Confession; I’m an A-type personality and a one on the enneagram. I need order and structure in my life to give me the illusion I have control. So naturally, when I got pregnant, I researched every product on the market. Since I was stuck in bed for three months, I had plenty of time to read all the reviews. I would have the best, the most eco-friendly, organic, and efficient items on the market. With the rise of social media, so was the emergence of mom/baby contraptions to solve all of the issues parents had suffered through for centuries. Want to get your baby to sleep at night? Buy a Snoo! Want to breastfeed while washing dishes and taking business calls? Get the Willow. Want to make sure you have all the best information on your baby’s development? Download Kinedu and the Wonder Weeks.
It seemed like there was a solution on the market for every possible problem you could encounter as a first-time mom. So I did what I thought was right. I bought all the shit, did all the research, made my baby registry. I felt prepared, with a capital P.
So imagine my surprise when I found myself completely gutted after having my baby. How come I felt so out of sorts? Why, with all the help, was this so hard? I didn’t find the physical tasks particularly challenging; I’m not a person that needs a ton of sleep (though I do operate best 7 hours.) Emotionally I was struggling with how much my life had changed. I went from having a full career to staying at home; my daily routines had been ripped apart. After some time, I realized in all the baby’s preparation; I hadn’t prepared myself for the changes that would happen to me.
I hadn’t taken the time to carve out what I needed to endure those first few months of having a baby. What matters in my daily life made me feel whole? What things could I sacrifice for a few months to get me through the first intense 90 days? What stories was I telling myself about who I needed to be as a mother, and why was I placing so much pressure on myself to enjoy every second of motherhood?
I searched for support groups but didn’t find anything that spoke to me. Everything seemed so baby centered or just like a large group of women venting without accountability or an action plan. Once I started, I realized I was going to have to find the solution myself. I went back to one of the things that have always brought more balance to my life, journaling. Journaling lets me layout my feelings and tries to dissect them. When I put on my coaching hat, it was clear to see I had some common themes coming up.
I hadn’t communicated my new needs, not to myself, not to my husband or any of my support systems. I was telling myself a lot of stories around motherhood but wasn’t dealing with facts. And I certainly hadn’t set any goals or accountability around what I wanted to achieve. I was pushing through, and not only was that exhausting, but it also wasn’t maintainable.
Now, here I am with my second and I’ve made it my mission to change the narrative around motherhood. I want to shed the unrealistic ideas that motherhood is just so natural and that you’ll somehow effortlessly slip into this new version of yourself like a fairytale. The reality is entering motherhood is a huge transition, one that affects your relationship with yourself, your partner, the new life you’re bringing into the world, and your career. However, you can carve out your version of motherhood, one that works best for you and your family. But it takes work. And prepping for motherhood isn’t decorating a nursery (which, by the way, you probably won’t use until months after your baby is born).
Below I have outlined some of my best practices for preparing for motherhood.
“Communicating our needs.”
Asking for what you need and want can be challenging, but it’s important to verbalize how you feel. Being self-aware of these feelings will help you to navigate your emotions and take responsibility for them.
- We often have a mechanism called “unsaid game” that we play with our partner – one that our partner doesn’t even know they’re playing. “Why hasn’t he noticed I’m tired.”
- This is unfair to you and your partner. You must ask for what you need because people can’t read your mind! Especially when you’re sleep-deprived.
- Don’t be frustrated at your partner for not doing x, y, z. Take accountability for your actions on why these things didn’t happen (because you didn’t ask for what you needed)
- Each partner needs different things met to be successful. Create a no-judgment zone, as what you and your partner need are often other things. We each have various items that make us feel whole because our parenting roles are different from our partners.
- All in all, helping your partner and yourself be the best version of yourself, you have to ask and not be silent.
“Setting up clear roles and expectations.”
What are your responsibilities and expectations when raising a child? What are your partners? Setting up clear values and expectations ensures little to no room for arguments and getting off track.
- Tyler & I keep it simple > Let’s feed, teach and love our child fiercely. Anything outside of that doesn’t matter. Those are our values. We tackle those values as our goals; when things don’t work out as planned, the goal may shift, but the values stay the same.
- We also take time to assign roles. You’re taking X feeding; I’ll do the rest. You’re stronger at sleep training so you lead, I’ll follow.
- What are the core values and goals we are trying to accomplish? If things aren’t going smoothly along the way, it’s nice to revisit our core values, which helps us get perspective and get back into alignment.
“Owning your stuff & choosing how you show up/being accountable.”
- This is the most challenging piece, as being very self-aware takes interpersonal work. I recommend assessing this before the baby arrives.
- When you are not at your best, what behaviors show up for you – what stories are you telling yourself? What happens to your mind when you’re under stress? Remind yourself that these are not factual. These are feelings.
- In the first 90 days of being a new parent, you’re not operating at your best. You’re working with little to no sleep, and this is all new to you! You must be aware of the behaviors that don’t serve you.
I have a little method to keep myself in line – POST-IT notes on my bathroom mirror! Here are some examples:
- You’re kicking ass.
- What pressures have I put on myself unnecessarily?
- What are some facts vs. stories that you’ve been telling yourself?
- Get rid of all or nothing thinking, such as “when I’m not at 110%, I’m not good enough.”
- Sometimes 50% is GREAT, and all you can put out – and that is OKAY!
What are the actions and behaviors that you’re committed to? This is a reminder that with the correct mindset, we can choose how we react.
- Taking 20 minutes in the morning projecting a positive outlook for the day.
- Remember that everything that happens to me I can’t control, but I can control my reaction.
- When things head in the wrong direction: I take 5 minutes to change states doing some breath work, bend over and reset or recenter. That is what is IN our power. So many other pieces will not be in our control.
“Asking for Support.”
Get clear about what support looks like, feels like, and sounds like for you
I think we often feel like people will know what we need, especially when we’re struggling. To us, it all seems so apparent. The truth is support looks different to different people and personalities. I distinctly remember one of my husbands and my most significant fights. It was over breastfeeding. I was particularly feeling insecure and struggling to produce enough milk for my son. My husband said, “just give him the bottle.” He thought it helped by letting me know “don’t stress it.” It takes the pressure off. Instead, I heard, “you can’t do this. Give up.” The reality was I needed some affirmations. I needed him to say “you’re doing great; our son is healthy and happy. Any breast milk you give him is enough.” Letting your partner know what support looks like for you will empower both of you.
Support also looks like finding your village and knowing what type of resources are out there for you. No one ever puts pelvic floor specialist, postpartum chef, night nurse, postpartum doula, or coach on their registry, but honestly, I think they should even if you’re not hiring help who can help you if and when you need it. Who are the people that have lifted you in your times of need? Trust me, at some point, you may have to lean on them, and that is more than okay!
Follow our Mother Muse Brandy Joy Smith here for more advice on your motherhood journey
Brandy is a certified NLP maternal wellness coach and creator. She is also a wife, mother of two, and dog mom.
Her passion lies in coaching and consulting with women into and through the many transitions of motherhood. She is a certified NLP coach through the ACLN (Academy of Leadership, Coaching & NLP). She coaches around many topics including but not limited to careers, changing family dynamics, goal and boundary setting, and accountability. She offers 1 on 1 and group coaching sessions, and a self-starter workbook which launched in January of 2021.