My feelings when I gave birth to Chloé were stronger than I ever dreamed possible – I felt so much love and tenderness for this tiny person! But I also had to cope with a lot of other emotions in those early days. Being pregnant for nine months and longing for the baby’s arrival every day, giving birth and becoming a mom are profoundly life-changing experiences.
I found the first few weeks of breastfeeding more agonizing than giving birth.
The first thing Chloé wanted when she arrived was to find my breast (how amazing that babies know exactly what they need to do). The staff at the maternity ward helped me find a good breastfeeding position, but Chloé had trouble latching on. I had bruises after the first attempt. Things rapidly went downhill from there; all Chloé wanted to do was nurse and the pain was unbearable. I found the first few weeks of breastfeeding more agonizing than giving birth, which was a total shock.
I’d even taken a how-to-breastfeed class, but they never once said that breastfeeding might be painful. A nipple shield was a lifesaver; it gave me a chance to heal and after a few weeks I was able to breastfeed without it. Looking back, I’m proud of the way I fought through the pain and chose to keep breastfeeding – it’s given my baby and me so many blissful times together.
Also read: Breastfeeding is easy, right?
Being on my own was suddenly my greatest fear; something I used to love now filled me with dread.
At the same time as I was waging my grim battle to keep breastfeeding, I also found myself struggling with a lot of other difficult feelings. A feeling of extreme anxiety overwhelmed me every evening; I dreaded the nights and felt panic about the speed at which the days whizzed by. The prospect of my husband soon returning to work and leaving me alone terrified me. Being on my own was suddenly my greatest fear; something I used to love now filled me with dread. I frequently felt apprehensive, small and woefully inadequate.
A midwife explains: After giving birth – newborn baby care
Perfectly normal mixed emotions
You imagine that the early days with your baby will be wonderful – and they are, but at the same time they’re incredibly difficult. Your breasts are weeping wounds, the baby cries nonstop and can only be comforted with…your breasts; you’re so worried about your baby’s breathing that sitting up all night with your baby in your arms seems to be the only option. Well, this is what it was like for me, anyway.
Have a rescue plan you can activate if you feel overwhelmed.
Luckily, my mom was able to spend a lot of time with us in the beginning, and her help was invaluable. The only people I wanted near me at first (besides my baby) were my husband and my mom. Based on my experience, I recommend having a rescue plan you can activate if you feel overwhelmed, e.g. work out which parent, friend or relative will step in to take the baby for a walk, so you get a chance to recharge your batteries, because you really need to do this.
The perfectly normal reaction of a brand-new mom with far too many hormones.
Feeling as anxious and worried as you are elated is really just the perfectly normal reaction of a brand-new mom with far too many hormones. The truth is, I’ve loved life with Chloé from day one and I’m now able to look back at that time with warm feelings and count my blessings. But, at the time it was a struggle. In retrospect, it would have been better for me to talk to someone about my feelings, instead of concealing them and pretending that everything was fine – this must be just the way it is, I told myself, you can’t walk around in a state of panic when you’ve just been given life’s most precious gift; it feels so selfish and ungrateful.
How do others cope? Survival tips for parents of young children (who are fed up with tips)
I just wish someone had told me before I became a mom that it’s perfectly normal to experience mixed emotions after giving birth and that breastfeeding can be extremely painful. I think that maternity clinics and all classes for soon-to-be parents definitely need to get better at telling you this.
Just as important for the other parent to be aware of what it means.
It’s just as important for the other parent to be aware of what it means to go through childbirth and the postnatal period, so they understand and can be supportive of a brand-new mom. Let her focus on the baby and not worry about household chores at first, for example.
Being a parent is the hardest and the very best experience – life’s most precious gift. I’m loving every day with my little bundle of joy. Hopefully, Chloé will get a little brother or sister one day and I’m confident that next time I’ll be better prepared to handle my feelings.
Name: Amanda Hamberg
Family: Husband, baby Chloé and dog Louis
Lives: Östermalm, Stockholm, Sweden
My top tips for brand-new moms:
Accept all the help you can get. Talk about your feelings – they’re completely normal after giving birth. Try to really enjoy the early days with your new baby; it’s all too easy to feel stressed and not make the most of each precious moment.