Dear pregnant me,
I know you think you have this figured out. You did your research, read the websites, the forums, the books. You have a plan.
You’ve pledged to a brand of parenting that you believe will provide you with all the answers. You will be an attachment parent who cloth diapers, breastfeeds, and has a med-free birth with a midwife. Your research tells you this is the BEST kind of parent to be, so naturally you could choose no other method.
You plan to fill your baby’s room with a few carefully chosen wooden toys. He will sleep on an organic sheet. You will wrap him tight to you and wear him all day.
This will make him a kind, obedient, well-mannered and confident child. And you will be zen and bonded.
Because you think you have the answers.
Oh, sweetie. KARMA IS COMING.
Dear new mom me,
I see you awkwardly wearing this role, struggling to ace your first performance review. There are a lot of emotions.
Of course, you expected to feel exhausted and overwhelmed with love. You didn’t expect to feel just plain overwhelmed all. the. time.
He never stops crying. He is literally sucking chunks of flesh off your nipples. You HATE breastfeeding him.
You don’t look at him lovingly while he nurses. Instead, you throw tubes of lanolin across the room, dropping f-bombs and tears on the top of his head.
You wrap him tightly and wear him because that is SUPPOSED to calm him. But he only sleeps if you are constantly walking AND jumping at the same time.
Sometimes… a lot of times, you are so over holding him that you want to put him down, walk away, and let him cry.
You are drowning in guilt… because you are mad at him, because your plan isn’t working, because you think you are failing your job.
Somehow – you really don’t know how because you block it from your memory – you make it through colic.
Your nipples heal, breastfeeding becomes almost enjoyable, you make your first batch of baby food, and sign up for Gymboree classes.
You feel like you’re beginning to ace this gig, with the exception of one small detail.
He. Never. Sleeps. You breastfeed him almost every hour at night. You run to his every cry. He is your entire world, and he is sucking the life out of you.
And you’re beyond exhausted, you’ve been sick for 3 months, but you push through because good moms must always be exhausted, you think.
He grows into toddlerhood, and you struggle with discipline. Mostly because it seems you can’t MAKE him do anything, no matter what you try.
You are torn between being the gentle parent you pledged to be, and the parent with a kid who behaves perfectly.
Why isn’t this approach working? Isn’t he supposed to trust me? To feel bonded to me? Isn’t he supposed to be calm and sweet?
Would it be different if I spanked him? Would he listen better? Would he sit still at restaurants? Stop throwing forks from the table and crying for cookies in the grocery store?
You feel judged, and get hot and angry, hovering over him in public to be sure he doesn’t annoy others with his behavior.
You are quick to correct him, scold him, you are ALWAYS telling him no.
Don’t these people understand I’m TRYING? Why are they looking at me? Don’t they understand timeouts don’t work? Nothing works.
Hang in there, momma.
With a 2nd baby comes a little wisdom… an epiphany.
Other people aren’t judging you. Well, maybe they are, but their voices aren’t the ones in your head telling you you’re a bad mother.
That? Would be YOU – 25 year old you.
Sure, other people shoot you a look when your toddler throws himself to the ground in a parking lot while you’re struggling to get your baby into your Ergo, but who wouldn’t look at that scene?
They’re probably just glad it’s not them…. this time.
YOUR voice is the one in your head, hours later, mocking your parenting in-abilities. YOUR voice is the one that needs to be silenced- your 25 year old voice.
And not only do you need to tell her to shut the eff up, but you need to give yourself permission to stray from the rigid standards you pledged yourself to.
ONE of the smartest things you do is reclassify yourself as a hybrid parent, which is really just a way of saying you’re the kind of parent who’s going to do whatever works- gently sleep training your one year old, breastfeeding your toddler, and buying them chicken nuggets.
THE smartest thing you do is get help for postpartum anxiety and OCD. Because all these feelings you’ve been struggling with for 3 years of impending doom, anger, and the idea you were never meant to have children?
They didn’t bubble up because you’re a bad mom. They were symptoms of being sick.
In so many ways you’ve become the mother you never thought you’d be.
Your 25 year old self would die if she got a whiff of your SUV (though she would be quite happy you haven’t given into the minivan).
She would definitely judge you if she saw you with all 3 kids at Target.
Your 7 year old would be running down the aisles, like an animal off his leash.
Your 4 year old would look like her hair had never been brushed, and she’d be carrying some hideous plastic toy.
Your toddler would be wearing a Thomas the Train shirt and no shoes.
Your cart would be full of organic milk, cheese puffs, and chicken nuggets. (And wine because somethings never change.)
She would side eye you, and go down the next aisle to avoid your traveling circus.
But don’t you worry. She is the dumbest, and she would make a TERRIBLE mother.
Rock on, me. You’ve got this.