6 unexpected ways life changes when you become a mom
Fifteen months after I pushed my son out of my body and onto this earth, I’m only beginning to come to grips with how motherhood has altered me. While I’d anticipated certain challenges — having to renegotiate how I balance my career and family life, for example — others were a complete surprise (uh, hello, engorged breasts). From the loss of my free time to endless loads of laundry, everything about my life is different today. I mean everything.
Some changes I expected, especially with an infant. What I didn’t expect were the changes that stay with you beyond infanthood — what becomes the new normal. Below are six ways my life has unexpectedly changed since I became a mom, so hopefully you won’t be as surprised as I was.
1. There is so much laundry
Early days after the baby was born, I was sitting in a cafe when I caught the unmistakable whiff of vomit. I looked around suspiciously before realizing it was me.
Sure, I figured the baby would go through a lot of onesies. What I didn’t account for was that I’d be changing my own clothes just as often, not to mention breast milk soaked bed sheets every other day. The first six months, everything smelled of spoiled milk. When the baby started solids, out came the stain sticks.
Will the laundry ever end?
Nope, says Alyssa Hanada, a mom from Portland, Oregon.
“My life is a never-ending mountain of laundry and my kids are 6 and 10,” she says. “Right now everything is getting washed because of a (gasp) pinworm outbreak!”
2. Sleep is never the same
Some days after we first brought Oscar home, my husband and I were walking through a general store, looking for… well, whatever we’d come in for, we’d forgotten. The familiar setting spun and slanted as if we’d taken acid. We both hadn’t slept in days.
Of course I’d heard you don’t get much sleep with a newborn. But night wakings — which can continue throughout your child’s life — are nothing to yawn at. A year later, some nights are more restful than others; regardless, gone are the days of sleeping in.
“I’ve become a sleep junkie,” says mom Rebecca Johnson, of Hamilton, Ontario. “I think about it constantly, and when I have it, it's never enough.”
Minneapolis mom Risa Kirslake concurs: “The sleep deprivation is unlike anything else you could experience.”
3. Alone time no longer exists
When Oscar was still an infant, I couldn’t understand why mothers would complain they never got a moment to themselves. Then, my son dropped down to one nap and started walking.
Now I get it.
A warning from Jaimie Franchi, a mom from Montreal: “If you are an introvert who was accustomed to plenty of alone time in life, and this is your first child, get ready to never be alone ever again.”
4. Your body is different (and does weird things)
Since the morning I woke up in the hospital, two cantaloupes for breasts, my body hasn’t been my body. I wasn’t prepared for leaking breasts, bleeding and lochia (the normal discharge from the uterus after childbirth). Over a year later, the linea nigra has finally faded, but I still haven’t gotten my core strength back, and no matter how many sit-ups I do, I’ll always have my tiger striped tummy.
“No one told me how messed up my underside could get after birth,” confesses Debi Lewis, a mom from Chicago, Illinois. “With my first, the midwife described my tear as ‘stem to stern,’ and with my second (a C-section), the overall environment down there was so messed up hormonally that, at my 12-week checkup, my midwife described me as having the vulva of a 75-year old, post-menopausal woman. I had yeast and bacteria and basically no estrogen presence. It was just terrible. I had literally no idea it could get like that, either time.”
5. Someone else comes first — and it’s OK
And yet, somehow, it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter that I have “mom” hips or that my breasts, six months since I stopped breastfeeding, look like bean bags. It doesn’t matter that I can’t go to the bathroom without my toddler barging in.
When your baby needs you at two in the morning, and again at four, and again a half hour later, it doesn’t matter how tired you are. You go to him. You bring a bottle. And sunrises — which I’ve seen a lot of since becoming a mother — are actually quite lovely.
“Having a child changed my life,” says Veronica Bojerski, a mom from Broadview Heights, Ohio. “But having a child saved my life, too. All of a sudden I had no choice but to be an adult. The only thing that mattered to me was taking care of my child’s needs.”
6. There is SO much love
At the end of a 12-hour day, when Oscar’s finally asleep, I get a moment to myself. I can finish my work, finally! I can watch TV. I can simply stare off into space without interruption, something I’ve been craving all day. So then why, most nights, do I go to my phone and look at photos of my baby? It sounds trite, but it’s true: I didn’t know I could love anything as much as I love my baby.
Lauren Baker Cormier, of Bangor, Maine, agrees: “Sometime shortly after having my first child, I distinctly remember having this epiphany and thinking, ‘Wow, my parents love me this much!?’”
“My daughter is my every hope and dream all rolled into one, magnificent package,” says Laura Cancillieri, of Forest Hills, New York. “The love I feel for my baby beyond exceeded my expectations. I waited my entire adult life for this girl.”