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

  1. karlsaliter says:

    Awesome.

  2. Cris says:

    Brilliant.

  3. Rachel says:

    "Look at pictures of clean houses on Pinterest. Look at pictures of clean houses on Pinterest while you masturbate.

    But don’t clean."

    I died when I read this

  4. janewillenbrink says:

    Exactly.

  5. Amber says:

    I laughed, I cried, I shared this with my husband (especially about the leaving the house bit) I have a 4yo, 3yo, and a 3 week old and I 99% of the time, feel like an awful mother. There are days when my kids watch more tv than I ever thought I would allow. I nurse my baby (my first nursling) and am falling asleep the whole time. This post makes me feel normal. Thank you for it! I will be passing this along to other expectant mothers.

  6. Meg says:

    This is amazing and so spot on and real. I'm going to share it for sure because I know a lot of moms who need to hear this and remind themselves of all the things you just reminded me, so thank you!

  7. Annmarie says:

    A friend sent this to me bc I have a 21 month old and a 3 month old (boys) and I feel like I am drowning 99% of the time. I have a career, yet opting to be a stay-at-home-mom for now, and it is harder than any job. This was absolutely brilliant. And I never comment on things. Thank you

    • Lynn Shattuck lynnola says:

      Hi Annmarie. Thank you so much for commenting, especially as a never-commenter! I think many of us are struggling to keep our heads above water, we just don't admit it all the time. Hang in there– you're not alone.

  8. jloren says:

    I loved this. My kids are now 30, 22, 18, and I have a grandson. I completely agree. Ah the size 6 super mom, ok to hate. Ok to look at clean houses on Pinterest. Yes. Nap often. They do grow up. They leave. They have sex. It's weird and beautiful, and it goes too fast. Jesse Loren

  9. Carolyn says:

    I'm reading this wishing I'd been able to read it 22 years ago! So encouraging…times have changed but the demands of having a new born are the same…I remember going back to work(teaching high school students) for a rest!!! Hang on in there ladies, I have the most beautiful daughter and at 16 she no longer wanted to creep in to bed with me…I actually miss that!

    • Lynn Shattuck lynnola says:

      So glad you could relate! I was just thinking that this afternoon while resting with my almost-two-year-old– when she's a teenager, she's probably not going to let me snuggle her like this. Sweet moments.

  10. Melissa says:

    You are a wonderful and beautiful person. This is incredible, real, and full of understanding! Thank you. My son is going to turn 8 in Jan and we will welcome our new addition in May. I forgot how hard it is. It’s also nice to have some validation on how I chose to let the house go a lot more than I should because I’d rather cuddle with my 10 yr old and my 7 yr old on my day off in front of a movie than scrub my house (: take care and enjoy your babies

  11. krisaidwhat says:

    Brilliant, everything. I might add on the subject of Mommy friends and play dates: Moms love to talk about how great and gifted their children are. Try not to take these comments as diggs on your baby or you as a parent. I'ts not personal as they say.

  12. Sarah says:

    Read this during my daughters 1000th feed of the night on 7 hours sleep in 3 days. I have a 4yo, 2.5yo and a 3 month old. The work never ends right now. I try to remember, this too shall pass and then something else will suck just as hard. These years are trying but wonderful and I’ll be damned happy when they’re over.

    • Lynn Shattuck lynnola says:

      Oh, Sarah, hang in there. I feel the same way a lot of the time. Adding to the frustration is the constant advice from moms of older children, saying, "Enjoy every single minute of it!" There is sweetness and there is also exhaustion…

  13. Ellen says:

    For years I have claimed that the reason I'm overweight is because of all the words I've had to eat since becoming a mama. Since I was 32 before the first was born, I had built up lots of words to eat! "my child will not be babysat by tv' "my kids will not be fed sugar" "I will never leave my child with a child (young sitter)" and on and on and on. Was the perfect parent before I had kids. After I had them, I learned there are no perfect parents. This was very relate-able! Thanks!

  14. I just delivered my 3rd child and have been thinking of writing a post just like this. You've done it so much more eloquently than I ever could – I may just have to link this post to my blog, with your permission of course.

