A Word to the Struggling New Mom


I recently got together with a sweet friend who has a six month old. It was the first time we had actually talked face-to-face since he was born and the first time I was able to hear firsthand about the struggle and hardship she had been going through since he was born.

As she processed her past six months and the amount of stress and anxiety she has been walking through, my heart just broke for her. Multiple times during our conversation tears filled my eyes, not only because of how hard life had been for my friend but it brought back memories of my first few months of being a new mom. My daughter had acid reflux which resulted in A LOT of tears. I was also super stressed about the Babywise method/routine not working. All this stress took a toll on my body which resulted in lots of breastfeeding issues. Add a little postpartum depression and anxiety to that and you’ll find yourself a hot-mess of a mama. It was by far the hardest season of my life.

We All Handle It Differently

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As I’ve walked through motherhood and seen many of my friends enter into it, I am realizing that we all just handle it differently.

Type One: Some women breeze through it. They are able to cherish every moment of infancy, flawlessly breastfeed their good little eater into the 90th percentile, easily sooth their child into deep-long naps, coax their infant into sleeping long hours at night, and able to agree with all the old ladies at the store who tell them to “cherish every moment of this stage.”

Type Two: And then there are other moms, like me, who didn’t get off so easy. Those who limp through those first few months and wonder what the heck just happened to their life. These are the moms who have to bite their tongue when the sweet old ladies tell you these are the best years of your life.

All humor aside, if you find yourself identifying with the Type Two Mama, this post is for you. Maybe you’re there because of a colicky baby. Maybe you’re walking through the dark days of postpartum depression. Maybe you’ve found yourself at home and more alone than you’ve ever felt in your life. Maybe you’re overly anxious and can’t relax enough to enjoy your new baby.

Whatever it may be, my heart goes out to you.  I truly believe Jesus has words and truth he wants to share with you in these long, dark days.

Struggling mama, I wish we could relax in a comfy chairs, sip caramel lattes and simply talk through what God may be doing through this season of your life. Since that probably isn’t an option, I want to share my heart in a different way. Here are some thoughts/pointers/advice for YOU.

Don’t Be Ashamed

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I am seriously growing a lump in my throat as I write those words because I still feel the pain of feeling ashamed for my feelings and response to motherhood. It wasn’t what I expected. I felt trapped. I felt alone. I loved my child but had a hard time liking my fussy baby. I felt bitter towards those who didn’t seem to struggle. Above all, I felt ashamed and guilty for feeling all of these things. That was the worst. The guilt of not loving motherhood like I “should” have been.

Sweet mama, yes, you need to fight sin. You need to dig into God’s Word to find reasons to be grateful. But you DON’T need to feel guilty for struggling. You DON’T need to feel ashamed for not liking the trial in which God has you in. Nobody likes to walk through the trials. Nobody enjoys the refinement that God puts us through. (Hebrews 12:11) You don’t need to feel bad about that. Don’t let guilt keep you silent. Reach out. Be honest. You’d be surprised at how many perfectly-instagrammed moms feel the same as you do.

Stop Comparing & Embrace Life

photoComparison is the thief of joy.

When you are surrounded by other moms with easy going babies, it’s so easy to slip into the comparison game. It’s easy to imagine how much easier life would be if your kid were as happy as their kid. I even found myself growing bitter towards other moms who didn’t seem to struggle. Comparing myself and my baby was stealing my joy and preventing me from letting God be God and embrace that THIS is what he had for me and it was GOOD for me. I wish I would have read the book Compared to Her at this stage in my life and really applied the truths and wisdom. I still struggle with comparison but that book gave me some great tracks to run on when I see it rearing its ugly head. Fight comparison with all your might.

In addition to fighting comparison, choose to embrace life as it is. Stop fighting what God has put in front of you and embrace the hardship. Even though your days may not look like what you though they would, tell yourself that this is the day the Lord has made. I want to rejoice and be glad in everything that comes with it (Psalm 118:24) When I would remind myself of this truth, I was able to embrace what that day held. I was able to put aside my expectations and embrace that God is in the details. Embrace who your child is. Embrace that God in his perfect timing and planning has made him/her YOUR child. Embrace it all and do your best to not wish for something different. I turned a big corner when I got to this point. It took a while and I still struggle to do this but once I learned how to not fight my circumstances, life got a lot better.

Take One Day at a Time

1002029_10152084547243491_2091658209_nFight to stay in the present.

