Lots of women write love letters to their babies, each year. That’s an awesome thing to do, and I have done this in private journals at home that I’ll give to my daughter, some day. But then there’s the letter that I would have wanted to write…myself.
If I were talking to the “me” that I was before my daughter was born, what would I say? I think it would be something like this:
I’d share that I had a positive c-section birth experience, and that even with immunizations, not co-sleeping, two nights of cry it out to sleep train, and day care, my daughter is fine. In fact, she’s more than fine. My kid is healthy and happy, smart, securely attached, smiling and laughing and curious about the world and everyone else in it.
I’d share that the first six weeks were both the most joyous as well as the most awful of my life. The joy was all her; the awful was all sleep deprivation. I would tell the new soon-to-be moms that while nothing can prepare you for sleep deprivation, the important thing is really that you have someone else in your life who has done this before, who can tell you that it’s going to get better, that you’re doing okay, and that you’re going to be fine. That’s how you survive sleep deprivation.
I’d say: enjoy holding your baby close to your chest and listening to that soft breathing.
I’d tell you that you will survive the “witching hours” even though it might feel like you won’t. Maybe, I’d tell you about the night when Anika cried for literally an hour straight without stopping, and nothing would make her happy, and with no capacity for anything else, I rocked her and intoned, “Ommmmm” over and over. When she was finally asleep, I took a shower and bawled my eyes out.
I’d tell you that baby pro-biotics, and a chiropractor who specializes in working with babies, rock. The kiddos sleep better, eat better, poop better. Oh, and–I’d also tell you that you will start talking a LOT about poop.
Just at the point when someone might ask themselves–WHY do people have children?–I’d tell you that I am more hopelessly in love than I’ve ever felt in my life. When my daughter started smiling–OHMYGOD! Baby smiling! The joy is beyond anything and everything. The first laugh–are you kidding me? I started crying with delight. Actually, sometimes when she really gets going with the laughter, I still become an emotional goober.
I’d tell you that those inflatable exercise balls normally used for doing ab crunches are awesome at bouncing/rocking the baby to sleep.
I’d also tell you–and this one is really important–that as much as you want to say to people, “SHUT THE FUCK UP WITH TELLING ME ABOUT THE IMPORTANCE OF SELF-CARE OMG,” that self-care is really fucking important. You need naps, showers, food, and sleep in the first few months, and then you need to get out of the house and wander around a bookstore for an hour while someone else handles child care, and eventually you’re going to need aimless hours to do whatever you did before you had a baby. Not every day, but at certain points, yes, you need these things.
You are not a failure for needing them.
I’d tell you that it’s okay if you put your kid in day care. I’d tell you that I still struggle with day care guilt, even though it’s crystal clear to me that she’s incredibly happy there. The first time I ever dropped her off, I bawled my eyes out in the parking lot. You are not a pathetic, overly-sensitive sap if you do the same.
I’d tell you that the book Bringing Up Bebe by Pamela Druckerman is what helped me to stop flipping the Crazy Parenting Switch. Turns out, there are entire other countries and cultures who parent differently than mothers are often pressured to parent in this country, and their kids are turning out well, too–c-sections, formula, cry it out, day care, and all.
I might also share that I’m a life coach and have heard some pretty intimate stories of human suffering from my clients, but not one person has ever, in a decade of coaching, come to me for a session to process through her feelings about having been in day care, not co-slept, her sleep training, receiving immunizations or having had formula. Not once.
So maybe, just maybe, our kids are going to be okay, even if we don’t do everything according to the dictates of the Perfect Parenting Police.
I’d tell you to avoid judgmental mothers like they are The Plague. On a societal and energetic level, I kind of think that they are. They are suffering, but that kind of energy is parasitic and when you are a mom, you need all of your energy for raising a tiny human.
I’d tell you that as soon as you’re able, start doing power walks with baby in a jogger stroller. Sweat = your antidote to stress and the best way to normalize those post-partum hormones. Sweat, sweat, sweat, as early and often as you can. I’d also say, “Kate, get back to it with the maca powder and chaste berry supplements!” They did my body good pre-baby, and do a world of good post-baby, too.
I’d tell you that the moment babies start rolling over, shit starts to change really fast. That’s when babies can start really reaching for things and you’ll look around your house and go, “Oh, so there’s like, a lot of stuff that could seriously injure a baby around here.”
I’d tell you that trying to be productive during cold and flu season is a bust now that you have a kid who routinely touches germy things and then sucks on her own fingers. I’d tell you that things move much, much more slowly after baby. I’d tell you that the sooner you release attachment around that, the saner your world will be.
I’d tell you to take the date night, as early after baby arrives as you can. Wear lipstick and heels. Oh, and I’d tell you that this will probably feel totally weird, and you and your partner will probably just talk about the baby the entire time. Do it anyway.
I’d tell you that your heart is now no longer totally in your body; it’s running around outside of you, pulling everything out of the bag you just packed and crying out in delight because OMG, KEYS! I FOUND KEYS! AREN’T KEYS THE BEST! I’d tell you that sometimes when your kid does this kind of stuff, you’ll start crying at the sight of her, thinking, “YES, I totally get it. Keys are the fucking best! I loveyouloveyouloveyouloveyouloveyou!”
I’d share that in my experience, when people tell you over and over that your kid is really cute, it is sometimes difficult not to gasp and exclaim, “I know! You’re SO right! Isn’t she the cutest baby that ever existed in the entire history of babies?”
The only reason I can make such an intolerable admission to the world at large is in my knowing that secretly, all parents feel this way about their kids.
Finally, I’d share that it’s all…normal. Whatever experience you’re having, I’m pretty sure that it’s the right one. I trust that you’re just doing your best. You do your best, you lead with the intention of love, and then you surrender totally to spit-up and cuddles and firsts and diapers that smell fouler than foul…always, always just doing your best and trusting that your love is enough.
(Because you know? It totally is.)
So there it is. That’s the letter I would have written from this vantage point, to the woman I was then. It helps to write it now, to let that side of me that was excited and afraid in equal measure know that it all turns out okay. Hard, exciting, tough, joyful, all of the extremes and everything in between, but it still all turns out, okay.