Dear New Mom: I See You
Dear New Mama,
First things first, I want to send you a hug. You are a fantastic mom, exactly how you are. You have everything you need to care for your sweet little nugget. You are strong, smart, capable, loving, and patient. If you take nothing else away from this post, please hear this:
You are enough and you were made to be this little babe’s mama.
Life after baby is beautiful, messy, rewarding, lonely, intoxicating, and suffocating. And no matter how many books you’ve read, how many nieces or nephews you have, or how many kiddos you babysat, there isn’t anything that will adequately prepare you for the experiences of your first year as a mom. I don’t say that to scare you, but I do want to encourage you to shift your expectations and give yourself a bit more room to breathe.
The thing is, your baby is uniquely their own little person. They come into this bright, loud world and they are just as shocked as you are after the intense experience of birth. And despite what your body just went through, you’re expected to jump right into feeding, nurturing, and raising a tiny human.
But before you dive head first into putting yourself last, let’s make sure your basic needs are covered. Take a breath, buy stock in Motrin, get an extra large bottle of stool softeners, and say “yes,” to any offers of help that come your way. Get yourself a donut pillow, a rewards card at Great Harvest, and the best breast pads you can find. Life for the next while might not be pretty, it may be fairly painful, and on top of it all, you’re going to be a hormonal basketcase. And as peachy as that all sounds, I promise, it WILL be worth it.
Your body WILL NOT be the same as it was before. Please be kind to yourself - you legitimately just grew and birthed a human. It is not realistic to just “bounce back.” You are supposed to be softer and heavier. You are beautiful, and you don’t deserve the criticisms you say to yourself. Buy a few new clothes that make you feel good, and when you have the strength, move your body. It may take you nine months (like me), to want to exercise regularly, but the mental clarity and positivity that will come from it will amaze you.
I tell you all of this because frankly, I was a bit shocked during my first few months of motherhood. I felt a little betrayed because it wasn’t all endless cuddle sessions and sweet baby’s breath. There was a lot of pain, bleary-eyed exhaustion, and fear. I heard over and over again “enjoy every moment, time goes by so fast.” But what encouraged me the most was when a mom would look at me with sincerity and say, “I know how hard it is, you’re doing a great job.”
During those tough days, just hang on. The days where you feel like you are only worth as much milk as you produce or how effectively you can put your baby to sleep, remember, you’re doing better than you realize. Ask for help, invite a friend over, go out to a mom’s group, or find a way to go on a day-date with your husband (because you’re definitely not going to be awake enough for a date night). Before you know it, you will wake up and you will feel a little lighter, your pain will have subsided, and your baby will feel less fragile.
As the days and weeks start to slip by, you’ll spend a lot more time enjoying the moment and sitting in wonder as you watch your baby discover the world. There will still be moments of confusion, but don’t be too rigid. Your baby is changing every single day. No amount of planning or strategizing will make your baby behave precisely as you expect. Sure, consistent routines are good, but give you and your spouse a little grace.
Much to my frustration (and surprise), there doesn’t ever seem to be perfectly clear right or wrong answers when it comes to parenting. There is a whole lot of feeling things out, making an educated guess, and adjusting as you go. Lean on your partner and remember you are on the same team. I promise, no one has it as together as you think they do.
Navigating new motherhood can be hard. It’s also incredible to be given the gift of raising and nurturing a beautiful little soul. Your experience as a new mom will be uniquely yours - and maybe it doesn’t look anything like mine. No matter what your experience is like, just remember that you’re not alone. You are seen. And you’re doing a wonderful job.
Oh, and one more thing. While that little goober can’t tell you yet, they adore you more than anyone else in the world.