The what ifs and unknowns can be paralyzing. I remember thinking that I would have a fussy child FOREVER. I thought my experience of motherhood in the first few months was a taste of what my entire life was going to feel like hence forth. I was paralyzed by how I would function as a mom in the future.

When God’s people, the Israelites, were in the desert he gave them food (manna) daily. He gave them just what they needed for THAT day and no more. We get overwhelmed by the future because today’s strength won’t go that far. Well friend, that’s true! God will give you what you need for TODAY. Tomorrow he will give you what you need for TOMORROW. His mercies are new every morning (Lam 3:22-23). What a promise and blessing! We don’t have to worry about the future because every single day God will give us just what we need. That’s why it’s so important to take one day at a time.

Let’s Get Practical

While getting the big picture is super important, I love practical, concrete advice. Based on my experience and on those who have struggled through those first few months of motherhood, here are some tangible things that might help.

Force yourself to be around people–especially other moms.Screen Shot 2014-06-22 at 9.32.33 PM

For some this is easy and even a lifeline. For others, this is harder and takes more effort. When you’re sleep-deprived and stressed, the last thing you may want to do is to put forth the effort of going out and socializing. Sweet mama, if I could show up at your doorstep right now and go for a walk, I would. Because I know how life-giving being around other people is. It takes the focus off of yourself and your baby and reminds you that there is a world going on outside of your stress-hole. Yes, I just said that because that is what it feels like. Aside from God’s Word, his primary way of speaking to you is through others. You need truth. You need empathy. You need community. Reach out, get out, and speak out. It’s worth the effort.

Get outside.

pollyI’m a firm believer that being outside is good for the soul. There is something about being in God’s creation the refreshes the soul. Let the sun shine on that pale body, rev up your allergies by taking a walk in a park, strap on that baby carrier and go for a walk. Your body will thank you and your heart will be refreshed. Make it a discipline to be outside at least once a day.

Say I love you to your baby.

Enter the mom guilt (mentioned above) for even making this a practical step, but the struggling mamas will understand. This especially applies to those with fussy babies. When your baby’s cries are piercing your ears and you sense anxiety, frustration, depression, or stress taking a grip on your heart, tell your baby you love them. Out loud. For me, this would remind me what I truly do feel and put things in perspective a bit. Reminding yourself of the maternal love you have for your little one often will trump the increasing negative feelings.

You’re Not Alonetowel

I’ve decided to be brutally honest about my experience as a new mom simply because so few people are. This only perpetuates the sense of guilt and loneliness in struggling moms; and I want to free moms up to be honest and open if they are struggling. Sometimes we just need to hear that we aren’t the only one in order to brave up and reach out.

When I write about struggling in motherhood, moms come out of the woodwork and identify with the pain. My hope is that this post shines some light in a dark place if that is where you are and lets you know that you are not alone. Not only are there other moms out there struggling, but you have a God who knows you, knows your pain, knows your heart and walks with you daily. God is our ever-present help in trouble. (Psalm 46:1) and wants you to lean into his strength, not your own.

 

Get in the Word!

Lastly, this season of my life was one in which God’s truth was like water to my soul. I needed scripture to speak truth to my heart because my emotions weren’t doing me any favors. If you are in the same boat and wanting some verses to remind you of truth, we have put together some verse cards just for moms.

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Rachel and I hand-picked 25 verses that we found to be encouraging and helpful in our journey through motherhood. We had them designed and put together as a easy printable for you or for a gift to someone who may need them. Make sure to swing by our page that shares more about our On the Job Meditations for Moms. I hope and pray that they can be a blessing to you or someone you love.

If you have walked through this season, I’d love for you to comment and share any tips that helped you through the long days. It’s so helpful to other moms to see and hear that others have walked through the same things and survived! I’d love for this to be a place to share your wisdom!


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Comments

  1. Samantha says

    What an encouraging blog post! With my first baby, I was like the first group of moms you described. Everything was so easy (except for breastfeeding) and my daughter was so content and happy and easy. My experience with my second baby, born just 14 months later, was exactly like the second group you described. He had an undiagnosed milk allergy and I struggled with post partum depression. We also live abroad so had no family support. But your practical tips were right on and it’s so great to know we are not alone in this and that it’s ok to love your baby but sometimes not like your baby. I’ve passed this blog on to other new moms I know and I hope it blesses and encourages them as much as it did me! Thank you!

    • Polly says

      Thanks for passing this along, Samantha. I know I wish I would have read something like this 3 years ago. Sorry to hear your 2nd was so hard!

