Dear First-Time Mama Self,
Congratulations! You’re pregnant. Remember that chapter that skipped about c-sections? Yeah, you should probably go ahead and read that. Oh, and you can go right ahead and toss all those cute 34C bras. Won’t be needing those anymore!
I’ve had three babies in the last 5 years. Some days, I like to think I’ve learned a thing or two along the way – after all, the time elapsed since I first fell pregnant is enough to have earned a degree and a half!
Right now, one of your fav pastimes is pinteresting nurseries and buying cute gender neutral baby things. Guess what?
You don’t need all that stuff. Having stuff is exhausting. Buying stuff, researching stuff, cleaning stuff, caring for stuff, getting rid of stuff – it all comes to feel burdensome after a while. Make like Elsa and let it go. Going on a trip? Baby will survive eating on your lap for a few days. You don’t need to buy that fancy clothing highchair thing that straps onto the chair.
Don’t be afraid of change. When bedtime routine isn’t working anymore, change it. I’m a creature of routine by nature, so it takes some inner struggling to try something new, but I’ve come to accept the fact that change is almost always beneficial. But do have a routine. I love me a good routine! You can trust a routine. It takes the guess work out of the day. Kids thrive in a safe environment with a routine.
These days, you love going out for lunch with girlfriends, shopping for groceries, sleeping all night long and getting out of bed whenever you please. One day, these seemingly basic things will seem like the epitome of luxury.
Put yourself first. You and your husband, that is. Go on dates, ignore the kids for a few minutes and listen (really actually listen) to how each other’s days were. Steal weekends away together when you can – your kids will be just fine. Go to the gym, talk to friends, keep up your personal interests…it’s easy to get lost in a sea of motherhood. People will tell you this. You’ll nod and smile as if it would never happen to you. But you really do need to make a conscious effort to care for yourself and your coupleness.
Listen to your instincts: You know when your baby isn’t feeling well. You don’t need to google everything. Trust your gut. Family will have well-meaning advice but you are the parents and you do things your way (unless we’re talking about vaccines. Please vaccinate!)
Your body will change: No, those jeans might not fit for a long time. And by the time they do, they won’t be in style anymore anyway. You will have scars (three; horizontal; low). You will give nourishment to not one, not two, but three babies – and you won’t be one of those girls who say things like “The weight just fell right off!” You’ll never say that. You will have stretch marks and love handles and little teeny tiny lines around your eyes. But you wouldn’t have it any other way, and you know it will continue to change over the years. Love it, take care of it, exercise it, be proud of it.
You’ll cry. There will be hard days, days when it feels like you don’t get a second to come up for air, days when your body was supposed to be growing a baby but suddenly wasn’t anymore (that wasn’t supposed to happen to you, but it did and you’ll be OK), days when your husband just doesn’t get it. And there will be days when your heart feels so full that at night you’ll lay there feeling anxious that everything is too good…and there will be tears of joy. The moment they place a newborn in your arms of course, but all the other little moments too, when your eyes suddenly just well up because you know they’ll never be this small again. And those tears are the ones you need to hang on to.
It’s all a phase. Whenever kids are doing something weird, chances are by the time you figure it out they will have moved on to something else. Something else equally weird. You’ll obsess about everything: sleep, weening, food intake, diapers – and it’s good and it’s healthy and it’s OK. You’ll have sleepless nights, mornings that are so early you’ll think it’s bedtime by 9am, and every bit of it is a phase.
You’ll Want to Get Away. Away from the diapers, and the tears, and the squabbles and mess – oh my God, the MESS. And you will. You’ll jet off with your husband and revel in the luxury of sweet, simple time – but the moment you’re away, you’ll miss them so much that you feel a knot of anxiety in the pit of your belly the whole time you’re gone, which will only disappear when they are in your arms again.
You’ll Feel Mom Guilt all time time. No matter what you do. Even as I write this I feel I shouldn’t have slipped out to a coffee shop for an hour or two alone. If I had stayed home, the Mom Guilt would have told me I wasn’t giving healthy enough snacks. If I had given healthy snacks, the Mom Guilt would whisper that I wasn’t letting my kids be kids with a treat here or there. And on and on it goes. The secret? Breathe in. Breathe Out. Don’t be hard on yourself, or others.
You’ll Question Yourself Some days you’ll feel like you’ve got a handle on it. Other days, you’ll worry that you’re setting your preschooler up to end up like Jesse Pinkman from Breaking Bad. You’ll look at other moms and wonder how they have it all together, how they’re so organized, how they had time to polish their nails. You’ll worry that you aren’t doing enough right, that you aren’t making the right choices, that you’re too hard on them, not hard enough on them. But in the eyes of your child, you are the sun, the moon and the stars, and you need to be confident that you are giving each other exactly what you each need.
This mothering thing. This self-thing. This living life thing – just when you think you’ve gotten it figure out, you find yourself growing in a new direction – whether you’re thrown into it or jump into it. I don’t have all the answers – to me, there is nothing scarier or more fraudulent than someone who claims to know everything. I shouldn’t have even written this – what do I know? My oldest isn’t even 5 yet – maybe I still don’t have a clue about mothering. Maybe the real lessons come later. But I do know one thing. Love on those babies. Love them like your life depends on it – it is the one thing that is unstoppable and drives every other decision.
That’s the thing about motherhood. No one knows all the answers. And whether you’ve just found out that you’re pregnant with #1, or you’ve raised 5 children and are expecting grandchildren, you still won’t have all the answers. Love your babies. Love yourself. Love your partner. And remind yourself that – it’s just a phase.
Oh, and by the way – it’s a boy.