Last week I was sitting on the floor in Hayes’s room reorganizing his clothing. We needed to shift his clothes around to ones that fit him and were better for the season. I sat there with tears in my eyes as I folded up the shirt he wore in the hospital and the onesie I bought for him to come home in. They were so little and I started remembering just what life was like in those early weeks. Each piece of his clothing felt like a memory I was boxing up and putting away. I then went down the path of old videos and photos of him from the first few days at home and I was a mess for a few minutes to say the least. It all flew by. I never expected to be someone who loved having a baby, but to me he isn’t just any baby, he’s my son. He is the one who made me a mom and he is this sliver of Mike and I that will one day walk the earth. I realize now how different that is.
Mother’s Day marks the end of what they call the 4th Trimester. It is supposedly the mark of the ending of the full process of bringing a human into the world and it also brings this journey full circle. A year ago I got pregnant without knowing it and a few weeks later I had a blood test that told me so. When I saw that positive result I wondered what life would be like a year from then. I wondered how this would change me. Who would that little person would be. How would we make the transition. Would I sleep again. How would my career change. What would life look like. Gosh, I had a million questions and fears all while feeling complete as a woman in some very human way.
This year has been more of everything than I ever expected it to be. When I think back to that girl standing in the bathroom on a warm June day looking at that positive test, I think of all the things I would tell her now. I think about how much I would hug her and tell her I promise it is going to be one amazing ride. Most importantly, I would tell her how it will also all be okay. I would tell her how life will be the hardest it ever has been but also the most complete it has ever been. I would help her shake her fears about everything…especially the part about giving birth.
So, in honor of this first chapter of motherhood coming full circle and for Mother’s Day, I wanted to share this letter I wish I could have given to myself the moment I first saw Hayes to have eased so many feelings I had. To have read this then in those first weeks I would have felt less scared, alone, overwhelmed, and hopefully would have felt more relaxed, appreciated, celebrated, and comforted.
So here we go. For all you mama’s, mama’s to be, and those knowing one day you will be there as well.
Dear new mom,
I see you. Yes, you the one holding that sweet little baby that you spent the last 9 months wondering about, caring for, sacrificing for, preparing for, and doing what you felt near impossible for. Yeah, you. Don’t hide those tears. Take in this moment. Take each of them in from here on out. Don’t feel stupid for taking too many photos or about how you look in photos. Take them. Take video. Hold that little one and kiss them. You and the one you love made them in all that perfection that lies there in your arms. Soon enough this precious time that feels somewhat like the hardest time will pass by and you will have a babe that is walking and talking and life will be beautiful and challenging in all sorts of new ways.
I know you feel scared, elated, exhausted… as you look at that little one that is both all of you and none of you all at the same time. Just wait. Just listen. The instincts set in. Forget the books you read to ease your mind while you spent the last 9 months waiting. You know what to do. Do what is in your gut and don’t overthink it. Let go of those expectations, they only lead to disappointment. You will do things you both said you never would do and you won’t do many of the things you said you would and that is absolutely okay.
Try to spend the next 3 months being as present as you possibly can. Don’t get ahead of yourself. Don’t worry about the world outside of you and this little one and your partner. These are the days. They will be hard. You will overcome so much. Be kind to yourself. Tread lightly. Let other’s help you. Take showers. Sleep when you can. Take your time. Communicate your needs. Most importantly remain present. In the middle of the night when you wonder if this baby will ever sleep, find a small bit of joy in that little one you made and how small they are. You will sleep again. Hold them close, hum a song, let the tears of joy and exhaustion fall as they should and will. All of it is real and all of it is part of this process.
If you find yourself not loving it or wondering about getting away or longing for your old life, don’t feel guilty. These feelings are okay and understandable. The world lies to us and tells us we are supposed to be in complete bliss during this time and the truth is you won’t be. There will be dark dark moments and anyone who says they don’t happen is faking it, these moments are real and are a part of the journey. You will look in the mirror at some point and wonder who you are now and who you are becoming. You will feel like a shell of yourself at one point from exhaustion, discomfort from healing, and more, but lean into those around you and let them in to help you during this time. You are doing the hardest job in the world and though you aren’t the first to do it, it is still the biggest life transition you most likely have had in your life thus far. There is no preparing for it, but just know you are not alone.
When the worry sets in or you lay there at night just watching your baby sleep cause you are worried, know that it is normal. The anxiety will come and go at random times and do all you can to find ways to relax in your new role.
And when you arrive at the point of wanting or needing to get more real-life back take it easy. The world has a tendency to not allow us this time, but tell yourself the world can wait. You have your whole life to work and get back to it, but these moments you will never EVER get back. Three months is so short a time and your body, you, and the little one need it. Don’t push yourself. Don’t get down on yourself when you still cannot fit in your jeans 3 months or 6 months from now. Embrace it. When you still feel lingering discomfort from birth, hang in there and remember what your body has done. Easier said than done, but stay focused on the transformation you have gone through and the fact you created life.
This time will humble you deeply and show you the depths of who you are. That humility will make you more compassionate, caring, and understanding of everyone you meet in the world. You will feel things more deeply and be far more understanding than you may have ever been before. It is the thing you hear rarely as a positive in this journey, but you will come to value this new found sense of self.
So whether motherhood falls on you with all of its grace or you see the darkest times of your life during these months, do all you can to soak it all in. They say it goes by quickly and it does but it also can feel as if it goes slow enough for you to find yourself wishing beyond where you are. Try not to do it. Soon enough you will be trying to get back to work and the hum of life will be back upon you, but this time, this precious time is simply that: precious. It is a time in life when we are granted grace from the world around us (or you should be!) Take it and don’t wish it away (though we all do it when we are having a rough day.) Whether it feels that way or not now, months down the road you will see all the beautiful things and forget much of the hardness of it. You will long for the sleepy newborn and the sweet little sounds they made in those early weeks. So don’t wish them away too soon. Find a way to embrace it all, because as quickly as it began it will end as well.
Most importantly, you got this. One day at a time you will get there. One day at a time. But for real stay away from your old jeans for a while.
Yourself 3 months down the road