4 Reality Checks for New Mothers

As idyllic as we may intend for those early days with our baby to be, it doesn’t always go according to plan. Here are four ways that new moms can have a reality check during baby’s first weeks at home.

Cheryl Butler
9-minute read
Episode #498

During the early months that I was trying to become pregnant, I was totally obsessed with anything and everything pregnancy and newborn related. I simply couldn’t get enough of talking to expectant moms, browsing through maternity stores at the mall, admiring a stranger’s slumbering baby who lay innocently in a stroller at the park. These were the things that I hoped would soon be a part of my life and I was completely absorbed.

As the years slowly crept along with no pregnancy and no baby, it became increasingly difficult for me to even look at a pregnant woman, never mind strike up a simple conversation with one. I couldn’t go near the maternity sections of a store, and when I did see a new mom pushing her baby in a stroller I enviously wondered what her life must be like to have a precious new being to love and care for.

After five very long years, I was finally blessed with a baby of my own through the gift of adoption. I now knew how amazing it felt to nurture and love this miracle of another human being who was totally dependent on me for everything. It truly was surreal.

Those first weeks with my sweet, beautiful daughter were so special, yet they weren’t anything like I had imagined they would be. My romantic notions of caring for a newborn went right out the window the day we brought her home from the hospital.

Experience is the mother of wisdom, and this couldn’t have been truer when it came to actually living with my newborn, not just dreaming about having one. As idyllic as we may intend for those early days with our baby to be, it doesn’t always go according to plan, and that’s OK if you have the right mindset. Here are four ways that new moms can have a reality check during baby’s first weeks at home.

4 Reality Checks for New Mothers

  1. You’re Going to Hurt
  2. Breastfeeding Takes Practice
  3. Tune In to Your Feelings 
  4. Find Your Village

Here’s a closer look at each.

1. You’re Going to Hurt

Because I adopted my first baby, and then gave birth to my second one a year later, my experience as a new mom is different than most. When my daughter’s birthmother was in labor, I was waiting to fly across the country to meet her. Five minutes before we left for the airport we received the call that our baby had been born. It’s a moment that I will cherish for the rest of my life. We spent our first weeks as new parents living in an efficiency suite at a hotel 2000 miles from home, with no friends or family to rely on. It was both exciting and scary to be on our own with such an awesome responsibility—caring for a brand new 6lb 6oz baby girl! Our circumstances for our first newborn were different in many ways, but the common thread we shared with all new parents was that our infant still depended on us for everything.

For this topic, I’m going to jump ahead to the birth of my first son, because this time I experienced both the emotional and the physical aspects of becoming a new mom. Although I was now very familiar with what life with a newborn was like, I was honestly shocked at how different it was—and it wasn’t pretty.

Somehow, after navigating through five-plus years of infertility, I never gave much thought to birthing a baby because I was so consumed with having one. Silly me! After 28 hours of labor, including three grueling hours of pushing, my son was born. Exhaustion was an understatement, and although I knew I loved this little guy with all my heart, I was a bit surprised at how I wasn’t over the moon to cuddle him and get to know him—I was physically wiped and quite frankly so sore I couldn’t move.

I shuffled out of the hospital two days later with not only a brand new love in my life but hard, engorged, tender breasts and a throbbing perineum that was stitched and so swollen I was certain I’d never sit comfortably again for the rest of my life. Never mind the fact that it took days to have a bowel movement. Ah, the miracle of birth!

Here’s the thing: with all the reading I did on childbirth, in addition to taking childbirth classes, I somehow missed the part about how sore I would be that first couple of weeks. I focused on the pain I’d feel in the delivery room, not how I’d feel afterward. Throw in the fact that I had a 12-month-old baby at home who was just learning to walk...let’s just say I had a rude awakening.

Had I been more prepared in knowing that my body wasn’t going to bounce back as quickly as I thought, I’m sure I would’ve dealt with the weeks after my first birth a bit more easily. The fact of the matter is that having a baby means you’ll be uncomfortable and have many, many moments of pain while your body begins to heal. Give it the space to heal.

We all have a different tolerance for pain, so be kind to yourself during that first stretch after you deliver. Set realistic expectations as to what you will be able to accomplish each day. For most new moms, especially those who breastfeed, nursing your baby and catching as many winks of sleep as you can will be at the top of your to-do list.

Now is not the time to worry about spiffing up your home or keeping your usual pace with errands and appointments. Focus on keeping your postpartum-self as comfortable as possible while you get to know your amazing new baby.


All content here is for informational purposes only. This content does not replace the professional judgment of your own mental health provider. Please consult a licensed mental health professional for all individual questions and issues.

About the Author

Cheryl Butler Project Parenthood

Cheryl L. Butler was the host of the Mighty Mommy podcast for nine years from 2012 to 2021. She is the mother of eight children. Her experiences with infertility, adoption, seven pregnancies, and raising children with developmental delays have helped her become a resource on the joys and challenges of parenting. You can reach her by email.