A letter to my pregnant self
This past weekend I had the privilege of attending a co-ed, kid-friendly party to celebrate the impending arrival of a dear friend’s baby girl. There were biscuits, some booze (for the non-pregnant, non-underage attendees), and not an awkward shower game in sight. It was great.
As I wrangled my family when it came time to leave, my friend thanked me for writing these posts; she’d been reading them to help mentally prepare herself for what’s coming her way in the next couple months. After going all “aww shucks” on her, I explained to my friend that I try to keep moms-to-be and new moms in mind when I decide what to talk about in this space. What do I want them to know? What do I wish I had known? Or, more importantly, what truths do all moms need to hear?
So come with me through a little time warp as I write a letter to my pregnant self, filling her in on a few things now that I’m almost eight years (!!!) removed from the experience. It’s my hope that this letter will offer a nugget or two of encouragement and love for those of you who need it.
Dear Hugely Pregnant Valerie,
I know you’re feeling pretty overwhelmed right now—physically and emotionally. There’s not much I can do about the physical part (other than to tell you to stop re-folding onesies and go to sleep already), but hopefully I can assuage some of your fears about the other stuff. And I know you’ve got them because, well, I am you; fretting is kind of your default until you’ve had time to process a situation.
Your impending labor and delivery experience is weighing heavily on your mind right now, so rest in the knowledge that it will be wonderful. Things will not go at all according to (your) plan, and it will be a long, hard process…but it will still be wonderful. And if I may be a tad feisty for a moment? Don’t let anyone tell you that how that baby ends up getting here is any indication of how strong of a woman you are (because there will be some who will try to suggest that). Remember that you need to make decisions that are best for your health, the baby’s safety, and for your family. Frankly, it’s not anyone else’s business—and feel free to tell them that if they get pushy about it. Because some of them will.
As far as the day-to-day things those first few months, know these things:
1. No one cares what the baseboards look like except you.
2. Changing out of your pajamas makes a world of difference.
3. Staying in your pajamas also makes a world of difference.
4. Drink water. And when you think you’ve had enough water to drink, go ahead and have some more.
5. Your child will poop in the bathtub. Yes, it’s gross, but it’s really not a big deal.
6. Nap with that baby. Every chance you get.
7. The one time you don’t have a burp cloth on your shoulder is when your child will vomit down your back.
8. When you’re packing up the diaper bag, be sure to toss in an extra shirt for yourself. Trust me.
9. If something is worrying you, call your child’s pediatrician. If he/she is annoyed with a brand new mother calling often, he/she probably shouldn’t be in the business of caring for infants. (Note: our pediatrician was always lovely about our calls, and I can’t imagine the blubbering mess I would have been if he weren’t.)
Now on to the less tangible things…
I feel like I need to be upfront and tell you that things will be hard at first—harder than you ever, ever thought possible. Not so much because of the exhaustion; loneliness is going to be the big one for you. As you know, you’re the first in your group of close friends to have a baby, and that can be isolating at times. But it doesn’t have to be! Everyone you know will be champing at the bit to spend time with you and your new little one. When they say they want to come over to chat, help you fold laundry, go for a walk, etc…THEY MEAN IT! Take them up on it! Don’t let yourself fall into the trap of thinking that accepting help means you can’t do it all yourself. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should. And that handsome, blue-eyed gentleman who helped get you into this situation? He also means it when he says he wants to help. Let him. Please?
Lest you think the coming months (and years) will be all woe and uncertainty, know that you’ve got so much goodness coming. It will reveal itself in a variety of ways through moments of pure joy and after moments of complete brokenness.
Carrying, birthing, and raising your kid will teach you more about yourself and how you want fit into this world than anything you’ve yet to experience. Your highs will be higher, your lows lower—probably because you will feel like you have more at stake now. Certain things will start to matter less to you, while others will matter so much more. Be open to these shifts and let yourself change if you need to. There’s a certain rawness to this mothering thing that will leave you feeling constantly exposed and vulnerable…but in the absolutely best way possible. There’s no such thing as feeling too much or loving too much. Don’t fight it. Use it.
You’re gonna be great.
Me (which is You, I guess, but we’re much less huge now and not at all pregnant)
PS: You were right. It’s a boy.