To My Post-Partum Self: Things I Wish I’d Known.

Via on Sep 18, 2013
image by Lynn Shattuck

image by Lynn Shattuck

 

 

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Don’t drown in it.

Every little stage your baby goes through will feel like a riptide, like forever—I don’t know why this happens.

Maybe because for your baby, that week of cluster feeding is forever. Maybe, because your baby is stuck to you like Velcro, and your nipples are chafed, and you’re pretty sure you’re never going to sleep again, you absorb his sense of time.

Maybe it’s some hormone-fueled, survival of the fittest, DNA code to make sure you take your baby’s needs seriously.

But pretty soon, your baby won’t be cluster feeding. He will be teething. Refusing naps. Calling you poopy. You will hear yourself say things like, “Please take your penis out of the windowsill.”

Take each stage seriously, but don’t drown in it. 

Boobs.

For awhile, your boobs will be out. All. The. Time. Your boobs will see more sunlight than you do. Warm, sticky milk will drip down your belly and you’ll feel like the stump of an ice cream cone in July.

This too shall pass, but for awhile, you’re going to feel like quite the centerfold.

From National Geographic.

Do what works.

Let your baby sleep in a swing or in your bed or his car seat, if that is where he will sleep. You are not a failure if you don’t hand-mash organic baby purees. It is okay to make things easier for yourself. There are very few irreversible decisions regarding sleeping and eating patterns in these first months and years.

Your child will not head off to college still needing to sleep in a lamby swing. (They don’t make them that big—I checked.) He will not be all droopy with malnutrition if he refuses to eat anything but bagels for a week. Or a month.   

You are not alone.

Other mothers struggle, too. They flicker like candles, awake in the night in a thousand bedrooms, in the past, in the future, right now. They hunch over their babies, nursing. They are limp and worn, like wrung out washcloths.

Remember them when you are up in the night for the fifth time. When your baby won’t stop crying; when you can’t stop crying.

Take a time out.

Take time to yourself. Often. Beg, barter or pay someone to watch your child. Go to yoga. Go for a walk. Go to a movie. Your baby doesn’t need you present but drained, a mom zombie. A mombie.

Your baby needs you to be okay. Your baby needs you to be you. Needing time to yourself does not mean you are trying to get away from your baby.

Okay, so you are totally trying to get away from your baby. That is okay. Find a way to do some of the things that keep you sane and happy. Your baby needs you sane and happy.

Ask for help.

Ask your partner for help. He/she does not mean to just sit there in a chair playing Mortal Kombat. They will eventually show more interest in the baby, when it can giggle and hug and play tackle football. But for now, they need you to tell them you need help.

Ask.

When you do, don’t tell them how to care for your child. Or tell them, but then let it go. He/she will probably watch Pulp Fiction with your baby. They will let your precious little one gnaw on pizza crusts like a junkyard dog. Your baby will be okay on both counts.

Then, leave the house.

If you don’t, your partner will rise from their chair like Zeus. They will find you, and they will suggest that the baby needs milk. Even though you just nursed him.

Don’t clean.

Your house will still be messy in five years. I am sorry, but it’s true. So when your baby sleeps, take a nap. Read a book. Masturbate. Look at pictures of clean houses on Pinterest. Look at pictures of clean houses on Pinterest while you masturbate.

But don’t clean.

Find your tribe.

Find other moms who admit that it’s not all baby powder and bliss. Playdates were not invented to over-schedule and socialize your child. They exist so you can admit that you yelled, “For the love of God, will you just freaking sleep?” at your six-month-old this morning. That you plopped your son in front of Elmo for several hours yesterday afternoon when it rained and rained and rained and he wouldn’t nap. 

Be a hater.

And those moms who appear to have it all together? The size six supermoms who appear perky and well-rested? The ones who haul big designer diaper bags brimming with healthy snacks and water and sunscreen and extra outfits and hand sanitizer?

