Dear Mama,

Congratulations! You just brought your first baby home from the hospital, and I bet you are so in love and are absolutely mesmerized by those tiny fingers and toes. You are in shock that this perfect little baby grew inside of you, and you might also be in shock that you are now a mother, and you’re in it for life. You might be in shock (and slightly terrified) that you are trusted with this small human. You waited nine long months for this exact moment, so why are you feeling such an array of emotions?

On one hand you are feeling overwhelmingly excited, happy, and joyful to have your little miracle home. On the other hand, you’re feeling plain old overwhelmed. Maybe even sad, worried, nervous and anxious.

Your feelings are all over the place and it’s okay.

You spent much of your pregnancy hearing words of wisdom from family and friends that included, “You will fall in love instantly once you see your baby” … “Your motherly instincts will just kick in” … “You are going to be a great mom” – and you ARE a great mom. You are the best mom for that baby. You can be a great mom, the best mom even, and still question what you got yourself into. This is a new world for you, the routine you once knew has been turned upside down. It’s scary. 

You’re running on little to no sleep, your baby’s cries might trigger your anxiety, your hormones are crashing, and you cry over nothing – welcome to the fourth trimester. The fourth trimester is the first 12 weeks after birth, and it is an absolute roller coaster. This is everything you’ve ever wanted, while also being the most life altering decision you’ve ever made.

You can be in love with being a mom, while also mourning your ‘old life’ – your freedom.

With that lack of freedom, and lack of sleep, come a whole new set of responsibilities, and you might be feeling like you have no clue what you are doing. You are a first time mom, quite frankly you shouldn’t know what you’re doing. You have never had to rock a crying baby, while warming up a bottle, shoveling food down your throat, and holding back tears. This is all new and you might find yourself wondering where those ‘motherly instincts’ are.

I am here to tell you that those motherly instincts may not have “just kicked in” and guess what? You are still a wonderful mom. You might know you need to love your baby, but you might not know how to love your baby. It’s okay to be awkward when holding your baby, and not know the best way to change a diaper or get your baby dressed. Those motherly instincts might not be instant, but they do eventually arrive and that is when your confidence as a mother will flourish.

This fourth trimester only lasts 12 weeks. Again – It. Only. Lasts. Twelve. Weeks.

I know twelve weeks sounds like a lifetime right now and you can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, but it is there. It might be small, but it is there. Think about how fast those nine months went, these next three months will also move quickly. You may have waited longer than 12 weeks to even tell people you were pregnant.

Just like there was no switch and instant relief from all of that first trimester morning sickness, there is no switch that just turns off once you hit 12 week postpartum. It is at that point, however, when you start to figure out this new routine. You start to learn your baby and their adorable quirks, you and your partner settle into more defined (but always changing) roles when it comes to parenting. Life becomes more normal and less hormonal.

Everyone falls in love with their baby at different times

Some moms see their babies head crowning in the mirror and are instantly in Mama Bear mode and head over heels in love with their baby, some mothers feel that connection when they hold their babies for the first time, and other moms, that all encompassing and unconditional love takes a few days. Of course you love your baby, you felt the kicks and hiccups for months, you listened to the heartbeat and you watched that tiny yolk sac grow limbs and turn into a human before your very eyes. You love the baby you created, but you might not fall in love immediately. You will get there.

One of the best and most honest pieces of advice I received during my pregnancy was…

“Enjoy every moment…and if you don’t, that’s okay too.”

It wasn’t until I was in the thick of the sleepless nights, adjusting to life with a newborn that these words of wisdom rang true. You might not love every moment, newborn life is tough, and that is okay too. Enjoy most moments, enjoy the snuggles, the kisses, the gummy baby smiles. Enjoy watching your partner take on this new role, enjoy a hot cup of coffee once in a while or a long shower. Enjoy the “firsts” – first giggle, first real smile, first Christmas, etc. Motherhood is an ever changing journey, so the moments you may not love right now, you will learn to love. This time goes by too quickly, do your best to enjoy most moments. 

Your hormones just went on the ride of their life over the past 9 months, your mind and body are going through a complete overhaul – give yourself some grace. 

Love on that baby, soak up the cuddles, make a cup of coffee and relish in all of the joy that is the fourth trimester. You won’t be here for long, before you know it you’ll be passing on your own advice and words of wisdom to other first time moms. Congratulations to you, on embarking on the wildest ride of your life! Being a mom is truly the most beautiful and wonderful adventure. 

Love, The Light at the End of the Tunnel

*Important to Note: If you feel like you are experiencing postpartum depression or postpartum anxiety, speak with your medical provider. There are ways to help and you don’t have to accept that as your new normal. Take care of yourself, mama.

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