over the past year or so, several of my friends became mothers. brand new, first time, mamas. and i’ve found that when i look them in the eye, or read their 3am texts, or hear their fatigued voices on the other end of the line – i remember my own experience so vividly and viscerally. i am suddenly back there with them and i get it – the sheer panic, bewilderment, exhaustion, gratitude, anxiety, and love that slams you from every side, and at every moment. and i keep wanting to reassure these friends of mine. to hug them hard and tell them it’s going to be ok. to remind them that they are capable and strong and resilient and brave. and to promise them that one day they will feel ‘normal’ again. but i don’t always have the right words and i remember people telling me the same things while i was in my own sleep-deprived fog of new motherhood, and thinking i was some wild exception to the rule. so instead – i decided to write a letter to you all. you know who you are. and i love you.
dear new mamas,
this isn’t about giving you advice because i know you’re getting your fill of that between your loved ones, and google, and well-meaning strangers at the grocery store.
this is definitely not about telling you to suck it up and be grateful. because i know you are. i know it because i remember the unbridled joy in your voice when you first told me you were pregnant. i watched as you laughed off the nausea, exhaustion, swollen ankles, and fastidiously ordered decaf. i read the excitement-laced emails you sent with questions about co-sleeping, strollers, nursing and birthing classes.
so i know you’re thrilled and i know you are falling deeply, desperately, in love.
i’m not undermining any of that. but i also know that it doesn’t necessarily make what you’re going through right now easy, breezy and effortless. because the reality of being a mother isn’t always exposed in all its facets or discussed openly. and it’s certainly not being facebooked and instagrammed.
and that reality might mean waking up every 1.5 hours to nurse. being bored. feeling alone. feeling misunderstood. dreading getting out of the shower because you will just have to do.it.all.again. the seemingly neverending cycle of feeding, and changing, and worrying, and trying to get this tiny human to just.fall.asleep. and then missing the addictive smell of their skin the moment you lay them down.
i remember the days bleeding into each other. and not recognizing myself in the mirror. and snapping at my mother-in-law. and feeling entirely inept.
i’d feel pangs of envy hearing laughter outside and thinking about people nonchalantly walking together. grabbing a coffee. stopping to peruse a gift shop without worrying about strollers, schedules and leaking boobs.
in my darkest moments i would sit tensely on the edge of our bed, nursing my sweet son as tears rolled from my cheeks and splashed down to his. his eyes were closed and i realized i felt so entirely conflicted. everything was perfect. a healthy child. a caring husband. a world of support. and yet i had this aching throb inside my heart. a sort of unrelenting grief over my previous existence. and a deepseated longing just not to be SO needed.
as the mama it feels like it ALL hinges on you. especially the first few months. you are survival, comfort and strength. you are expected to intuitively know what your baby needs. and there will be some days when you do. and others when you just don’t.
i felt anxious over every decision. second guessing each appoach. wondering and researching and googling. am i producing enough milk? is he hot? is he crosseyed? is he lactose intolerant? is he for real?
and then the bigger questions: how do single moms do it? how do people have more than one?!
and the the even bigger questions: am i actually cut out for this?
and i guess all i really wanted to tell you is that i’m here. and you’re not on this island of motherhood all alone. and that you can text me at 3am with the crying-face emoji and i’ll know exactly what you mean.