Dear New Mamma,
Things are crazy right now. Trust me, I get it. Society hides the post-partum period—probably for good reason. The waves of emotion and visitors, the endless nights and laundry piles, the shrill cry of your new little human--and sometimes even the piercing sound of your own sobs.
Don’t worry, these feelings don’t last forever.
I want you to know that you are normal. And beautiful. And brave. I want you to know that I admire your jump and that soon the world will be admiring the wings you’ve managed to find on your way down. I’ll tell you honestly that I find it ironic the Lord told us to be “fruitful and multiply” in an entirely separate Biblical passage from the one outlining that “children are a blessing from the Lord”. Probably because, if you haven’t discovered already, children and their blessing-hood don’t always flow beside one another.
Kids are hard. Sometimes it feels like they ruin your life. And to make the emotional roller coaster worse, other times it feels like they are the ones that provide life itself. I had a rough go of it the first time around. The body-shock, sleepless nights, and defunct joy that i thought would never come left me weary and wanting. And so, I want you to try to remember these things—cling to them and to God, the same God that paints the rainbows and smiles on your baby’s face also paints the stretch marks on your stomach and tear stains on your cheeks.
Be yourself, whoever that might be at the moment. I hole-away after my kids are born. Like some sort of alternative hibernation, I tend to run from society and into my bedroom. Probably as a defense mechanism: I feel fragile, broken, and split. Split between who I once was and the new “me” I’m forced to become because of this new little Life. Split between the body I saw a year prior and the one that meets my gaze in the mirror. Split between my husband and this little creature; between explosions of love and hope for the potential this baby holds and eruptions of grief and fear for the “what ifs” and “I can’t’s”. And so the world’s axis tips just a bit farther than normal and my emotions spill out—I isolate myself from both the joy and criticism of other passers-by. Some days I am who I once was—feeling selfish, independent, and dream-filled; others I am surprised at the way my world stops to watch the little movements and hear the little sounds of the new person in my life. And though it often feels like there should be two or ten or twenty of me to get the job done, one of me is enough. Know that, okay? One of you is enough. And that one has full liberty to be whomever she needs to be to survive the moment (no one said anything about thriving here yet).
Love your baby, right where she is at. I made a mistake with our first one: I paid attention to the books instead of the baby. I think our fourth trimester would have been much different had I taken a step back to realize that this baby will grow just as she should and develop, with our help, into exactly who God intended. For the little moments, forget about the nap schedules, the sleep training, and the ultra-green-ultra-healthy baby food. Forget about the organic diapers and just that one single brand of baby wash because nothing else will work. Forget about the advice you’ve been given and the gifts you’ve received. And remember your baby. Love your baby—love this one and the next one and the next one after that. And love them all differently. Learn their cries. Go with the groovy flow of their sleeping patterns (or lack thereof). And let love rule.
Find your mantra. Days will come where you need to shout it from the rooftops or tattoo it on your forehead. The days when you hold your pee all day because no one will let you go into the bathroom alone. The days when the laundry monster overwhelms and the twentieth stain shows up from the invisible grease-elves in the washing machine. The days when dinner burns and the fridge is bare and the food budget has nothing left. The days when you have nothing left. Find your mantra—the reason you do what you do. And engrain those words, that purpose, in your heart. You’ll need to find it more often than you think.
Give yourself grace. I was under the impression that mothering was something I could add to my life-resume. Not for hiring purposes, of course, but mostly for the purpose of claiming those two little souls that have taken up residence on Earth in Our House. I knew our lives would change, our weekends would look different, my body would be stretched. But WOWZA. I’m learning the full expanse of grace along the way. Abandon your expectations, first impressions, and last remarks. Live day to day. Measure your efficiency by how many hugs you give instead of how much you get done. And even though you failed yesterday at being loving and patient and creative and supplying endless hours of fun for your toddler, today is a new day. And if he says “pay twains”, you play the best damn trains you ever have. (hi mom, yes I just used the word “damn”…I needed something with emphasis). And if he says he wants to hunt for bugs, don your binoculars and go on a bug-hunting safari. You (probably) have another chance, although nothing is a guarantee. So love and live. And do it well.
Give yourself time. Time to shrink back down to your pre-partum size. Time to learn the cues from your new baby. Time to make coffee in the mornings and time to brush your teeth for the first time at 4pm. Ignore the clocks. Life is not infinite—don’t pretend your days are.
I was under the impression that I’d rock this thing called Motherhood. Like I’d be the Jennifer Lawrence of an alternate form of Hollywood—that my wit and humor and easy-going sense would glide me through life like oil on a mud puddle. Instead, I just found myself feeling like I’d tromped through a mud puddle wearing a clown costume with crazed hormones and throw-up on my shoulder.
Welcome to your new life as a mom.
The reality is that you are the one that sets your own expectations. So give yourself a break. Drink some coffee. Eat a DQ Blizzard. Unbutton your currently-too-small pants to make room for the belly your kid left you. Treat yourself to a pedicure. Kiss your husband (like, really kiss him). Look at Instagram when you need a 15 second escape from the craziness (and don’t feel guilty about it). Morselize guilt.
This is a stage. Tomorrow is a new day.
I want you to know that you are normal. And beautiful. And brave.
Go love ‘em, Mama.