    Wonderful post. Thank you!

  15. I just delivered my 3rd child and have been thinking of writing a post just like this. You've done it so much more eloquently than I ever could – I may just have to link this post to my blog, with your permission of course.

  16. @tishushu says:

    Every last bit of this post is everything I needed to hear 19 years ago! <3 Especially the "Be A Hater" section! <3

  17. Karen Tondreau says:

    Where was this post 20 years ago?! Oh ya, we didn't have the internet then, we had the "what to expect" series of books that made you feel like everyone else was a super parent, made their own organic baby food, raised super kids that were destined for med school because of your spending every waking minute of the day teaching them, nurturing them and wrapping them in a protective bubble so that they didn't maim/poison themselves…nothing has changed, except that now thanks to the WWW, more sleepless, guilt ridden Moms can get comfort and grounding thanks to glorious posts like this! Well done! The funny thing is, in a blink of an eye, I am reading this post and wishing I could save it somehow so that my now 20 year old beautiful daughter who survived and thrived despite not quite following all the "rules" will be able to find this same comfort and advice when she needs it (in like 10 or 15 years hopefully, lol…) Thank you!

    • Lynn Shattuck lynnola says:

      Thank you Karen! It's interesting, the infinite amount of information online actually makes it challenging sometimes for me, because there is soooo much varying advice. But you're right, the upside is being able to connect with other likeminded moms who we never would've met otherwise. Thanks for your comment!

  18. Bonnie lefebvre says:

    Where was this advise fifty yrs ago. Brilliant

  19. Laura says:

    thank you… I felt guilty the other day for say, “For the love of God, will you just freaking sleep?” at your six-month-old this morning" other day …. thank you for putting the real back into being a mother of a baby and real expectations of yourself.

  20. Erica Stanojevic says:

    I think most of this article was great, but really "Be a hater" isn't so hot. Mothers have enough going against us all without us wishing our own hate upon each other, like women who give their own girls clitoral circumsisions. And we all know very well that all the apparently well put together moms have their own issues too, perhaps like gaining enough weight after breastfeeding a toddler so we don't send ourselves to the hospital next time we're sick and lose weight we can't afford too. We mothers must stand up together, and support each other in this harsh world, and stop calling each other out when we are needed as support.

    • Lynn Shattuck lynnola says:

      Erica, I totally agree with you. In retrospect, I wish I'd reframed that section to be more reflective, at the least. Thank you for your honest response.

      • charlie says:

        agreed. i was loving the post (and wanted to forward it to my friends), until i saw that disturbingly negative advice. it soured an otherwise motivational and empowering message. thank you erica, you are completely correct. everyone of us has our own cross to bear. and, just because we can't see those crosses (that others carry) doesn't mean that they don't exist or that they are any less weighty than our own cross. thank you and bravo to lynnola for commenting and acknowledging.

        • Lynn Shattuck lynnola says:

          Thanks Charlie. And I absolutely agree; we all have our issues and we need to stick together instead of judging and making assumptions.

          • Suzannas mom says:

            These replies are from skinny moms. Lighten up. I gained 70 lbs with each pregnancy. Men don't make eye contact with you any more when you hold the door open to walk into the gas station. Everyone of my kids birthdays I say this is the year I will lose my baby weight. Being overweight sucks and has never been so hard to lose so seeing a happy skinny mom is frustrating. My husband laughs bc I would say skinny bitch when I would see them. It's is a very hard thing to go from hot and fit to mommified not knowing if you will ever get rid of the chicken wings or belly flap. Knowing that saving for kids college is way more important than a tummy tuck even though I go online to price shop them every so often. So have some empathy and feel lucky you are not overweight. We all have issues seen or unseen.

          • R. S. D. says:

            Yes, but wishing fecal incontinence and eye herpes on someone because they are not visibly struggling is tasteless, over the over the top and cruel. Weight is only part of it. This is about wishing misfortune and passing judgement on people who don't meet your requirements for 'struggle.'