It is okay to wish them small misfortunes, like fecal incontinence or eye herpes.

You are on your way.

Listen: I know you feel like you’re doing it all wrong; I know the stakes feel so high and all the other moms look like they know what they’re doing.

Take a break from reading books and blogs about how you’re supposed to be raising your child. Your baby is reasonably clean and growing.

See how he melts into your shoulder and falls asleep?

How when you actually go to the grocery store all by yourself, you find yourself standing in line gently swaying, as if he were still on your body?

And you smile at the mom with a baby about the same age in the next line and your milk lets down and you feel like Hey, I’m missing something, did I forget my keys? 

And then you realize that what is missing is your baby.

You are doing just fine.

 

Like elephant family on Facebook.

 

Ed: Bryonie Wise

About Lynn Shattuck

Lynn Shattuck lives in Portland, Maine with her husband and two young children. She blogs about parenting, imperfection, spirit and truth telling—you can connect with her through her website or find her on Facebook.

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201 Responses to “To My Post-Partum Self: Things I Wish I’d Known.”

  1. Faeza says:

    Thank you so much for this. I so needed to hear this especially today after a night of almost no sleep with my 6 month old baby. It seems that other Mommies are SUPER MOMS and I just can't seem to crack the whole motherhood thing…lol. This gave me some perspective…thank you once again.

    • lynnola says:

      Oh, thank you Faeza! I know I often forget that just because everyone else LOOKS like they know what they're doing, doesn't mean they do. A lot of moms feel the way you feel and the way I feel.

  2. Heather Winn says:

    Wow! Thank you so much for this amazing and so true write! I have an 8 month old and can relate to every word written. It’s like you live at my house hehe! I loved it so much this was my seventh time reading it! Thank you again for making me smile, laugh, and touching my heart. :)

  3. Cassie says:

    Thank you, I needed this today. I’m a first time mom with a five month old. Sometimes it just feels like I’m drowning. It’s good to be reminded that I don’t have to be perfect!

    • lynnola says:

      Hi Cassie! It amazes me how many women feel the pressure to be perfect. Take good care!

      • Kellie says:

        I’m a first time Mum to a 1 year old and I can relate to ALL of this. I’ve never felt the need to be perfect, I think it’s more the perception that everyone else is having a peachy time and society tells us that it’s supposed to be ‘the best time of your life’ when in reality it’s not. It’s the hardest thing ever. The hardest thing on your relationship, the hardest thing on your mind and body. BUT, the love for my son is amazing and I wouldn’t change it for the world. The thing is though no one talks about it, it’s almost as though it’s a sign of weakness or mental instability if you can bring yourself to say ‘I’m not coping ‘ . Plus I believe there’s not enough support for couples, a lot of the focus is on the mother’s mental health whereas the dads may need checking up on and the parents as a couple may need to be asked ‘how are YOU TWO going?’

  4. Muiz1 says:

    Classic piece!

  5. This is really sweet, funny, realistic, and timeless. I speak as one who thought having duper duty was down payment for lacking the collateral of breasts, as against the time we could have equal pride in milestones like graduation. Early motherhood is distinctive, and deserves its own berth, like a crowd silently parting to reveal the chosen one.

  6. Juliánna says:

    where was this kind of honesty about 12 years ago? or even 8? yes, my kids are 12 and 8. learning as I go along. being a perfectionist didn't help either. oh, well.

    • lynnola says:

      The perfectionism is sooo hard, isn't it? My best to you, Julianna!

    • Tracy W says:

      There’s an excellent book “How not to be a perfect mother” that’s about 20 years old. The author’s take on motherhood she says is like a squaddie’s take on war: yes you’re committed and you are willing if necessary to lay down your life in the process but there’s no harm in the meantime in slipping some chocolate into your backpack and having a nap while someone else peels the potatoes.

