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Black mother tenderly looking at her newborn baby, capturing the intimate bond and joy of early motherhood. The image reflects the beauty and challenges of postpartum life, symbolising maternal love and the beginning of a lifelong journey.

Navigating the Emotional Journey of Early Motherhood: the joy and full catastrophe

An open letter to new mothers

Exhausted mother with her baby on a bed

How are YOU? Really? 

You may be shocked.

You may not be enjoying every moment.

You could be physically recovering and it is taking longer than you expected.

You may be working through the disappointment of missing out on your dream birth. Or you could be experiencing the effects of birth trauma.

You may be struggling with breastfeeding. 

You may feel judged for your choices and the choices that were not yours.

You can wonder if you will ever matter again and feel selfish for caring.

You may have been told at your 6-week check-up that you are ‘good to go’ and yet feel a long way from being ready for anything.

You can wonder if your brain will ever work again or if you will have anything else to talk about except for poo and sleep times.

You can feel like you are not doing enough, achieving enough, or meeting milestones.

You can judge yourself for having a messy house and not looking after yourself when you are ‘just’ a stay-at-home mother. 

You can feel deep boredom.

You judge yourself for needing or wanting to work.

Image of a contented mother and newborn with the mother gazing outside 

You can be shocked by anger, resentment and rage towards your partner and feel despair as you extrapolate your current existence into your future.

You can struggle to articulate your feelings because sometimes it feels confusing and contradictory. 

You can feel deep loneliness like you have never experienced and yet feel unable to reach out.

You may be the first of your friends to have a baby or the last and desperately want them to hold you but don’t know how to ask.

You may jump on Instagram and leave feeling unworthy and like a failure compared to all the other mothers. 

You may feel jealous of other people’s lives and the support others might receive. And then judge yourself for feeling jealous.

You may feel on your knees with exhaustion, barely getting through the day.

You may hate being a mother sometimes. And then feel like the worst person on earth for even having the thought.

Everything is normal.


In the next moment, you can feel like you are nailing it. 

You cannot believe how lucky you are!

You have never experienced bliss like this before.

You cannot wait to get pregnant again; you need more of this!

You feel like the natural, earth mother you have always wanted to be!

You wish others could feel as amazing as you do.

The reality is that motherhood is no one thing; it is everything.

Motherhood is:

Bliss and despair.

Energising and exhausting.

Happiness and depression.

Peace and anxiety.

Joy and grief.

Slow and fast.

Love and hate.

Courage and fear.

Expansion and contraction.

Light and dark.

Unending and time-bound.

Patience and impatience.

Being and doing.

Effort and surrender.

Significant and insignificant.

Pleasure and pain.

Gain and loss.

Good and bad.

Hope and despair.

It is confusing, infuriating, exhausting, joyful, beautiful and everything in between. How we feel about ourselves and our day is unrelated to our love for our babies. We can hate motherhood sometimes and still love our babies.

So, dear woman, I leave you with this.

This first year is intense and like no other year. 

Pool every resource, call in every favour, lower standards and expectations, and ditch all non-essentials for this year. Your independence and freedom come back; pinky promise. 

Be aware of people who are promising solutions to problems that simply need the passage of time. 

Be aware of dogma.

Be aware of others projecting their stuff onto you.

Explore what matters most to you and your family and take little steps each day towards that. Let that be your criteria. Not social media, others, some book, or societal messaging about what is ‘good’ and ‘bad’.

I know one thing: if you are here, you care deeply about being a good mother. You are trying hard.

May your motherhood journey be supported and held with love from you and others.

Reflection: What practical steps can you take to lower standards and expectations in the first year of motherhood?

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