If it were possible, I wish I could travel back in time to the day my baby was born. I would dearly love to have a much needed heart-to-heart with my unprepared, little self. I'd imagine it going something like this: I'd walk down the hallway of the hospital and quietly push the room door open and see me laying there, eyes half-closed in happy exhaustion. My husband and just-hours-old son are asleep and, before reality comes crashing in, I want to take a few minutes and tell myself some things I think I need to know. But seeing myself so blissfully (and finally!) asleep I'd just lay a little handwritten note on the bed for me to find when I woke up later. Perhaps it would read something like this:
Dear New Mom,
First of all, I want you to know how proud I am of you for giving birth to that human. You are one incredible woman! Really, I mean that. And please, for the sake of all things good under the sun, stop feeling guilty about getting that epidural. Sure, lots of other mom's you know went all natural, with no intervention and (at least to you anyway) made it look easy. But that's not your story. Focus on this: you delivered a baby. As in, you just pushed an 8lb human soul out of your body. And as that one lovely sister-friend will remind you here soon, "Just because you got an epidural doesn't mean that someone else walked in the room and had the baby for you. You still did it." Heck yes, you did. So as I said before, get off the guilt trip bus. This is your stop. Besides, you have more important things to think about.
I see you there holding that wrinkly newborn babe in the crook of your arm. The folds of his soft skin still have vernix hidden in them. He's amazing, right? You're staring at him with a look that's one part sappy love, one part exhaustion and two parts of what-the-heck-did-I-just-get-myelf-into. You're completely overwhelmed in the best and worst ways. Here's where I need to say: get used to that feeling. Whether you like it or not, it's going to be your closest companion these next few months (as well as yoga pants + messy buns). Oh, you sweet darling, I want you to know that it's ok. It's really and truly alright to feel overwhelmed. This is a lot to take in. I know tomorrow you're going to climb out of that hospital bed in the wee morning hours when everything but your mind is quiet. You're going to wake up and your brain will start processing the birth and, while you know you'd do it all again in heartbeat, you realize how much it hurt, how much it scared you. You'll limp over to your husband sleeping beside you on that awkward-no-way-to-get-comfortable cot (bless him!) and wake him up because you need someone to cry with. I know, I know. It was beautiful, but also really, really weird. So cry it out. Tears have a way of healing. Speaking of healing, don't get in a rush for that. Trust me, your body isn't going to be in one. Birth has rearranged some of your certain...um..parts. The slow process of getting back to 'normal' is going to frustrate you. Just take it easy, everything won't hurt forever. And all that bleeding? It'll stop. It may end up feeling like a six week period, but it will end. Promise.
Here in a few short hours, you're going to walk in the door of your house; the one you left in a wreck because you were in labor two night before. This is when you're going to cry. A lot. Darn those stupid hormones! You're going to cry because you're happy to finally bring your baby home. You're going to cry because you realize you're now the primary caretaker of said baby. You'll be tired, excited, nervous, thrilled and did I mention tired? Let the tears flow again. Hold your baby. Let your husband hold you. You're going to be just fine.
I won't lie to you, that first week is going to be hard. Nursing isn't as easy as those hospital posters make it look. You're going to gasp in pain every time he latches for the first little bit. You're going to simultaneously love breastfeeding and hate it at the same time. You're going to be frustrated at this tiny human that, even though he's on the outside, is still very much tethered to your life. You'll think, Why won't he sleep? Why won't he stay awake enough to eat? He needs to eat! Why won't he stop eating? I just want to freaking sleep! But despite all that, those first couple weeks are going to be magical. You'll spend hours just staring at this fresh new human. Your baby. This part of your heart, squeaking and sleeping there in your arms. Breathe it in, those moments. Drink them up in long, slow sips and savor it all. Don't get in this hell-bent rush to, get that child on schedule! quick! before it's too late and your lives are ruined! The time will come for that and all too quickly. Meanwhile, just settle in there on the couch and enjoy this part of his life because you, as Stephen Grellet said, "...shall not pass this way again."
You'll hear it over and over, "It gets better! Just hang in there! You'll learn your baby, you'll know what each of his different cries mean. Don't stress over it!" And you'll think, "What in the world does that even mean? 'Learn my baby's different cries'? I don't even know why I'm crying right now, how am I supposed to know what his cries mean?! This is not getting any better." But I'm here to say that it does happen eventually. In the mean time, give yourself heaps of grace and lots of time to journey through it. The baby books and advice from others might help, but don't freak out when your baby acts completely different than what you've been told (because trust me, at some point, he will). He's new to living, you're new to being a mom and some times you'll just have plunge neck-deep into those uncharted waters. But the good news is, you won't always feel like you're drowning. Every day you're going to get stronger, you'll learn to tread water until you realize that, "Hey! I'm figuring this out! I can do this!" It's not that things will magically get better, it's that you will slowly but surely gain stamina and confidence in yourself. I know you can't imagine reaching that point right now, but you will. Just hang in there.
I know right now you're feeling bombarded with every feeling from euphoria to panic about the next few months. Take a deep breath and try really, really, hard not to live in the future. Jesus hasn't given you grace for then, He's has all the grace you need for now. That's all you really need to know. This next part of your life isn't going to be perfect. In fact, it'll be far, far, far from perfect. The amount of mess and exhaustion is going to be worse than you thought. But remember earlier when I said, 'get used to being overwhelmed'? That also applies to the amount of joy you're going to experience in the midst of what's about to happen to you. That tiny human who, right now, pretty much just sees you as a pillow and milk truck, will all of the sudden flash the biggest gummy-smile when you walk into the room. His eyes will burst wide open with excitement when he hears your voice. You'll be his whole world and your heart is going to overwhelm with happiness at the realization of that.
Yes, I see you here with your fresh baby, your stomach still pooched out and your eyes puffy from everything you've experienced in the last day. To me, you're absolutely beautiful like that. Already tried, tested and proven true. What you're about to experience will only further that process. The moment that baby exited your body and tumbled into your arms, everything about your life was immediately different. The game changed, the ground shifted and it's going to take you some time to find your footing. You've been set on a joyful, sanctifying path that will forever leave it's mark on your soul. Every time you deny yourself, every time you choose joy, every time fail but keep going, you're just being made more beautiful.
So to you, New Mom, I say this, you might not feel it but I know how strong you are. I know you're going to make it through this and more than that, you're going to love it. Yes, you heard me right. You are going to love it. It just might be the hardest thing you've attempted so far and most of the time you won't have a clue what you're doing but there'll be moments when you'll realize, "This. This is what I was created to be, a mother." And knowing that, will give you the strength to get through it all.
Your babe is probably going to wake up soon so I'm going to sneak out and let you nap. By the way, take as many of those as you have the chance to get. Forget about the lack of cleaning getting done. Make sleep a priority and ask for someone, anyone, to please come over and help with housework once you wake up. Throw your pride out the window and just do it. You'll thank me later.
Yes, yes, I'm leaving now. Oh, and on the way home I'm going to buy you those adorable sweats from Target that you should have bought yourself months ago. Because being able to feel cute and comfortable makes all those long first days at home a bit more bearable.
You've got this Mama.
Your Future Self