Monday, June 8, 2015
Notes to a new mom
Before you have your baby, I want to tell you a few things.
First: You have to go through this brief, very physical rite of initiation. You've been training for it the last nine months, and the actual marathon event is *almost* here. One day, one event, one baby at the end. Labor and delivery is such a teeny sliver of motherhood. It's the crumb before the cake of parenting. It's the doorway you pass through, not the hallway or the room.
I was so nervous thinking about what that experience would be like, to bring my baby from a parasitic creature wholly dependent on my body to a free, unattached being out in the world, mewling and wailing, kicking, grasping at air with tiny fingers. For weeks before the delivery, I drank raspberry leaf tea and listened to meditations about birthing. But in hindsight, those hours are just a microscopic dot in the timeline of motherhood. The most important thing about labor and delivery is that it is the process by which you get to meet your baby. How that happens will be a blur compared to the awesome experience of meeting your child.
Second: Trust yourself and trust your partner. If you feel nervous about something, talk to each other about it. If you're tired, ask for relief. Don't fret if a friend, relative or stranger opts to parent their kid differently than you parent yours. I follow the Amy Poehler school of thought: "Good for her, not for me!" You and your baby-daddy are the only two people whose opinion ultimately matters. But when in doubt, vent to a fellow mother you respect.
About your partner: There are moms in the world who don't trust their partners with their kids. That sucks. But if you have a smart, caring husband, then let him take charge of the baby so you can rest, shower, or get some alone time. There are few joys in the world better than standing back, eavesdropping from another room and hearing your husband and your baby giggling at each other.
Third: Make time for yourself as an individual and make time for your relationships. Being a mom is so important to me, and I enjoy being around my kid. But I realize after 19 months of parenting that I let my social needs lapse somewhere along the way. Don't lose yourself because you have a baby. Your identity will now include the word mom, but it hasn't become only mom.
Connect to things that make you feel human and adult: A good meal at a nice restaurant, a stroll around an art museum, an indie music concert. Or maybe it's just time spend buying supplies for a home craft project, or leisurely strolling through a grocery store without a kid to mind. Maybe it's going to a yoga class. Maybe it's watching a movie, in a theater, with a box of overpriced theater candy in hand.
I got so many offers of free babysitting when my boy was a squishy, immobile infant. I should have said yes a little more. A few more date nights would've been nice. Even though you and your husband will be spending a lot of time together, carve out space for the two of you, child-free. Talk about non-baby things. Talk about pop culture and life and vacation plans. Talk about work. Talk about neighborhood gossip. Or just stare exhaustedly into each other's eyes, hold hands and drink very large cocktails. You deserve that, too!
Fourth: Be kind. To your baby; to your self; to your husband. This is really a re-hash of the above points, but a good lead-in to one of my favorite Kurt Vonnegut quotes. Feel free to read aloud to your baby when she arrives or to yourself when you need a reminder about how to live life generally.
"Hello, babies. Welcome to Earth. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded. At the outside, babies, you’ve got about a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of, babies—God damn it, you’ve got to be kind."