  2. melissa says

    Thank you so much for this! I wish I would have had this for my first. Now I’m week one into my second child’s life, and I know there is so much wisdom in this post! The first time I had so much anxiety and felt so alone. I was definitely more prepared this time around and decided ahead of time that I would have a support network in place before the baby came. It has made a world of difference! I will be sharing this for any new mom’s or “new again” mom’s like me!

    • Polly says

      Hope all is going well with your second! Round two is a bit different isn’t it?!

  3. Jessica says

    Babies are my joy and my toddler has been my struggle! I find when my toddler is making me crazy in addition to saying I love you, I go for physical touch. A kiss or a snuggle from her helps the frustration and craziness disappear. Great post, motherhood feels so different than I thought it would.

    • Polly says

      Great tips for the toddler. I can identify with those struggles as well!

  4. Megan Ellingsworth says

    I would highly recommend the book Desperate: Hope for the mom who needs to breathe. This isn’t just for new moms and is a great resource that speaks to the ideas mentioned in this post.

    • Polly says

      Thanks for the book recommendation, Megan! I haven’t stumbled on to one that directly speaks to this so I’m glad to know one is out there.

  5. Heather says

    I so wish I could have read something like this when I was a new mom! I felt so many of the things you described, but was too scared to share it with others. Thank you for sharing this Polly. I know it will encourage many women, as it has encouraged me!

  6. Pamela says

    On my 55th birthday last Sept, we were hit with the realization that my daughter’s newborn was born severally addicted to hard drugs. We had NO idea that our daughter was a heroin/cocaine addict. At that point, we knew we would take this baby home and raise him, while hoping our daughter would get clean. Jaxson stayed in the NICU for one month, and then came home. His next 3-4 months were horrible as his body continued to rid itself of the toxins. I spent hours holding him and crying out to God for relief. He couldn’t sleep, and agitation was horrible. BUT God was merciful and Jaxson is now a perfectly healthy, extremely happy, always smiling almost 10 month baby who sleeps 9 hours at night! How we love this little boy. Sadly, our daughter isn’t clean, but we will raise this boy knowing God’s mercy and goodness all the days of his life! He is told constantly about God’s love!!

    • Rachel says

      Thank you for sharing your story, Pamela. Praise God for a healthy baby boy and your willingness to sacrifice to raise him. I will pray right now for your daughter.

    • Polly says

      Pamela- you should be the one writing this post, not me. I can’t imagine the endurance and patience you had to have in order to get through those first few months. Thanks for sharing your story and giving myself and other struggling moms a little perspective. It takes a deep faith to go through what you have and continue to go through with your daughter. Praying for you, Jaxson and the rest of your family.

  7. Jen says

    My second child (second daughter) as I write this is just 7 weeks old so the walking in the “newborn” fog is very relevant to me. With my first I remember having the common wake up calls into motherhood and having the ups and downs. It’s a hard and fast lesson in complete selflessness. But I still really enjoyed her newborn weeks. It’s been a bit different with my second. At first I felt really cruddy for admitting that I couldn’t wait until she hit the 3 month milestone when things feel like they really change with your baby. I felt like I “should be” savoring her at every moment because it goes by fast, and while I DO savor some things (like how portable they are and how much lighter they feel in a wrap or carrier) I really feel like it’s not going by fast enough to get over this newborn hump! Is that aweful? Then I brought it up with some moms in my fb group and many of them related and agreed and confirmed to me that it’s ok to look to the future and it’s ok to not LOVE every moment, because I don’t love the newborn fussies in the evening when I am pooped and ready for my toddler to go to bed. And I don’t love it when they decide that 5 am is a good time to wake up and give me smiles and try to be social with mama….. That should wait at least 2 more hours! And just having other moms affirm and validate what I’m experiencing and that newborns are not easy, and it’s ok to want it to be over help tremendously! We don’t “complain” to one another….we just let it out, vent a little, and say things like “yeah…me too.” Also, the book The Power of Motherhood is a giant help in seeing God’s plan and big picture for us mamas.

  8. Rocio says

    Thank u for this! I sooo needed this today! My Lo is now 3 months old and I’m still finding it so hard! We had a really rough day today and I have been in tears pretty much the whole day. I hope and pray that things get better eventually. I’m exhausted and feel so alone even with my wonderful husband and family by my side. All the new moms I know are in the type 1 category and makes me feel like such a failure ?

