A Letter to My Postpartum Self
Don’t read so many pregnancy books. It turns out, pregnancy and labor are the least of your worries. Read one. Then leave it. Don’t waste your energy.
When the baby comes, I am sorry, it will be like the time you adopted a kitten and then took it back the next day. It had kept you up all night meowing and it wanted you to hold her. Having a baby will be just like that, except that you can’t return it. You have to care for it. And the baby will keep you up for longer than a kitten ever would.
In fact, you won’t have a sleep in for the next decade.
You won’t even want to sleep in anymore. You will be grateful just to be able to sleep through the night. You will long for it, research it, try to train your baby for it. It will become the most important goal, sleeping through the night!
Your body will never be the same again. It will become wider and stockier. Your feet will grow a size and you will be stuck with size 42 and you will have to shop for size, not for style. Your breasts will sag and look smaller but your bra will grow 2 cup sizes and not in a good way.
Three weeks postpartum, you will find yourself in a department store shopping for onesies, wearing your pregnancy jeans because nothing else will fit, holding a pretty yellow necklace in your hand breaking out in a loud sob in a public display of baby blues, wondering if you will ever again care to buy such a necklace.
Your life will change. Forever.
Oh, and get enough onesies before the baby is born, they are all you will need for the first six months.
You will be under pressure to talk about the joys of motherhood, to curate your social media feed. To show how fast you returned back to normal. You will see the fallacy of your approach when a friend who you haven’t seen in a long time tells you: “You are breezing through this motherhood thing.” And you will stop lying. To yourself.
Having a baby will be the hardest thing you have ever done.
You will hold your baby wondering why you don’t feel the love. You won’t be able to find the love under the overwhelming sense of obligation. Responsibility.
You will mourn your past life and you will try to hold on to it, with a strong, futile grip. You will see it disappear from under you, piece by piece. You will be gone. You, the childfree you, who lived your life for 32 years.
You will regret not having traveled more, not having had more fun, being more adventurous, learned more things, dated more men, experienced more. Of everything.
The future me would tell you, let it go. Your expectations.
There won’t be any carefree walks by the sea in a light see-through dress, pushing the stroller with your baby calm and happy in it. Not for a long time.
Don’t hold onto the past 32 years. Let them blend into the new you. Flow with the sleepless nights. Hold your baby. Don’t fret about the sleep schedule (but do have one!), about the colic and the fact that for the first three months your baby only sleeps when you hold him. (Sleep when the baby is sleeping doesn’t work for you)
Survive those days and hold your baby. Hold him tight and cherish it because one day you will remember those days fondly, even if it doesn’t seem so now and you will retell it anecdotally to anyone who would listen.
“I watched the 12 seasons of Emergency Room in the first two months of my son’s life because he would only sleep in my arms.”
You won’t get such an opportunity again in a long time. The lone, long nights with your sleeping son. Live them. Watch the show you like. It is all ok.
That same son will listen to that story seven years later and ask: “But if you held me, mama, when did you sleep? Weren’t you tired?” and it will be worth it.
You will find out that in the USA they don’t discriminate against women with large feet and you will order the shoes you like from there. You will return to your pre-pregnancy jeans a year later (yup, that’s how long it takes you!) and keep your shape with yoga, walking, and eating and you will dream of a tummy tuck. You probably won’t ever do it. Because if you are honest with yourself, you will know that it doesn’t really matter. You will be ok.
You will enjoy your son, the good and the bad and while you will take longer to recover than most women (or so it will seem) you will have another baby 6.5 years later, and you will do so much better. You will be prepared.
You will also adopt another cat because your son will beg you for one, but you will get the same postpartum blues you had with your new babies and you will (perhaps hastily again) give that cat away, too. Maybe you just aren’t a cat person.
But you will be strong. You will do things you never thought possible. You will still be you, a better version of yourself.
You will still admire women who have one child after another and don’t fall apart. But you will know that no amount of comparison is ever going to change who you are. And you will learn to accept yourself. Well, most of the time.
Ten years later and you will still be working on your new dreams, new goals, you will be forever trying to improve who you are. But you will also know, deep down, that you are already ok, just like you were ten years ago. You will be able to see it now.
So let it go and dive into it, with everything you have. It won’t seem so at the time, but you will be ok. And you will love your baby just as they always said you will.
At the time I wished someone had told me how hard it was going to be. But now I know they couldn’t. Not because they were lying to me, but because the hardship doesn’t stay. It blends with love just like you grow into your large shoes.
And it is ok.
Note: I wrote this for a Medium publication in July 2020. It flowed right out of me. I’ve always wanted to write about how hard that first year was for me. At the beginning, it was impossible for me to see the end result, and as the time passed the memories of how hard it really was slowly disappeared. I believe this essay is the perfect blend of both and one of my favorites.