|Photo by Kate Kroes Photography|
It is already starting. My memories of the earliest days as a new mom are already becoming a little foggy. Because being a new mom (and in some cases any new parent) is a unique experience, I wanted to make sure I never really forgot what it was like during those first six weeks (or still is). I want my future self, the one with a toddler or teenager or grandchild, to remember really what it is like to be a new mom so that I don’t turn into one of those people who do not get it.
Being a mom means entry into this (not so) secret club of moms where we all understand what each other are going through. I did not realize that this club really existed, because I couldn’t see it with my non-mom eyes. This club of supporters has gotten me through a lot of challenging moments, and I am so grateful. Some of the most recent new moms in my life have been the most helpful, because they have not forgotten what I have written down here to remember. My first task as a new mom is to pay it forward to those who come after me, and people did for me. It is now a life mission for me to help other new moms.
So I say to myself, “Self, please don’t forget these things:”
- Don’t forget how hard it is physically on moms after having a baby. I will not go into details or scare anyone away from having kids, it is still totally worth it. But it goes without saying that it is tough on the body, and not only for a week or two but sometimes six or longer. I will not forget to help people lift things or to share tips (NOTE: This does not mean unwanted advice) on all of the things that are challenging, like boobs, butts, guts, backs or anything else that doesn’t feel the same.
- Don’t forget what it is like to be postpartum emotionally. I cry at baby shampoo commercials and YouTube videos. There is a lot of information about baby blues and postpartum depression, but nothing that really gives you any real life or helpful information, or for the people who fall somewhere in between a two week emotional roller coaster and real “I want to hurt my baby” postpartum depression. And there are a thousand steps in between. The only resource is the aforementioned “Mom Club” so make use of this resource and ask what your friends’ experiences were. The reason I know that my friends experienced some form of emotional challenges is because they were the same friends who asked me directly how I was feeling emotionally. They are some of the same people I asked for help when I wasn’t feeling quite myself. This stuff is real, and don’t forget it.
- Don’t forget how challenging it can be to get a stroller or a car seat through doors. I am sure I will get better at it, but that means I have to continue to remember to hold doors, not cut people off, or get out of the way in the aisle when I see an infant carrier. That shit is heavy. I am also amazed at how many businesses do not have wheelchair buttons on doors.
- Don’t forget that it starts out scary to go in public with a baby, so be nice. It is scary enough to think that, god forbid, your newborn wake up, or actually have to feed them or change a diaper in public. Remember not to add to it with being an inconsiderate jerk in a hurry. Also remember not to tell new parents, “Oh yeah! Just bring the baby!” As if it doesn’t require an act of congress to get them, and yourself, out of the house.
- Don’t tell pregnant people or new parents how they are never going to sleep again. We know. No seriously, we know. It is just irritating both during pregnancy and after baby is born. Did you know sleep deprivation is a form of torture? This is true. I don’t need anyone reminding me of the obvious. And if you are lucky, it will be over before you know it.
- Don’t forget about the kindness of a meal, or some help. That “pay it forward” rule previously mentioned is in play here. I am so thankful for all of the wonderful meals that people brought over for us so we didn’t have to cook. I was particularly excited about anyone who brought vegetables, so that my diet wasn’t entirely carbohydrates. Delicious carbohydrates. But no seriously, you need fiber.
- Don’t forget that taking a quick trip to the grocery store or to run an errand is not really a “break.” Sometimes people ask me if I enjoyed my break, and the reality is I was running an errand as fast as I could without my baby so that I could get back since he would need to eat, and I never stopped feeling anxious about being away. So no, I did not really enjoy my non-break. I really just ran a lame errand that could be done faster without my infant and my incompetence as a new parent. I will consider it a break when I can let go of the fact that I feel I should be at home with my kid.
- Don’t forget to wash your hands. I don’t anticipate forgetting this, but just in case I get senile it is here in writing. Don’t touch peoples’ kids without washing your hands. I am still living in fear of my child’s first illness, so don’t let it be from you.
Future self: These are the things you should remember for keeping membership in the secret Mom Club and for being truly resourceful to those who come after you. You’ll figure this stuff out eventually, so don’t forget what it was like. Don’t screw this up.