Dear First Time Mom (or Dad)

Happy Valentine’s Day! I feel inspired to write this and I hope that it can help any new parents.

If you have anything to add, please comment. There is no judgement here. There is no mom-shaming here. Just support. Just love.

DEAR FIRST TIME PARENT,

My baby is 5 months next week and I struggled adjusting to motherhood after she was born. Everything felt random. There was no schedule. I was tired. I was lost. Is this the new normal? Time flew by, my confidence grew, and yes… this is the new normal. But I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

I experienced delayed bonding and that doesn’t make me a monster, even though I felt like it at the time. I was flooded with hormones and birth was complicated. I was SO GRATEFUL for her, but had never taken care of a baby before and even though I took infant care classes and read “all the books” when I was pregnant, I still felt like I was in a foreign country where I didn’t speak the language. It took me time to adjust to this role. As the months go by, we experience these stages together and the journey is something we’ll always share. I learn Noelle and she learns the whole wide world. I loved her at 6:58pm on September 23rd 2017, but the bonding came with time. Now I’m overwhelmed with love. I would move mountains for her smile and her cheeks and her big curious eyes and her little toes!! I can’t imagine life without my girl.

I am, by no means, an expert on motherhood. But if you’re about to have a baby or are in those first few weeks, let me share some lessons I’ve learned in these 5 short months.

You’re taking care of your baby, but it’s also important to take care of yourself. Taking time for yourself or doing something you love doesn’t make you selfish. It makes you a better mom, dad, wife, husband, daughter, son, sister, brother, aunt, uncle, and friend. And it’s ok to ask for help. Even if that’s having a friend come over so you can get your hair cut or take a nap. And if your friend wants to bring dinner, let them.

And, new mom or dad, it’s ok to cry. This is a big change and it’s really hard. Remember you aren’t a bad mom or dad. You’re a new mom or dad having a bad day. It’s unrealistic to think you’ll be a parenting expert overnight. Parenthood is a constant and there will always be a new lesson to learn. And that includes learning from mistakes. I think we’re all sort of making it up as we go! Treat yourself with a little more grace because you’re doing the best you can.

Everything becomes more manageable as weeks go by and I know it’s difficult to believe that when you’re in the thick of it. But literally everything gets better. Stomach is bigger so she eats less often. Fingernails are larger so I don’t sweat bullets every time I cut them. She can hold up her head so carrying her and bathing her is easier. She can play, she can giggle, she can smile, she can roll over, she can sleep longer. Soon she’ll start solids, soon she’ll crawl, soon she’ll say mama, and soon she’ll go to school, make friends, grow up, and I’ll miss being her entire world. I guess what I’m trying to say is: don’t wish these difficult weeks away.

I know it feels daunting to get everything packed in the car and get out of the house, but it’s worth it. Even if that means a quick trip to the grocery store. Fresh air, fresh scenery, fresh faces, make plans, experience life, make memories, bring baby along. I always feel better when I push myself to get up and get out. And, more importantly, baby loves it!

Don’t let anyone make you feel bad about working because a working parent is still a full-time parent. I feel guilty working, I truly do, but I try to remember that I don’t leave “being a mom” behind because I’m working. I’m still Noelle’s mom.

Everything from birth and physically healing to sleeping and feeding were nothing like I expected. Don’t put added pressure on yourself by expecting a certain something. No birth, postpartum journey, and baby are the same so have an open mind. Noelle’s still changing and growing so our routine constantly adjusts. And I’ve learned to be open (not stressed!!!) when things don’t go according to plan. Two steps forward, one step back. Go with the flow. Lighten up. You’ll figure it out!

Stop feeling guilty about everything.

Love,

A new mom who needs to take her own advice

PS: above are my cream cheese sugar cookies topped with vanilla buttercream

146 Comments

  1. I love this message. My daughter turned 19 this month and is in her freshman year of college. It’s just been the two of us for many year, and having her head off (even though she’s only an hour away) was very hard for both of us. But I still remember those first few weeks when I felt so overwhelmed and scared and lonely and didn’t have that instant bonding, either, but it did come, and my daughter is my world. But I wish I had read something like your message back in 1999. 🙂

  2. Beautiful, Sally. I can relate to this so much– you know how open and vocal I was about my severe PPD. It’s so so SOOO(OOO) hard. I also experienced the delayed bonding, and it was a good 10-12 weeks before I could say I actually REALLY enjoyed him. Prior to that, I had said we made a big mistake, and you know how hard we worked to get him!! Thanks for being so transparent. You are the best!

