Within the next month, two very close friends of mine will each give birth to her own little baby girl… each of them about to embark on motherhood for the first time. They’re due within two days of one another. One friend I have only known a short time, less than two years, and the other friend I have known since my first day of high school… many, many moons ago. Since I learned of their happy news, I’ve thought of each of them almost daily as they each prepare for a sweet baby. I’ve prayed for them both, thought of them during those 3 am feedings with my own newborn, hugged them each at their baby showers…. I have so much that I want to say to them before the day arrives. Since I probably won’t get to see either of them before that day, I’ll just say it here.
First of all, I’m so happy for you. I wish I could be there to witness that moment when you finally hold her for the first time and you take in the miracle that truly is birthing a baby. I cried with both of mine. Kenny and I both did. It was a moment that shook me to my core. A moment that I’ll never forget, even if I do forget the rest of the details that led to it. Which leads me to also to tell you something that no one bothered to tell me with my first child. Childbirth, despite the fact that it’s one of the most romanticized events in our society, is an ugly, messy, and scary thing. People talk about how beautiful it is. I couldn’t disagree more. The baby is what is beautiful. The making of a mother and father, beautiful. Childbirth? It’s terrifying. It’s painful and awkward and disgusting. I still can’t understand why people video it or even photograph parts of it. To be honest, my husband and I have both agreed that the labor and delivery parts just aren’t things that we care to remember. It’s terrifying to not know if the baby is okay… to not know what to expect… to know the possibilities and have no way of preparing for things if they take a turn for the worse. Having that precious little person handed to you is the only reason it’s worth all of the terror and pain.
Second of all, there might be a period of time after baby is born that you just don’t feel like you. Not only do you look different, but you just don’t feel the same. Let me tell you that is normal. How can you possibly be the same? You’re a mother now!! An entire human just exited your body and entered your life full time!! I wish after James had been born someone would have shaken me a little and said, “It’s okay! Don’t try so hard to act like nothing has changed!!” Don’t be so hard on yourself. You’ll get to know the new parts of you. You’ll figure it all out eventually. If you ever need to call me to yell or cry or threaten your husband with immediate death if he doesn’t learn to sneeze silently, I’m here for you. No judgement. As a woman who lost her mind after childbirth and took a few years to find it, there’s really nothing you can say that would shock me. 🙂
Also, I hope you have a sleepy baby. I hope she loves to sleep and smile and eat. In that order. All day every day for about four months. If, however, you end up with a baby who only sleeps under certain impossible conditions, or a baby who cries far more often than she smiles, or a baby who spits up every ounce she takes, it’s okay. It doesn’t mean she’s defective or you’re defective. Let me share my motto with you. My motto to motherhood is “It’s just a stage.” Everything is a stage. Don’t get too comfortable or uncomfortable. Whatever she is doing is temporary. I don’t know how temporary, but it’s temporary. I told myself James would never sleep through the night. Now, he sleeps through the night 75% of the time. The other 25% he gets me up to cuddle and to tell me that he loves me. I can deal with that. That is just a stage, though. Eventually, he won’t need to see me during the night.
My other motto is connected to that train of thought: SHE WILL SLEEP EVENTUALLY. There might be days that you think that your baby is never going to fall asleep. When James was a newborn, he didn’t like to sleep. He was so curious that he was up constantly. I assumed he should be sleeping, so I battled him about this several times a day, leading me to a state of exhaustion and frustration that isn’t healthy for anyone. You know what I should have done? Chilled out. I should have held him a little. Kissed his head, lain him in a nice, comfy spot and gone to do the dishes or take a shower. He would have slept so much more if I’d just calmed down a little. I see that now that I have Kody and I do just that, which leads me to this.
It’s okay to let her cry. If you’re in the shower and she’s fussing. It’s okay. Put her in the bouncy seat and take a shower. If you need to take a few minutes to eat and she just happens to get hungry in the middle of your meal, it’s okay. Let her fuss while you finish. A happy mommy who eats and sleeps a little is much more capable of caring for a baby. You don’t have to feel guilty. I don’t know when women started believing that it was bad if her baby cried. I know it can make you crazy when they cry, but sometimes you just have to let them, and that doesn’t make you negligent or a bad mom.
Lastly, trust your instincts. You are both smart, successful women. I would entrust each of you to care for my babies and soon the world will entrust you with your own. Go with your gut. You kind of have to those first few months because it’s so hard to communicate with a person who can’t speak words or even make hand gestures. If you think she’s hungry, feed her. If you think she’s tired, lie her down for a nap. If you think she wants to be held, hold her. You’ll be right far more often than you’ll be willing to give yourself credit. If you want to read up on something online, do it. Use your resources but trust yourself, too. You will know your baby better than anyone else, no matter how unprepared you feel about motherhood. Don’t be afraid to seek advice and don’t be afraid to stand by the decisions you make. If sleeping with your baby every night is what gets your whole household a good night’s rest, don’t let anyone make you feel bad for that. As long as you’re caring for her, it’s really no one’s business. Learn from your mistakes, which you’ll inevitably make. All mothers make them. And love that baby. The rest will eventually fall into place. You will realize one day that your baby is thriving and happy and you’re responsible for that. I hope you’ll let me know when you reach that day, so we can celebrate it. It’s a wonderful feeling to finally realize that you’re a good mom. I know you will be. I can’t wait to meet her. Congratulations, friend.