Sunday, June 23, 2013

To my Postpartum Self: What I Wish I had Known


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, and 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 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 saying things like, “Please take your penis out of the windowsill.” Go ahead and 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 drips down your skin and you 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 droop 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. 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 husband for help. He does not mean to just sit there in his chair playing Mortal Kombat. He will eventually show more interest in the baby, when it can giggle and hug and go to baseball games. But for now, he needs you to tell him you need help. Ask.

When you do, don’t tell him how to care for your child. Or tell him, but then let it go. He will probably watch Pulp Fiction with your baby. He will let your precious little one gnaw on pizza crusts like a junkyard dog. Your baby will be okay on both counts.

And then leave the house. If you don’t, your husband will rise from his chair like Zeus. He will find you, and he 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 overschedule 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 articles 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? And 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.


  1. That's great, Lynn. Just forwarded it to a friend who has a newborn.

  2. Love, love, love this! It's all so true.

  3. Thank you Jen! Thanks for sharing it on f-book.

    1. Tweeted it as well. Do you have a Twitter account?

    2. Thanks Jen. I do but I don't really know how to use it!

  4. I love everything in this post. Especially "mombie". We definitely don't need any mombies running around. Though I will admit I was a mombie through a lot of my children's infancy. You've reminded me of the riptide effect of phases, because at 4 and 7 it is still true of my children. Just because they are yelling at me (constantly) this week does not mean they will end up getting expelled from high school for disorderly conduct. Make sure you take this post out again in a year and read it again. Or maybe, if you're anything like me, next week.

  5. Kelly, thank you so much! A friend of mine plugged your post on self-care at the same time she plugged this post, so I got to check yours out as well. And I suspect I am something like you, and will need to remember this advice in year, next week, and in about an hour!

  6. Thank you Lynn!

    I hope all those desperate sleep deprived, second guessing mamas out there are able to find this post.
    Oh, how I wish I would have had much needed accesss to this information when I so desperatelly needed it in the very begining. But am SO grateful that I have it now. I remember the simple but wise words of a seasoned mama who looked at me in my desperate state when my daughter was 6 months old and I was struggling so much. She told me to hang on and that "it does get better." I didn't believe her then but now I know that yes, even as new challenges arise, sometimes daily, and I have no idea what to do,it helps to remind myself of this. It does get better.
    Still, I am so glad and find much comfort in knowing that I know where to find this post when those inevitable hard times hit. I suppose it's all part of this parenting journey.

  7. Thank you Dorota!

    Yes, it does get better. Thank goodness for that. It stinks that it is so hard when you're struggling and caring for a new baby. It seems so unfair, especially because it's supposed to be such a blessed time. I think we could all get better at normalizing that having a new baby can be hard and blessed. Awful and amazing.

  8. The tribe thing was huge for me. I'm forever grateful that I picked up a MOPS pamphlet in the pediatrician's waiting room and joined a local group within the first 2 months of living as a family with a baby. These were the people who encouraged me to allow her to suck a binky if it would only keep me sane. That TV was not going to melt an infant brain. That it was OK to be selfish and send my babe to the nursery during meetings. That real mothering was nothing like a parenting book. And it's ALL OK!

    1. That is awesome Kari. It is so all okay! Whatever works, works. Glad you found that support early on. So important.