A First-Time Mum Shares the Truth About Life After Baby
Becoming a mum for the first time is a dramatic shift in any woman’s life, bringing with it a whole host of new and often overwhelming emotions. First, it’s not just you anymore: There’s an entirely new tiny human being to care for, who requires devoted one-on-one attention and love. Second, your body is fraught with some pretty crazy hormonal changes, which can impact how you think and feel about everything—and you start crying all the time, even when you’re really happy.
Despite the awe and sheer delight that this new bundle brings into your life, being a first-time mum is hard. New mum and digital influencer Chriselle Lim of The Chriselle Factor says having a baby is “possibly the hardest and most exhaustive thing” she’s ever experienced, while also being the most rewarding. We tapped Chriselle to share her motherhood confessions; read on for her thoughts on why it’s time to ditch the “mummy guilt,” how she manages a thriving business with a baby, and more.
MYDOMAINE: You recently gave birth to beautiful baby girl, Chloe. Can you talk us through those first moments when you found out?
CHRISELLE LIM: I always knew I was going to have a baby, but I never thought I would have one this early on in my life. I was always that one girl who avoided the topic of babies with my friends because the idea of it scared me. When I first found out I was pregnant, I didn’t believe it and panicked a bit. When I told my husband and saw his reaction and joy, that’s when I knew it was time for us to step into the next chapter of our lives. Unfortunately three months into my pregnancy I had a miscarriage, and it was heartbreaking, but it was through my miscarriage that I realised I actually was ready to have a baby. It was the most emotional time of my life, but there is always good that comes out of the bad.
MD: Can you share what those first few weeks were like after you gave birth and how it felt to be a mum?
CL: Of course there was the initial excitement and happiness that came with the birth of our daughter, Chloe, but the recovery process was a whole different story. I actually suffered a bit from postpartum depression (which is super common, but I had no clue it even existed); however, I didn’t realize I had it until I was out of it. From the exhaustion and hormones, I felt a bit sad for some reason, and I didn’t know why. I knew I was supposed to feel happy, but I couldn’t help but feel a bit down for the first month or two. Don’t get me wrong; I was incredibly thankful for my baby girl, but my body was not reacting the same way as my mind was. It was the strangest thing. Carrying a child and giving birth is one of the biggest joys in life, but most women choose not to talk about the process or the ups and downs of what actually happens. I want to change that and let women know it’s okay to feel down and not like yourself for the first few months.
MD: You have a very successful business. Did you feel the pressure to go back to work early?
CL: Naturally as a work-obsessed, business-minded woman, I did feel the pressure to start working right away. I jumped back two weeks after giving birth, and I don’t think that was the smartest thing for me to do. I think this all contributed to my semi–postpartum depression, by forcing the body to do something that isn’t so natural. Your body is at its most sensitive state after giving birth, and you need to make sure you take care of it and give it the rest it needs. I was nervous that my business would slow down if I wasn’t actively working, and because of that, I think I strained my mind and body. Luckily I have an amazing team, and because we planned everything in advance, my business grew instead of slowing down during this time in my life.
MD: Has being a mum changed how you run your business now?
CL: It’s funny because I thought I would be doing less after having a baby, but I feel like I’ve been able to accomplish more since having Chloe. You are forced to prioritize once you have a baby, which allows you to think more clearly about what is actually necessary and what is not. It really puts things into perspective. You realise that half the things you were previously doing were unnecessary anyway. Now we have a set schedule, and my team knows my family comes first. I feel like because I say no to the majority of events and opportunities that I used to say yes to, it allows bigger and better things to come my way.
MD: What are some of the major misconceptions you had about being a mum before you became one?
