Last year I wrote a letter to my friend. She was pregnant with her first child and there I was with two of my own, certainty an expert by then (ha!), so I filled her in on some things I wish I knew before becoming a mom. Well, a year has passed since I wrote that letter and today my friend has a perfectly adorable little girl. She recently responded to me with her own feelings on her experience. I thought I’d share it with you…
October 10, 2015
Hey friend. Sorry it’s taken me a while to respond. But as you know, babies are kind of an adorable time suck. Rereading your letter, I was overwhelmed with a lot of thoughts and feelings. One of the things you wrote was that after having the baby there would be two versions me: the before me and the after baby me. Wow, I really wish you meant two physical copies of myself because lord knows, I could use the help. Thanks to mommas like yourself though, starting this journey was a whole lot easier, armed with the tips and tricks passed down from generations of women. Here are a few of the things that I have learned:
The Birth Experience.
First and foremost, I now realize that no matter the amount of reading, studying or classes, nothing can actually prepare you for your birth experience. And when it inevitably doesn’t go as planned, it’s not the end of the world. Good or bad, things just get real in a way that there is no comprehending until it happens. I was the Zen momma-to-be with the greatest aspirations of delivering my daughter in the most natural and calm way possible. But after 28 hours of back labor, I actually told my husband that they could just kill me and take the baby out. It became pretty clear to all of us involved that there are certain comforts that you need to allow yourself when the going gets tough. And comfort in the form of a needle injected into your back can be great. And it’s ok.
Having a strong support system is the key… to not losing your mind.
Single mothers should be canonized. Being a mom is hard. Being a mom alone? I seriously don’t know how they do it. Looking back on the first few months of being home with my daughter, they were some of the hardest and most magical times of my life and I would not trade it for the world. As you know, she was born in one of the roughest winters that we have had in a while and by the end of four months, literally living in a snow globe, I was ready to get back into the world. Had we not been able to find someone as fantastic as “Auntie Sarah” to watch the babe when I returned to work, I would have been lost. Like it or not, my work identity is a lot of who I am and I was eager to get back into it. As for the husband? I know that I am lucky. He is engaged and in love with our little one. He is so excited about being a dad, that I often find myself reminding him of our daughter’s young age, slowing him down from the very active and rambunctious activities they play. More than I could ever have hoped for, that has been key to balanced parenting. Also, I don’t know how bath time would be possible without two of us to pin down and scrub our mini octopus. Does she really only have two arms?
Being a parent is an emotional rollercoaster.
Who needs Six Flags? Lately, I have discovered that it is impossible to experience anything now without an intense wave of emotion. Diaper commercial? Check. Cute YouTube video of a baby? Weepy check. Any sort of misdeed done to a child in a television or movie? Gut wrenching, soul shaking check. You were so right about the levels of intensity being magnified. Sometimes I catch myself longing for the days of pre-baby ignorance. But then I look at that squiggly weirdo in the baby monitor, practicing head stands in her sleep and think “NO WAY”. Because on the other end of that rollercoaster is an overwhelming and profound sense of love. At least now I know what it’s like to live in extremes.
There is no such thing as a perfect work/home life balance.
I’ve learned over the last 9 months that I can give 100% to my job and my daughter. But never at the same time. For months, I’ve experienced pangs of guilt every time I rush home early from a workday, just to scoop her up in my arms and nurse her. And once she is in my arms and we are in our quiet space together again, everything else in the world slips away. On the other hand, when I’m working from home I feel detached and like a bad mother as I make calls and reply to emails, all the while watching my husband or Auntie Sarah play with her. I’ve come to realize though, that both forms of my self are necessary for being a happy, complete parent. So I try to be kind to myself, even though its hard.
One thing is certain. These last nine months of my life have flown by. And with every milestone, I am humbled by this life. Not a day goes by, that I don’t catch myself feeling grateful for getting to experience a second childhood through my daughter’s eyes. No matter what far-flung adventures I’ve had in the past, this is certainly the best one yet.