Nothing prepares you for motherhood.

The highs, the lows, the good, the bad, the disgusting, and the joy.

Nothing. Okay, maybe a dog but only because of the occasional middle of the night letting it out to poop.

When my first child was born, I was in this euphoric yet manic stage. Even though I knew I was having a child, his appearance into the world astonished me! I was captivated. I hung on his every breath, every movement. He was my world. I remember taking him to J.C. Penney’s for professional pictures when he was a week old. And then I took him at one month, two months, four months, six months, nine months, and one year. That was the manic part I was talking about! And I also thought every one did that, which they don’t.

Yet, at the same time I was experiencing the indescribable joy of having a baby, I was experiencing the indescribable sadness of having a baby!

I felt a sadness so deep I had never felt before. I felt like a part of me died. Nothing was about me anymore. That thought alone made me feel incredibly selfish. I had had plenty of me time as it was. I didn’t have my first child until I was 32. But I still felt this death-of-self feeling. I longed for him to be older. Self-sufficient. When I would have my body back and every moment wouldn’t be tied up in someone else. I felt horrible for feeling that way! But, if I’m being honest, that’s how I felt. I have no doubt I struggled with some form of post-partum depression, but no one even knew. Like most moms, I didn’t share with others the awful way I was feeling.

Hitting the five year mark with my son, I can now look back and see that it really does go by as fast as everyone will tell you. (And everyone will tell you this everywhere you go and most likely during moments when your child is having a horrid tantrum.) I can also look back and see things more clearly. I can see that there were many things that blindsided me as a new mom and that I wish I had had a heads up about.

So, here are 5 “heads up” for all the soon-to-be new moms:

1.      There is a recovery process after you give birth.

When I had my first, I never thought about the after of delivering a baby. I had imagined the birth many times and the driving the baby home many times, but never the in between. I had been in labor for 23 hours in which 17 of those were spent on an epidural. After I had my son, I felt like a ninety year old woman trying to walk again. The nurses had to help me go to the bathroom. They handed me these larger than life pads and maternity underwear and an ice pack and a squirt bottle and I was in shock! Call me naïve, but I hadn’t a clue of what to expect after the birth. I hadn’t gone to any lamas’ classes and none of the TLC A Baby Story shows focused on that part! (Yes, that and reading What To Expect When You’re Expecting were my only preparation.) So, I was in for a rude awakening when I was given the list of requirements for me to fulfill every time I went to the bathroom…for the next 4-6 weeks!! So, I just want you to know that this might be you too if you are having a vaginal birth.

2.      Breastfeeding is not a walk in the park.

You would think something natural would come, hmmm, I don’t know…naturally! But for many of us this is not so. From the moment a well-meaning, yet pushy nurse tried to shove my breast into my horrified, screaming newborn’s mouth, breastfeeding became a mountain I tried to climb. I was determined and able to persevere but, so many times I wish someone, anyone, would have said, “You can quit.” I needed someone else to say this to me. Why? Because I just couldn’t give myself permission. The guilt and pressure I had put on myself to do what’s “best” for my baby over road the overwhelming desire that I had to give up.

So let me be the first to tell you…. YOU CAN QUIT. You can supplement with formula, you can go all in and just do formula, or you can continue to breastfeed. Any and all of these options will not determine what kind of mom you are. If you are determined to breastfeed, know that it may be a difficult road in the beginning. It can be challenging and overwhelming.  It ended up being an amazing thing and I’m so glad I did. But had I chosen to stop, it would’ve been OK!

3.      Everything you’ve heard about not getting enough sleep is TRUE!

Before you have a baby, you think you know about this part, but it’s not until your eye sockets -like the actual bones in your skull – hurt from the severe lack of sleep you are experiencing do you really get it. I remember saying, “This is not right. There is no way people have been living like this.” But they have! And so will you, unless by some miracle you get a baby that sleeps through the night right away, which does happen, but to other people not you. So expect to be bone tired for a while. I found starting a sleep routine right away, like putting the baby down at the same time every night, helps to begin the process. But babies need to eat every few hours and you will be getting up, so settle in.

4.      You might be sad.

Many, many women experience an unexpected sadness after having a baby. Our hormones are raging and all the new changes to our life can leave us feeling sad. This really took me by surprise. I’m a very cheerful, happy person. So the sadness I felt those first few weeks felt foreign to me. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me. I was overjoyed to have my baby yet I was not happy. My husband would come home from work and I would cry and cry. I remember trying to reassure him that I would be okay and that I was happy, I just needed to adjust. I didn’t understand why I was feeling the way I was and so I certainly didn’t tell anyone else. But I wish I had. I should have told my friends and family. I should have told my doctor. I should have let people know so they could’ve helped me. Sometimes we feel guilty for our feelings. Don’t. Some women have postpartum depression and unless you talk with someone, you won’t get the help you need. (Side-note: As fellow moms, we need to keep an eye out for new moms and the symptoms of postpartum depression.)

5.      It will all go by really fast, but it won’t feel like it.

The first year of motherhood will feel way longer than any other year! The range of emotions and experiences dealing with the new love of your life will feel like a roller coaster that never ends. But it will! There will be a plateau. A day when they won’t need you every waking moment. I know it’s hard to imagine right now. It kind of sneaks up on you. But soon, they won’t be chasing you around, you’ll be chasing them around.

This can be comforting yet scary! Comforting because if you are in a stage right now that you find particularly hard, just wait and you’ll move on to another stage real soon. But also scary, because those stages you love will go by, too. Those chubby little cheeks are going to thin out. That baby babble will give way to actual words and sentences. Those little curls on the nape of the neck will eventually be cut off and won’t grow back like that. So, soak it all in because one day you’ll be a stranger in the store telling another new mommy how fast it all really goes.

Sherry White

Sherry White writes about the messiness of life, parenting, and faith at her blog The Messy Christian. She tries to add her own brand of humor and insight into everyday issues we all face, reminding us that even though we find ourselves in countless messes, God’s grace lights the way. She would be thrilled if you follower her on Facebook and Instagram.