There were many things for which I was not prepared when they laid my first baby on my chest six years ago.

While I knew I would love my daughter, I couldn’t have known how deep it would go. I knew I would change as a person, but I didn’t realize how much I would blossom. I knew I would love seeing my husband as a father, but I didn’t realize JUST. HOW. FULL my heart would be seeing our little girl toddler-waddle to the door when she realized her daddy was home from work.

I also knew I’d be tired, but I didn’t realize how heavy the exhaustion could feel. I knew I would give a lot of myself as a mother, but I didn’t realize how hard it would be to figure out who was still left. I knew I would no longer be free to come and go as I pleased, but I didn’t realize how lonely it could be spending so much time within the walls of my house.

There were moments during those times when I was angry that no one warned me about the hard stuff.

That no one followed up their, “Motherhood is the most amazing journey you’ll go on,” with a “but just so you know, you might lose yourself, you might want to give up and you will feel alone at times.”

Maybe that would have made it feel less painful during the lows. Maybe I would have felt more “normal” when I started to feel sad and off-balance. Maybe I wouldn’t have been filled with fear when the “you’re not cut out for this” voices ran through my head. 

Or maybe it would have robbed me of my own journey.

Because now that I’m finding myself back on steady ground, I know I needed to go through that journey of discovery on my own.

Because every single pit in my stomach, every tear on my face, every fear I had, every time that I felt alone, every cry-for-help phone call I made to a friend, and every single worry I felt . . . 

MEANT something.

It had a purpose with it I wouldn’t have been able to fully embrace had I tried to prepare myself for it . . . or . . . if I had let someone else’s experience do the preparing for me.

Because there was something about the surprise of it all . . . the suddenness of it all . . . that forced me to dig into the deepest parts of myself and learn how to find balance and discover my strength.

I had to learn how to insert positivity in seemingly hopeless situations. I had to learn how to adapt. I had to learn how to save enough love for myself after giving so much of it to my children. I had to feel the lows in order to appreciate the beautiful joys. I had to identify the people who truly cared for me and those who didn’t.

And while I wished all of that pain away when it was happening, today I feel grateful it did . . . and grateful for the people who gave me the space to navigate my own way.

I’m often conflicted about my answer when expecting/new moms ask me questions about motherhood.

Because our lives are different. Our children are not the same. Our experiences in life are independent of each other, making us handle joys and struggles differently. 

So I usually choose to tell her THAT.

That her journey will be a unique one. That there’s no way I, or any other mother can FULLY help her prepare for what’s to come.

But most importantly, I will tell her I will be in her corner the whole way. 

What I won’t tell her? I’ll be asking her questions to try to see if she’s silently struggling. I’ll be offering her support even when she says she doesn’t need it. I’ll bring her food when she tells me it’s not necessary.

And if she comes to me with a struggle? It will be THEN I will share my story . . . so she knows she is not alone. 

But I will let her walk her path the way so many people did for me.

And while I will feel sadness knowing she may be going through the tough stuff, I also know that means she’s finding her strength.

And I know I’ll be there to hold her hand when she needs to borrow some of mine.

I also knew I’d be tired, but I didn’t realize how heavy the exhaustion could feel.

Brea Schmidt

Brea Schmidt is a writer, speaker and photographer who aims to generate authentic conversation about motherhood and daily life on her blog, The Thinking Branch. Through her work, she aims to empower people to overcome their fears and insecurities and live their truth. She and her husband raise their three children in Pittsburgh, PA.