Motherhood question: Is it really this hard?

A mother reflects on what she never expected.

ByABC News
March 28, 2017, 3:30 PM
An undated stock photo of a mother holding baby.
An undated stock photo of a mother holding baby.
Brand X Pictures/Getty Images

— -- (Editor's note: This article originally appeared on Happy Chic Mom. It has been reprinted here with permission).

I didn’t expect parenting to be easy, but it was far harder, yet far more rewarding, than I could have ever imagined. When I was at the hospital, I had lots of support from helpful nurses and lactation consultants who came to check in on me and the baby constantly. They showed me how to properly swaddle the baby, checked his urine output, gave me pain medication and answered all of my first-time mom questions. The reality of having a helpless newborn who was totally and utterly dependent on me emerged the first few days after we got home from the hospital. At that moment, I truly understood the saying “it takes a village to raise a child.”

It was an emotional roller coaster of elation, uncertainty and sheer exhaustion all rolled into one. When your newborn cries, eats and poops every two hours, it’s hard to see the big picture when you are covered in spit-up, cleaning diaper blowouts, suffering from painful plugged ducts and surviving on one hour of sleep every few hours. When well-meaning friends and family told me to “treasure and enjoy these fleeting moments,” I just smiled politely. In my mind, I was thinking that they had no idea what they were talking about (or they were suffering from amnesia). The truth is that when you are knee-deep in baby care, the hours are long but the days go by fast. Just ask any mom whose child is turning 1 soon.

I have a few good friends who recently had babies and even though they were well prepared, they were shocked at how hard motherhood was. This was by far the most common comment/question I got from them: “My baby doesn’t sleep unless she is being nursed or rocked to sleep. When she finally falls asleep, as soon as I put her down, she cries again. Is this normal? I feel like I have to hold her all day until my husband comes home to tag team with me. I can’t get anything done or get any rest.”

I always respond by telling them that yes, it is normal. They are not doing anything wrong and there is nothing wrong with their babies. Parenting is hard, very hard. Motherhood is tough and ironically most people don’t talk about how hard it is, not even to their closest friends and family. Instead, we constantly see bright-eyed, bushy-tailed parents and their babies on Facebook and Instagram, going to concerts at the park, out for coffee or doing camping trips while we are still in our nursing tanks, hair uncombed and bags under our eyes. Something isn’t adding up. What am I doing wrong? Why are other people’s babies so happy while my baby constantly cries?

While there are indeed some easy babies who like to eat and sleep, and mellow parents who make parenting look effortlessly easy and fun, these kinds of babies and parents are a rarity. The truth is that we put the best versions of ourselves on display on social media. The last 23 hours may be filled with tears and frustration, but we will post that one beautiful picture of our baby smiling on Facebook with the comment “that smile, though.”

Moms, let’s strive to be kind and sweet to ourselves. Know that you are doing the best that you can for yourself and your baby. You will make mistakes and learn along the way and that is OK. Experience is nothing more than making mistakes and learning from them. Take in the moments, whether good or bad, as these experiences will become significant chapters in your motherhood story.

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