Hey new mama, it's going to be alright!
Photo by Elisheva Golani Photography
Motherhood. Maybe you've been dreaming of it forever, maybe you only wanted it when you met the right person, or maybe it crept up on you by surprise. Either way, at the end of the nine months or so you had to get ready for it, you imagined you had at least some idea of what you were in for. If you were planning on having a baby like yours truly, you're also probably over-the-moon excited. By the time I was 41 weeks pregnant, I'd become one of the many women who'd gotten to that point where I just couldn't wait to get the baby OUT.
I got a little suspicious of my own desires when I had the following conversation with a new friend about three days before Selma was born:
New friend: When are you due?
Me: (Sighing) About four days ago.
New friend: Oh wow, no way.
Me: Yeah. I'm SO ready to have this baby.
New friend: (Laughs loudly) Trust me, sweetheart. Get ready, because you're about to wish you were still pregnant.
She couldn't have possibly been telling the truth, I told myself.
Or was she?
Flash forward to a few weeks later: it's 3 am and I'm dripping in milk in a mess of a once-pristene nursery wondering how there could possibly be seven BILLION people roaming planet earth because that means SO MANY PEOPLE HAD TO WILLINGLY DECIDE TO HAVE CHILDREN. There I am rocking #7,000,000,001, my very own newborn baby, and I'm terrified. Where was the girl who was so excited about being a mom? What about all my friends who told me I was practically born for parenthood? Why were they all lying to me that whole time? What about all the lullabies I was so excited about singing? Why couldn't I remember any of the words, or my own middle name for that matter? Were we really trying to get pregnant for almost a year? Like we actually went into this with our eyes OPEN? Sorry, but I couldn't help but ask myself...
WERE WE INSANE?!
These were the thoughts that ran through my head on an almost-constant basis during my first weeks of parenthood. I'm not the only one who's had them, but you can bet there were a few moments when I thought I was. And why? Because people don't talk about these feelings very often. No one wants to admit that they've been crying for 14 days straight since their big miracle arrived, or that they felt kind of confused when they were supposed to keep the baby and not give it back to the nurses after five long assistance-filled days in the hospital.
So I'll get even more real with you. When I didn't have a friend to call in the wee hours of the morning for a reassuring "hey, it's going to be alright!", I resorted to my internet BFF: Google. I thought there had to be someone out there on the interwebs who told a crazy story in a parenting chat thread in 2006 that might make me feel a little less insane. During those dark nights, my midnight searches included:
Just had newborn. Will this get easier?
Have two-week-old. Will I ever feel normal again?
I hate breastfeeding
Do I have to breastfeed actually
Formula feeding support groups
Formula feeder guilt
I hate La Leche League
La Leche League = terrorists
I explained my initiation into parenthood really well to my friend, Elexa, a few weeks after Selma was born: before you have a baby, people will give you a whole bunch of information about having a newborn so you THINK you know what to expect. Then, when you actually have the baby, you enter into this secret vault of VERY DIFFERENT INFORMATION that you weren't allowed to receive before you had children. Inside the vault are secrets of what it's really like to have a newborn baby, and there's a reason why no one will tell you what those secrets are before you enter the vault:
NO ONE REMEMBERS THEM.
We are wired to forget the first few months of our child's life so that we willingly and excitedly move on to have more children and thus us human beings continue to multiply. While this phenomenon is great for the population, it sucks when you're about ten days into parenthood and everyone around you that has a nine-or-so month old is kvelling over their child, completely unable to recall your current state of exhaustion and temporary agony. I couldn't believe it, but now even my memory of those early days is starting to fade.
So I made a promise to myself and to the world while I was sitting there crying trying to find a stranger on Google that would tell me I was normal. I promised I would be the person I was Googling. Since I felt so isolated during that time, I swore that when I had two hands free again, I would write the one blog post that I wish I could have read during those late, scary nights. I would be the person on the internet to tell the other currently miserable people that they are actually going to be OK, and that what they're feeling is completely normal. If you are a new mama, please know this:
You are going to be fine. In fact, you're going to be more than fine. You're going to thrive. Your days in the newborn section of the waiting room at the pediatrician are almost over, and soon you'll be physically recovered from labor and wandering with the humans again and it will feel amazing. You're not going to be desperate for the rest of your life, but while you are, feel free to mentally slap anyone who tells you to "sleep when the baby sleeps." Those people left the vault a LONG time ago and they've forgotten what it's like. Stop shaming yourself for cleaning while the baby sleeps, or singing a quiet hallelujah while the baby sleeps. Forget your perfect post-partum nutrition plan and just open your mouth and put food in it. Check the expiration date, chew and swallow. Stop sh*tting on yourself for not "eating well." If you're taking care of a baby full time, pat yourself on the back for finding a moment to eat at all and be done with it. Simplify everything, forget perfection, give yourself all the time you need to do whatever needs to get done. It will get done eventually. Keep going, know you're not alone, and yes, despite what "they" say, it's okay not to breastfeed. Every baby is different, and so is every mother. Do what works for YOU, and don't take advice from anyone who tells you otherwise (that applies to all chapters of life, not just this one.)
You got this, mama.
From my messy nursery to yours,