    • Polly says

      Oh, sweet mama, you are not a failure. Look in that baby’s eyes. There is life there. You have given that baby life and you have kept it alive! If anything that is a success for a new mom! Haha. Motherhood can be SO lonely at times. Be vulnerable. Be real. People are drawn to that and will open up about their struggles too. Fight comparison with all of your might. There is nothing good that comes from that. Embrace the baby and the season in which God has you and do your best to walk as he would today. Hang in there. It won’t always be so hard.

    • Rhani Ganze says

      I agree. I’m on Baby #2 and she has rocked our world. Baby #1 was a breeze, this one has a milk allergy we just figured out 8 weeks later and to say it’s been hard and trying is an understatement. I felt like she hated me and nothing I’d do would help her so failure weighed heavy on my shoulders. Finding this blog and another one of yours about reflux has really hit home. I’m sharing with another momma friend of mine, I love that we aren’t the only ones going through this. Your words helped me tonight. Thank you!

      • Polly says

        So glad this helped AND for sharing. I love knowing that this is helping struggling mamas out there.

  9. Genesis says

    This is exactly what I needed to read. My first baby is now 10 months and I was feeling guilty that I wasn’t enjoying motherhood. I felt like I was doing all the daily duties to check them off the list and not enjoying them. It’s not something you want to talk about and I was ashamed to even bring it to God which is silly because he already knows about it. But I journaled about the ugly things I’ve been feeling and I felt like I needed to find some encouragement so I picked up my phone and God brought me here. Thank you! His Mercies are new EVERYDAY! And I pray for gratitude, strength, and wisdom in this season in my life. I don’t want the enemy to steal the joy in the present by keeping me focused on all the bad. I also struggle a lot with comparison. I look at moms that look like they’re ready for a party everyday and I barely want to wear a bra any more. I’ve gained 10pounds in three month and I feel surrounded by moms that are looking great just after having their babies. I will look into the book suggested that helps with that. Thank you for this blog and outlet. Tonight it was a lifeline for me.

  10. Sarah A says

    Thanks so very much for this, and for your other blog post on acid reflux, which I keep coming back to. Your words are like a warm hug. I’m a struggling mum in Oxford, UK with my darling, reflux-ravaged boy (born prematurely, under scary circumstances). I’ve felt so much shame, about not coping, about not being able to shelter my baby to his full term, about my unpreparedness and frustration and inadequacy. Other capable mums with their happy babies make me wonder if I’m the cause of my baby’s misery. We’re 5 months in and it seems to be getting worse, not better, but your words about strength sufficient for the day are really helpful. Thank you for writing – you have a gift. Maybe you should write a book!!

  11. Tam Q. says

    I came across your post just today, and I definitely can relate to it. I am a first time mom. My daughter was born prematurely and had acid reflux most of her first year. She is 13-month. We did have one or two scary incidents after her first birthday, but in general, she is getting better and better everyday. I struggled with a newborn and postpartum depression for a year right after she was born. During that time, I always wondered what was wrong with me. I didn’t feel that joy of being a mother. Just like you said in the post, I bit my tongue numerous time when someone told me to enjoy the motherhood and my baby as much as possible. I did not see what they were talking about. I still can’t say that I love being a mother no matter how much I love my child. Your post definitely gives me a new perspective. Thank you for such encouraging words! I am definitely not alone here. I will take all your words of wisdom, and move forward. My favorite one is “take one day at a time.”

  12. Heather says

    I am not usually one to ever comment on a blog-post I come across, but thank you so very much for your openness and honesty! I very much needed to read this today!

  13. Maisie says

    I just wanted to say this article is exactly what I needed to hear . I have struggled so much with depression, anxiety and bitterness. I ask myself so much why I didn’t get a easy baby. All I can do is pray to survive and get through this and that God gives me the strength to do it. Thank you for reaching out!

    • Rachel says

      Hi Maisie, thank you for your vulnerability. We’re truly thankful you found Polly’s story, and I’m sure it was no accident. May God grant you the strength and perseverance and patience you need to weather this storm. And may you lean into Him more and more as you do. Warmly, Rachel (and Polly)

  14. Amanda says

    Can we be friends ? Lol

    • Polly says

      Ha! Best comment so far. 🙂 Glad you related.

  15. Esther says

    Thank you so so much for blogging this! My world has been turned upside down by my 6 week old and I found myself nodding vigorously to every thought you penned as I read them! This and the article on things you’d do differently with your second have helped me change my perspective tremendously. Thank God for you and for 2 Corinthians 1:4!!