  7. Betsy Brentz says:

    I thought that I was the only one that told the truth! My children are 16 and 19 and those days of newborns seem so long ago and yet, in a way like yesterday. I wouldn't trade being a mom for anything in the world; however, it was hard and sometimes lonely even with the help of a devoted dad. My favorite saying was "long days short years". It is so true and I am that annoying person in the grocery store line that tells a new mom this…as I ask her if she is getting any sleep and give her permission to be good to herself. I'm glad that I spent lazy days in bed with my newborn nursing and resting. I do not regret those moments.it meant that my house was a wreck and I didn't cook much, but that isn't what I remember. And I was never a size 6…

    • lynnola says:

      Nice, Betsy! I so agree with that saying about "the days are long, but the years are short." Good for you for checking on the new moms. So often, I only hear moms of older children saying, "Enjoy EVERY minute! It goes by so fast!" I know it's true, but it doesn't address how hard it feels right now.

  8. Expatmammy says:

    Brilliant just brilliant, unfortunately I drowned but I’m on the up

  9. polly says:

    Thank you for that, its the refresher I needed. I have a super active 2 yr old and have just found out I am expecting twins so very overwhelmed. It will be ok :-)

  10. Cortney says:

    I know these things but needed to be firmly reminded of them tonight. So, thank you!

  11. Sandra B says:

    Exactly what I needed to read right now! You should see my house, it looks like a bomb went off. I am sick and exhausted, but still feel guilty when my 2.5 yr old and 9 month old watch "too much TV" :-) This made my husband and I really laugh out loud! Thanks for writing it!

  12. Anna says:

    Before I had my 5 beautiful kids I read the poem "To My Grown up Son"I was going to be the perfect parent!!Low and behold my kids now 37,36,32,30 and 24 are all grown up and looking back I still feel guilty for not having had ENOUGH time to spend with each one.I guess I was TOO BUSY keeping them alive and well!!!! I can't believe how those 37 years have passed by SOOOO FAST and how I miss these years because one does forget the really TOUGH stuff.
    Just try your best and really everything will fall into place and PLEASE put yourself FIRST at times without feeling guilty because you Moms are WORTH it!!!!!

  13. Anna says:

    Baby is now 21. This little bit of genius brought it all back. What I have learned in the last 21 years is that kids are resilient little monsters. Screwing up is a part of being a parent. I actually think it is a biological imperative to ensure the survival of the species. As long as you love them with your whole being –and of course feed and cloth them– they will turn out to be wonderful people. Everything else is gravy.

    • lynnola says:

      Great thoughts, Anna! I think you're right. We try and do stuff right, we overcorrect for whatever we didn't like about our own childhood, but we all mess up, and we don't get to know where we messed up until they're older. Just like we might not know what we got right until they're older.

  14. Crystal says:

    Yes, a thousand times yes. When I had my daughter, she was premature, I was quite experienced in taking care of children, so I didn't feel nervous about having my own, until she had a two week hospital stay before they let me bring her home, and the doctor made me feel as if something not going exactly perfect with her would land her right back into the hospital. That made me go into hyper alert status. After a few days/weeks…maybe a month? I can't remember exactly how long I kept going but living with the newborn in a one bedroom apartment where I heard every noise she made was beginning to make me twitch. One day, hubby came in, I grabbed my jacket, said bottles are in the fridge and left. I had no cell phone, I didn't make it clear where I was going, I just bolted and trusted whatever happened he'd deal for a while. Came back, I don't even know how long later, feeling much much better. This experience made me know you cannot function if you don't take time to care for yourself. Yes, I made a selfish decision, not so selfish that I harmed anyone else, just selfish enough to say, this is what *I* need right now, and my needs are actually just as important as anyone's. While I do know you put the baby's needs first, your own needs can't be pushed aside permanently, delayed for a bit, sure, but still being taken care of is important.

