Women with more than one child generally agree that they were far more anxious the first time they had a baby than they were with subsequent children. There are things that a first-time mother struggles with that mothers with more children may not. It’s not necessarily that motherhood gets easier but rather that after having two or more children, you become surer of yourself as a mother. As with everything else, experience makes things easier. In this way having a child for the first time is unique in its challenges and joys.
Worry, worry, worry
One of the main reasons why having your first child is different from having the other children is that you are probably nervous. You may feel overwhelmed with anxiety when it hits you that there is a whole other human being who is fully dependent on you for everything. As the experience is new, you are not yet that confident in yourself and your abilities as a mother. You worry about everything under the sun. You carry out instructions from your mother or doctor with great precision and think it is a disaster when you miss something. You read everything there is to be read about taking care of a baby and try to implement everything you read because you are convinced that any slight mistake you make will ruin your child’s life forever. It takes time for a first-time mother to relax and believe that things will be okay and that even mothers can make mistakes sometimes.
You spend more
The other day on Twitter a mom was lamenting about how she spent so much money buying toys for her child only for the child to decide that playing with a potato was so much more exciting than playing with the numerous contraptions and gadgets she had bought for him to play with. It was hilarious and yet brings up another struggle that first-time mothers often face. Because you want the very best for your child you go all out buying everything that every parenting book says you need: toys, all types of clothes in all materials, different styles of everything. It takes a while to realize that the baby doesn’t need half of those things and by then your money is gone.
When you have a baby, the whole world is on your case about how you should raise your child. It’s worse when you are a first-time mother because at least when you have other kids they can see that your parenting worked out just fine, and the mom-shaming reduces. Everybody and their grandmother has very elaborate instructions about how you should bathe, dress and breastfeed your baby. Absolute strangers will stop you on the road to tell you how you are doing this and that wrong. I’ve been on buses where a woman has a crying baby and everybody on the bus decides that they know what she needs to do to make the baby stop crying, with complete disregard of the fact that she has probably tried everything she could.
Obviously, this quickly becomes frustrating, especially because you have no experiences of your own to draw from and make your own decisions. In this case, it’s often helpful to just pick one or two people to listen to, like your mother or doctor. As with everything else, in motherhood you cannot please everyone.
Finding a new way to live
Another challenge comes in the form of finding a new rhythm in your life and settling into it. Maybe your job required you to travel a lot and you loved that, but now you can’t do that. Maybe you used to go out with your friends every week and now that has to change. Maybe you loved your alone time and loved to be by yourself to read or watch a movie, and the baby makes it impossible to do that. Maybe you and your partner were fun and spontaneous but now sexual intimacy has to be scheduled if it is to happen at all.
Finding a new way to live by making space in your life to accommodate the needs of a baby can be super frustrating. Babies disrupt the rhythm of life whether they are the first or sixth. However, mothers who have experienced this disruption before are better able to deal with it than mothers who are just figuring it out for the first time. Many first-time mothers realize that the idea they had of motherhood looks nothing like the reality. You have to make the adjustments and find out what works for you through trial and error. Easier said than done, though!
Learning the hard way
Even though first-time moms do the most to prepare themselves for motherhood, often they discover that some lessons simply must be learnt the hard way. A first-time mother will usually know that motherhood will be both challenging and exciting but will not grasp the full extent of it until she experiences it for herself. Some find that breastfeeding is not a natural thing that just happens and where both mother and baby are happy and experience no problems. Instead she is introduced to sore nipples and learns that there is a ‘right’ way to breastfeed, and that it is not what she thought. Some realize that when people say new mothers are always tired, they mean really tired. No matter the extent of one’s preparation, motherhood is one of those things where most of your learning will happen on the job.
Despite these challenges, the experience is new and exhilarating. There is so much to learn when you begin a new chapter in your life, so much love to be given, and most times, this is more than enough to help you overcome the challenges of first-time motherhood.
Author: Michelle Korir
Michelle Chepchumba is contributor at Wanjiru Kihusa. She loves cats and enjoys reading and writing in an attempt to discover the mysteries of the human mind. She also works in mental health and writes about life at www.thescroll.co.ke.