I wrote this on my daughter’s 2nd birthday, a few weeks ago. This piece sat in my drafts folder while I contemplated whether or not I should post. Today, the feast day of the Immaculate Conception (Which I know is technically about Mary’s conception), I can’t help but think about how saying yes doesn’t always look pretty. Sometimes, being open to the vulnerability of what is out of our hands can feel like one giant contraction. But that’s how growth works. It may be difficult and painful, but there’s usually something incredible on the other side.
2 years ago today, I gave birth. I remember telling a mentor this time last year, “Yea I guess I’m just still processing her birth and my postpartum experience.” Without a beat, she replied, “Oh you’ll be doing that for the rest of your life.”
Dear newly postpartum Cassie,
Everything is scary. You feel like you’re drowning. You have forgotten what the light of day looks like. I promise it will return and I promise everything you are experiencing is temporary. Not that that helps in the moment, I suppose.
You will eat at a table again one day. You won’t eat fresh direct casseroles for the rest of your life. You will connect with your husband again. Just not for now.
They tell you to sleep when baby sleeps – you don’t like doing that. That’s ok – you don’t have to. You wonder why you aren’t bonding with your newborn. Everyone says the connection is like lightning from the second you lay your eyes on your babe. That’s the case for some – but not for everyone. Don’t rush it, your bond will come, slow and steady, but with the force of tectonic plates moving. Give it time, dear.
Your daughter has colic. She screams for hours. Sometimes it’s more than 6 hours a day. Nobody should be expected to go through that without some effect on their sanity. Hire the postpartum doula. Forget the money – it’s worth every precious penny. Hire a housekeeper once or twice a month while you’re at it. The baby is fine. The baby will be fine. Her needs are very simple. Yours, however, are not. So I beg of you, invest in yourself now. The 4th trimester is actually, mostly, about you. And trust me, the rest of the kid’s life is about them. So take the time now.
There are no parenting styles right now. There is only survival. You have years ahead of you to hone and refine the type of parent you want to be. That’s not today’s project. Today is not the day to become a french parent, a dutch parent, a free range parent, or a hippie love earth mama parent. Today’s project is to eat, sleep, heal, and recover. Which reminds me, accept help. ASK for help. You can’t do this alone! You shouldn’t do this alone!! When someone offers a casserole, the answer is, “Can you come tonight? I like chicken.”
Newborn babies are blobs. They don’t really have much personality (especially before that first smile) and they’re kind of…boring? They sleep (or not), they poop, they move their hands in weird ways, they cry, and they boob. Sometimes I feel like we think a 9 week old baby should behave like a 12 month old. Not that a 9 week old isn’t cute in its own way. And it’s good to talk so the baby can hear words and what not – but you don’t have to pretend to have conversations about the ethical and moral implications of (fill in the blank with the current news of the day). It’s okay to not talk to your newborn. Sometimes you just want to do those dishes in silence. The days of talking will come – oh they will. I promise. Maybe silence isn’t so bad in this season.
You will feel guilty about holding her when she cries. Or wearing her while she sleeps. There are no bad habits right now. A nap schedule? Wtf is that? Nobody knows! And def not your newborn. Your kid doesn’t even know that she’s not still inside of you. She can’t even see, save for shapes and blobs. You can’t spoil the baby. Use the boob. Please, it only works a short time. The boob will solve 99.99% of your baby’s needs right now. Speaking of boob, get alllll the lactation support. Hire the IBCLC. (It will end up being a lasting relationship and you will more than get the $300 out of it.) If someone gives you advice that doesn’t sit right with you – ask for another opinion. Don’t settle. Find your cheerleaders and focus on them. Breastfeeding really does get so much better. Find your village, get your army, and lean on them until it does.
Oh the 5 letter word. You know the one – it rhymes with sheep. Put the damn books down. Unsubscribe from the email lists and block the facebook groups. It will work itself out. I promise you this. The sleep industry is fueled by fear. Don’t buy into it! Your personality really doesn’t fit well with sleep training, basically you’re inconsistent (re: lazy). So work with it, don’t work against it. This can be your friend. Shut off your damn phone at 2am. Stop counting the hours – coffee is lifeblood. Just relax. Your daughter will become the most amazing independent soul. She will sleep through the night on her own but it won’t be easy getting there. Take care of yourself, take care of yourself, take care of yourself. OH. And buy a king size bed. It will be life changing.
You will go to a lot of mom’s groups in the beginning because you are desperate for human conversation and a semblance of socialization. Maybe go easy on the moms group thing. You weren’t the type to socialize daily before having a baby so don’t expect yourself to suddenly blossom into a socialite. (Besides, all they do is talk about sleep at the groups and you’ll walk away feeling like a giant failure anyways.) The mom friends will come. Again, just give it time.
Basically, postpartum is one giant, emotional, extension of labor. You might just walk away from this thing with the tools and grace and patience to become the parent you want to be when that time comes. Until then, get as many massages as you can. Indulge your postpartum appetite, and enjoy the taste of beer again on your palate before crashing for the night at 8:30 pm. This, too, shall pass. Pinky promise.