What No One Told Me About Motherhood

Most moms can agree that motherhood is a beautiful, rewarding experience. They can also agree that it's a learn-as-you-go kind of job, with crazy ups, downs, and everything in between. Sure, it helps to have family or good friends around for help — and to be stocked up with loads of diapers and trusted products like Baby Dove tip to toe washes, wipes, and lotions — but you can't always prepare for every surprise (and not always the fun kind).
Everyone has a different experience with motherhood, which is why we interviewed three mothers to hear their super-honest tales of what being a mom is really like. Read on, and just remember that no one is perfect — and that's more than okay.
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Photographed by Lynsey Addario
Jonelle Joseph
Supermom Jonelle has her hands full with her 8-month-old son, Asher. During her maternity leave (she works in education and social development for the Canadian government), Jonelle even managed to go back to school — bringing sleeping baby Asher to class with her.
It Takes A Village — For Real: “As a single parent, I needed to depend on my strong support network. Before I was a mom, I was always helping my friends and my sister with their kids, so when I had Asher, they were all there for me. My mom and dad live nearby, too, so they helped me out a lot — delivering food and diapers to my house and eventually babysitting so I could actually leave the house once in a while.”
You’ll Be A Total Zombie At First: “I had no idea how aggressively hungry a newborn is, and for the first five or six weeks, Asher needed milk every 30 or 40 minutes. He could only digest a small amount at a time because his stomach was so small. I was feeding him constantly — it was hardcore. I was basically just a human with a set of udders. I was exhausted, living in my PJs, stuck on my couch, and binge-watching Netflix for days on end.”
If It’s Not One Thing, It’s Another: “Babies go through phases, and you just need to learn to have patience because you will get through it. When Asher had colic for two months, the only thing that would soothe him was holding him while we gently bounced on a big yoga ball. I'd have to bounce him multiple times, day and night. Asher also had baby eczema, so I bought a humidifier for our apartment and used a very rich moisturizer that wouldn’t irritate his dry, sensitive skin. I mixed a few drops of organic, extra-virgin coconut oil with Dove Sensitive Moisture Baby Lotion and massaged the formula on him after his bath. That combo completely cleared up his eczema — and I actually moisturize with it, too.”
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Photographed by Ami Vitale
Grace Fung-On
Not only does Grace have three kids under the age of six (Gavin is 5, Claire is 3, and Austin is 1), she also works as a middle-school teacher. Needless to say, she’s got a strong sense of humor to get through it all — and a very chill husband. “His calmness balances me out, and we also have family nearby to help us with our three-ring circus,” she says. “Even though it’s crazy chaos, I always knew I wanted to be a mom. You try to do the best you can and just juggle.”
Don’t Be Afraid To Seek Help: “After I finished breastfeeding my third child and went back to work, I was terribly anxious and depressed and was in tears all the time. I couldn’t keep up with anything, even though I had help at home. There’s a difference between feeling overwhelmed and feeling like you’re drowning, so I went to my doctor; I was diagnosed with postpartum depression and went on a temporary course of a low-dose antidepressant. It really helped me get over that hump, and it improved my relationships with my family tremendously.”
Self-Care Is Key: “With three kids, there are days when I forget to brush my teeth or take a shower. I’ve learned that it’s important to seek sanctuary when and where you can. My solitude is cruising the aisles of the grocery store at 9 p.m., when my husband is home with the kids. I’ll buy random stuff like $10 gluten-free crackers, because I deserve it. My other indulgence is getting a manicure; I’m lucky because one of my mom friends is an aesthetician who works from home and welcomes kids.”
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Babies Can Be Gross: “Kids don’t always poop neatly in their diapers. They poop all over themselves. I’ve had to throw away so many onesies that just couldn’t be saved. When my daughter was 12 months old, she had an accident all over her car seat while I was driving, then put her hands in it and started sucking her thumb. I can laugh about it now, but at the time I was horrified!”
Photographed by Lynsey Addario
Tatiana Read
She runs her own successful PR and event-planning business, The Knot Group; is a stepmom to 6-year-old Clifford and mom to 2-year-old daughter Ksenija; and is expecting another baby in March. Tatiana relies on her husband, Joe, to be a stay-at-home superdad. “We’re a team,” she says, “and having him take care of the kids during the day is a mega luxury. Our strong partnership and shared approach to parenting makes the happiness greater.”
Trust Your Maternal Instincts: “You can read 20 million books and online mommy blogs, but nothing really prepares you for motherhood. When I was pregnant, I was so busy that I didn’t study up or prepare too much, and I think that was a blessing. Overthinking it would have probably made me worried and scared, and the second Ksenija was born my motherly intuition kicked in. I also had my mom and sister there to guide me through the process. I didn’t compare my experience to anyone else’s, and I didn’t second-guess myself as a first-time mom. Now that I’m pregnant again, I’m actually much more anxious than I was the first time around because I know what to expect.”
Breastfeeding Can Suck — Literally: “I could never have imagined how painful breastfeeding was going to be for me. It was worse than recovering from my C-section. My boobs were deformed and out of control! I woke up some mornings and they were square-shaped because there was so much milk in them. It even hurt to take a shower. Thankfully, the discomfort subsided after a few weeks, and I found that breastfeeding my daughter created an intimate bond between us.”
Time Management Is A Joke: “I thought I’d have so much time for myself with a newborn. Wrong. The inability to have any kind of precise schedule surprised me: You’re basically on a two- to three-hour feeding, burping, and changing cycle. Sometimes she’d wake up a bit earlier or sleep a little longer, and you can’t anticipate that. And when you’re attending to a baby, you can’t multitask and do something else; if I was hungry, thirsty, or needed a shower, it just had to wait.”
For more real mom stories, read on at Dove.ca/beautifullyrealmoms.