Posted: May 19, 2014 9:00 AM
 
You felt the butterfly kicks and can't wait to kiss those little toes, snuggle to sleep and show her off to family and friends. But motherhood was a lot different than we imagined. Moms share how this parenting thing took them by surprise.
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Nothing can truly prepare a woman to become a mother. Sure, she could read all the books, know the pediatrician on a first-name basis, practice swaddling friends' babies… but until you hear the first cry, hold that messy little bundle of happiness in those first few minutes, until you go for weeks without getting more than an hour of sleep at a time, you don't get it.

We've asked moms to reflect on the most surprising aspects of motherhood, and here's what they said.

Maternal instincts

Joy of Missouri was startled by the depth of her own emotions: "The main surprise was that I did not know I had the capacity to love or feel joy so deeply. I did not know it would change my perspectives about everything. Nor did I know that I would never be able to get them out of my head or heart for a moment. It surprised me that I could actually clean up some other person's body fluids and not be completely grossed out. It was also a surprise how strong the maternal instincts and intuition are."

New appreciation

While Melissa, mother of two, started having flashbacks. She was surprised at "… how tired you are... and also that you start to sound like your own mom."

Olivia of California also began to think of her mom. "The most surprising thing is the depth of understanding I have gained for my own mother."

Mama bear

There's a vulnerability to parenting I never expected. I wear my heart on my sleeve with my daughters.

Michelle, mother of four, says, "With two daughters that have chronic illnesses, I've learned how much of an advocate I can be. I've learned that I have an inner reserve of strength that never seems to run out. I've learned how unselfish I can be. And I've learned that the teenage years aren't scary but amazing and fun and enlightening. There's a vulnerability to parenting I never expected. I wear my heart on my sleeve with my daughters."

Missouri mom Anna seconds the deep connection motherhood brings, "I never expected the inner physical aching that occurs when my kids are sick, hurting or struggling."

A little overwhelmed

New mom Arielle says, "I thought breastfeeding was going to be easy because no one told me how hard the first few weeks are and how frequently you feed them but he's almost 3 months old now and I'm so thankful I stuck with it. Everyone says how amazing it is becoming a parent, I guess I didn't expect an overwhelming love that when I just think about how much I love my son it bring tears to my eyes. I didn't think I could love someone as much as I do. I've only been a mom 11 weeks but I don't know how I ever lived without him."

What surprised me the most was how exhausted I could be and keep going, I wondered where the internal energy source was coming from.

Cindy, mom of two says, "What surprised me the most was how exhausted I could be and keep going, I wondered where the internal energy source was coming from. Also how quickly I could love someone from the first moment I laid eyes on that child and the strong maternal instinct and intuition were. The last thing was how easy and an overall wonderful feeling of bonding it was breastfeeding my children."

Several moms mentioned the lack of sleep. Inge of Texas said, "I'm only 5 months in... but the biggest shocker for me has been how well I can function on so little sleep!" We've all been there.

Yeah, becoming a mom turns your world upside down, and your self inside out. Never has there been a more heart-wrenching and rewarding occupation. You can never be truly prepared for the ups and downs of new motherhood, but you can truly prepare yourself to cherish every moment of it.

More on new parenthood

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Best apps for new parents
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