Stepping Into Motherhood
Updated: Feb 6
The moment I met my son, I felt unconditional love. But I also felt immediate fear, guilt, and shame. I didn’t receive that overwhelming magical love rainbow over me and my new baby, I didn’t feel any change in my heart, I loved him so much, but it wasn’t the love I had predicted or held an expectation to that everyone else seemed to have had experienced.
Upon reflection now, I know that the wave of my other emotions that I may have suppressed for the time growing my son were what came to the surface in that emotional moment.
I felt guilty that I had been in labour for so long, my step daughters were spending time with mum, and I know how excited they were however.. I was so anxious not being with them through that time. l was worried about what would happen, would they give me resentment because he was here now? And if they did how do I manage that?
Shame, god thats a tough one to admit to. But yes, I felt shame when I had my son. I wasn’t overwhelmed with this big new love I had expected, so that made me feel I had let him down before we even started.
Guilt came after this and more shame.
All of these thoughts, negative, self sabotaging thoughts stayed circling in my mindset. I couldn’t shake the negativity, and the following months brought more shame and fear as my son grew, I felt like I wasn’t growing with him.
Those first few weeks, are so tough. So much adjusting, so much change. And not in the sense of I was struggling to manage a newborn, it was the changes in the dynamic of my household. I feel I handled the newborn period pretty well. It was the balancing act of all the hats I felt I had to wear at a time. My relationship with my husband. My energy and time shifting from my two step daughters. Whilst they were incredible throughout the process, gave their brother more love then I could have ever expected. The dynamics were different. They grew up a little bit because they were the big ones now, but they also seeked attention in other ways from me. I am proud of how I managed my kids through this period, I gave them extra time and patience and I feel now, I did my job well.
But at the time.. I felt like a constant failure. I felt I wasn’t showing up and serving my kids how they needed me. Our mornings were filled with “shh's and please be quiet.” evenings were so difficult because of how exhausted I felt come 7pm.
I particularly struggled with moments where my little girl would fall over at a reasonable enough distance but I couldn't run to pick her up at the park, instead I had to yell out its okay just stand up and come to me while your crying (nothing serious obviously) But I was likely feeding or the holding the baby. Those moments really tore at my heart, and I would carry ‘Step mum’ guilt for days thinking about it after the fact.
Being a 'step mum' affected my term of breastfeeding, I really tried to find that beauty in the precious moments of breastfeeding so many instagram mums talk about. But all I felt was inconvenience, feeling overwhelmed and rushed, and like I was letting my girls down when they need me.
So my breastfeeding journey was fairly short (I am grateful for the 8 weeks experience don’t get me wrong) for no reason then inconvenient and time consuming when I had two other children. I don’t know if its only the social media accounts I personally follow, but if someone else is going through this, I haven’t heard about it. It felt like a failure. And when I stopped, and women around me would notice a bottle a simply comment “Oh you’ve stopped breastfeeding” I went into a frenzy of justifying the list of reasons why.
After some time, and internal work, I can reflect on these first few months and see that I was trying to find my new mum hat, but I already had it on. Step, bonus whatever label you define it, when my step daughters weren’t with their mother, I was that role. I knew as a step mother, this was my journey to motherhood, the start, the mistakes and the hardships. And I do not regret one bit my step into motherhood as a step mum to my girls. But I was holding resistance as a new mum instead of working into my existing motherhood role.
Theres no book on 'your step mum becoming a new mum too' (well I don't think there is.) I have no friendships in similar circumstances, and as much support and unconditional love my husband gave me throughout this period, I felt lost.
I know I didn't have post natal.
And I know I wasn't depressed.
But I am self aware enough to know that I was not okay.
What I wasn't self aware enough to know at that point is the difference between self care, and self love.
I had my daily practises in place, I never skipped showers - they made me feel fresh. I always had a walk to the park and a nice coffee, I worked out every day because sweating and moving my body was a form of self care. I moisturised, had my hair done, when I felt shitty after a big week of no sleep. But physically, sure they made me feel, fresh, human, and well presentable amongst the vomit and chaos that was now my life.
But my external did not mirror my internal.
My days were on repeat. Feed baby, bath baby, feed baby, washing, sleep, cook dinner, make lunches, more feeding and tomorrow lets do it again.
It wasn't until now that I am able to reflect on this time and really understand that I had all the self care a new mum could dream of. But I didn't do the internal work prenatally to be able to settle in postnatally. My body started shifting, I was losing weight and fluid. I was eating well, and exercising more then I probably should have been. Mentally I wasn’t comfortable in my skin, mentally I still felt like I was failing myself and everyone around me.
