Parenting

An Open Letter to the New Mom I Once Was

new mom

Back when I had my first baby almost 14 years ago, things were different. (I was 14 years younger, for one thing!) I didn't realize just how different they were, however, until the birth of my third child four-and-a-half months ago -- so I thought now might be a good time to sit down and write my old, new mom self a letter ...

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Dear New Mom I Once Was, 

First of all, relax. I know, I know -- easier said than done. Right now you're on the weepiest, wildest hormonal rollercoaster ever, and you feel like you're literally bursting at the seams with love (not to mention milk!) for this tiny, vulnerable creature ... this tiny, vulnerable creature you are entirely responsible for keeping alive. No pressure. All you want to do is cry, or sleep, or scream -- except you just can't stop staring at that gorgeous little face and nuzzling that sweet, soft little head. This is the happiest you've ever been, so why are you so miserable? And what kind of horrible person are you for feeling sad or overwhelmed in the slightest when the universe just gave you the most amazing gift any human being could ever hope to receive?

Look: You're not a horrible person at all. You're just really, really tired. And worried. And why wouldn't you be? Not only are you not sleeping, you're being barraged at all times and from all directions by an endless stream of unsolicited and conflicting advice. Which means that no matter what you do -- sleep train, co-sleep, breastfeed, bottle-feed -- by someone's definition, you're doing it wrong. That's a pretty messed up trick for society to play on your deliriously exhausted head, isn't it?

And while you're not stressing out about your non-existent maternity leave ending in eight weeks, you are stressing out about the income your family is going to lose because you're not going back to work right away. So like most moms in your position, you're stressing out about money and the whole work/life balance issue. That's a pretty messed up trick for society to play on you, too.

Anyway, what I'm trying to say is, everything you're feeling right now is normal. And valid. And none of it makes you a bad person, or possibly even worse, a bad mom. But just because what you're feeling is normal and valid doesn't mean you have to feel all the bad stuff all the time. Back when I was you, I didn't know how to escape the constant worry and self-doubt. But now that I'm doing the "new mom" thing again, for the third time, I've realized that there are ways to let the anxiety go. There are things you can simply choose not to freak out about. There are things you can do to make this time a little easier on yourself.

Basically, the thing to remember is this: As long as your baby is happy and healthy and growing, you're doing something right. No matter which way you're doing it. You brought a human being into the world and she's doing pretty great. That's a big deal. Which is why it's totally okay for you to cut yourself some slack in other areas of your life right now. It's okay to blow off scrubbing the bathroom floor for another afternoon because you want to spend an hour making silly noises at your giggling, squealing infant. It's okay to ignore a few emails because you'd rather hoist your wiggly, mushy baby up into the air and look up at her adorably gummy smile until your heart melts.

I know everybody tells you this and you just roll your eyes because it seems like they're being patronizing (plus your temper is a little short these days, what with the lack of sleep and all), but I promise you it's true: This time is short. Before you know it, that baby who's just now figuring out how to rock back and forth on her hands and knees will be asking you for rides to the mall and playing field hockey and singing Beyonce songs with her friends, and I promise that when you look at that teenager, you'll see that baby.

And more importantly, when you look back at her babyhood, you won't remember all the laundry you didn't do or how the refrigerator didn't get cleaned out for months. You won't remember how you lived in the same pair of semi-clean yoga pants for months or how bushy you let your eyebrows get (well, you might remember, but you won't care). You will, however, remember that gummy smile. And you'll miss it like crazy.

So please, just try to enjoy this time. I know it's hard to keep things in perspective when you're pushed to the absolute limit, and you're pretty much pushed to the absolute limit all the time for the first few years of your kid's life, but just try. Or at the very least, try not to beat yourself up so much. Your baby is loved. That is enough. You are enough. 

Now, go find somebody to hold the baby so you can take a shower and a nap.

Love, me

What would you tell your new mom self if you could?


Image via iStock.com/Focus_on_Nature

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