Congratulations, new mom! Welcome to the hard part.
Remember how you spent the last nine months convinced that getting the baby out would be the biggest challenge you ever faced in your young (or not so young) life? That part, in hindsight, will turn out to have been the easy bit.
At least once during the next few weeks, you will mutter quietly, "It feels like my life is over." You may say this less than quietly. Screaming may or may not be involved. There may also be tears. This is perfectly normal. Which doesn't make it any easier, I know.
People like me, who have your best interests at heart but also don't want to fill you with false hope, will tell you that it will get better. You will want to grab these people and shake them really hard. "When?" you might scream at them. "Can you tell me exactly when that will happen?"
We can't. It's not that it's a we'd-have-to-kill-you-if-we-told-you type secret. We honestly don't know. For some new moms, the transition is easy. They might heave a few heavy sighs and wonder when they'll start to reclaim their life, not to mention their body and their wardrobe. To those new moms, I say, "Really? Good for you."
Or, at least, that's what I would tell that self-assured new mom, if I ever met one.
For most of us, the transition isn't as painless. It's hard, even under the best of circumstances, to take care of both a new baby and yourself. Even the sanest have lost it after a few days without sleep and showers and hot food. Those of us who would never win First Prize in the Robust Mental Health Pageant even on our best days may go on to discover how bone-deep sorrow can be.
I hope you don't.
But if you do, if you spend 24 hours sobbing because it just all feels like it's too much, that's OK. Really. These next few weeks (or, frankly, months) aren't predicting what kind of mother you will be. This part of the process is hard. Harder than calculus, even, because there are no right answers. You can't flip to the back of the book and figure out if you are doing it right. In fact, there is no absolute right — and anyone who tries to convince you otherwise has her own issues to take a good long look at.
There are a few absolute wrongs, however.
It is wrong to suffer in silence.
It is wrong to believe that misery is its own reward.
It is wrong to not tell anyone if you are thinking about harming yourself or your baby. It is wrong to hear voices and fail to mention what they say to someone that you trust.
It is wrong to think that you don't deserve to have time to yourself. It is wrong to believe that you are the only one who can care for your baby even when you are falling apart.
It is wrong to not cut yourself a little slack. It is wrong to let perfect be the enemy of good. It is wrong to think that you won't screw up sometimes. You will. What matters is how you handle it. This right here is the hard part. It will get better. You will find your way through, even if it isn't as graceful as you'd like and requires a pit crew.
The important part is that you keep going.