The following new-mom experiences are almost universal – yet they catch many of us off guard. If you have been judging yourself as a success or a failure at this mommy stuff, based on what you had imagined motherhood would be like, read on.

1. As a new mother, you are likely to be exhausted and under stress, and to experience emotional highs and lows.

The postpartum experience is one of peaks and valleys. As in any transition, there will be losses as well as gains. At times you may question your ability to mother well. Your relationships with friends and significant others will likely change. You may feel very isolated and you may miss some aspects of life before your baby’s arrival.

New mothers typically report experiencing the full range of emotions – from elation to joy, to pride and a sense of spiritual expansion, to jealousy, anger, guilt, and frustration. A sense of ambivalence during the first months of your baby’s life is not a sign that you are a poor or uncaring mother. On the contrary, it is a sign that you are deeply aware of the significance of this experience and that you are allowing your love for this child to change and deepen your sense of who you really are.

2. Your expectations of motherhood may not match your reality.

The images that you might have had of motherhood, garnered from the media, had you believing that nearly every minute spent with your new bundle of joy would be peaceful, joyful, and fulfilling. Yet caring for a child is difficult, emotionally demanding, and frequently boring work.

You may be shocked to find how ill-prepared you feel and just how demanding your infant can be. You might find yourself feeling frustrated by the repetitive nature of the tasks (for as soon as you have diapered, clothed, and fed your baby, it is time to repeat the cycle). You might miss the social interaction that you enjoyed at the office or the intellectual stimulation of your job. No matter how much you love your child, it is perfectly normal to admit that you are not necessarily enamored of the role of being a full-time at-home mom.

3. You may find yourself so enthralled with your little one that your love affair with the baby begins to eclipse your love affair with your husband.

Many new mothers find that their needs to be touched and adored have been satisfied by the interaction they have with their babies. Yet their husbands long for the intimacy they once enjoyed with their wives. It may seem as if finding time for adult conversation or romantic nights alone requires too much effort and energy, but unless a couple puts forth a concerted effort to keep the romance alive, the arrival of a baby can mark the end of passion and the beginning of something more akin to a “sibling/best-friend” relationship.

Keep in mind that one of the greatest gifts you can give to your children is the model of a successful marriage — one in which both partners listen, respond to, and support one another. Although it might seem difficult to imagine now, it is really in your child’s best interest for you to set aside time without your child so that you can continue to nurture your marriage.

4. You may have to work to stay connected to other aspects of your “personhood.”

It is so easy for a new mother to get swept away by this new role and to lose herself somewhat in the process. Therefore, it is essential that you make it a point to carve out some time for the activities that meant a lot to you prior to motherhood. By reserving a bit of time for enjoyable and rejuvenating activities, you will find it easier to share yourself with your child during the rest of the week.

One suggestion is to reserve one evening a week where one of the parents can have time for him or herself. The other spouse is then responsible for all child and home care for a set amount of time, which provides each parent both with quality time with the child as well as some very vital personal time.

5. The best gift you can give to everyone around you (especially your children and your spouse) is the gift of caring for yourself.

Not only is your own self-care a gift to yourself – it is an absolute necessity for the health and wellbeing of your loved ones. While most new mothers will stop at nothing to ensure that their children’s needs are met, these same women behave as if they can deny they own needs indefinitely. The reality of motherhood is that you can only share as much love and nurturing as you yourself are receiving.

It is essential that all mothers ask for help and support on a regular basis in order to replenish themselves and to build up their reserves of energy and love. Once your needs are met you’ll have so much more to share with your family.

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This article was written by: Elyse Killoran

Photo Credit: Tim Bish