CL: That I would need to give up and sacrifice my career. I think that’s why I was initially so anti about having a baby. There is a common misconception that once you have a baby, you have to give up your entire life, and I don’t think that is true, nor is it a healthy way to look at motherhood. I applaud all the stay-at-home mums (including my own mum) as it is possibly one of the most challenging jobs out there, but today you can do both. I think it helped that I have so many amazing working moms around me who I personally look up to, and I tell myself, “If they can do it, I can do it too.” Motherhood has only enhanced my work. I feel so content when I’m both at home and at work now.
MD: Have you experienced “mum guilt”? What are your tips to combat the blame game?
CL: Yes, yes, and yes! I talk a bit about mummy guilt on my blog, and it is 110% normal. Every working mum I know goes through this, and in my opinion, it shows that you are human and that you love your child so much. I think society’s expectation that women have to stay at home once they have a baby just puts unnecessary guilt and pressure on mums. I felt like that for the first six months, and sometimes I still do. It’s important to know that you’re giving your all every single day to your child, even if that means you have to work to provide for his/her life. My number one tip in combatting the blame game is to surround yourself with other mums who have similar situations or circumstances. We all have struggles, so it’s important to vet it out and have a support group with other women who are going through what you are going through.
MD: How do you and your husband share the care of Chloe with business commitments and careers?
CL: It’s important to realise that you cannot do everything, and be okay with that. I have an incredible support team at home, and I would not be able to do what I do on a daily basis without them. On the days that I am at home with Chloe all day, the minute my husband comes home, she is all his—diapers, feeding, bath time and tucking her in bed. During these three hours, I’m able to catch up with my work and finally take a shower. [Laughs.] Also on the weekends my husband gets up early to play with her so I can sleep in during the weekend, which is so amazing. He is also fully responsible for Chloe when I travel. Sometimes my parents come down from San Francisco, but it’s mostly all Allen when I’m away. There are no gender roles in our family; it’s pretty much whoever is available will do the job that needs to get done. Gender equality is not only important when raising a family, but life in general. Every job a woman can do, a man can do too—except for breastfeeding.
MD: As an independent, successful woman, did you find it hard to accept help and realise that you needed it?
CL: I had a hard time with this in the beginning because I’ve always had a bit of an ego that I could do everything on my own—it’s the control-freak Aries in me; I can’t help it—but being a mum has quickly changed that. Motherhood alone is difficult. As the saying goes, it takes a village to raise a child, and it’s so true. My husband and I jokingly always call Chloe our “boss” because we are pretty much on call with her 24 hours a day.
MD: How did you handle the late nights and no sleep?
CL: I thought I knew how it felt to be exhausted, but I surely didn’t until I had Chloe. I’ve always been a bit of night owl; I used to stay up all night with no sleep to build my business, so that part I was used to. But when you add in the hormonal and body changes on top of sleep deprivation, you literally go a little crazy. Having a baby is possibly the hardest and most exhaustive thing I’ve ever experienced, but ironically the most rewarding and amazing experience.
MD: What are the biggest changes to your life since becoming a mum?
CL: I don’t take things as seriously as I used to. What used to be a big deal is no longer that big of a deal anymore. I used to stress out over the smallest of details, but after having a baby, you realize that nothing is more important than the life of your baby. Everything revolves around her, and everything I do is for her. I also now have a newfound respect for women, and especially those who have children of their own. Motherhood is the single most gratifying and humbling experience ever.
MD: What else do you want to share with our readers about being a first-time mum?
CL: I hope through my story women will realize that it’s okay to feel overwhelmed, saddened, and not your best after giving birth; it’s all part of the process. I also hope that women will stop comparing themselves to others. Everyone was put on this earth to have his or her own story, and not one way is the right way to raise a child. We women are such powerful creatures, and it literally took me having a baby to realize this. Today we can be that powerful businesswoman yet be that loving affectionate mother at home, too.
Spoil your bundle of joy with some of our favorite nursery pieces below.
Be sure to follow Chriselle and Chloe over at The Chriselle Factor.
What are some of the lessons you learned as a first-time mum? Did you experience mom guilt? How can we help women overcome this? Share your thoughts in the comments.