These are the biggest challenges I faced as a first-time mum

New mums are not a one-size-fits-all species. We- believe it or not- are individuals who have TOTALLY different experiences. Mine came with an unexpected pregnancy and a roof over our heads by the grace of my parents. With a little girl who was raised in a house full of teenage girls who dote on her to this day. With two students who were so grateful that those around them were encouraging and helped with the whole student-parent-thing.

We all have very different paths, but interestingly, our struggles are similar. There are a few universal challenges we all face. We struggle with them at different rates and levels, but there is no mum who hasn’t felt these five challenges I faced when I became a mum for the first time.

1. The Guilt

Ugh. As much as we would like to think the guilt will pass, it never does. Guilt is part and parcel of being a mum and no matter how much you try, you will always look into your little one’s eyes and feel like you should be doing more. More preparation for their coming or more research or more housework.

From tiny things like feeling guilty for having a glass of wine while breastfeeding, to the guilt you feel returning to work. The worst is simply the guilt of feeling overwhelmed. The guilt of feeling sorry for yourself or just too tired to bathe your baby. You think of mammas from the past or present who had it so tough and feel a wave of guilt for complaining- even if it isn’t out loud.

2. The loneliness

Don’t get me wrong, the support I received was amazing. However, in a room full of people, mamas can still find themselves feeling completely alone. Lost in their own heads and feeling as if they have no one to talk to.

This is especially true of those who have no mum-friends. The younger mums, or the significantly older mums, or even those who began their parenting journey miles from the support of family. When the only person you feel you can talk to is a few inches tall and cannot speak, the early days of mum-hood can feel solitary. However, this passes in time and finding people to open up to is one way to remedy the mummy-loneliness.

3. The self-doubt

Sometimes I see mothers who look like they were born to mother. Who seem to do it all and look like they enjoy every scary moment of it. I know that cannot be true. If the Internet has taught us anything, it’s that we ALL struggle.

However, as a new mum, I found myself questioning every single decision I made. Every move I made around my little one. Everything I said and every way I reacted to her ups and downs. Her eyes were so new and perfect- I wanted them to see me doing ‘it’ right. That was before I learned that there is no ‘right’ way to do ‘It’. Five years on, I still doubt myself every day. However, I accept the doubt as normal now and let her eat food off the ground and swear occasionally.

4. The tiredness

Of the body and of the mind. The body can deal. The mind struggles to deal, to be honest. The no-sleep was real. I used to grit my teeth when other parents spoke of this mystical being that ‘slept through the night’. My daughter was unaware that night was a sleeping affair until she was three-and-a-half. She still talks in her sleep and reckons she wakes about six times during the night. At the same time, I was lucky. I had youth on my side and lecture halls are comfy, cosy and extremely nap-able.

5. The worry

The worry is the worst, by far. When I was pregnant, I hid my bump under layers of material and silently spoke to the life inside. Like all expectant mums, I fiercely promised I would keep it safe. That tiny peanut who I had never met. I was so terrified of the love I felt. It took over.

I have always been an over-thinker, but the mummy mind- especially the mind of a new mum, takes you to the darkest places. I thought of mums whose little ones struggle to simply live. I held them on a pedestal and prayed to whoever was listening for them. I thought about it so much, I lost myself a little.

After a few hospital visits, I learned that the worry was normal. I also learned that when you separate your thoughts from the real world, you have the power to free your mind from the anxiety that becoming a parent can bring. I have many people to thank for that, but I also have you mamas who have shared your experiences, making this whole thing a little easier.

Anna Murray is an Irish student mum to one little girl.

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