Real Talk / Real Moms: Finding Your Confidence

How I found my confidence as a mother in the first year. More on the Fresh Exchange

I envisioned just how it would be the moment I met Hayes. It still replays in my mind as if it happened only hours ago. It is a moment as a mother that begins so many things into motion. You feel the sweet relief of being on the other side of labor. You are taking in every inch of this little one you have been creating the last 9 months and envisioning since the day you knew you wanted to be a mom. You are feeling every emotion possible all while you are trying to forget that your being put back together down below. But what took me the most by surprise was the weight of responsibility that rushed over me within hours after having him. I felt protective and realized just how real it was that now my heart and soul existed separately from myself on earth. It was overwhelming to think about how I would care for this small and helpless human all while having no idea how to do it. I looked at him over and over that first 48 hours and wondered my gosh this is real…I have to do this.

Some women are born to be mothers. They from the start cannot wait to have a baby and deeply desire to have multiple children. I applaud these women because we need them in this world so much. For me, I never instinctually desired the baby phase of parenting. It has always been frightening to me. I knew I wanted to be a mom without a doubt, but the idea of caring for a baby scared me so much. I knew though to get to the parts of parenting I desired I would have to go through the refining fires of the first year to get there though. This meant I entered into motherhood with little to no confidence about how to tackle this new role, but I learned quickly just how incredibly designed for this job as women. Nature took over just as so many told me it would.

In those first few hours, we were together, me trying to figure out how to nurse, and him sleeping soundly on me, I whispered to him, “We are in this together. You don’t know any more about this adventure right now than I do. We will both be growing and learning together each day.” I knew that because how little confidence I had that it was going to be way bond we would forever share. He would be how I learned and forever that would be a distinct connection we would share. That is what makes your first so extra special (shhh don’t tell the others). The fist one that you learn everything with. Every moment with your first baby is a first. You know so little no matter the books you read. You are walking on a dark path feeling your way right alongside them. My goal in all of it though was to be transparent with him even if he was completely unaware. I wanted him to know I knew very little, but together we would figure it out. I wear my heart on my sleeve so why I would do much else with my own child?

How I found my confidence as a mother in the first year. More on the Fresh Exchange

The first year as a new mom was possibly one of the hardest of my life. I won’t gloss over it and tell you I didn’t ache for going back to the days before or have guilt about how painful the change was in my life. I struggled to find myself within the role. I had and still have moments of such intense anxiety as a mom. I worry about so many things. I stayed up at night when he had his first fever holding him right on me because I was so fearful. I made him sleep with me so many times he was sick because I worried. I googled things that now I never care about or think twice about. I called the doctor about little things. It is part of being a new mom. I realize this now and it was part of me becoming a mom. I knew I would have to find some way to find calm in this vicious hurricane that motherhood can be at times. Between trying to physically feel like myself again and wondering if he was eating enough (he has always been a skinny kid) or why he wouldn’t sleep…all of it felt like climbing a mountain each day at times.

How I found my confidence as a mother in the first year. More on the Fresh Exchange

Even through the struggles of the first year, each day I found new confidence in myself as a mother. Over time, my anxiety lowered with each moment something I did worked or I wouldn’t think twice about what he needed and just listened to myself. One of the first moments was on our first night home. He woke up and cried and wouldn’t stop even after he ate. I almost started panicking. Mike was looking at me like what do we do, is there something wrong? Is he okay? All the same things rushing through my head and then I took a deep breath and hummed to him. I hummed a song I listened to often and just swayed lightly. He hushed and looked at me in the low light of the room and I realized then I could do this. I could figure this out and that advice of listening to your gut was real. Over and over those months and weeks following I had more and more moments like that. It felt like that dark path had bright moments where I could see just a little further ahead each time. I felt I knew better than I did before even when it was still hard.

How I found my confidence as a mother in the first year. More on the Fresh Exchange

For me the biggest anxiety and struggle was sleep, which I think for most moms it is. Hayes was a good eater even if he was skinny, but sleep was a whole other ordeal. Looking back now I realized it had to do with a few things for him, which were mental development, food, and activity levels. He at times would wake every hour to 45 minutes angry screaming wanting nothing and no one. It was a hard time for Mike and I and especially me. I cried many times when he would wake up especially by the fourth of fifth time that night. I was exhausted and it was a dark time for me. Somehow though I would get up and go to him even with tears running down my face. I knew the fight he would have with me and he was so strong and violent considering his age of 5-6 months old.  It tried me and many nights Mike would look at me like what do we do both exhausted between work and not sleeping. Many times I would look at him tears streaming out and just mouth I don’t know. After another sleepless night, I finally did research, listened to my gut and asked friends. A few days later I came to a conclusion that we would do a method of picking up and putting down to help teach himself soothing methods and I talked to the doctor about introducing formula just at night. Soon we got him sleeping with only one feeding and once he was crawling/standing he slept through the night. I do remember one night I did let him cry some because I knew he needed nothing and I needed to know he could self-soothe. I watched and after 5 minutes he put himself back to sleep. It was a victory, one that left me with deep confidence as a mom. Every mom knows that feeling when it works especially when it comes to sleep. Small victories are big ones as a mom.

