By the time this article goes live, I’ll have been a mom for one year and two days.
That realization digs up emotions of happiness, sadness, and disbelief all at the same time. I’m not afraid to say that motherhood knocked me off my feet more than one time throughout this last year. I had a fairly by-the-book pregnancy and delivery, and it wasn’t until I got home with our baby boy that the real challenge began. I didn’t know it until almost 10 months in, but I was (and still am) struggling with postpartum depression and anxiety.
But as I sit here today, reminiscing on this last year of my life, I have something I need to get off my chest to the new mom I was a year ago.
Dear New Mom,
Two days ago, you brought home your first child, and your world completely changed. What you’re about to experience is going to push you physically, emotionally, and mentally in ways you’ve never experienced before.
But you’ll be OK. No, really.
I know you are terrified, nervous, and happy all at the same time, and you cry at the sight of a sweet quote or cute puppy, but you really will be OK. You’ve done an amazing and strong thing housing that baby for nine months, laboring for 36 hours, and pushing for 35 minutes.
You are Wonder Woman. All moms are.
Today, I, the future you, want to talk to you about what this next year will be like and what I’d suggest doing to make it a bit easier and more enjoyable.
You & your spouse
They are on the same team as you. Repeat that with me: “They are on the same team, they are on the same team, they are on the same team!” There you go.
They will annoy the shit out of you in these early months, and you may want to smother them with a pillow, but no matter what you do, remember that you both have the same goals—to raise a smart, beautiful, kind, and loving child. You both want to have a safe and inviting family foundation for him to grow.
Yes, you will fight. Yes, you’ll want to punch them when they’re sleeping and you’re up again to nurse. Yes, you did hear them correctly when they asked if they could go take a nap, but put down the baseball bat. They love you and that baby more than anything.
Speak up, ask for what you want, over-communicate and get over the fights as quickly as you can. Why? Because you are on the same team.
I know it seems like this new addition to your family has been tough on your marriage, and that’s true. But the time will come again when you two can put more focus on each other and have more fun being a married couple again. I know this because I (the future you) am seeing some of that come to the surface right now. So, I know a lot of your thoughts, time, and attention is solely on that baby but you two will have your time again soon.
Stay with it.
You & your career
Get ready, because this one is going to throw you for a loop. While you didn’t expect it, you probably won’t want to go back to work after maternity leave. I know, we should’ve thought of this sooner, but I’m letting you know now.
When you do go back, you won’t have a very supportive environment but stay strong—good things are around the corner. You may change career paths a few times and question what career success looks like for you now as a mom, but rather than let that scare you, let it guide you.
Stay curious, set boundaries, and do not think twice about the looks you get when you have to leave at 4:58pm on the dot to make daycare pick-up on time. People may not get it, and that’s not for you to worry about right now.
You & your body
The media is going to tell you that you need to “bounce back” quickly, but don’t listen to them.
Your body just did a miraculous thing by bringing a new life into this world—do not forget that. Show your body gratitude by not thinking negatively about it, feed it what feels and tastes good, and move it as much or as little as you’d like.
Learn to trust that your body knows what to do for you because it just did for nine months without you having to do much of anything. You’ll go on to exclusively breastfeed for the next year, so your body is navigating the winding road of motherhood just like you are. Be kind to it and remember you’re so much more than your body.
Yes, you are a mom, but you are also still you.
Wear clothes that make you feel and look good, play around with makeup again, and look forward to when you can toss that nursing bra into the closet for once and for all. Your body may have changed and shifted a bit, but that doesn’t mean anything negative about you.
You & your baby
This is the toughest one, I think.
But my best advice to you is to throw away every single “how to raise a baby” book you bought or downloaded to your phone. Seriously. Use them as a plate while you eat Chipotle in bed, stack a few up under your feet so you can elevate your swollen ankles or grab a lighter and set fire to them. But do not, under any circumstances, read those books to help you navigate this journey.
Those books may seem helpful, and maybe they are to some people, but they will just overwhelm you and make you question your beautiful mother’s intuition. If you have real concrete questions, ask your pediatrician or your own mother. But do not let those books be your guide and make you feel bad about what you do or don’t know.
I know that this baby is now the center of your world (a year later he still is and will always be), but try to loosen the grip on the steering wheel of parenthood a bit.
There is something to be said about having routines and schedules in place to make things run smoother for you and for him but, know things will not always go as planned. This will make you anxious, but if you can, make a plan and then expect the worse. That sounds like terrible advice but sitting on this side of things I can tell you that that would’ve helped me so much more to know back then.
Because they will spit up the second you get them dressed, they’ll cry when you put them in the car seat, they will refuse every single pacifier Target has to offer, and you’ll end up taking the long way because, of course, they just fell asleep right as you turned down your street.
It will happen, I promise you. So again, make a plan but loosen it.
To you, new mom, and to all the other new moms out there, it doesn’t matter if this is day 1 or day 365, you’re doing a really great job. Life will be really, really wild in these first few months (well, forever), but then the wildness changes and shifts and you will get in your groove (before it changes yet again).
Soak it all in, but know it’s OK if you don’t enjoy and savor every single moment. Ask for help (I can’t say that enough). And give yourself as much grace as you possibly can.
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