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Friday Five: Five Invisible Struggles of New Motherhood

By Allie Lieberman, Rooted in Harmony Counseling

New motherhood is hard — really freaking hard. It’s a chaotic, uncomfortable, and often lonely battle. Despite the physical exhaustion of childbirth, the delivery is just the beginning of your real journey into motherhood. 

You might be surprised to find yourself grappling with so many unexpected challenges. It seems no matter how well you prepare, everything in life takes on a different hue after your baby arrives. You may expect to become a better version of yourself—more patient, kinder, and generous. But there are struggles that you weren’t prepared for, even if you were warned about them. 

My friends that have become moms after me, wish they had better understood the magnitude of the transition to motherhood. Knowing these 5 invisible struggles may help current and future moms know how to best be supportive of one another and to be kinder to themselves. 

1. It can be hard to feel like you are enough.  

Taking care of an infant is a lot of work! The demands of motherhood can be so all-consuming that it can feel like you’re working full-time. It can be difficult to keep up with your responsibilities, especially in those early months. The feeling that you are not doing or being enough can lead to stress, frustration, and exhaustion. Give yourself permission to set your own pace and boundaries for mothering. 

2. Feeding a newborn can be challenging. 

Before becoming parents, most expectant parents have no idea how difficult breastfeeding can be. The pressure can be intense, exhausting, and even overwhelming at times. Many mothers feel ashamed and defeated when they cannot breastfeed their babies. Even those who use formula often feel like they have failed as mothers by “not trying hard enough”. Allow yourself the space to grieve your feeding experience with your baby, and know that you are doing the best you can. 

3. Motherhood challenges your sense of identity. 

When a woman gives birth, her whole life changes. She moves from being pregnant to being a mother, and she has to understand her new role in the world. For a mother, friendships and relationships with family members can change drastically in the first few weeks and months of motherhood. New parents often find that their priorities and routines get turned upside down. You may find you have to push past your old expectations, even set aside some of what you once considered important in order to adjust to motherhood. This can give you the opportunity to consider what is important to you in your life. 

4. Being a new mother can be lonely. 

New mothers can feel isolated and alone, even when surrounded by loved ones. You may feel frustrated at having to step away from your friends due to the demands of a newborn. Perhaps you resent that your partner doesn’t understand what you need. New mothers may find it especially hard to ask for help because they are often afraid of being perceived as weak. It is perfectly acceptable to communicate what you need or want from those around you. 

5. Forgetfulness is not uncommon among new mothers. 

New mothers often struggle with forgetfulness, especially when they are experiencing hormone imbalances, sleep deprivation, and are trying to handle too many tasks. When caring for an infant, new mothers may have trouble remembering birthdays or important events, respond to a text message, or remember what they said a moment before. Give yourself time to adjust. It can be an overwhelming experience, but it gets easier, especially with the help of family and friends and with more sleep. The challenges discussed here are just a few of the many that new mothers must face. Just remember that you are not alone, and you don’t need to suffer in silence. And while you won’t always feel supported in motherhood, there are ways to connect with other mothers and establish a strong support system. Hopefully, as more mothers share their experiences and as we share our own with others, these struggles can become easier to manage. 

Allie Lieberman is a licensed marriage and family therapist, perinatal mental health certified, certified Clini-Coach®, entrepreneur, wife, and mom of two [3 ½-year-old + 1 1/2 year old]. She is the CEO/Founder of Rooted in Harmony, a virtual group counseling practice in California, and The New Mama Mentor®, a coaching practice dedicated to working new moms.

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