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

Via Lynn Shattuck
on Sep 18, 2013
get elephant's newsletter
image by Lynn Shattuck

image by Lynn Shattuck

 

Want 15 additional free elephant reads a week, just our best, all linked in one email? Get our Best of Newsletter.

Relephant Reads: Postpartum Dad Depression.

5 Simple Ways that Even You Can Support a New Mama Today!

Recovering Postpartum: To Yoga or Not to Yoga.

Ayurveda Q&A with Dr. John Douillard: Pregnancy and Post-Partum Health

 

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.

~

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

 

Like elephant family on Facebook.

 

Ed: Bryonie Wise

690,457 views

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.

Comments

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

  1. lynnola says:

    Wow, congrats Chris! Thanks for your kind comment, and best of luck with your birth!

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. lynnola says:

    Oh, thanks Alex! Hang in there. The teething sucks!

  8. lynnola says:

    Aw, thank you Katrina! Love right back to you.

  9. 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

  10. 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. 🙂

  11. 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????? 🙂

  12. 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!! 🙂

  13. 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!

  14. 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.

  15. knuck1es says:

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

  16. Alicia says:

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

  17. 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. 🙂

  18. 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!

  19. 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.

  20. 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!

  21. 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.

  22. 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!!

  23. 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 🙂

  24. 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!!

  25. 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.

  26. lynnola says:

    Thanks, first time momzie! Glad you are able to keep your sense of humor! So important.

  27. lynnola says:

    Hi Sarah, glad you and your kids are safe now, and that life is better. Sending well wishes your way.

  28. lynnola says:

    Haha! I'm in Maine. Take good care!

  29. 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!

  30. lynnola says:

    Thank you, April!

  31. lynnola says:

    Aww, thanks Claire! My best to you and your baby!

  32. lynnola says:

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

  33. lynnola says:

    Thank you, knuck1es!

  34. lynnola says:

    I agree, Alicia! Thanks for your comment.

  35. lynnola says:

    I love the term Momnesia! I hadn't heard that one before. Thanks for your comments!

  36. 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

  37. 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:

  38. 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!

  39. 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.

  40. 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.

  41. 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. 🙂

  42. 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!

  43. Muiz1 says:

    Classic piece!

  44. 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.

  45. Curse you, autocorrect! How could you roll over diaper?

  46. 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.

  47. 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!

  48. lynnola says:

    Isn't it funny how modesty just flies out the window? Thanks for your comment.

  49. lynnola says:

    Thanks Nic! I feel the same way!