  3. This post is amazing Sally. I have two children, my son will be 8 next month and my daughter turns 11 tomorrow. I wish that I had read something as honest and beautiful as this back when I had my daughter. Enjoy every moment with your beautiful Noelle because the time really does fly by and thank you always for your amazing recipes, your honesty and your optimism. I owe all my baking skills to you

  4. I was just telling a coworker that was expecting (she had her son on Monday) that if you don’t fall in love right away, that is normal. It takes time to bond and don’t let anyone tell you that you should be head over heels in love from the moment you push your little one out. Glad you and your beautiful little one are bonding now and you don’t beat yourself up. Enjoy the successes and the failures; they are constant and never ending, even when your “little ones” are 24 and 18. God Bless.

  5. OMG – that sweet little face.  My kids are 14 and 11.  When my daughter was born, I was so shell shocked.  How on earth could take care of my 3 yr old toddler, newborn, run a household and eventually return to work.  I cried my eyes out to the dr when my daughter was 4 mos old.  I felt awful as i did not enjoy her – it was just too much!!!  It gets better!!!!!  Time moves so quickly.  8th grade is throwing me under the bus.  14 is not a fun age.  It will get better too with lots of talking and watching him.  Best wishes to you & your family!!!  Love the pics!!!  

  6. My daughter is a couple months younger than Noelle, and I’m learning these same lessons. Thank you for your honesty. I think, too often, the world acts like being a brand new parent is all rosy. I think moms who have already made it out of the early days are often the worst culprits, though I’m sure they mean well. It’s so hard, but it’s SO worth it.

    Also, that’s a beautiful picture of the two of you!

  7. I read somewhere recently ….

    2 steps forward, 1 step back …. that’s a Cha-Cha!
    Keep dancing! You’re doing great! 🙂 

  8. Those cookies look amazing!

    And I love this post so so much!!

    I wish someone had told me all this when I was a new mom. My oldest child, my daughter, just turned 20 in January. I had an absolutely terrible pregnancy with her – 9 months of non stop nausea and vomiting all day every day, only gaining 15 pounds because I couldn’t keep food down. And migraines for the first time in my life. Among other things.

    She was also born two weeks early, a week before I planned to start my maternity leave, hoping I’d get to rest a bit before she was born. My water broke at work!

    I still had a 20 hour, incredibly painful labor, even with two epidurals. 90 minutes of pushing, and she was born face firsts instead of head first! Nothing like having a bunch of medical students and interns crowd into your labor room to watch you give birth, because they had never seen a baby come out that way. Ugh!

    3 weeks later, she came down with a major respiratory infection (RSV), and spent 10 days in the hospital, 7 in the ICU, in critical condition, very close to death. A week after she came home, I found out I wouldn’t have a job to return to after my maternity leave, as I got laid off.

    My daughter spent the next year colicky and perpetually sick, so much so that my mother who had 6 kids wouldn’t babysit her. Add to all that, that I had basically no experience taking care of babies before I had her. Thankful for my husband who did.

    I spent her entire first year of life feeling pretty much like a failure at pregnancy, parenting, everything. And guilty that all the stress made it difficult to bond with her. The only good thing was that there was no Internet in 1998, at least not in its current form, and no social media, so I didn’t have see endless pictures of new moms for whom parenting just seems effortless, and who never looked like they couldn’t manage to find time in days to even take a 5 minute shower, let alone put on matching clothes or makeup, lol.

    You’re doing a great job, Sally, and Noelle is adorable! I hope any new moms who need some encouragement get to read your wise and so true words!

    1. Laura, your experience of parenthood is pretty much identical to mine! I completely understand everything you described. Especially not being able to take a shower in days.

      Sally, great article. I really empathise with you, and admire your honest and very helpful account of motherhood in the early days. I used to look at other mums, make unfavourable comparisons and feel such a failure that they all seemed to be coping much better, and finding parenthood so easy. I remember feeling so bleak and worthless. But somehow, things got easier, and after I started to get more sleep, I found a way that worked for my daughter and I, and started to parent my child in my own, unique way that worked for us. When I stopped listening to others’ criticisms, judgement and unwanted advice, when I stopped comparing myself to others,  when I began to listen to my instincts, I was able to start the beginning of a magical and enjoyable time in my life. My daughter and I share a very close, wonderful, easy relationship and she is without a doubt the best thing that has ever happened to me. 

