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

Via Lynn Shattuck
on Sep 18, 2013
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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. 


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.


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.


Bonus: How to Get Children to Eat Vegetables Using School Gardens:


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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.


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

  1. karlsaliter says:


  2. Cris says:


  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:


  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. lynnola says:

    Thanks for commenting!

  8. lynnola says:

    Glad you enjoyed.

  9. lynnola says:

    Oh, Amber, thank you! Hang in there. And yes, try to get some breaks! Be gentle with yourself.

  10. lynnola says:

    Thank you Meg! Take good care.

  11. 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

  12. 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.

  13. 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

  14. 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!

  15. 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

  16. elephantjournal says:

    I looove this. And I'm a childless bachelor who never slows down enough to read about parenting…stuff. Thank you for this! ~ Waylon.

  17. lynnola says:

    Love this comment! Thank you.

  18. 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.

  19. lynnola says:

    Oh, thank you Melissa! Congrats on the new baby. Yes, the house stuff will wait. Cuddles are priceless.

  20. lynnola says:

    Oh, thank you Waylon! You just made my evening. : )

  21. 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.

  22. 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.

  23. 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!

  24. 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!

  25. 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.

  26. @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

  27. 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!

  28. Bonnie lefebvre says:

    Where was this advise fifty yrs ago. Brilliant

  29. 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.

  30. 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.

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

  32. 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…

  33. lynnola says:

    Haha, I love it, Ellen! Same here. The gap between the mother I thought I would be and the mother I actually am is a wide one.

  34. lynnola says:

    Congrats on baby #3! Sure, you can add a link to this post on your blog. I will check it out!

  35. lynnola says:

    Thanks! Take good care.

  36. 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!

  37. lynnola says:

    Thanks Laura! I never would've thought so much of my parental energy would be focused on getting little people to sleep (and to stay asleep)!

  38. babybird says:

    Beautiful and charming, thank you

  39. 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.

  40. lynnola says:

    Thank you so much for your comment.

  41. lynnola says:

    Thank you babybird!

  42. Melissa says:

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

  43. 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.

  44. 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 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 even without a baby..thanks

  45. 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

  46. lynnola says:

    Haha, thanks Melissa!