The Journey of Motherhood: Adjusting to the New Normal

Motherhood is a journey. 

This guest post is written by Laura Otton, LCSW, who has a private practice based out of Huntington, NY, specializing in all things motherhood ranging from fertility issues and pregnancy loss, to pregnancy and the postpartum period. She is running The Journey of Motherhood, a series of workshops, at The Nesting Place in West Islip NY. The first of workshop, Adjusting to the New Normal, is the inspiration for this post and will be held on November 16, 2019. You can learn more about Laura practice and workshops by visiting her website at therapyformotherhood.com

This is Part 1 of a four-part series. 

New mom, motherhood, postpartum, new baby, pregnancy, new normal, parenthood, new parents

Every new mother has a moment when she catches her reflection in the mirror and sees a
stranger staring back—a stranger who looks like she’s going through a battle of exhaustion and
self-doubt. Motherhood has a way of pulling out the rug from under you and forcing you to
confront difficult changes—with your identity, your relationships, your career, your body, your
social life. Nothing is left untouched by becoming a mother. And this happens even in the most
easy-breezy of circumstances.

If you’re like most women, your mantra during pregnancy was that as long as the baby was healthy, you were happy. The thing is, when that baby does come, you can have that healthy baby and still be…not happy. You can actually have moments of complete and utter sadness. You can miss your old life. And then feel guilty for feeling this way, because aren’t you supposed to be enjoying every moment? Who is that person staring back at you? Where did the old you go? And what if the baby—or you—isn’t healthy in the way you imagined? What then? This isn’t how it was supposed to be. No one told you it would be this hard.

One of the most important things to know about the postpartum period is that you will love the
baby and you will (eventually) love this new life. At the same time, you’ll have moments or
days when you wish for aspects of your former life. You know how your baby goes from
peaceful cooing to crying in a flash? You might experience the same rush of emotions—one
minute you’re in awe of the strength of your body to bring this baby into the world, swelling with
joy, peace, and love at this new life, the next minute you can crash with self-doubt, shame,
worry, and sadness. You will have the highest highs and you will have some of your lowest lows
all on the same day.

This is motherhood.

This is the work—to feel balanced again, accepting of what you cannot change, and spending your precious energy on what you can change. You can learn perceive and react to the world in a way that fosters a positive, personal growth.

So much of the work I do with a pregnant or new mother is teaching her how to speak to herself
as she would want to talk to her future child. A new mother, like her child, is constantly learning
and will inevitably make mistakes, but she can respond to these challenges with self love and
encouragement in order to strengthen her skills, her identity, and her role within her family. As
the baby learns to walk, he will stumble, fall, hurt. As a woman is learning how to mother this
child (endlessly), she will stumble, fall, and hurt. The baby doesn’t give up. She shouldn’t give
up. You are figuring this out together, and compassion for others begins with compassion for
yourself.

Motherhood will always come with challenges, both expected and unexpected. The reality of
being a mother will always be different than what you imagined. Yes, your old life is gone, but
your new identity can be one that feels even stronger, more confident, and more grounded, not
only as a mother, but as a person.

There is a lot about motherhood you can’t control. We often spend much of our emotional energy wishing for the past to be different, hoping for others to change, or hiding our true selves because we’re ashamed and think we’re the only ones feeling this way. It will serve us better to focus on what we do have control over—our thoughts, the way we speak to ourselves, the boundaries we create to let the positive support in and keep the negative judgment out.

This is what it looks like to thrive in motherhood, not despite the challenges and the stumbles, but because of them. Even when you’re doing everything right, you’ll still have moments of exasperation and frustration, and that’s when you’ll need to lean on your partner, family, and friends who are moms to find the humor, validation, and empathy we all need.

This can be the new normal. Through motherhood you can become a healthier, happier person.
Introduce yourself to that stranger in the mirror, and give her the love, compassion, and respect
she deserves.


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