      You are doing brilliantly, Sally. Better than you think you are. Noelle is adorable. 

      Stop the guilt! Yes, definitely take your own advice. Be kind to yourself. And enjoy!

      Much love and big hugs xxx

  9. My twins are 3 months old and I can relate to a lot of things in this post. ❤️ We weren’t really planning one baby, let alone two. It was overwhelming and they were born at only 35 weeks (we didn’t need NICU thank goodness, they came home with me, but they were still preemies with preemie problems) and motherhood isn’t all rainbows and sparkles. I absolutely adore them and they light up my world, but sometimes I miss my old life. I went back to work last week and it just about killed me leaving them, but at the same time, it is nice to be around adults again, and that makes me feel guilty. Thank you for sharing this post! ❤️❤️❤️

    1. Lisa hang in there! My twins are now 3.5 and we’re born at 31 weeks and in the NICU for 3.5 weeks and 5 weeks. You’ve got this! Just remember to take care of yourself just as you do your babies. Sending you lots of positive vibes from one twin mama to another!

  10. My oldest will be 16(!) in a week and one of the best pieces of advice I got from my Mom was that if you get overwhelmed it’s ok to lay her down in her crib, walk out of the room, take a deep breath and count to ten. I was only 18 when I had her so I not only had the pressure of being a first time mom but I was also so young. I’ve made a whole lot of mistakes in those 16 years and even still she’s turned into an amazing person! 

  11. Oh Sally.. From somebody who used to say this EVERY day ( I’m retired now) to new mums like yourself it’s all true ladies. It’s not rocket science. It’s true that for some mums its easier to bond with this new little human but no matter HOW many books you read or vids you look at nothing can actually prepare you for all these feelings & the knowledge that here is this tiny , helpless being who is completely dependent on me/us. But the books say the bonding is IMMEDIATE so theres something WRONG with me. Tosh!!! Your hormones are all over the place, you’re in pain, what you wouldn’t give to go to sleep right now, & EVERYBODY is telling you whats best for you & your baby . And yet 6/12 on here you are. A healthy daughter who is growing & doing ok despite your best efforts lol. So you must have done something right after all. A happy mum equals a happy baby (& a happy dad lets not forget him). And in your case Happy Us because we get to taste your lovely bakes

    1. Be still my heart! That photo! 
      And what a post! Can we all agree that more parenting posts will now be included in SBA? We want to hear about everything you learn along this journey so we can learn too! 
      Just fabulous!

  12. Dear Sally, thank you so much for writing this. Thank you for being so open and honest. I am not a parent, I don’t know if I will ever be one, but the thoughts you described, the fear you described, is something I worry about every time I think about having a baby. Thank you for making it clear that it will be okay, that it will work out.

  13. So true! I thought I loved babies and I was that teenage aunt who took care of every niece and nephew that came along and thought it was such fun. Then I had my first baby 2 months ago and I realized- its completely different! I thought that it would be just joy and happiness and instead the responsibility of such a dependent little thing freaked me out! I can actually say that I was scared of her in those first few days because at any moment I felt that she can turn my life upside down. I did cry a lot and it’s hard to lose that sense of freedom you have before even though you are so happy about that little life that you have now! It’s such a storm of emotions. And it did take a while to really bond with my baby and to really enjoy her delicious moments:) (a glass of wine from time to time really helps:)

  14. As I sit here pumping at 4:14am, one week into first time motherhood to my little girl and boy (that’s right, twins!), I can only believe opening my email and finding this is a sign from the universe. You are truly speaking to me, and I appreciate it so much. It’s so hard to learn to let go and accept that even though we spent 40 weeks growing these babies, we don’t really know each other yet. We can’t expect them to be the perfect little babies we half-hope, half-belive they will be. And we have to give the same leeway to ourselves. Uh-oh, I hear crying… off I go! ❤

    1. Hi Megan, it’s early days, the tough new born days, the exhausting days. You hang in there, my lovely, be kind to yourself, and trust yourself that you can do this. You’re stronger than you think. It gets easier. Sending love ❤️ 