    • lynnola says:

      Crystal, I don't see taking some much needed time for you as being selfish, at all. On top of the "normal" hard stuff that comes with a newborn, you also had a traumatic experience. We need time. We are human and need time. I like to think that by taking excellent care of our childrens' mothers, we are teaching them about self-care, too.

  15. themurrayedlife says:

    So well said. I'm venturing back into the newborn stages in a few months, and while I"m kind of scared shitless, I'm also ready for that thrill. And that sweet baby needing me. And watching them grow and learn. That is just the coolest.

  16. Jess says:

    I think some are being uptight about the be a hater section. You can be supportive while still being envious, which I think is what you were trying to get at. It’s ok to be envious of the moms who seem to have it all together and are “perfect”. You may not wish harm onto them, but you are envious. There’s nothing wrong with that. Know that no one is perfect, but if you want to make a change because you saw that quality in someone else-go for it. I love observing other moms and finding new ways of doing things, or inspiration for the way I’d like to be.

  17. Jessica Wing says:

    Love this !! Great read

  18. Pippa says:

    I have read this and re read it over and over. I laughed, then cried. I identify with every word. I wish I had seen this after my first born. Thank you for this.

  19. Darlene says:

    Love it, love it, and to repeat what others have said…where was this post 19 years ago when I was crying because my Aunt told me to feed my 10 day old daughter cereal because "she is hungry" ? I too, had the "What to Expect" books that I read religiously. They made me feel horrible. Ah well, this too shall pass…can't wait for the grandkids.

    • lynnola says:

      Thank you, Darlene! Yes, those books definitely only skim the surface and don't factor in all the emotions we feel! Good luck with the grandkids! :)

  20. Natalia says:

    I have just had my first child. I am still in hospital after 4 days, emergency C section due to infection. Last night, I thought I was going to run away from it all, not able to deal with the pain, the constant breastfeeding, my other half, everyone’s (conflicting) comments on how to do it all, the non-stop crying baby and the tremendous feeling of guilt…and then I read this….and I cannot say thank you enough. I have regained faith and self-confidence.

    • lynnola says:

      Oh, Natalia! Thank YOU. My very best wishes for a swift recovery. I am sorry you are having such a rough start to mamahood. Take good care.

  21. KristinSLuce says:

    I loved this article! My babies are now almost driving, and yes, I couldn't leave them even to shop or vote when they were tiny without knowing it was dead wrong for me (I took them with me instead). The note about your house being a mess for 5 years would REALLY have helped at that time, although I would have thought back then that you were just exaggerating! I am SO GLAD this message is getting into the world. Thank you!

  22. Jessica says:

    Thanks for the laugh! After a couple nights with barely any sleep because of a vomiting 3 week old, the comic relief was very much appreciated!

  23. Katie says:

    Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. I want to express these exact thoughts to friends and never can find quite the words. This is wonderful, and I am printing it and saving it for when I have #2. Thank you.

  24. Jasmine says:

    YES! YES! YES! My life changed drastically as I have a 2 yr old, a 3 yr old and one due in December. I felt all this and more. Still do some days carrying this one when I see others with 4 stair stepped like mine that seem to have it all together. It’s why I started writing journals again and blogging. Still haven’t figured that time to myself thing as I traded in my corporate digs for stay at Homs duty. But everyday it does feel a little easier. I have to remind myself baby steps baby steps. So thank you thank you for this!!

  25. allstarme says:

    This is spot on! Had my third 8 weeks ago and I thought I had this down pat by now but no, sometimes it's still hard. I needed to read this to remember.

  26. Shay says:

    I like so much of the message of this blog post, but I beg you all to not be haters. I don't want to get all hippy dippy love, blah, blah, blah…but what mama's need is to love each other and support each other. Being a mom is HARD. SO, SO HARD. Hating someone else for what they "have" isn't going to make you feel any better. It's going to make you feel worse. Once I let go of hating the mothers who had nannies and house keepers and vacations to Hawaii and Disneyland and new minivans and rockin bodies and nice clothes and good food and well behaved kids and clean, nice smelling hair and houses big enough for everyone to fit in, I was finally happy. For real.

