To My Child

To My Child

I hope you learn that life isn’t fair.  But that that doesn’t mean it is all bad.

I hope you smile at people, even strangers, and look people in the eye.

I hope you chew with your mouth closed.

I hope you learn how to listen – really listen – to others when they need to be heard, and to the quiet beat of your own heart.

Headed down the path together.

A post shared by Cate Simms (@sarkytartlet) on

 

I hope you learn to win and lose with grace.

I hope you love and appreciate the beautiful, intricate, amazing body you’re in.

I hope you can be silly for the joy of it, and can laugh at yourself and with others kindly.

I hope you have good manners and know when to use them (almost always) and when to relax them.

I hope you trust. In others, and in yourself.

I hope you know how to make something with your own brain and hands – a song, food, a painting, a stone wall.

I hope you learn, without too many tough consequences, that attempts to escape problems, hurt, and heartbreak never really work for long.

Flying!

A post shared by Cate Simms (@sarkytartlet) on

 

I hope you pick up after yourself.

I hope you decide that it is wise and healthy to get enough sleep.

I hope you learn how to advocate for yourself without demanding, complaining or whining.

I hope you understand that stuff is just stuff.

I hope you learn you can expect goodness, but not perfection, from other people. Or from yourself.

I hope you learn how to own up to your own misdeeds, mistakes and slights without excuses, blame or deflection.

I hope you keep learning, about the world, about other people, and about yourself.

I hope you work in any small or large way to make your community, corner, city, world, a tiny bit more just and beautiful.

And I hope you know that when in doubt, you should just put stuff in the trash, and not the garbage disposal.

How quickly we forget…

A woman I know – a brand new mom – reached out on Facebook the other day to mention how much her world had been rocked by the arrival of her son.  She mentioned this without a positive or negative spin.  There was no whining or wonder, just a mom noting how much her life had changed and how much hard work parenting a newborn is.

Then came the responses. There were so many women telling her to enjoy her baby! Cherish these moments! Change is good! He is adorable! Welcome to your new normal!  Your life has been changed for the better! It is a love you’ve never known! Welcome to MY world – now you get it! You’ll miss these days when they’re gone!

Blarghggghhlll, these posts gave me reflux.

How do we forget so quickly?

Why does “We’ve done it, so can you.” sound so dismissive rather than supportive?

The subtext of so many of these types of comments seems unkind and unsupportive:

Enjoy your baby! (Stop whining. We’ve all been there.)

Cherish these moments! (Stop whining. Why dwell on the bad stuff?)

Change is good! (Stop whining. What did you expect?)

How do we forget that the newborn “new normal” is occasionally terrifying, always exhausting, and can throw a person completely off kilter, no matter how much they love the little milky, loose-skinned, froggy-legged baby asleep on their chest?

Smiling. And exhausted. June, 2010.

Smiling. And exhausted. June, 2010.

I think my poet friend’s response was best “You are doing it! And you can do it! ❤ ❤ ❤ No subtext.  Just support and love from another new mom who isn’t so far past that newborn world-rocking that she forgets what it is like.

Because it is so hard – it is bigger, more all-encompassing than that even.  And you just do it.  You get through the days, you get through the nights. You have good moments, bad ones, lots of tired ones.  You call in your village if you have one.  Or you call your village if they are far away.  Or you call your doctor.  You accept help, pay for it, ask for it, or struggle through without it.  You do it.  You just do.

June 2010. Pickle, Baby Bear and Me.

June 2010. Pickle, Baby Bear and Me.

I’m making a promise to myself that I’ll try my darnedest not to forget the feelings, the exhaustion, the crazy way the universe shifted completely when Pickle was born.  And I promise my friends that I’ll never demand that they cherish their baby and enjoy every damn moment.  I’ll just love them, remind them of their own strength, hold them up when they need me to and bring dinner when possible.

What Not to Expect When You’re Expecting…

A friend of mine just recently wrote a thoughtful and honest overview of what life after birth was for her.  (In the interest, at least for the time being, in keeping this blog anonymous I won’t link to it).  But trust me, I was there.  She had a rough few weeks.

And I chuckled when I read about her sitting alone at night with her breast pump and swearing it was talking to her.  I had the same experience, except my pump actually repeated the name of my boss over and over, like this, “Chad Sock! Chad Sock! Chad Sock!”  (No, that’s not his real name either.)  It freaked me out.  And made me wonder about my subconscious desires.

Overall, I think I handled the transition to mommydom pretty well.  I like to be informed – I read the books, I asked friends for good 1st time mom advice, I put together a nursery (though, I wasn’t a maniac about this), I took the childbirth class and prenatal yoga (which is a story for another day) and I did all the mommy prep I thought I could. I knew that I could do it – both the birth part, and the mom part, though I didn’t know what either one would be like.

But what was the best preparation?  Not setting myself up for failure.

I didn’t have too many expectations.  I tried not to put pressure on myself.  And I recognized that I would only have a modicum of control over most of my life for the next few months (okay, years, who am I kidding!).  I focused on being flexible.  I didn’t harbor any fantasies of sweet-smelling, quiet babies, napping while I baked.  I tried not to harbor any fantasies at all.  I promised myself that it was okay to learn as you go, to be frustrated, to be sad, to be tired, to BE.  I knew I’d love my new arrival without expectations, and just for being  himself/herself, so I tried to give myself the same care and courtesy.  All I knew was that childbirth would be hard, and the days and months after childbirth would be harder. And I was right.

It was hard.  It was really really hard.  My brother-in-law had it right when he said, “Everyone says it will be hard, but no one tells you exactly what ‘hard’ means.”  It is hard in an entirely new way.  Your life is completely changed. I remember thinking, “Three days ago, I could do what I want.  Today, I cannot do what I want, I cannot pee when I want, I cannot sleep when I want, I cannot go when/where I want, I cannot eat when I want.”  It isn’t all bad, but goodness, it IS a shock to the system in every way.

I wish I could find the blog entry I read recently that defined parenthood like this:

EVERYTHING IS DIFFICULT AND AWESOME.

And that is exactly right.  That is exactly what I have found parenthood to be.

So.  My advice to new moms?  Enough with the expectations.  Cut yourself some slack.  Take it day-by-day.  Ask for help (I was bad about this and I vow to change this time around).  Know your limits.  Don’t try to be a hero.  Acknowledge contradictory feelings (you can love a little baby with all your heart, and still feel a little resentful about how much your life has changed and how sore and tired you are – that doesn’t make you a bad parent, it makes you human).  Don’t stress if you don’t fall in love with your newborn right away – you’ll feel awed, responsible, etc. but how often do people fall in love at first sight?  This person is completely new to you!  Don’t worry about doing it all right – there’s no such thing as perfection, and if there was, it’d be boring and impossible to maintain.

Welcome to the greatest adventure of all!

Footnote: As discussed in this blog entry, Mommyhood is really hard.  But for those mommies with PPD it can also be terrifying, excruciating, and life-changing in a really bad way.  If you think you or your loved one may be suffering from PPD, do know that you’re not alone and take steps to reach out, get help, and heal!  ❤