          • Megan says:

            I agree. People need to lighten up. Lynn was joking with the fecal incontinence. Sometimes, we just have to be negative. I too envy the skinny moms.

          • Bea says:

            negativity will never make you feel better, it only serves to hurt someone else. she may have been joking but this kind of hatred is quickly seeping into our culture and we cannot just continue to laugh it off. I like a joke as well as the next person but does it always have to be at someone else's expense? we need to be more mindful of the things we say and the way we treat other people. we teach our children everyday to be kind and not say mean and hurtful things….how can we expect it of them if this is the way we react to each other?

          • heathermama says:

            why is it because a woman is "skinny" and you are not thatthere is an issue? just because you gained weight and haven't lost it yet it makes her a villain? i have packed on serious pounds with all 7 of my pregnancies and have never sent out hate vibes to women who have not or have had a bit of an easier time losing it than i did. plus i have a daughter that has a hard time gaining weight, and she does NOT have an eating disorder, to assume that she is a "skinny bitch" is just nasty. how does that help you? do you feel better after calling names and thinking nasty thoughts about other moms because they maybe can pack a diaper bag and aren't 50 lbs over weight? after 7 kids i am pretty damn good at packing a diaper bag and seeming to have my shit together and yet i have delt with all sorts of PPD and anxiety. and i have lost the "baby weight" when some of my kids were still babies. so am i the nasty evil mom who has my stuff together who will have fecal incontance wished upon me because after 20 years of mothering i can get my shit together occasionally?

    • abbeyhutchins says:

      I'm so glad you pointed this out, Erica! I felt the same way :( I also appreciate, Lynn, that you acknowledged it could have been worded differently! We all have the right to change our minds and that's what matters. I just wrote my reflections on the article on my blog: http://mommemusings.wordpress.com/2013/10/03/one-…. I see you're a mom here in Portland, Lynn…me, too!!

  21. Love, love, love, love this. I can relate to all of it. This is perfection.

  22. babybird says:

    Beautiful and charming, thank you

  23. Melissa says:

    I love this advice. I love all of it. Especially the bit: Don't Clean!

  24. Crystal says:

    Absolutely adore this, my shining stars of diaper-ville and royalty of formula vomit are 14,12 and 7.. And I still rock my little bag of potatoes in a store. i still worry about the house and their clothes and what they eat and watch..and I keep forgetting that this all passes and that it's okay..to shut my door and scream non-sensible words into a pillow when things don't go as wonderful, or as magical as I thought it all would be..so even without a baby..thanks

  25. Chris Mattatall says:

    i love this!!!! as a mama of 3 and 1 on the way very very soon as in days this is all very true!!! exactly what I would tell first time moms or any mom for that matter. well written <3

  26. Melissa says:

    Wow you had me up until 'be a hater'. I get that it was meant to be a bit satirical, but that part really made me sad. I often appear to have it all together, I seem perky because I'm out having fun with my daughters, I might even be well-rested. I also battled intestinal problems for years, had my colon removed when my first daughter was just 18months old, had an ostomy bag for a few months, had a second surgery to form what is called a j-pouch with my small intestine. I've had a lot of health struggles, but no I guess you wouldn't know that by just looking at me. Sooo, if you ever really wished 'fecal incontinence' upon me for appearing to have it together, than congratulations, you succeeded! Perhaps we as mothers, and as people, could try to understand that even when someone appears to have it all together they may have different struggles than us, ones that we don't see. Heck maybe they do have it all together, which is awesome. Maybe we could learn something from that mother. We're all just trying to be the best mamas that we can, and shouldn't be hated or judged for it.

    • Lynn Shattuck lynnola says:

      Hi Melissa. I'm so sorry that hit home for you. I replied to another commenter above that I wish I hadn't kept that section about 'be a hater' in, or that I at least wish I had reframed it to be more reflective. I completely agree that we need more support and that the judging comes from insecurity, which I am rife with. Thank you for your comment, and I'm very sorry for your health issues.

  27. Alex says:

    Well you can’t write anything more precise than this! Wow you basically wrote everything I’ve just gone through in the past nine months with my sweet little girl. It’s a great reminder to just love them and love you. This came at the perfect time (teething!) so thank you for making me laugh and making me cry. I needed both.