    Some days, I am the mom with the well stocked bag of organic home made snacks…and some days I am using the sleeve of my shirt and spit to wipe the stale pop tart from my kids face. I hope no one hates me on either one of those days. I am doing the best I can. I hope moms can see beyond all the superficial stuff and be happy for one another. If you have it all together today I won't hate you. I'll say 'rock on sista'. It's good to see people happy.

    • lynnola says:

      I agree Shay! I actually wrote a follow-up post to this entitled "Don't be a Hater: What I Should've Said." The paragraph you mention was meant to be a joke, but as I realized and got feedback, you are absolutely right. The last thing us moms need is more competition, even in a jokey way. Thanks!

    • Try Hard Mommy says:

      Amen!

  27. Carrie says:

    Best. article. on. elephant. journal. yet! Thank you so much for sharing what every new mom is feeling. It often feels so lonely and such a daunting prospect of having to care for these precious, yet intimidating little creatures. This article was perfect! Thank you!

  28. Carl says:

    As a very soon to be Father this feels spot on and I will share with my wife. Thanks

  29. Yes, this, exactly is what I went through with my babies and what my childbirth ed. students will go through. Thank you for articulating it so well.

  30. Kate says:

    Yes! And my boobs are out right now nursing my 1 month old. Thank you for such a great read.

  31. Skye says:

    Really lovely, except for the focus on breasts.
    Some of us aren’t breast feeders (whether by choice or in my case due to two abscesses) and so my baby isn’t attached to my breast and my milk doesn’t let down when I see another baby his age. But I feed him with every ounce of love from my body and when I see other babies and he’s at home with dad, I have to use every ounce of self control not to leave the shopping trolley in the aisle and run home immediately. So good for those that breastfeed, but formula mums love their babies just as much and are up in the middle of the night feeding/rocking/loving.
    Just saying.

  32. LDub says:

    This is beyond amazing. Where wa this a year ago when I really needed it?!?!?!

  33. Neha says:

    OMG..incredible!!! i have not laughed so hard in a while!!! I have a 10 month old and I am totally feeling it!!!

  34. Ali says:

    This is such a great article. New moms wallow in between so many emotions – guilt, tiredness, stress, happiness, sadness, content…I agree with all your points:)

  35. Guest says:

    this makes me not want to have children.

  36. Hanna says:

    Thank you so much for posting this…I have said so many times that us, women kind sometimes do ourselves no favors at all…when we try to portray motherhood as something that is easy! Babies that sleep through from a week old! Babies that never cry! Babies that don't need to be held from morn til dusk….I am sure that they exist but I don't believe that they are the norm!
    I do believe that we would be so much happier if we could just accept and surrender ourselves to parenthood! Thank you for such an honest account <3

  37. Kerry says:

    It is 2 am here and I just finished feeding my baby. Though he is almost 5 months. He wasn’t interested in eating his puréed carrots and other mushy stuff at dinner and I just knew he would wake early and be hungry. This was a great article to come across and was laughing so hard I was crying because it is do true. And it was what I needed to hear from someone other than my mother. Thank you! Kerry

  38. tripperbrooks says:

    I was hugging my husband in front of a movie the other day when IJ had gone to sleep. He turned to me and said "are you trying to make me go to sleep?" and I said "No, why?"

    "Because you've been patting my bottom for the last 5 minutes."

  39. Anne says:

    I agree … For the most part.

    However, to “hate” on the Mother with the small waist and designer baby bag seems a bit high school. What you don’t see is that mother – at home – feeling alone and out of control. She might be cleaning to gain a sense of her home, her space and her life back. She might have a small waist because she exercises to feel good again. A good mother can “seemingly” have her life “together.” She can have a clean house and a happy baby. There is no need to divide ourselves as mothers – society is more than happy to do that for us. Oxox to all Mums and how they choose to raise their babes and themselves

  40. Sarah says:

    Thank you do much for this! I now am a self-diagnosed mombie, and I laughed all the way through this. How refreshing and great writing. I used to write myself and maybe I could for you someday!

