Dear Very, Very Tired New-Mom Erin,
I wanted to take a minute to write you a letter Back to the Future style. If I could somehow communicate with you right as you enter the realm of new-mommy-dom, this is what I would tell you. I'm no expert, mind you, not even after having a second child. If anything, I'm still floundering around trying to figure things out, Mum Mum's stuck to my legs, hair in knots, the house a mess. You know, the norm. ;) However, having a second baby has helped me learn so much...mostly from my novice mistakes, and hindsight is so gloriously 20/20. If I could, I would impart a bit of that 20/20 hindsight wisdom to you in these early days of Mommyhood. So. Here goes.
1. Try your very hardest, try with all your might, try with every teeny weeny bit of energy that you can scrounge up from underneath the couch cushions of your brain to NOT be drawn into the competition of parenting. This is such a fine line to walk, because it can be very isolating and lonely to be a new parent. Asking for help or ideas or experiences from friends is not at ALL a bad thing. You just need to try your best to see the line. Don't take another step forward if the conversation turns from commiseration to competition. Your baby is not your trophy to hold over another's head while you brag about sleeping, nursing, diapering, scheduling, whatever. Watch for that elusive line. Be careful.
2. You don't have to share your baby all of the time. Try hard to make your baby available to those who love you and your family, but you both need to rest and recover and learn each other. You do not need to drag your exhausted selves all over creation right away. Be patient. Your baby's adoring public can wait...just a bit. ;) Be a little stingy.
3. Be kind to your husband. He doesn't know anything either. You are a team. You are in this strange new world together. He misses you so badly, and he feels alone sometimes. For nine months, you morphed into a swollen and hormonally charged version of your old self, and he patiently rubbed your cankles and let you cry while stroking your hair. For nine long months, you got loads of attention, and now your baby is taking center stage. And, since you are nursing, there is even more solo time for Dad. He wants to be part of the party, too. You are his everything. Remember him. Be kind to him.
4. It's okay to live in sweats, yoga pants, and roomy t-shirts for a few weeks (months...!). No one cares, you need to be comfy, and just let it go that you used to get all fixed up every single day of the week. You'll find time to get gussied up once again, but right now, the focus is just on surviving from one sleep-deprived yet snuggly day to the next. Be comfortable while you survive. :)
5. Extend yourself grace, massive amounts of grace, for the first six months. It is complete and utter insanity for the first six months. Sweet insanity, but insanity nonetheless. From fluctuating nursing routines to punctuated sleeping patterns, teething initiation to never ending spit-up and outfit changes, it is just nuts. NUTS, I say! Go with it, Erin! Shrug it off when something doesn't work out like the books tell you it 'should', and try again tomorrow. Once you figure out one issue, it'll change the next day anyway. Once baby hits the six month mark, things just sort of fall into place (for the most part, anyway). So, just breathe and keep going. Be full of grace.
6. Listen to the sweet older ladies who tell you to soak up those fleeting newborn days. They are right. The days are gone in a blur. My advice: snuggle. Snuggle. Snuggle. Snuggle. Let the world around you fall away, and just soak that baby in through snuggling. (FYI: This is the ONLY time in your parenting life that you can truly exit reality. After Baby Number Two comes along, you won't be able to sit and soak and snuggle quite as much as with the first little bambina. You'll have two little ones needing your time and snuggles.) Anyway, don't roll your eyes at the sweet old ladies. They know a thing or two. ;) Be receptive...and snugly.
7. Let your body heal. For real. You JUST pushed a gigantic baby out of yourself--you do NOT need to prove anything to anybody for a few months. Just take it easy for a bit, and let your poor body figure out what the crap just happened to it over the past nine months. I mean, come on. Your body finally dealt with that little alien invasion in your uterus; it deserves a vacation! Be still.
8. "Sleeping through the night" is a phrase that means so so SO many different things to so many different parents. Tread with caution here. ;) Be careful what you brag about...babies can hear you and make liars out of you in an instant! ;)
9. You will discover later on in your parenting journey that you are not the only Mama to cry when she has her six week farewell check-up with her beloved OBGYN. It's okay to be a little sad to close that chapter of your life. It was overwhelmingly amazing, and it is okay to grieve the end of an era, so to say. You're not (that) crazy for crying and hugging your OB till she starts to pull away, and then you keep awkwardly hugging, because you don't want her to actually realize you've started crying, which has then kind of made your milk let down, which makes you even more emotional than when you began this eternally long and awkward hug in the first place. Sigh. Be okay with random tears for a short while.
10. Friendships change. My (Your? Our? This is getting weird) mom once said that friendships change after you become a parent, because you naturally group up with like-minded people. This is very true. What I mean is that you only have so many unused brain cells and spare minutes in the day to share with others outside of your family, and you need to choose wisely. As hard as it is, you will have to choose to step back from friendships that no longer build you up, but instead tear you down where you are most vulnerable: your Mommyhood. When unhealthy comparison, unsolicited critiques, or unwanted competition regarding your children enters a friendship, it might be time to step away. Be wise.
11. If help is offered, TAKE IT. From your Mom, from your Mother-in-Law, from friends...just take it. Your family and friends love you so. Let them help. That's how they show their love. That's how they minister to and bless you. Don't rob them of the gift of blessing another by being too proud to allow your weakness to show. Seriously. You don't know what you are doing yet. But they've been there! Be open to their kind suggestions, be patient when they don't do things EXACTLY the way you would do them, be so very grateful for their time and energy...two things you seem to be running low on these days. They are your cheerleaders. Let them be part of the game. Be humble enough to ask for and accept help.
12. When you finally make it back to your pre-pregnancy weight, don't be surprised when your pre-pregnancy body never quite returns exactly the way you remember. Your body was made to carry and give life--that is true beauty right there. Now, go use your new body to raise and care for the little one God blessed you with, and be thankful for what your body was able to endure. Pregnancy was a gift beyond measure, and there are many women who would give anything to expend their body for the miracle of a baby. You've been shown favor and blessing more than you deserve. Be proud of yourself and your new body.
New-Mom Erin, you will make it through these bleary days and nights that seem to run together in a big blur of poopy diapers, soaked nursing pads, and ever-darkening under-eye circles. You will find a routine; you will find the new normal. And, believe it or not, you WILL sleep 'through the night' again...someday. ;) Extend yourself grace, and it will do you much good to extend it to others, as well. You are someone's Mommy now, Erin. What a blessing. What a blessing.
And, if there are times when you can't seem to see the blessing for the bleariness, hit up your local Starbucks.
That always seems to do the trick. ;)
Still Tired Mom-of-Two Erin