“I don’t have a natural motherly instinct, but I am still a good mom. Before I had kids, I didn’t ever feel comfortable around them. I always thought they were cute but didn’t know how to act around them. How do I hold them? Do I make funny faces at them? How do you change a diaper? What do you do if they cry? I pretty much avoided being around babies my entire life. I tried babysitting when I was in my teens and didn’t enjoy it like some of the other girls my age did. This was always in the back of my mind as I got older and started thinking about having my own children. For a lot of years, I wondered if I would have kids because I didn’t know how to be a mom, and frankly, I felt uncomfortable holding and watching other peoples kids, even my own nieces and nephews.
A couple years after my husband and I got married, we started thinking about having a baby. It was just something you did. We tried and tried to get pregnant but couldn’t. We struggled with infertility and it turned out I wasn’t ovulating, so I had to take a medication to make me ovulate to get pregnant. When we finally got a positive, after 9 months of trying, we were so excited because something we had been dreaming of for so long was finally going to happen. We would be parents. Soon after we found out we were expecting, thoughts flooded my mind about how to be a mom. I read so many parenting books trying to prepare myself so I would know exactly what to do and how to care for this baby. I expressed concern about my lack of motherly instinct to a few people and everyone would tell me it would kick in as soon as the baby was born. They assured me I would just know what to do. Mama always knows best.
When my daughter was born on October 23, 2017, it was the best day of my life. She was born 10 days early after my water broke. When they admitted us to the hospital, I was terrified. Not of labor, but of what came after. After 10 hours of labor, I was so relieved to have her in my arms, but I still didn’t know what to do with her. I remember the first time she cried after the nurses left our room, I looked at my husband and said, ‘What do we do?’ Neither of us knew. We tried rocking her, nursing her, changing her diaper, but she just kept crying. Those first few nights with her were a blur. On one hand I was so happy to have her here, and on the other I was terrified. I didn’t know what to do when she cried as I had a difficult time breastfeeding and put a lot of pressure on myself to make breastfeeding work. How could something so natural hurt so bad? I felt like a horrible mother because we could never figure out how to latch without pain and pumping, and bottle feeding was too demanding when I was already so sleep deprived. I kept telling myself, ‘A lot of other moms do this, why can’t you?’
On top of the breastfeeding struggles and sleepless nights, my daughter had severe colic which made it difficult to console her. Being my first baby, I didn’t realize she had colic even though I mentioned to my daughter’s pediatrician I was concerned about how much she cried. He shrugged it off like all babies were like this, so I didn’t do much about it. I thought her crying would never end and was convinced she was crying because I was doing something wrong.
It wasn’t until much later after speaking with other moms about it when I learned she had colic and there was a whole community of moms with colic babies. At the time when she would cry unconsolably, I thought, ‘There is something wrong with me, why can’t I get her to stop crying by rocking her or feeding her? Am I doing something wrong?’ I would look at other moms on Instagram and their images looked nothing like the reality of my life as a mom. I hadn’t showered in days; I was exhausted and didn’t even recognize myself in the mirror. My marriage was struggling, and I was struggling personally. I didn’t leave my house for weeks at a time and later was diagnosed with postpartum anxiety and began both therapy and medication.
As my therapy progressed and my medication started working, I began to realize not all moms are naturals. I started unfollowing accounts on Instagram that made me feel insufficient as a mom. I wanted to follow real mom accounts. Other moms who talked about how hard it can be to be a mom and how none of us know what we are doing and how this is okay. I wanted to be a part of a community where it was safe to say ‘I’m struggling’ and not be worried about judgement. I started my own Instagram account, honestly.kaitlyn to share my journey as a mother – the good, the bad, and the honest.
My first daughter, Harper, is now 3 years old. I still don’t feel like a natural, but I’m okay with it; it doesn’t affect my day-to-day. As soon as you feel like you master one part of motherhood, your child moves into a new developmental phase you don’t know how to handle. Right now, we are working through handling tantrums and setting boundaries. We’re taking it day by day, but I feel confident in our approach, even if we’re not always consistent.
I now have a 6-month-old daughter, Daphne. I’m happy to say my second postpartum journey has been much easier. Daphne did not have colic and is such a happy baby. She has her moments, and we did struggle with breastfeeding and night wakings like we did with Harper. I think what has made this journey much easier is my expectations. Not expecting to know what to do and being okay with it. Having experience also helps, but I think acceptance is more helpful because every baby is different. Something that works with one doesn’t necessarily work with the other.
If I could give any new mom one piece of advice it would be this: ‘You won’t know what you’re doing and this is okay! You will figure out what works for you and your baby on your terms, try not to compare yourself or your journey to anyone else’s. You’re a good mom, even if you don’t feel like a natural.’”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Kaitlyn Nilles of Salt Lake City, Utah. You can follow her honest motherhood journey on Instagram. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
Read more important stories from honest mommas:
‘There are moments I think, ‘Can I give the baby back? I’m not cut out for this.’ And yet, there is nothing and no one else in the world who matters more.’: Mom shares candid reality of first month of motherhood
‘You think you’re tired now? Just wait.’ Can we drop the ‘I’m more tired than you’ act and just lift each other up? I’m sick of this motherhood competition.’: Mom urges ‘just wait mama, it only gets better’
‘Throw in your ‘perfect’ towel. Wave the flag of your motherhood style proudly. To them, you hung the moon. They couldn’t do life without you.’: Mom says ‘no amount of mom guilt can take away the glory you are in your child’s eyes’
Spread beauty and strength for others. SHARE this story on Facebook with family and friends.