I couldn't just be with my baby. and that hurts to say out loud, but I had a never ending to do list. For a stay at home mum, I was freaking busy! And I placed this constant "to do" list as a norididy or badge of honour for when my husband would come home from a 7-7 day working his ass off, I wanted to hold up my mighty list and say look at all the things I did today. I needed to feel that gratification.
But, what if at that time, I had given myself, self love. The internal work, practicing self love & time to heal.. my mind and body.
I didn’t take those moments post birth, to meditate, journal my feelings and fears, and soaked in those newborn minutes before they were too far gone. What if I hadn't put that pressure on myself to overcompensate for my family, and just let us all soak in this time at home, together. Instead I rushed myself and son around from trampoline park, to beach, park, and the pool. Literally. everyday. What if I had said, I need more help to my friends. Instead of my reply, no thank you thats so sweet of you to offer though. What if I told my best friend I felt lonely that day? I could never accept help. I wasn't working. So I felt I had to be this capable person no matter how tired and energy less I was feeling. I self diagnose myself with "Rushing Womens Syndrome" (see book by Dr Libby Weaver) Dinner was cooked. Lunches were packed. And I was giving everyone my time and love. But not myself.
What if I felt proud of my post natal body? Instead of staring at myself in the mirror terrified and overwhelmed. What if I had practised love, over and over and over until I had internalised so much love in my inner self that when my son left my body, I would have so much pride, appreciation & respect for what I had achieved. And I would feel so much confidence in my new journey, its path, no matter how slow would be so rewarding and be the ultimate success.
I recently asked myself, what is my proudest moment? And if every aspect it is the birth of my son. And I finally saw, the work I have been doing on me, its working.
If you are in a position where you are awaiting your baby, but have siblings also anxiously awaiting your families new arrival, and these siblings are not your own. I ask you to give yourself permission to FEEL. Don’t pressure yourself. Don’t hold expectations.
And I hear you... thats what everyone keeps telling you right? How do you physically not hold expectations of yourself?
Find a routine that works for YOU and your new baby, but be comfortable with the idea of that being a little out of whack when you bonus babies come home from their other parent. In saying this, don’t be like me with a constant mum guilt shadow, kids are resilient.. remind them of your love but create boundaries with them too. Ie, when I go to my room with the baby and shut the door behind me its because I am either trying to settle them and put them to sleep, or we will be feeding and I would like some privacy. But if my door is open, you are totally welcome to come in and hang out on the bed with us. At times it was frustrating when I might have just settled him to sleep and the bedroom door came crashing open, or I was sitting feeding in a very compromising visual for two little girls (both boobs out hooray for me)
Practise clear communication with your family.
I don't know if a step mother becoming a new born mother book will ever hit the shelves. But I do know that you, like me, exist. There are so many families with these dynamics, but we aren't openly discussing the hardships in the dynamics of our households out loud. I know for some time I have felt fear of being judged for my choices, and it has also been particularly difficult because I don't have any friendships in similar family dynamics.
Wearing my wife hat, mum hat and step mum hat all in a matter of moments really took its toll on my energy. Balancing these hats, has been a road I have roughed out on my own. And I really want to open to the door to this discussion.
If there is anything I can encourage any mums to be is, its to start now with your self love journey if you haven’t already. Regardless if you have step children or other children. All to be mums, need to flex that self love muscle. It will be uncomfortable, and you will feel vulrunable, but I know that if I had internalised self love as an active practise I would have seen a much clearer path to motherhood. I would not have associated being a mother, at home, caring for a newborn full-time with shame. I carried the guilt I did for the things I wasn’t able to achieve.
If you are someone who has no clue where to begin with flexing the self love muscle, I would encourage seeking a professional who can work with you, give you the right tools emotionally to work on this part of yourself. Physiologists, counsellor or even a health coach are great options. Other things like meditation, journalling are awesome self love practises you can have in place to support realigning your mindset and shifting your mental load.
Comparison IS the thief of joy. Late nights feeding? Get off social media through this time. You are exhausted, likely covered in vomit and feel like shit. Its like going grocery shopping for your healthy food to start your clean Monday but your starving so you fill your trolley with junk. Don’t scroll on instagram, log out. Listen to a podcast, start a tv series that will make you laugh. Do anything that doesn’t make you feel you are less then an incredible human raising an incredible human. Don’t undervalue yourself because someone can take a pretty picture and write a poetic caption.
I hope me sharing this experience empowers another mum to be to work on herself actively.. And if your not a mum to be, maybe you are a new step mother who is navigating her way through this unfamiliar territory.. I hope this resonates with you.
I want to share more about my experiences and challenges through parenting, step mothering, and co mothering as I wish I had someone to relate to through this chapter of my life.
Thanks for reading