  28. Katrina Kunstmann Katrina Kunstmann says:

    This almost makes me okay with bearing children, haha. Thank you for some delightful, real, soul sustaining insight. Best of the best love to you.

  29. EJ's mom says:

    I read this while my almost 6 month old napped on me. This is wonderful, even the be a hater bit. I found it funny. My other new mom friends hate on me (I lost all my baby weight very easily) and I hate on them ( baby sleeps through the night, in the crib no less!) We all compare (it’s in our nature) and its good to make it funny and have a good laugh. We all need it! Signed – first time momzie

  30. Sarah says:

    I have a 5, 3, and 2 yr old and a 5 month old. This last time around is the only one I have really enjoyed. It’s the only one I really remember! I am one of those moms who walk out of the hospital in my prepregnancy clothes, have diaper bags fully organized with toys, clothes and snacks. My kids rarely fuss in public. Why? Because my abusive stbx husband wouldn’t stand for it. Sometimes those apparently perfect moms live private hells.

    Life is better now. I cosleep so I can sleep. I nurse for cuddles. I let my kids be kids. And I enjoy my mommy time as much as I can…and still look forward to bedtime at the end of the day. :)

  31. Rea Frey says:

    I needed to read this. I feel like this post found me in the abyss that is social media. Where do you live? Can we be mom friends????? :)

  32. Cheryl Francis says:

    EXACTLY!!! my kids are grown and I have 3 grandbabies and 2 more on the way. I tell the girls (daughter and daughter-in-law) all those things. It is perfectly normal to have all those feelings. I yelled at my kids when they were babies at times out of sheer exhaustion .. then cried because I did that. Many times I wanted to just run away for 10 min and so something for ME. Being a new mommy is the hardest and most rewarding job a female can have. I tell my girls to forget about reading the parenting books (far as I can see I think they are written by people who don't have kids) and to just trust their mommy instincts … they will be right. My other piece of advise would be that NO housework of ANY kind after 8pm. That is your time. Even if you chose to just sit and watch TV or have a bath or take a pee in peace. Anything that needs to be done will still be there the next day …. don't stress over how your house looks or how you look.Enjoy the infant time as much as you can because it is gone before you know it. If there are any new grandmas out there … remind your daughters and daughter-in-laws any time they feel like it is wrong to want to drop kick their little sweet one across a football field that it is totally normal. Tell them your horror stories about how you felt when they were little (we all have those stories) Remind them to .. that someday they will be laughing about it and will be anxiously waiting to tell their stories. It is all NORMAL!! :)

    • Lynn Shattuck lynnola says:

      Thanks Cheryl! Your kids are lucky to have an understanding, affirming mom! I LOVE your no housework after 8PM rule. I am usually too tired to do housework after 8 anyways, but I love the rule!

  33. Claire says:

    This is by far the most awesome and realistic tips i have read that made me feel good about being a new mom. So sincere and true. Keep it up!

  34. Lana says:

    what i had wish i'd known. was that my sexuality would be totally transformed. not in a birth canal sense. in the sensations of my hormones and my self awareness. i nurture all day, at night if there is time and space, i wholeheartedly refuse to nurture my partner, it's just not going to happen at this point in my life. i give and give and give, i love the new me that expects and demands nurturing in return. mothering has helped me discover a self centered view, as a part of my everyday selflessness. my message to others is to honour post partum and let it change you, because there is insight to be gained.

    • Lynn Shattuck lynnola says:

      I think a lot of women feel that way, Lana. That's an interesting take on it!

    • Suzannasmom says:

      I felt the same way. I had ppd with no. 2. My kids are 4 and 6. But watching my husband mature into a loving father while we tackle raising our kiddos as a team has taken my marriage to a different universe. I used to think I wanted to smother him with a pillow while he snored and couldn't hear the kids cry. But sharing those memories has created a bond with him that I am so blessed to have. We want to press rewind to hold our babies again because it all goes by too fast yet it feels slow at the time. And the fact that he loves my body no matter what has helped me ease back into things even when I am too tired to participate. Lol. It gets better.

