived, so can you.

What were some of the unexpected challenges that you faced after you had your baby? We would love to hear your thoughts or just a straight up vent in the comments below.