    Thanks again from this new follower and instant fan.

    And by the way my babies are 18 months and 3 months. This literally helped save my sanity :)

  41. Lindsay says:

    My baby is 3 weeks old and I read this every night. It makes me cry every time. It is beautiful and so needed. Thank you.

  42. stella says:

    i am Stella and i want to thank Dr.agbadi olu for bringing back my ex boyfriend, we broke up for more than 8 month and he told me that he will never want to see me in his life again. i love him so much to the extend that i could not think of dating any man again, i was confused and depress due to the love i had for him.i did everything i could do to have him come back to me but all went in vain. so i decided to contact a spell caster, i did not believe in spell casting i just want to try it may be it would work out for me. i contacted Dr agbadi olu for help,and he told me that he have to cast a love spell on him, i told him to do it. after 5 days my boyfriend called me and started to apologize for leaving me and also he told me that he still love me. i was very happy and i thank Dr agbadi oul for helping get back my ex back to my hands. his spell is the greatest of all over the world, it was the love spell he cast on my ex that make him come back to me. all you ladies who want back their ex back i want you to contact Dr.agbadi olu for the return of your ex boyfriend and also your ex girlfriend he can also cast any kind of spell you want him to cast for you. his contact email is dragbadilaguspelltemple@gmail.com just try him and their will be a solution to your case.

  43. stella says:

    i am Stella and i want to thank Dr.agbadi olu for bringing back my ex boyfriend, we broke up for more than 8 month and he told me that he will never want to see me in his life again. i love him so much to the extend that i could not think of dating any man again, i was confused and depress due to the love i had for him.i did everything i could do to have him come back to me but all went in vain. so i decided to contact a spell caster, i did not believe in spell casting i just want to try it may be it would work out for me. i contacted Dr agbadi olu for help,and he told me that he have to cast a love spell on him, i told him to do it. after 5 days my boyfriend called me and started to apologize for leaving me and also he told me that he still love me. i was very happy and i thank Dr agbadi oul for helping get back my ex back to my hands. his spell is the greatest of all over the world, it was the love spell he cast on my ex that make him come back to me. all you ladies who want back their ex back i want you to contact Dr.agbadi olu for the return of your ex boyfriend and also your ex girlfriend he can also cast any kind of spell you want him to cast for you. his contact email is dragbadilaguspelltemple@gmail.com just try him and their will be a solution to your case.

  44. Laura Brown says:

    It’s been 14 and 18 years since I was post -partum (last time was with twins). Every word of this article is true!!! If it makes anyone feel better about a year ago my house started staying clean for a day at a time and my chronic exhaustion lifted! They really do grow up tho no one could have convinced me of that when there were Goldfish crumbs in every nook and cranny of my car. Great article!!!

  45. rlcarterrn says:

    I'm not even a mom yet but I love this. Great things for me to think about when I do have kids someday.

  46. Miranda Rose says:

    OMG, I loved this sooooo much. Hilarious, and ohhh so true. Thank you ! <3

  47. twopence says:

    Don't compare, at all. Not even to talk about how annoying those 'designer moms' are. Because that's comparing. And they're moms, like you are. Isn't it great you're both enjoying the highs and lows of your new little ones?

  48. Magan says:

    I had my son when I was 16. I tried so hard and it never seemed like enough. Even now…15 years later. Thank you. I wish I had read this back then. <3

  49. pratibha75 says:

    Loved it! I am a mom to twin boys and when I went through the phase, it was hell! I questioned my whole existence and thought I was the worst person living on the earth. Things changed when I could talk to like minded people and assured that my feelings were absolutely sane!

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