How I found my confidence as a mother in the first year. More on the Fresh Exchange

Confidence is still something I am working on and there are many things still to tackle in this journey, but these small victories have made being a mom easier every day. Though I know for some women it is more natural, it has surprised me how even through the struggles it has come more easily than I expected. These days, it feels the path ahead is far more lit. I know the curves that can come at us and I know him enough to know what he needs. Soon, he will talk to me, discipline will become our next hurdle, and then one day another little one, but this first year of full blazing and refining flames of jumping head first into motherhood has brought me the solid ground I need to know we can tackle anything that is ahead in this journey.

As part of the Real Talk / Real Moms series, I have linked to the other moms who participated this month so you can read their thoughts and experiences about finding their confidence. I highly suggest checking them out if this is something you are struggling with.

Tell me, other mamas, how are you finding confidence in your role as a mom? Are you someone that instantly felt it or has it taken you time? What is a moment that made you feel that sense of confidence in your role?

You can read the other posts from other mama bloggers here:
The Effortless Chic
A Daily Something
Design for Mankind
The Sweetest Occasion
A Life Styled
Design Addict Mom
Oh Lovely Day
Apartment 34

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15 Responses

  1. thank you for such a beautiful, honest and open post. With 3 weeks to go, you’ve put the feelings I’ve had trouble expressing so simply and raw here – I’ll be rereading this post for sure in a little bit when that confidence waivers and I need som extra reassurance. xx Jac

  2. I think I gained confidence once we were able to get the sleep thing down. Sleep is such a battle that so many people have, but its never really talked about before you have kids other than, “you’re going to be so tired”. 🙂 I’m so sorry that you had such a rough time.

    I remember having these moments in the early weeks where I was so bewildered and just didn’t know what to do about so many things. I googled, read books, talked endlessly with my husband. Is he getting enough sleep? why is he spitting up so much? is he hitting milestones? etc. So much worrying. Eventually, as you mentioned, you trust your gut, you find things to try- some of them work- and you realize that you might just be able to handle thing next thing… because there is always a next thing with a new baby. 🙂

    I’m now 4 months into being a mom of two; the older one is 2 1/2 and man, it’s a whole new ballgame… but having that confidence of going through the first has made this experience much more joyful. And much less bewildering.

  3. Oh my this is what is weighing on my mind pretty heavily. I am due any day now and I’m not worried at all about labor-I’m ready and my body knows what to do. I am, however, worried about taking care of a tiny new baby. Will I be ready? Will I know what to do? Will I feel guilt over wanting things to be simple again? will I be scared? So many questions. I am also not the kind of woman who has always desired a baby and i feel doubt when I get advice from women who do feel that way. I get excited when I picture us bonding as she gets older but this next phase really makes me nervous. Thank you for sharing so openly. I do feel a sense of ease hearing similar things from someone who felt how I am feeling now. It’s nice to feel understood and not alone in this feeling. I feel assured that I will find my way through it all in my own way and that we will both be learning together.

  4. thank you for this. my husband and I have talked about starting a family in the very near future. thinking about it has caused me quite a bit of ANXIETY and worry. it is nice to read that I am not alone in feeling this way. all you ever see on social media is the good stuff. you hardly ever hear or see about the bad/not-so-pretty stuff or the worry/ANXIETY/nervousness/sleeplessness that comes with having a baby. your posts on motherhood make me feel normal about these feelings I have been having lately. thank you.

  5. This is such a timely post for me. I am 4 weeks from my due date with my first baby (it’s a girl!) and as much as I try not to be overwhelmed with such a huge new RESPONSIBILITY, I can’t help but think “Am i really going to be able to do this?” i keep reminding myself that whatever happens, every phase will eventually pass and i just need to do my best and it will be good enough. Thanks for sharing so openly and honestly about your first year of motherhood, i find it so encouraging to read about!

  6. First i’d like to compliment you on this beautiful, open-hearted piece. It sounds like you’re a wonderful and deeply considerate mom, and that’s all a child could wish for! I’m looking forward to the other stories, as i’ve recently Became a mother myself.

