Sometimes the reminders we need the most show up in unexpected ways.
I sat outside on our deck, slowly sipping the tea that someone had recommended to help me dry up my breast milk. It had been a long, hard few weeks since we brought our youngest daughter home from the hospital after her NICU stay. I was feeling defeated on pretty much every level.
This was my fifth baby and, in my mind, I should have had this whole parenting thing down by now, right? But instead, I was struggling so much.
I was exhausted to my very bones. My older kids were feeling neglected. And instead of the blissful newborn baby stage I had imagined all those months of my miserable pregnancy, I was sick yet again with mastitis, and my baby wouldn’t breastfeed. I didn’t want to give up trying to nurse, but after three bouts of antibiotics and consultations with two different lactation consultants, it was looking like I was going to have to.
So, there I was, trying all of the different remedies that I found on the deepest recesses of the internet to try to cut my supply down. I was doing it all — the decongestants, the decreased pumping, the cabbage leaves, the essential oils, and the No More Milk Tea by Earth Mama.
I had almost come to enjoy my nightly cup of tea (probably because I also poured in a boatload of honey, but hey, who’s counting, right?) and that night, I turned the tea bag over to look at it when I noticed a message printed on it.
“To the mama of a newborn: Don’t forget you are newly born, too.”
And just like that, I was crying.
Because how did I never think of it that way? And isn’t it so very true, whether it’s your first baby or your fifth?
It’s never the same experience. Every new addition to your family comes with its own challenges, its own setbacks, and its own struggles. I may have given birth four other times and I may have had some experience with motherhood, but I have never been a mother in this circumstance with these kids at these ages with this baby.
In other words, I am a new mother all over again.
It might sound silly, but in looking at the message on that tea bag, I realized how terribly wrong I had been in my approach to motherhood. I had been telling myself that I should be better at this because I have done it before; that I should somehow be more put together, have my ducks in a row, or have figured out the secret to getting dressed for the day before my baby wakes up. (Seriously, how? No matter what time I set my alarm, she wakes up…)
I was harder on myself instead of taking the lessons I had learned from doing this four times before and giving myself some time to get adjusted —had I learned anything? Apparently not.
But I realized that it wasn’t too late. I could start right then and there by realizing that as the mom of a newborn, I had just been born as a mother all over again. I may not have been a new mom for the first time, but I was a new mom of this baby and a new mom to all of my other kids with a baby.
I was a newly born mother at this stage in my life and that deserved to be recognized too. So here is my message to all of the mothers out there who have just had a baby:
To the mother who has just welcomed her first baby,
To the mother who has just welcomed her fifth baby,
To the mother who just welcomed a baby after she thought she was “done” having babies,
To the mother who just got the call from the adoption agency,
To the mother who has just found out her baby has special needs,
To the mother whose baby just went to the NICU,
To the mother who just had multiples,
To the mother who just found out she is pregnant,
To the mother who just went back to work,
To the mother who just decided to stay home,
To the mother who is using formula,
To the mother who is breastfeeding,
Just remember: We are newly born in our own ways. We will gain wisdom, experience, and knowledge over time, but the truth is, there is no one point in motherhood when we know exactly what we are doing because every day brings something new. In a sense, we are always newborns ourselves as moms.
And just like we treat our newborns with gentleness, tenderness, love, and care (and lots of rest and food!) we need to remember to do the same for ourselves.
Because your baby is not the only one that needs to learn their way in the world from here on out — and they need you to lead the way.
Chaunie Brusie is a labor and delivery nurse turned writer and a newly minted mom of 5. She writes about everything from finance to health to how to survive those early days of parenting when all you can do is think about all the sleep you aren’t getting. Follow her here.