  35. knuck1es says:

    omg my boys are 15 and 13 and this made me cry. All of it is absolute truth.

  36. Alicia says:

    Yes, yes, yes to everything but the last bit. No need to tear down other women to make yourself feel good.

  37. This is just fabulous! My only little one is now three, on his way to four, and I miss the baby days (I'm told this is called "Momnesia"), but I am guilty of the swaying with no baby, and using my diaper bag as a purse. Thanks for putting everything into perspective. :)

  38. Aurora says:

    Excellent blog post, thank you! It had me laughing at myself and a little teary towards the end! It makes me feel better that mums everywhere are going through the same thing I am! The only thing missing is all the things you swore to do when on maternity leave , such as blog regularly, write that book that you know is just waiting within you, learn to sew… All of which never get touched due to being frazzled and sleep deprived!

    • Lynn Shattuck lynnola says:

      Thanks Aurora! Good point about the maternity leave. I stayed home with my kids for the first few years, so I didn't have that experience, but I've heard it from other moms!

  39. Michelle says:

    You've pretty much nailed every point here. I was pretty much walking around the house topless the first few months. I was surprised at how 'un-shy' I was. I whipped out my breast as soon as baby needed feeding, even when there were other people around.

  40. Josie says:

    Hi Erica! I really think the "be a hater" was only put in for comedic purposes. Remember not to take some things too seriously! Take care!

  41. Nic says:

    This is possibly the best thing I ever read. I have a 8wk old and 2yr old and some days I feel like I'm doing a good job and have it all together, but other days I feel like a trainwreck. Thank you for this reminder, that we are all in this together and not to take ourselves too seriously.

  42. Amanda says:

    I saw this on Facebook and as a first time ever mom-to-be in four months, I am bookmarking this to read often after my little one arrives. I have a feeling your words will be my saving grace for years to come. Thank you!!

  43. mindthegapmotherhood says:

    Totally spot on, heartfelt and real. I love this kind of honesty! I'm mother to a nearly-6-year-old boy and I so needed to hear this kind of thing when I was in the midst of it. This is just beautiful: '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.' I write about motherhood and I hope to be able to touch people as much as this article has. Thank you :)

  44. Lisa says:

    Thank u!!! I feel so overwhelmed sometimes and this just came to me at the right time!! I feel so much better!! Thank you, thank you!!

  45. Lis says:

    Awesome article. I'll be pinning this one for future use once my baby arrives in a few months time. I have a feeling I'm going to need to read this from time to time and remind myself I'm doing a good job.

  46. Natalie Fernandez says:

    Brilliant read!!!! I laughed so hard it’s all true . Now excuse me while I go masturbate to clean houses on Pinterest !!!! Lmaoooooo

  47. post-sexist says:

    this seems nice and expresses some helpful sentiments for new mothers, but i (a baby-less young male, but a thoughtful and responsible one) am a bit offended by this paragraph:

  48. Judy Gawne Varias says:

    My very wise mother (I miss her dearly!) had 9 children. She used to say that someone should check on all mothers at ten in the morning to make sure they were doing alright. She was the best ! My two children are now 41 and 33. As babies they were non-stop nursers and did not sleep through the night for ages. Thank heaven for La Leche League and other moms to talk to. Sometimes before I go to sleep at night, I am so happy that I don't have to get up with a baby. However, I do miss those days of childrearing. They went by in a flash!

  49. Kevin says:

    WOW, I ended up here because my daughter has just had a baby, and i guess this article hit a cord with her. Its amazing how you managed to impart so many well aimed parenting tips and made it funny all at the same time.
    Its not often these days that people are told its O.K to feel like shit, be unkempt and zombie like in public. Its almost surreal in its simplicity.
    I'm a Dad, not a mom but regardless of that gender difference, I really enjoyed the "MOM" perspective and wished that someone had read this article to me 30 years ago when my daughter was just 3 months old. It resonates because its true, every damn word. congratulations for being so wise, and wiling to admit your imperfections.

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