Thursday, May 10, 2012

Survival Mode: In the Trenches of Motherhood

Dear new mom,

Yes, I'm talking to you. Whether this is your first child, your second, or your seventh, you are a brand-spanking new mama, because you have never parented this particular child before...and you only just met them.

I know that being post-partum sucks. I don't know if it does for everyone, but I know that it does for you. I know you wish the weight would just drop off like it seems to for other moms you know. I know you wish you had fewer moments of anxiety and anger and more moments of serenity and joy. I also know you feel guilty for feeling your feelings...and also for writing such a terrible sentence. But you know what? It doesn't help a thing, the guilt. And it isn't from God.

You aren't sleeping yet, and that is perhaps the hardest part...harder even than the harsh reality of maternity clothes weeks and weeks after delivery. Your baby cries and cries when you put him down because he is basically obsessed with you and with the food you provide, and while flattered, you are also beaten down. His needs are trumping yours at every turn, and it feels like you have surrendered complete control of your life.

You have.

But not forever.

I know it's almost as obnoxious to hear reassurances that 'this too shall pass,' and 'it won't be like this forever,' as it was to hear the same about month 10 of pregnancy...but it's true. It was true then and it is true now.

This too shall pass.

Believe it or not, there will come a night when you sleep undisturbed from 9 pm to 1 am, wakened only by your own panic that nobody has woken me up yet!

It will happen. It might be 2 months from now, or it might be a year away, depending upon this particular child, but eventually they ALL sleep. For a few hours, at least.

There will come an afternoon in the not too distant future where you look up at the clock and wonder where the time has gone, instead of wondering why it's standing still. And you won't feel the overwhelming need to reach for a glass of wine as the 4 o'clock hour descends upon you. (Well, you might still, but it will be for social and not medicinal purposes)

Your husband will arrive home from work and you'll look up with a smile and say 'home already?' And you'll be completely sincere.

There will come a time when your baby smiles at you, says your name, even. And that will somehow make this all worth it. It sounds trite and a little saccharine, but it's true. Baby smiles are repayment for sleeplessness and stretch marks. You just don't know that now.

As for the stretch marks, they will fade. They won't disappear, but then, neither will your memory of pregnancy and childbirth. Time will fade both, but it won't erase anything...and that's okay. Your husband didn't marry you for your flawless midriff, and bikinis after 30 are, quite frankly, embarrassing, so rock that one piece mama.

As for the rest of your body...well, don't hold your breath waiting to 'get it back.' That's a lie our culture has fed us, and a myth that too many mothers have embraced.

You can never 'get back' your pre-baby body, no more than you can 'give back' your child. The sooner you stop looking around for it, the more peace you'll find. You can get back into shape...maybe even better shape than life BB (before baby), but you will never again look like someone who hasn't had children. Because you are a mother. You earned this body.

Your child will eventually stop nursing. You can't imagine it now, but this will be bittersweet when it happens...and though the developing language skills and adventurous spirit of your toddler will be an awesome trade off from mewling, dependent'll still miss it. The closeness, the convenience, and the feeling that you and you alone can satisfy this little person. (You'll also be completely overwhelmed and resentful of this same phenomenon, and that's fine too.)

Motherhood is more of an epic saga than a tightly-woven narrative. There are peaks and valleys and seemingly endless sections that hardly seem to move the plot...and then suddenly everything changes, and even though you wanted so badly to see some progress, it also breaks your heart, because you also want time to stop, to slow down at least.

I know you feel like you're trapped here in this hard part right now, and in a way, you are. So use it for eternity...use it for the little souls who won't give you a moment's peace, or to sharpen and shape your own character so you don't awaken at 3am cursing the clock but rejoicing over the opportunity to serve your family.

And don't worry about that glass of wine delaying your weight loss efforts. I mean, it might be, but  can one really put a price on sanity?

Hope this helps a little. If not, I've read far more uplifting words of maternal wisdom here.

Just keep your head up and don't stop praying. You got this.


The Mom You'll Become


  1. Great post! I'm getting ready to go through this for the second time, and needed a good pop

  2. I REALLLLLLLLLY needed to read this a few months ago. Why did I not plan things better and have a baby when you had a baby?

    I'm such an idiot.

    superb -- as always. you have a gift.

  3. so beautiful, jenny. can you send this to me whenever we have our next kid? You've inspired me to be more reflective and less help-me-i'm-in-a-daze-and-can't-remember-anything-and-i'm-crying-at-every-single-thing. thanks :)

    1. you got it I sit here reading comments and considering whether to laugh or cry because it's oooooonly 4 pm and they are both melting, of course. I must confess the moments of reflection are mingled with waves of panic and stress...

  4. Wonderful, insightful and true. You are an inspiration, Mama!

  5. thank you so much. i'm about to give birth to our first in about six weeks (or, you know, whenever the little one decides to show his face) and am going to save this for the days and weeks right after, when i feel like a complete freak. thank you, thank you.

  6. Remind me to read this again in 6.2 weeks when I'll be 1 week post partum and sobbing about everything!

  7. awesome! You nailed it!! Thanks for the reflection.

  8. I cannot express how much I needed to read this. Thank you.

  9. My baby is six weeks old today and instead of sleeping when the baby sleeps (as advised) I'm lurking around on the internet, because it feels SO GOOD to have some quiet time to myself. And even though I'm reveling in being alone, I cried earlier because this baby is growing up way too fast. Where did my tiny little guy go?

  10. What I'm trying to say, and I hit publish too soon, is thanks for posting this.

  11. THANK YOU! I needed this. My baby is 8 months old now, and still nurses 3-4 times a night and hates napping. So often I feel like, "I can't wait until she's older" but I feel so guilty. This was great to read, thank you.


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