Kealia Watt Opens Up About 'Tough' Transition into Motherhood: 'It's Been Really Hard'

Kealia Watt instagram with son Koa
Kealia Watt instagram with son Koa
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Kealia Watt with son Koa

Kealia Ohai Watt is opening up about how she's adjusting to her new role as a mom.

The soccer player, 31, gets candid in this week's issue of PEOPLE about her journey into motherhood in the hopes other new moms will feel comfortable with both the highs and lows of parenting.

"As a mother, you don't really understand how, when you have a baby, how difficult it is," Kealia tells PEOPLE of life with baby Koa James, her first baby with just-retired NFL star J.J. Watt. "And we're fortunate enough to have a lot of family and a lot of help, but it's a huge transition."

The National Women's Soccer League player says her biggest challenge since welcoming Koa on Oct. 23 is having to shift her focus from herself and husband J.J. to the "life that you created."

"You don't realize before you have a baby, you're selfish, and you can do whatever you want — you can go workout, you can go to work and do your job, and your world revolves around you," she explains. "And when you have a baby that is over, obviously, that's your number one concern."

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J.J. Watt #99 of the Arizona Cardinals talks with his wife Kealia Watt and son Koa Watt prior to the game against the San Francisco 49ers at Levi's Stadium on January 08, 2023 in Santa Clara, California.
J.J. Watt #99 of the Arizona Cardinals talks with his wife Kealia Watt and son Koa Watt prior to the game against the San Francisco 49ers at Levi's Stadium on January 08, 2023 in Santa Clara, California.

Ezra Shaw/Getty Kealia and J.J. Watt with son Koa

RELATED: J.J. Watt Joined on Field by Son Koa in What He Later Revealed Was His Last NFL Home Game: Photo

While "it's been really hard" and, as an athlete, having to stop working out and playing the sport she loves has been an adjustment, Kealia says she wouldn't change a thing.

"Why it's so amazing and makes it all worth it is just seeing this baby that you created grow every day. And you get one smile from him, and you're like, 'Oh my gosh, this is all worth it.'"

The same goes for J.J., 33, who already has his future footballer doing "standing drills" in the hopes the 3-month-old will follow in his NFL footsteps.

"J.J. and I always laugh, when Koa will sleep through the night or he'll eat really well, we are so happy. It's like, 'We did it! That's bigger than our accomplishments.'"

The mom of one wants other moms to give themselves grace as it's she says it's important to understand and accept that "every mom has trouble, and every mom has struggles and such a huge adjustment."

RELATED:  JJ Watt Feeds Son Koa Before His Final NFL Game in Sweet Photo from Wife Kealia: 'We Love You'

"You're not always going to feel like this is the greatest job and role in the world," she admits. "There's going to be days that are really hard, and you feel like you're failing, and you feel this is so difficult, but that's normal."

As part of helping new moms by speaking about her experience, Kealia is working with Cord Blood Registry to share the benefits of cord banking, which can be used to treat a number of conditions including cancer, spinal cord injuries and, hopefully soon, Alzheimer's.

"Cord Blood Registry explained to me how it works, [and] it's incredible, it can help your entire family and is stored forever," says Kealia, who first started working with the company after her OB-GYN suggested she look into the practice.

While there are a lot of costs and decisions to be made around having a child, the couple ultimately decided to preserve their little one's stem cells via his cord blood as it "was so easy" and "brought us peace of mind."

"We just thought if we ever looked back and didn't do this, we would be so mad at ourselves," she adds.

RELATED VIDEO: J.J. Watt Says Soccer Star Wife Kealia Ohai Is the Better Athlete

Meanwhile, little Koa is growing every day, and Kealia says she is adjusting to her new normal as she is "starting to work out and feel more like myself again."

It also helps that J.J. is now home full-time after playing his last game with the Arizona Cardinals last month and retiring from the NFL.

"I know that it's a hard transition for everybody, but he's such a good dad and so to have him home, it's like a whole different world," Kealia shares.

"He spends so much time with Koa, so that's been huge for me. It's been so nice to have him."

For more on Kealia and J.J. Watt's life as new parents, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands everywhere Friday.