This past weekend, I co-hosted a baby shower for a good friend, Kat. I was asked to say a few words to her and well, if anyone knows me, I have a lot of feelings.
This was what I wrote and read and I will encourage parents or anyone with a child coming into their lives to try and hear these words and take them to heart.
To my friend as she begins the adventure of motherhood.
Becoming a mother is a different experience for everyone. For me, it was beautiful, and terrifying, and profoundly and fundamentally life altering. But before you think I am going to be too sappy, it is also exhausting and humbling and just….so….gross.
Never before have I obsessed about poop like I have since my kids were born. I have asked my husband, doctors, my mother, and sweet teenaged babysitters about the quantity, consistency, and frequency of my kid’s poops. It’s a thing, trust me.
Things you might previously have been disgusted by will at some point, cover you. Thankfully, I’ve avoided getting any in my mouth. But I think you get the picture. Being a mom is going to be gross.
It can also be frustrating. Okay that is an understatement. In the middle of the night, when you are exhausted, starving, and in desperate need of a shower, a small being will wail and you have to guess off of a short list what need that child has right now. There have been nights that I held a sobbing baby, and I sobbed right along with them. I have asked multiple deities to translate baby speak, and I have directly asked infants to tell me what they need. Despite my best wishes, neither of my kids learned English until they were at least one….baby sign language helped but only so much.
To add to that frustration, is the unending stream of advice. Some people will tell you only breastfeeding counts. Some will tell you formula and bottles are fine. Some will say you must only use cloth diapers. Some will say that using a stroller will emotionally scar your child by constantly reinforcing you wanting to push them away from you. Some people will tell you that you have to let your baby cry himself to sleep if you want for them to be well-adjusted, while others will insist that you rock your children until they are 12.
Sometimes it is easy to nod and smile and take their advice with grace. And other times you smile and nod and think about shoving those all-natural-organic-cloth diapers somewhere the sun won’t shine.
I try to remember that when people give especially unsolicited advice, it is because they want to help make your life easier. Likely these methods have worked for them or someone they knew, and they hope that in some way their words of wisdom will give you some peace. Other moms especially have a hard time watching another mom struggle without trying to help. I hope you can remember that when the time comes, and it will.
Now comes the point of this diatribe. You are about to change your life forever.
That sounds scary as hell doesn’t it? But there is a reason that we celebrate these things. It is not because giving birth to a new child is particularly unique on this planet, but that each child brought into this world deserves celebration. And each mother that is able to celebrate the birth of their child should also celebrate herself.
Each birth story is different and if you’re lucky it will happen the way you hope that it will. But at the end of the story, you are undergoing a Rite of Passage that not everyone is able to undergo. Be it by birth, as it is in your case, or by other means, bringing home a child that depends upon you for everything, changes you forever.
There will be loneliness. When you have only spent time with your baby and have had no other adult interaction.
There will be fear, when you baby doesn’t poop for days, when they have fevers or cough so much they can’t breathe.
There will be exhaustion when you’ve been awake too long, grabbed and pinched too much, and pray for naps long enough for you to rest as well. (If you get the chance to nap, always nap).
There will be so…Much…Laundry. I just had no idea.
But there will also be joy. In the oddest of places and for the oddest of times. I’ve laughed and cried at so many small things. And the first time I heard “mama”…I bawled. To be honest, I still do.
But if I have a wish for you, it is that you find those moments of joy and cherish them. That you find those moments of fear and those moments of exhaustion and those moments of loneliness and reach out to others. Know when you need to tap in a husband, a mother mother-in-law or friend that you can and should. I like to joke that sometimes I put myself in time out when I really need a break.
You might need to relearn to care for yourself as well. Asking for help is part of that gig
And if I have advice to give, it is to trust yourself. You know your child better than anyone and not to get too scientific about it but you are chemically and genetically tied to this baby. If you worry something is amiss, never ever hesitate to ask..
There will be all new worries, don’t fear them, but don’t let them overcome you.
There will be loneliness, it is normal, but also has an easy solution.
There will be exhaustion, that is unavoidable, but reach out if it gets too much.
There will be insecurity, every single mother has it, likely even your mom, your mother-in-law, even Queen Elizabeth, who had a staff to help her figure this stuff out.
There will also be giddy glee. Bathtime splashes, first giggles, really adorable costumes, her first natural 20.
Most importantly, you are not alone in this. Your husband, who will likely want to teach her to use a katana way sooner than you’re comfortable.
Grandparents who, if they are like the ones in our life, lovingly ignore sugar limitations and bedtimes.
Friends who can visit bearing pirate toys and play telescopes, and help cover for naps.
If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes an army to help a parent. And we are here to let you know you never leave a man behind.
And we won’t.