Saturday, March 5, 2011

Letter to Myself

Whenever I see a new mother with a tiny baby in her arms, I see a reflection of myself 20 months ago - clueless, fretful, and restless.  Sure, I see the occasional new mother who appears to have it all together, or at least doesn't look to be in immediate danger of dropping off the deep end.  But more often than not, I catch a glimpse of that crazed look in a new mother's eye - and I know that look.  Like a caged, sleep-deprived wild animal.  (Can wild animals be sleep-deprived?  Whatever, just go with it.)

That's the look

When I see that look, I want to reach across the space between us and give the new mama a bear hug and advice on all the things I wish I'd known when Lilah was a newborn.  Except I know that, had someone done that to me back then, I probably would have pushed them away.  I only wanted advice when I was ready to ask for it.  Unsolicited advice was just more crap to add to the pile; more that I should be doing or thinking about that I just didn't have the time or energy for.  It either made me feel guilty or it made me roll my eyes at the thought that the bearer of such advice could possibly understand my child and/or my parenting philosophy (yeah, right, as if I even knew what my parenting philosophy was).

If I could write a letter to myself as a brand new mom, here are just a few of the many things I would say:
  • Babies fuss and cry, that's kind of their schtick.  Your baby will not suffer adverse effects if left to cry for two minutes while you finish wiping your butt or wolfing down that sandwich.  Mama's basic needs are important too!  Similarly, your baby will not implode if she is not fed the very second she starts to show signs of hunger.
  • Mama's sanity is paramount.  If you have been sitting around shirtless attempting to satiate an insatiable baby by breastfeeding for hours on end, it is more than acceptable to take a break and leave the house with said insatiable baby (after putting a shirt on, of course).  Baby will probably appreciate the break too, and may even fall asleep in the stroller or baby carrier, miracle of miracles!
  • Sometimes baby will cry right before falling asleep, even when you are rocking/bouncing/patting/shushing.  Putting up with a few minutes of crying may well be worth it for the half-hour of blissful silence that follows.
    Phew, she's sleeping!
  • The second six months make up for the first six months - in spades.  (But try not to spend the first six months wishing the time away - you'll regret it.)
  • You will survive the hard moments and eventually the highs will overtake the lows.  And you will someday even look back with a certain amount of nostalgia on those sleepless nights spent rocking a crying baby for hours on end.  Time has a way of blurring images and smoothing out the sharp corners on those memories.
  • People genuinely want to help you out, and you should let them.  Soon the offers will start dropping off and people will assume you've adjusted to your new way of life.  And then when you need help, you will have to ask for it overtly which, trust me, is much harder than accepting an offer of food/babysitting/cleaning/whatever that has already been put on the table by an eager friend or relative.
  • Everything is a phase: sleeping well, sleeping poorly, sleeping well, not eating, eating for hours on end, pooping frequently, pooping infrequetnly, rapid weight gain, slow weight gain, teething, waking up screaming, waking up chipper and chatting, drooling, biting, being cranky, being happy... the list goes on.  Just when you think you've got things figured out and some kind of pattern established, baby will switch things up on you. (This last one is still very applicable at Lilah's age and will be for quite some time, I imagine.)
I will have to come back and have another look at this list when (if?) the Hubs and I have a second child.  What about you, dear readers?  Anything to add?  I'd love to hear your thoughts!


  1. hear hear, amanda! i, too, often wish i could go back and help soothe my new mom self with some back-from-the-future perspective. people would always say "it goes so fast" and man, in that first 6 mo, i was indeed hoping it WOULD go by fast. i had a really tough time adjusting to motherhood. i thought i would be such a natural. aha - the universe was ready to teach me otherwise. i was naturally neurotic! like you, i have learned that mommy care is absolutely essential for good baby (or young child, and i suspect any-age-child) care. thanks for your post, amanda!

  2. I thought I would be much more of a natural than I ended up being too, Ellisha. I guess that whole "I work with kids and I know what I'm doing" thing led me to believe I had a head start. Yeah, right!

  3. I think I might have said all of that to you, but you can't teach a new mother new tricks. Honestly, everyone is surprised by how hard it is, how exhausting it is, how ALL-CONSUMING it is. You can't prepare a new mother, they just have to live through it.
    Now, for the second, you will feel much more on top of things as far as the new baby is concerned, but way in deep water when it comes to juggling two!

  4. I would tell my new mother self, join a mommy group ASAP. I didn't attend my first Mommy and Baby meeting at the local health unit until Sarah was 2 months old. I was always scared she would scream uncontrollably and I wouldn't know what to do.
    When I finally did go to the meeting, I sat by a mom with the same challenges and fears and we became fast friends. Those Moms got me through the first 6 months and we did a a lot of activities together.

  5. Fact: The goalposts are always moving; everything changes.
    Fact: Your child is your child not that other child.
    Fact: There is no single right way to do things.
    Fact: Kids are sooooo resilient!

    IMO, things get easier after 6 months.

    Moms group is super key for new moms. I didn't go until Theo was 3 months. Wish I'd known earlier but no matter, we still get together and compare note. Well you know this Amanda because I met you there!

  6. Great post. I have a similar pic of me and my first
    I would add (my second is 4), do whatever works to get baby to sleep, - sleep with baby, nurse to sleep etc. Don't worry about what the books say or what people tell you to do, do what works for you and baby.
    That breastfeeding is great if you can get past those first six weeks, you are golden.
    If you need a break from baby to nap, have a shower or go for a walk - ask your spouse or mom to watch baby and take your break. Do not feel guilty - you will feel so much better afterward.

  7. great post...i second everything u said and everybody else!

  8. I remember when my oldest was born, my midwife told me, "The nights are long, but the days are short," and nearly four years later, I can attest to the truth in that statement.


Comments: I love 'em. Tell me what you think!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...