One of my very dear friends is expecting and is due to give birth any day now. (In fact, she’s already past her due date!) I got to thinking about the day Porter was born and all the experiences and changes I went through in the days that followed as I adjusted to my new role as a mother. I wrote this letter to her and to all the other new or soon to be mothers.
You know that thing you just did? It was pretty spectacular. You had a baby, and now you’re a mom. You’ve just been given a new job title, the best job in the whole world. Millions of women are wishing they were in your place right now. You’re one of the lucky ones.
I know you’re overwhelmed and experiencing every possible emotion at the exact same time. You’re anxious; you’re scared; you’re excited; you’re paranoid; you’re elated; you’re tired (oh so tired!); and you’re so full of love you think your heart might burst. You stare down at your little one and you can’t believe he/she was living inside of you just a short while ago. You have no idea how you’re going to pull this motherhood thing off because you think that you don’t know what you’re doing. It’s okay. You’re normal.
To call you emotional and tired would be an understatement. Your hormones are going bonkers. You may look down at your sleeping baby and smile and then realize a second later that you’re crying. You are so happy that this little person you’ve been waiting to meet for so long is finally here, yet you may also lament over the fact that you are no longer pregnant. You may cherish every yawn and squeak that escapes your baby’s mouth, but you may also find yourself missing his/her kicks that you felt in your belly just days ago. You’re not crazy. It’s okay. You’re normal.
Yoga pants are acceptable (even in public). You’re allowed to eat cereal and/or ice cream for dinner. Your body just went through this amazing journey and you may have stitches in places you thought stitches could never be, and if you’re lucky (ha!) you may even be wearing a diaper. And if you don’t find yourself taking a shower every day, who cares. It’s okay. You’re normal.
Let people do things for you. If someone offers to bring dinner, let her. And if you’re craving a chocolate milkshake or you’re out of eggs, don’t feel badly asking her to make an extra stop for you. Need groceries? Send your husband or a friend or a family member. Or better yet, do yourself a favor and go to www.peapod.com and embrace the beauty of grocery delivery.
Right now your world revolves around the beautiful perfection of ten tiny fingers and toes. You meticulously write down feeding times, nap schedules, and dirty diapers, and it’s easy to think you’ve completely lost your identity, except for this new one you recently acquired as a mother. You are still you. The old “before you had a baby” you still lives inside this new version of yourself. Do you like to read? Allow yourself to read a few pages from a book (and not that new book on your nightstand about parenting or breastfeeding.) Give yourself a gift every now and again. You deserve it.
You may take a look around your home and feel your blood pressure start to rise due to the obscene amounts of burp cloths, laundry piles, boppy pillows, baby blankets, etc. Even if the mess might make you feel crazy, this kind of a mess is the most beautiful kind. When it’s time for you to pack away all those burp cloths and baby blankets into a plastic bin you bought from Target, you’ll find yourself wishing they could stay sporadically placed around your house instead. It’s okay. You’re normal.
You love your baby; I know you do. You would do anything in the world for him/her. But if a teeny tiny part of you craves for a few minutes out of the house, a few minutes to interact with adults, or a few minutes to actually enjoy a hot cup of coffee without having to reheat it four times, you have permission to feel that way. Let someone else be on baby duty for a little bit, even if browsing the aisles of Target is all you do with your time (because going to Target alone sometimes feels like a vacation.) It’s okay. You’re normal.
There will be times when you will legitimately feel like a crazy woman. If someone asks to hold your baby, you may burst into tears because you want to spend every single second soaking up this new person you are getting to know. Five minutes later, you’ll be looking for someone to offer to take/hold/feed the baby. It’s okay. You’re normal.
You and Google will become BFF. You may find yourself searching the web for advice on using a pacifier vs. not using a pacifier. You’ll google questions about bottle feeding, breastfeeding, sleep schedules, poopy diapers, and bedtime routines. You may second guess every single decision you make and hope that your choices don’t scar your child for life. It’s okay. You’re normal.
You’ll be tempted to take at least 47 pictures of your baby a day. You’ll want to post them to Facebook and Instagram. It’s okay. You’re normal. (By the way, you should post those pictures. I won’t mind; I promise. It may even make me want to get pregnant immediately.)
People will ask how you’re feeling. You’ll say “Oh, I’m fine.” or “We’re doing great!” Only say these things if you mean them. If you really are feeling okay, that’s fantastic, but if you’re not, that does not mean you are a bad mother. Many women have difficulty after pregnancy and with so many changes in your body, environment, and life, this is not uncommon. It’s okay. You’re normal, but talk to your doctor. There’s no shame in asking for help.
That little baby who you’re holding in your arms may make you feel like you’re the lucky one. And you may wonder what you ever did to deserve such perfection. And you are lucky, mama, but with a mom like you, that baby is pretty full of luck, too.