I was lying in bed the other night thinking through the past six months of being a mom. I began to write a letter to myself- to the pregnant me- of all the things I wish I would have known. I'll share what ran through my head with the disclaimer that 1) Motherhood isn't one of a kind for everyone. What works for me won't necessarily work for you. What works for my kid might not work for your kid. And we need to stop judging each other and start banding together and encouraging one another and 2) Even if someone would have told me everything in this letter while I was pregnant (and I'm sure people told me some of it) it doesn't mean I would have gotten it. You know, really understood it, until I walked through it myself. And I'm sure there would have been things I would have turned my nose up at that now I know are real things.
So, if you are a new mom, or a soon to be mom, or your kids are grown, or you don't have kids, just enjoy this letter. From me in the present to pregnant me.
Dear Soon to be Mama,
Currently your body is changing in crazy ways. Your belly is growing, your bladder is shrinking and you are starting to walk like Winnie the Pooh, but in a not as cute way. Don't fret. Soon enough that little one will be here and everything you've learned up until this point will not matter.
Let's start with the hospital visit. I know you're scared of birth. I know you are worried about the pain. You will get through it. It will hurt. A lot. More than anything you've ever experienced before in your life. And you will sit in that hospital bed wondering why only one person (Thank you, Patty, in Accounting) talked to you about back labor. You will wonder, as you grip the hospital bed, as you sweat more than you do when you are working out to a Jillian Michaels work out dvd, if they purposely don't tell you about back labor because you would have chosen to NEVER get pregnant in the first place. You will think back to all of those Baby Stories you watched on TLC and not remember a single mom having back labor. But you'll endure. Get the epidural. Don't be a hero. There's no medal. And no, despite what others have said, your baby will not come out drugged or sluggish and yes, he will latch on to your breast right away.
Then he's here. And now you are heading home from the hospital. And here is where the real need to know wisdom comes. After about 7 months of attention for being pregnant, having doors opened for you, bags carried, smiles and questions about, "When are you due," all of a sudden you will no longer matter. It doesn't matter that you are still in pain from birthing a 9 lb 2 oz baby. It doesn't matter that you fractured your tail bone in labor. It also doesn't matter that you will not be able to wipe your lady parts for about a month but will resort to "washing" them with the squirt bottle only one friend told you about before you gave birth. Also, the mesh underwear you were so afraid of will be the most comfortable thing you will wear for about a week.
You will have visitors, but they will just come to see the little bundle of love that latches on to you roughly every 2-3 hours. You will get really comfortable with people seeing your breasts. After all, after giving birth and having just about everyone and their mother up in your biz-ness you will eventually be more comfortable with your body than you probably should be. You will start to feel like you only matter because of the milk you are producing. You are more than breast milk. Remember that.
It's ok if one night when you are driving home with your husband after trying to get out of the house for a bit with the baby but nothing went as planned and it turned out to be a disastrous night because you forgot the baby wipes and the hand sanitizer, if you find yourself sobbing. If you find yourself uttering the words, "What have we done? I miss the way things were," it's COMPLETELY normal. No one talks about this. But it's normal. You're not a bad mom. Life has just completely changed and it's ok to grieve your former way of life. You may have thought that your former way of life wasn't that great. It probably wasn't super exciting. I mean, you're not a jet setter. You haven't been to Paris. But last minute plans to go to dinner or running errands all day without a set schedule will seem more glamorous than being Leonardo DiCaprio's date to the Oscars.
You will learn to breastfeed ANYWHERE. Car? Check! Starbucks? Check! Panera? Check! Wegman's? Yep. At church? Yes, but in the nursing room, of course. I mean, they have a glider in there! You will also become strangely obsessed with poop. You will know how many times a day your little one has pooped. If it's the right color and consistency and if he is one poop short a day this will become something that you slightly worry about. Then, whew! He poops a big one that leaks everywhere but you couldn't be happier. Because he's healthy and pooping!
Speaking of poop- and other bodily functions. You will get pooped on. It will happen. The poop does slow down. Really. I promise. Have hope. You will also get spit up on, peed on and eventually probably thrown up on. Take pride. It's a right of passage.
Also, you will no longer be the center of your world. You will find that you are hungry but you have to feed the baby. You will feed the baby. Baby will come first. You will mourn your old ways but also be really really happy that this is your current life. Some days will be hard. Some days you will think you are going to pull your hair out. Some days you will think that one child is enough. Is being an only child so bad? And then you will pick him up from his nap and he'll nestle into you and you start thinking that maybe next February would be a good time to start trying for another baby.
And one more thing. Be gracious. Be gracious to yourself and allow yourself to make mistakes. This is new. New for you. New for baby. Be gracious to others that give you advice or just want to help. Be humble enough to know that you don't know it all. And maybe their way could work. Be humble enough to admit you need help when you do, indeed, need help. Be confident that you are doing your best. And be grateful that kids are so darn resilient. You can do this. It won't be easy. Literally EVERYTHING will change. You will forever be changed, too. The way you look at life, the way you look at other moms, the way you look at yourself, it will change. You will grow. You will cry. You will eventually get to use toilet paper again and in roughly 6 1/2 months that tailbone will be just about good as new.
Love to you, new mom. You're going to do great even though you will question yourself every single step of the way.