    My daughter is 11 weeks old now, and pregnancy and labour were intense, to put it mildly. I fell Sick with HG (hyperemesis gravidarum, or extreme pregnancy nausea; in fact I wrote a piece about it on my blog) and it really colored the way I experienced the last 8 months of carrying her inside. Although I was planning to read dozens of books on babies and parenting I wasn’t up to the task, because reading a book was virtually impossible without throwing up. In fact, the first few months I simply had to trust that focusing on myself rather than the baby (which was very counter-intuitive!), trusting her to grow safe and sound, would be the best for both of us. I pretty much sat my pregnancy out, with all the time to mentally prepare but few means to do so.

    But when she was born (after an intense labor Ending in an emergency c-section, again something that took a part of the natural process of pregnancy and labour away) everything just clicked into place. Not only my Trust on my motherly instincts, but also her place with me and my partner. It simply felt like she’s been with us since forever from day one, but that we now really got the chance to get to know her and learn how to take care of her.

    Here in the Netherlands, we have a thing called “kraamzorg”. These are nurses who teach you to take care of your baby at home and do some extended medical supervision on mother and child. Although we stayed at the hospital for a few days after I gave birth, it was bliss to have these ladies over, taking care of me and the baby, while showing me the ropes. The Mister learned how to do things like give Our daughter baths and take her temperature at the hospital, but I couldn’t, as I wasn’t allowed out of bed. It really worked wonders for my confidence to have had these ladies at home to teach me a couple of simple things about caring for a newborn, especially since pregnancy and labor had left me so physically weak.

    The rest came by itself. I know this is an easy statement for a complicated matter, but it simply did. Despite the cecaserian I was immediately able to nurse, and it all went (and still goes) swimmingly. After 3 weeks our daughter already pulled 6 hours of straight sleep at night. A reason to consult doctor Google, because I was worried this was too early and not beneficial to her health (fortunately her eating well and gaining weight rapidly made it ok). Despite a bit of a runny nose the first month and some baby acne she has been fine, if not ridiculously early with all the little things a baby is bound to show while growing and developing. Needless to say this significantly boosts our confidence as parents making, worrying UNNECESSARY. It leaves me with time to worry about the little bumps all parents are bound to run into, like her first night sleeping in her own room. It was only two days ago and you should have seen me, silently bawling next to her crib!

    1. Girl this an amazing story! Wow! Thank you for sharing and what a journey you have been on. Also, I wish in the US we had better care for women post birth and more time off to work through the rocky road of the first year. I felt grateful to have a job that allowed me space to figure things out, but my gosh it still was unbelievably hard. Having a person to come and teach you things, answer questions and so on is unbelievable. I am so glad you had that especially after everything you went through.

      Congrats on the moving her to her own room. I wish we had done that sooner with Hayes. PLanning on an earlier shift with the next one even if it is so hard to let them be away from you. You got it girl and it is also okay to cry and feel each step along the way. Things are best to be felt rather than not. Crying is part of motherhood and an important piece I now believe. I will be thinking of you!

      1. Thank you so much! I do need a reminder to let go of some tears omce in a while. Things have been so hectic… Also, you’ve been on my mind too; that’s why I checked back on your article!

        The after-care is indeed a wonderful thing and a medical standard the Netherlands has been cherishing for about 20 years now. Unfortunately, our government is comsidering lettimg it go due to budgetcuts in our medical care system. Needless to say I really hope they won’t, and I don’t think any young woman or couple will think otherwise.

        PS: my apologies for the improper use of capitalization in my last comment, it’s a mobile thing 😉

        1. Oh don’t worry! Hang in there! I promise it really does get better. I remember I would just tell myself if I made it through birth I can do this. I can do this. I many times would just try to make it minute by minute. The struggle is hard as hell, but the refining fire of motherhood truly turns us women into true beautiful diamonds I have realized. That first year was all about shedding who I was and my son was the thing that I needed to become my best self as I am not. I believe each child I have will do this for me, but this first one is the most transformative and hard to handle. Any women that say it isn’t hard I don’t know if I believe them to be honest. It is the hardest job you love and sometimes don’t love as well. Don’t feel bad if you have moments you cannot do it. Step away. Take care of yourself. You will feel ready to come back. Have someone you can call for backup, but find space to step away from yourself and look at you from the outside to see how you are changing for the good and sometimes the bad ( I was trying to survive and found myself being too selfish which meant I needed more self-care). Give yourself space and grace through this first year. You can do it. Nothing great in life comes easily so I had to believe the whole time the hard meant there was such beauty and joy at some point. I also had to remember even the struggle that this was part of writing my story as a mother and as a woman.

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