  15. I’m not a mom, yet, but I’ll be sure to treasure this post of yours for when the time comes cause I’ll be needing the reminder for sure.
    I think you’re doing s great job with your baby girl.
    She’s gorgeous by the way!
    And I will need to try this cookies of yours ❤️

  16. Dear Sally,
    Thank you so much for sharing this! I’m sitting at work now trying not to tear up while reading your heartwarming post (and feeling my baby’s kicks!). I will be a first-time mom next June and I will make sure to come back to this post when I’m feeling overwhelmed (I already get pretty overwhelmed thinking about everything I need to get sorted before the baby arrives…). I’m sure you are doing a great job with Noelle and she looks damn sweet! Keep enjoying motherhood and sharing with us your awesome recipes and thoughts.
    Lots of love from Germany!

  17. Sally,
    I just had my 4th baby, well, 10 months ago. I think what you said is so true and has to be remembered/relearned with every baby. I am not a new mom, but I am new to having 4 kids. We have to adapt and that takes time and tears.

  18. oh my..My daughter just got her school driving permit. My son just left for college in the fall. So I am feeling the empty nest syndrome fiercely. To watch my daughter drive away was heart wrenching, to say the least. Motherhood is tricky! You have a beautiful way of communicating your feelings and making things seem as if everything will be OK. (of course it will be) The journey we take with our children is just that! My son just said to me, “the first time he had seen me cry, he thought he might have been around 17, now I can’t quit! Yikes!! Oh dear! Hold that sweet baby tight because before you know it she’ll be asking for the car keys!!

  19. Maybe it’s the hormones but I just got a little teary reading this. This couldn’t have come at a better time; I’m due with my first in July and I couldn’t be more terrified. I truly appreciate your honesty. Being someone who is used to being in control of so much of her own life, this is going to be a hard step for me, but slowly convincing myself to lower my expectations of myself and to expect the unexpected will help me. Everyone says they wouldn’t change a thing so it must be true, right? 🙂 Don’t get me wrong, my husband I are definitely looking forward to being parents, but we’re both scared to death of being responsible for another human.

    Thanks again for writing this.

  20. Sally, she is so adorable. My one and done is 8, and I miss the baby phase so much sometimes. Each year brings so many new adventures and so much more love. 

  21. In your beautiful message, you describe the life of a mother. We love them, we make every effort for them but we can’t avoid the errors, then, we learn and we begin again. We don’t make a success of everything but we do our best. To be parents is not always easy but it’ s the most beautiful part of our life.
    My sons are 19 and 16 and I still learn =) But I have no regrets. I’m very happy to be their mom.

    This photo is very beautiful, Noëlle is so lovely.

  22. How honestly sweet to share with us! My little one is 2 1/2 and I’ve just come to a place of losing the guilt-and I stay home! Having been quite self-sufficient Pre-baby, I had no idea how to ASK for help. My husband and I had so many heated discussions concluding with the fact he’s just simply not a mind reader. (Haha-really?) I had such high expectations for myself! The recent shooting in Florida is a reminder that we only have now and our little ones are SO special. We are so blessed to hold them as long as we can. Congratulations Sally, I really enjoy your blog and bake something from it often. Enjoy your sweet family, and yourself. You’re really so important.

  23. Be still my heart! That photo! 
    And what a post! Can we all agree that more parenting posts will now be included in SBA? We want to hear about everything you learn along this journey so we can learn too! 
    Enough of this “I give birth then go jogging in skinny jeans the next day” Hollywood mentality. 

  24. Thanks for your great advice and sharing. I wish I had someone to tell me this when my son was a baby. I was constantly worried I was doing things wrong, wasn’t the best mom I could be, but you know what? He is all grown up and I am as proud as I can be. I admit I’m going through a bit of withdrawal now he’s grown up and I stop and talk to all the new moms and babies I encounter. We all do our best and if we do make some mistakes, our children learn how to become stronger as a result. My best advice is not to wish they’d sit up on their own faster, crawl or walk sooner because before you know it, they are off and running. Enjoy every moment, even the hard ones, because you will get through everything and raise an awesome human being!!!!

  25. I love this sugar cookie recipe. One of my favorites. I make them for all holidays it seems.
    Although, time consuming as it may be, I pipe my frosting on and decorate. With shades of white, pales pinks, red and green for Valentines. I’m not good at spreading with a cake spatula on cookies and the first time they turned out messy. So I’ve been piping frosting ever since.

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