Friday, October 10, 2014

To My Friends About to Have Babies

Dear friends,

I am thinking of you as you enter this new phase of life, and I wanted to tell you a few things. Nothing I can say is going to prepare you, but maybe you'll read this after a sleepless night and feel a little consolation.  That's what I hope.

So, I want to tell you about where we are seven months later.

Let's start with a little dose of honesty. The other night we were at a hotel in Maine to celebrate our friends' wedding and Jeff said to me, "I don't want to be one of those guys who married a nice, normal woman who then had a baby and turned into a freak." This was a bad night, and that happens every now and then.

At that moment, it was three in the morning, and I was literally pacing the hotel room, and I may or may not have been crying. Exhausted from the trip, I just couldn't settle myself and get to sleep. Insomnia had struck again. That's a hard thing that's happened to me since I've become a mother. Let's face it, there are lots of hard things that happen when you become a mother.

You see, I used to be a worrier. If worrying had been an Olympic sport, I would have comfortably taken bronze. I was no gold medal winner. I know some of you who are; I'm not naming names. No, I was never quite that intense, but I worried. In the past seven months, I think I have been clawing my way up the medal stand.

Being a mom is all the things everyone says. It is every cliche and adage and trite throwaway remark. And none of those things even touch what it's like. It is the most isolating, rewarding, amazing, frightening, awe inspiring, insane thing that's ever happened to me. But the other thing I've realized in these months is that it gets better. So much better. Maybe it didn't look like it that night in the hotel room, but it does.

I don't mean to plagiarize, but I can't recall where I read this article in which the writer says about parenting that it doesn't actually get easier, but you just get better at it. Seven months later, I feel that. I was eating dinner the other night, at the table, with my husband, while my daughter was sleeping, in her crib (I just named each of these things explicitly because they are amazing to me), and I thought aloud, "All those nights of eating take out salad in shifts while we rocked a crying baby for hours and hours on end seem like a different life." I wondered during those long nights if I would ever start to feel like myself again, if my life would ever feel "normal" again. And now, seven months later, I can report that I do, and it does (albeit a new normal on both fronts). Yes, I still sometimes act crazy. And yes, I worry. A. LOT. But, I am deeply in love and happy in a way I didn't know about before I had Neve.

I was perusing Instagram the other day, also known as the wellspring of images to make you feel lesser, and I happened upon one woman's account who had also just had a baby. She was dressing her little guy in full cashmere ensembles while wearing the ubiquitous Valentino rock-stud flats (she had to trade in the heels now that she is a mom) and touting the figure of a fifteen year old boy a month after giving birth, and she kept captioning her photos with gems like, "Loving every single second of motherhood." and "This is bliss!" (in her monogrammed pajamas with a full face of makeup), and "So in love...". I wanted to punch her through the iphone. As Glennon of Momastery fame says, "Being told in a million different ways to CARPE DIEM makes me worry that if I am not in a constant state of gratitude and ecstasy, I'm doing something wrong." Let me tell you, my friend, every moment is NOT bliss. And successfully and joyfully carpe-ing every diem is pretty much akin to enjoying a root canal. But, boy do some moments take your breath away. (Sometimes because you feel like you just got punched in the gut and other times because you cannot fathom how a tiny human being was brought into this world because of you, and through you, and is now slithering (because she isn't crawling yet) around your living room giggling, and growing, and looking at you with her huge eyes like you are her whole world (which, essentially, you are), and smelling like the most delicious thing you've ever known.)

So, my dearest friends, there are nights when you will wonder if you'll ever sleep. There are nights when you won't sleep at all. There will be days when you think you've lost your mind, or your partner will think you've lost your mind, or you will think that you'll never be "yourself" again. There will be moments when it will all feel like too much, especially if you are doing it far away from family and support. But, just remember that you'll get better at it. And it is so normal not to wear cashmere robes and feel like every waking second of your life is bliss. And that doesn't make you a bad mom. That makes you a real mom.

And remember that every time it feels like too much, there will be that one second, or that one hour, or that one day when your baby will do something that will make you feel like you were never really living until you knew her.