This blog is sponsored by ChicagoNow, a collection of bloggers who write about everything from quilting and parenting to baseball and cosplay. We have community managers, who guide, cheer, teach and answer so many questions that they must feel like parents of toddlers.
Every now and again we do something collectively. Today a group of us, inspired by Mary Tyler Mom, are writing a “Letter to a New Mom” for Mother’s Day. In her words: “Basically, my idea is that any blogger can write their wish, advice, support, humorous foreshadowing, etc., of what a new mom should know as she enters this role.”
You can find all of our responses here: This is my letter.
I’ll be honest. Being a mom didn’t come naturally to me. Especially in the first four months of my daughter’s life, motherhood was terrifying and excruciatingly hard. It was not pink roses and sunshine. I had postpartum depression, which was an opaque lens that made everything muddled and gray. I felt almost no joy those first four months, only dread and anxiety.
Around four months, though, the meds my doc prescribed had kicked in and I had a life-changing moment. My daughter spit up about four ounces of milk, all over my husband, the cat, and the floor. Like most of what happened in those early months, this caused me huge alarm. We were failing at the most basic job of parenting: feeding.
I took the baby so my husband could clean up himself, the cat and the floor and took my daughter downstairs to the changing table. I got her drenched clothes off and began to wipe her face and chubby little body with a warm wash cloth. As I rubbed the cloth down her tummy, she laughed.
Somehow that sound cut right through the dread. I rubbed the cloth down her tummy again. She chuckled again. I hollered for my husband and showed him the magic trick.
I still struggled, but that laugh changed my life. It reminds me of the two pieces of advice I got about parenting that I want to share with you, one from my mother-in-law and the other from a friend. Have fun and say “yes” whenever you can.
My daughter didn’t really like baths until she was six or seven months old. She and I finally got the hang of it though, and I bathed her in the morning just before her morning nap. She loved being naked after a warm bath. Reveled in it. So, one morning I decided to just let her nap naked. The warm sun was streaming in and she was happy as a clam.
I went upstairs to work and an hour later heard the gurgling, giggling sound of a baby waking up. She always woke up happy, but that day she was ecstatic. I could hear the high pitched oohs and ahs and had to see what the excitement was all about.
When I walked into the bright little room I saw her sitting in the crib squeezing poop through her little fists. She had already painted the walls and her crib was smeared with it. She was delighted.
I was chagrined, but I’m proud to say that I laughed. Her delight and wonder were contagious. I gagged my way through cleaning up both baby and room and knew that she and I were going to make it.
We lived in Alaska for the first 13 years of my daughter’s life. One reality of Anchorage is that summer nights never get really dark. At 9 p.m. daylight is broad. At 1 a.m. it’s dusky. Most of us stay up late because sleep is elusive. You’ll see kids outside playing at 11 p.m. in the summers.
One night we put our three-year-old to bed at 9 p.m. or so. When I came into her room at midnight she was lying there, quiet as a mouse, eyes open wide. She always had three pacifiers: one in her mouth and one in each hand. She was so excited to see me that all three went flying.
I said, “So, you can’t sleep?”
She said, “No, it’s too bright.” Big eyes, slight pout.
I said, “Do you want some ice cream?”
That wasn’t what she expected me to say. Honestly, it wasn’t what I expected me to say. Her eyes got even wider and she started flapping. Even when she was five months old she has flapped her arms when she’s excited.
We were sitting at the kitchen table with bowls of ice cream when my husband came inside from working in the yard. (Yeah, at midnight. That’s how Alaskans roll.)
He said, surprised, “What are you doing?”
My daughter said, “I couldn’t sleep so mama gave me ice cream.”
He looked at me and said, “Of course you did.”
He sighed and joined us.
Having a child is the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life because it’s the most important thing I’ve ever done in my life. There’s plenty in life that matters, but when you bring a child into the world that’s got to be at the top of the list. I felt the burden of doing it right heavily on my shoulders. I felt the fear that love brings with it. I fought through the postpartum depression.
But I’ve also had more fun than I could have imagined and I’ve said “yes” as often as I can. This is a journey that you’re up to. In the words of R.E.M., “With the brilliance (brilliance) / and the light (light) / with the sting (sting) / and the hide (hide) / and the road ahead of you. / I cannot tell a lie / It’s not all cherry pie / But it’s all there waiting for you / Yeah you”
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