Monday, November 11

To you my friend, a new mother

Dear ----,
I think I was continually blown away by the beauty and the hardship of being a mother. There really should be a new vocabulary or language since all the words we've ever used for other life experiences just can't express the reality of it. I was shocked sometimes that millions of women go through birth and motherhood and that it had always seemed so blase or normal to me, until I experienced it for myself. I also suffered from severe post partum depression which for me meant severe anxiety (my mind was always racing) and I wish I had gotten that treated right away instead of thinking if I could just figure it out and balance things like I wanted to I would be on top of my game.
I kept thinking of women all over the world at that moment who had infants and were caring for them, just like me. I couldn't believe it could be so hard...and no one had ever revealed it to me. Our language doesn't suffice, I know now.

My July/Aug/Sept posts from 2012 deal a lot with struggling to find a balance. Here's July.
Motherhood is something that if you are one, you know; and if you are not one, you just won't fully grasp its nuances. I felt connected to all mothers all over the world. They KNOW without needing to be told, and I found that so supportive.
Know that each day, each hour, things are getting easier. Tomorrow is always a new day. What is causing hardship one day might have suddenly passed by the next. It doesn't seem like it now, but infancy is a short time and she will be sleeping more and you will be more rested quite soon. Sleep when she sleeps if you can. I used to go to bed with Cedar at 7pm since he nursed every 90 minutes at one point. Yes, that sucked, but at least I was getting snatches of sleep!

Here we are during his early months. I hadn't been out much and was so exhausted and fragile and teary: my eyelids are so thick! I just wanted to sleep and get a break and I couldn't because he wouldn't let me. Becoming a mom is a huge rite of passage. It's hard. You can't get away. You just have to keep going. And it is so hard to accept that. It's surreal. It's like labor.

They are only babies once. I used to try to imagine myself at 80, thinking back to those early days with Cedar, when he was just a wee thing and wishing I could be there again and pretending I was given an hour to time travel back and hold him. That helped sometimes! I think I did that every day at one point.

I had to let go of a lot of things I wanted to do ~ that I was sure would be best for Cedar and I ~ because it really didn't work for us. Co-sleeping, for one. I coslept until he was 3 months and every time the bed moved he would awake and want to nurse. I was completely delirious. I so wish I would have had him sleep in a Moses basket from early on. Another thing I heard a lot was how babies need to nap hearing the household noises so they get used to them. Well, Cedar woke up a lot till I scrapped that and moved his naps to his room with an air filter on for white noise!
Tons of people will give advice (like me!), and I found that both helpful and stressful. I compared myself, thinking I was doing things wrong since Cedar wasn't sleeping through the night/napping in the morning/etc.. like their baby did. And you know what? It all works out in the end. Children adapt. Everything I did I did for the best and it got me to where I am. The learning curve is huge and personal. Cedar calls me to my highest self.
The only absolute in parenting is that there are no absolutes in parenting. Every wonderful snippet of advice family and friends pass on might sound ideal but might not work for you. In the end, the way you mother is the way you mother, there is no 'right way', and whatever you guys do is cool for you.

Pamper yourself. Now is the time. Any woman who is a mom KNOWS how the months after the birth are hardest, with offers of help tapering off, so don't hold back in really asking favors. A friend of mine recommended a list of things needing to be done (fold laundry, vacuum kitchen, watch the baby for 30 min's so you can take a slow bath or go for a walk or do artwork) and when visitors come over, you can point to the list and say how much you would appreciate their help. I SO wish I had done that! I kept trying to be a good hostess and this is just not the time for it. Everything changes when you have a baby.

It is so essential to take care of yourself. A clean(ish) house is important to me so we hired someone to come every 2 or 3 weeks and dust, clean the bathrooms, vacuum, mop and tidy. I wish I had done that in week 1! It is worth the peace of mind and for months I didn't have to think about cleaning and it was such a load off my mind. Of course, I could have rallied and done it myself, or asked Tim to do it more often, but...I just needed a break, and having a baby is THE time to do this kind of thing. It's hard to say no to doing too much.
I also got pedicures for about a year.That little luxury of changing colors (emerald! gold! teal! yellow!) through the winter months made me smile each time I saw my toes.
Caring for a baby is a full time job.
It blows my mind how hard it can be to keep everything up with the mind on baby and the hormones flooding. It looks as if it should be easier on the outside of things but there were many days when I just cried, trying to find the balance and rally when my energy was low and so much needed to be done. (Or did it?)

Breastfeeding was really hard in the beginning. I never had bleeding nipples but it just was really painful on the sensitive skin. Around the 3 week mark I didn't even want to hold Cedar much because I knew he would want to nurse and it seemed like he was on the boob all the time and it hurt! You never really get a break! But then my skin calloused and it started to get better. Lansinoh reallllly helped me too.
But there is a lot of pressure on moms to breastfeed and I think it's okay to keep in the back of your mind the option that maybe that's not for you, and you would still be a marvelous mama if so.

The labor doesn't end when the baby comes out. So many times I have used the same slow controlled breathing I did during my contractions to get through a stressful situation with Cedar ~ breastfeeding when it hurt (just taking it moment by moment), getting ready to go out when I was already late and finding he had pooped through his pants, despairing at how hard it is to cook healthy meals for myself on a week of 4 hours of sleep a night...
This too shall pass. You can do this. You are the best mother for her. It will get easier, soon. I heard that and didn't believe it, and yet it turned out to be true. You are not alone. Babies make us build community since we just can't do it all on our own!
Anyways, I probably contradicted myself a bunch but there it is.

xoxo Brooke