Dear New Mom
I can tell this is new for you. You have that glow of joy and uncertainty as you readjust the blanket around your tiny baby. You protect with your arms against the crowds that are pushing around you in this crowded subway space, and you respond tentatively to the occasional smiles from strangers. For who doesn’t love a baby?
I wish I was sitting closer to you so that I could strike up a conversation. So many things are going through my head. I’ve given birth to five babies on three continents – I like to think of it as a kind of record. I remember so well those beginning days where all the world was colored baby.
What would I say to you new mom? Right now you’re either basking in the glow of new motherhood or hating that everyone thinks you should be basking when all you want to do is sleep and cry. Sleep when the baby sleeps. It’s so hard to do but it’s so important. Don’t spend energy cleaning the house or going on social media or instagramming your life. Sleep.
Take advantage of the space people will give you for a short time. For a short time, the only time in your life, people will expect nothing from you other than to be with your baby. Don’t pass up this opportunity. I promise you will never get it again. If you have the chance to sleep until ten in the morning with your baby, do it. You will be so glad.
Your baby will cry. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad mom. Babies cry. They just do and it can be so hard. Don’t be afraid to remove yourself if it gets too hard. Put ear plugs in and separate yourself for awhile. Sanity is critical and there may be times when you think you are going insane. So step away for a time if you need.
A bit of sadness is normal in those first days, and periodically it may surface. But if it continues, go seek help. There’s postpartum sadness and then there’s postpartum depression. They are two very different things.
You are not weak for asking for help. The Western world does this baby thing all wrong. Away from moms. Away from friends and sisters. Isolated in suburbia or not knowing your city neighbors. New moms and babies are created for community, for help. Find yours.
That mom that asks you if your toddler is potty-trained yet? Best stay away from her. Because it will continue into higher stakes and bigger comparisons. And it will be beautifully, camouflaged passive-aggressive behavior. First it will be about potty training. Then it will be about talking. Then it will be about grades and sports. It will end with her daughter marrying a “good Christian boy” and you will have to confess that you want to kill her. It’s not worth it. Competition is never-ending and it will not help you. Break the madness. Live above and beyond competition.
When you have an uneasy feeling that your pediatrician is wrong – they probably are. So gently or forcefully push them. Same with that teacher who misjudged your child – don’t be afraid to speak up. The one that thinks your child is going nowhere? You’ll be sending them a copy of their college report with all A’s. Trust me on that one.
But also know that your kid is not perfect. And they probably did bite the other toddler in the church nursery. If you accept early on that your kids are not perfect, it will be easier when others let you know in clear language.
Know that the playing field levels when they are teens or young adults. That’s when parents with perfect children go into hiding, or at least get a little quieter. Because it’s hard to maintain a perfect image past those wonderful middle years.
Remember that well-oiled and shined armor that served you so well when you were single and newly married? It now has a soft, sweet-smelling crack in it. Arrows from others can find their way straight through the crack. Know your safe people and cry and laugh with them. Be kind to those who aren’t safe but don’t let them into your sanctuary.
Above all remember, there is so much grace needed in this journey of parenting. Grace for your kids. Grace for your husband. Grace toward in-laws. Grace toward the well-meaning and clueless. Grace to yourself.
That baby that you cuddle so close will one day be an adult. An adult who you drink coffee and laugh with, an adult who you cherish. And there is little sweeter than enjoying a relationship with your adult child.
It’s your subway stop now – but wait, you forgot your diaper bag. The first of many things you will forget. Goodbye new mom. I wish you joy and grace.
12 thoughts on “Dear New Mom”
“Know your safe people and cry and laugh with them. Be kind to those who aren’t safe but don’t let them into your sanctuary.”
Ah Sophie – thank you. Yeah – I have sometimes let the not so safe ones into my sanctuary and they tend to break things and wreck the place :)
Brought tears to my eyes.
I love you Stef!
Ok, so the potty-training-competition paragraph? LOVE.
And I love the both/and perspective of you knowing your own kids better than others (especially when they’re misjudged), AND to be able to accept that they do bad things too. Why do we so often live as if it’s either/or? We are creatures of the both/and, so why wouldn’t our children be??
“When parents with perfect children go into hiding” — love this description. My best friend in America assures me it happens to everyone.
Thanks for acknowledging ALL the things in this post, from babyhood to adulthood. My first baby is almost 11. I miss cuddling with him and him tagging along with me everywhere. I called him my buddy, and we did everything together. Now he feels distant from me, him becoming a man already. I remember his babyhood and toddlerhood so strongly and sweetly. What a sweetheart he was! Now he’s growing up, and I find I miss him already.
I watch other parents here, who came to Cambodia when their kids were about the same ages as ours. The great thing about having a big family when you live abroad is that you’re all always there, together, living life, sharing your experiences. And when you have your children in the span of a few short years, it seems you’re always in the baby stage, and always will be. It’s hard to imagine a time you won’t be together or have young children. But as I watch these families send off their oldest children, and watch as their “babies” make it into the double digit ages, I realize it won’t be very long before I’m doing the very same thing. And that’s hard to come to terms with. (As are the tell-tale wrinkles that are already forming — eek! — and will continue to do so.) I used to think I would be young forever, and now I’m beginning to understand that I won’t be, on so many levels.
Ohhh – didn’t realize that you had one as old as 11! Love this comment so much Elizabeth. I love your phrase “We are creatures of the both/and – so why wouldn’t our children be?” love that. Also about being young forever – Cliff and I were always that “cute young couple with all those kids.” until we moved to Phoenix and suddenly we became “that couple with all those kids.” and then when we moved to Cambridge we became “that older couple” and people now rarely see us with all those kids….the circle of life for sure! We are absolutely loving our friendships with many cute young couples who have young families right now, remembering what a gift it was when older couples adopted us. So there you have it!
LikeLiked by 1 person
This is wonderful, Marilyn! Not many “motherhood” pieces hit home for me, but this one is special.
This is such a huge compliment to me – I tend to shy away from those pieces as well and roll my eyes, which is why it was so surprising that I decided to write this one. Thank you so much :)
Oh Marilyn…..so good.So very good.Thank you!
Thank you so Robynn.