January 3, 2012

Dear Married New Mom Sue…(a letter to my new mom self and new moms everywhere)

In this age of Facebook and other social media sources I find myself bearing witness to the lives of others in a way didn’t exist a mere 5 years ago. Parties, birthdays, break-ups, make-ups, new jobs and big moves are all shared over Facebook and Twitter and I have to admit I find comfort in knowing what people are up to. I have been moved to tears as I followed a friend’s journey through her diagnosis of Leukemia, chemotherapy and bone marrow transplants and—in the end—her death.

One of the most enjoyable things for me is witnessing the journey of my friends’ pregnancies, births and new motherhood. Back when I was having babies the culture of online communities (or online anything) just didn’t exist and there was an isolation that came along with new motherhood that left me feeling homicidal a little down. Because of this I try to give my pregnant and new mom friends the best advice and words of comfort that I can—I know it would have really helped me if I had these words of wisdom when I had my first son. So now that my children are back on school after Christmas break, I will write to myself the words that would have helped me as a new mom.

Dear Married New Mom Sue,

First of all, your boobs will return to normal eventually. Those watermelon-sized-hard-as-rock-super-orbs chill out after about four months. You’ve had moldy sour cream in your fridge for longer than that so just ride this one out. And though lack of sleep and painful leaky boobs may seem like big problems right now trust me when I say life gets a whole lot more challenging in about 11 years so just relax, go get more nursing pads and get used to smelling like sour milk for a few months. You’re not gonna feel sexy for a while—call it nature’s birth control.

Also, that gorgeous little baby you now have? Enjoy every single solitary moment with him. Snuggle with him. Gaze at him when he wakes you at night. Take in all you can of that incredibly intoxicating little boy smell. When he gets to be a toddler and has those tiny little baby teeth and that sweet intoxicating baby breath smell, take that in too. Try to remember that smell. Eventually that sweet breath will be gone. Hug him despite his new bad breath because in 15 years you will be lucky to get a hug out of him, and when you do it will feel a lot like hugging a scare-crow—kind of a one way thing.

Start yoga now.

Don’t sweat the small stuff. Really. Everything from the pacifier to the refusal to wear clothes (yes, even for four straight years) and wash hair, the sleep difficulties, the tantrums and everything else have an expiration date. They really, really do. After 5 years he really will stop waking up at 5am and by the time that little baby is 15 he will be sleeping until noon, showering all by himself, taking public transportation, getting his own food and in general—not needing you! Enjoy this time when your babe needs you for everything. And save your money for therapy (and daily yoga classes) during the teen years.

This one is important: Don’t you ever, ever for even just one second feel guilty about taking that one day for yourself. You know that dude you are married to? The one who spends a lot of time and energy convincing you that you are a bad, selfish mom? Yeah, he’s out of the picture in about 11 years or so. Taking care of yourself is being a good mom.

I know that this time seems like the hardest time in your life. You no longer have the freedom to do what you want, when you want, how you want. There is someone who needs you now for everything, all the time, and there is little room for you at all. No more freedom, no more spontaneity and no more time to yourself. But believe me, the hardest time for is when you have to let go. For the birth of this baby made you suddenly feel what you were put on this earth to do—raise this child. You feel it in every cell of your body. You never thought that love like this was possible or existed. Your biggest heartache is to come. Not from discovering that your husband and the father of this child lied and deceived you for 14 years. Not from the death of any relationship, friend, or loved one, but from the searing pain of having to let go of this child who came into this world and offered you the role of mother. He will make it very clear to you that he no longer needs you or wants you and it is this heartache, which will challenge you like none other. But it is just a time to renegotiate what being a mother means. No longer will you be needed to hold, to rock, to feed, to hug, to snuggle, to kiss boo-boos, to read stories, to sing songs, to go to the playground, to set up play-dates or to change diapers. You will be needed to hold space, to model being mentally, spiritually and emotionally healthy, to listen, to encourage, to communicate, to trust (you’ll need to work on this one) and to love this child in a way that he may not acknowledge until he’s 25.

So read these words and try to remember that this little boy who you hold in your arms will grow. And though it seems like you have given up your life, in just a dozen years or so you will want to cling to this new life until your fingernails fall off.

If you remember anything from this letter, please remember this: Embrace and sink into every moment with this child because though it is hard to understand right now—this time does not last forever. For as hard as it is to become a new mother—the task of letting go is about as hard as it gets.

Single Mother of Teenager Sue

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