5 Myths Associated with Pregnancy and Early Motherhood
Becoming a parent can be one of the most scary and exciting times of someone’s life. It is natural for first-time mothers to develop a curiosity for what parenthood will be like. With emotions running high in the quest for more information, we can fall prey to myths that leave us feeling scared, alone, and questioning if we are good enough for motherhood. As a licensed therapist and new(ish) mother, I’m here to shed light on some of the most prevalent myths experienced in pregnancy through that first year of motherhood.
Myth #1: You should be grateful/happy you’re pregnant.
It is okay to be scared. The truth is pregnancy can be really scary. Questions from family and friends shift from “How’s work?” to “How are you feeling?”, and slowly a new identity is bestowed upon us. And while part of you feels the same, everything changes, your mind racing with questions that you haven’t considered before. How can I afford this? Will I get time off work? Can I still pursue a career? The continued questions from others around us reinforce the unsettled feelings boiling underneath. Those big feelings make sense as you work to reconcile the loss of control occurring within and around you.
Myth #2: You should feel an instant connection with your baby at birth.
Being told countless times, “It will all be worth it the second you meet them!” is an almost-everyday occurrence during pregnancy. If you experienced a blissful birth and instant attachment to your baby, that is wonderful. But don’t worry if those first few moments were not as Instagram worthy as promised.
Soon after birth, the contrast between expectation and reality is followed up with a plethora of well-intentioned calls and texts inquiring about your levels of happiness and love for this tiny human you just met. The thing is sometimes attachment can take time, and that’s okay. By normalizing the experience of bonding being a process, we can work to minimize the shame and guilt that new moms feel. When it comes down to it, there are a range of reasons as to why it takes time to develop a bond, and none of them are because you aren't good enough.
Myth #3: You need to promptly return to your “pre-baby” weight, and you will fast-track that if you breastfeed.
The unspoken expectation to birth a child and breastfeed your child back down to your pre-baby weight (insert eye roll here) is nothing short of an awful “weight loss tip” adding unnecessary pressure and leaving new moms feeling let down by their bodies.
Rest assured, you can have a #hotmomsummer regardless of what your body looks like. Remind yourself how much work your body has done for you, because it has gone through a lot to bring your baby into this world. Consider following other moms on social media who are upfront about the challenges associated with adjusting to their new bodies, and remember that every body is different.
Myth #4: You are selfish if you take time away from your baby.
I’ve heard it, you’ve heard it, we’ve all heard it… “I can’t believe [insert name here] went on a girl’s trip, I can’t imagine leaving my child”. I will say it loud, mothers are people too, and before you were a mother, you were an individual with different friend groups, hobbies, goals, dreams. Have those friends, hobbies, goals, and dreams shifted some? Probably. Are they completely different now? Likely not.
Taking time to reconnect to yourself and reflect on the things that excite and fuel you should be looked at as an investment which delivers a return over time. And when the mom guilt begins to creep in for taking time for yourself, consider these questions:
Are you able to remain more mindful and attentive to others around you when you have taken time for yourself?
Do you feel more creative, inspired, and energized if you have had a chance to reconnect to things you used to enjoy?
How are your interactions with people you care about different when you are feeling fulfilled vs burnt out?
Which leads us into myth #5.
Myth #5: You’re a bad mom if you feel exhausted.
Momming is hard, exhausting, and thankless. The mental and physical load that moms carry is never ending. The mental load is the constant thinking, preparing, planning on the family’s behalf. It’s the laundry list of items (no pun intended) that repeatedly cycle through your mind. And when it comes time to lay down at night, you find yourself in a half-asleep state keeping one ear open in case you’re needed. Ask anyone how they might feel after months and years of carrying a mental load on top of a lack of sleep? It would probably leave them tired and worn out too, the kind that can’t be fixed by sleeping in. You aren’t a bad mom for being exhausted. You are exhausted because you are a good mom.