Motherhood, Myself: An open letter to expecting moms

To new and expecting mothers,
(Or a reminder to myself when I (most likely) go through the beginning days of bringing a baby home again)

Whether this baby was dreamed of, prayed for and planned or a total surprise, no amount of books will prepare you. Feel free to read up on baby sleep, but your baby will sleep when it chooses to (or not). There is no way to schedule your newborn. A pattern will naturally emerge, don’t worry.

Your heart will race when your baby cries. You might even panic a bit when you feed her, change her diaper, burp her, and she continues to cry. Don’t worry– you aren’t doing anything wrong. Sometimes babies cry for no reason, and at first that will feel very stressful and maybe even like you are failing. You aren’t. You’re doing a great job. And if your baby never cries randomly then I don’t want to hear about it because you are lucky.

The first time you drive with your baby in your car (especially alone) feels like getting behind the wheel as a teenager all over again. You will be very aware of your surroundings and checking your mirrors. You might be tempted to watch your baby obsessively in your rear view mirror if you have a baby mirror. Be careful though, the last thing you need is to rear end someone. When your baby has a melt down in their carseat, don’t panic. She will survive! Turn up the radio a bit and sing along. Your blood pressure will go down and if you were a car performer during pregnancy your baby will know all about these private concerts and maybe even stop crying.

Despite your breasts being around specifically for the purpose of producing milk, breastfeeding doesn’t necessarily come easy. You might feel guilty when it’s time to feed your baby and you have a wave of dread because you are still in pain from those first few days of doing it incorrectly. Don’t feel guilty. And ask for help right away, because it can and will get better. Maybe your milk won’t come in or you’ll have struggles that make breastfeeding too large a challenge. That’s okay too! As long as your baby is fed it doesn’t matter how it happens. It feels like breastfeeding is quintessential to motherhood but it doesn’t have to be.

Your baby will wake up through the night and you will sleepily tend to her. You will change her, feed her, burp her, and try to rock her back to sleep. Your feet will begin to find the indented places of carpet where furniture used to be, before you made room for your baby. You will learn just how many paces of free space there are as you walk the room. And just as she falls asleep, she will poop and you will almost want to laugh that you have to unwrap her swaddle, change her, and do this all over again. Don’t worry, she will go back to sleep and so will you.

You will need time away from your baby, and that doesn’t say anything about who you are as a mom. It will be hard to admit it, and it will feel incredibly strange. It will be hard to enjoy that glass of wine in the tub when you can hear your baby crying downstairs with dad, but she will be okay and she needs you to be okay. So take the bath. Go to the store by yourself. You will appreciate how easy it is to grab your purse and keys and leave the house alone. You are not the only one that can keep your baby alive, she will survive with someone else for a little bit.

Smell her often. Her scent is amazing.

Feel her little body relax against yours.

Let her fall asleep on your chest. She won’t do it forever.

Trace her little features with your fingers. She will never be this tiny again.

Know that you are learning.

You are doing a great job.

“The moment a child is born, the mother is also born.
She never existed before.
The woman existed but the mother, never.
A mother is something absolutely new.”

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