Dear Me in 2011,
Hello, you. Right now you’ve probably got your feet up watching the E! network. All the time in the world is yours alone. You have no idea what’s ahead of you. Here’s some advice… you’re going to need it.
--- Pregnancy is the easy part of this whole thing. I know you’re not believing that yet. I am sure you will doubt this even more when you’re 35 weeks pregnant, your ass is roughly the size of Manitoba, you’re awkwardly peeing on a toilet you can barely stand to sit on at 4 am (for probably the sixth time that night) because your pelvis feels like it is no longer attached to your very large body. But seriously… all of that? Easy compared to what’s coming.
--- Speaking of 35 weeks, at this point you will want to Google things about the impending labor and delivery, which scares you to death. (That’s still one of your hobbies at this point… Googling scary things and worst case scenarios and immediately assuming all of these things will happen to you. The moment you read them. You will Google such lovely terms as “What is a mucous plug?” Listen here, Not-A-Mom-Yet Alison (this is very important) DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCE GOOGLE MUCOUS PLUG. It’s not pretty and you cannot un-Google what has been Googled.
--- You will worry about having the right “stuff.” It’s not big yet but there will be this thing called Pinterest that will pretty much make you feel like shit about everything in your life. Other expectant mothers will have entire boards dedicated to their impeccable and perfect nurseries. You will learn what “chevron pattern” is. You will watch YouTube videos for hours of baby swings. Babies won’t even be in them. It will be a video of a perky, pony tailed woman in Lululemon yoga pants showing you how her 300 dollar sci-fi swing of the future can perfectly simulate the baby swimming around in your womb. And you will want it. You will be convinced you NEED it. These baby stuff companies are good at what they do. They will make you feel like you need it all, ALL OF IT, and when you invariably cannot even come close to matching those Pinterest moms with their Bugaboo strollers, monogrammed burp cloths, and organic diapers you will feel bad about yourself. You will feel like you’re failing before you even start. But don’t. Remember that 99 percent of the babies in the history of babies did not have these things. All they had was mommy. Somehow many of them survived and even grew up to change the world so one day there could be strollers that have six different cup holders and heated seating. It’s amazing.
--- You will be amazed at how little stuff you need. That’s the good news.
--- What you won’t expect is how much YOU are needed. This is when you will begin to see why pregnancy and preparation are the easy part. Everyone will tell you “Get sleep now!” or “Just try to get through the first 4 months.” I mean… yeah. You obviously won’t sleep much. And you will assume now it’s because of the baby being up a lot. This is true but it’s not all of the story. There is a darker component to it. Remember that anxiety we spoke of earlier where you feel like worst case scenarios are always on the horizon? Well, once you bring that baby home that anxiety multiplies by roughly 37 billion. It is heart wrenching. It will hit you hardest at night when everyone is sleeping and you’re next to that bassinet wondering if the baby is breathing. You will be inches from him looking to see the rise and fall of his chest. You will be convinced you don’t see it. You will feed him and wonder if he’s getting enough. Is he warm enough? Is he too warm? There will be nights where he is up every 25 minutes and all he wants is for you to hold him. He doesn’t care that you need sleep too. All he knows is his needs and all he knows is you. And the beauty of this and the responsibility of this will almost kill your heart. It’s hard to love this much. It’s PAINFUL. It’s difficult to be needed in this way. These are the times where the pain of being human is something unbearable. Every night you will go through this. You will hold him, feed him, love him, and resent him for making you feel this much. You now live in a world where your sanity and emotional health rely on him being ok. There is no more living like there is nothing at stake but yourself. Those days are gone, honey. They don’t end after 4 months though, even though it gets easier to handle it. I suspect it won’t ever end. Even when you’re 86 and he’s 55, he will always hold that place that is fragile, that can be shattered in an instant. You will always be a little scared from now until forever.
--- They also make medication to deal with many of these overwhelming things. Do not be ashamed to take it. Many women feel these things and the first 6 months is hard enough, don’t make it harder on yourself by not getting a little help. It doesn’t mean you’re failing. It means you’re surviving. That’s all that can be expected from you, sweetie. That’s almost the whole battle.
--- On a lighter note you are going to learn how kind of ridiculous parents can be. You and your husband (yes! Someone is going to agree to marry you!) will laugh about these things a lot. It won’t be all the feels all the time. There will be laughter too. You will become a ridiculous parent who discusses the consistency and quantity of your son’s poop. It will be something you and your husband talk about over dinner. You will keep a journal for a short while about his bowel movements. You will announce to your husband that your baby will not watch screens until he is 2! He will not eat anything but whole foods! (By the way, his favorite television show by 10 months is Jake and the Neverland Pirates. His favorite food is a tie between fried chicken and chocolate ice cream. Don’t feel bad. Your intentions were good.) You will want to do everything right and perfect but ultimately again… You will settle for survival. And baby smiles.
--- You live in a time where there have never been more child rearing options. There will be Attachment Parenting. Tiger Mom parenting. The Cry-It-Out moms and the moms who think the Cry-It-Out moms are evil. There will be moms who Facebook a lot about car seat safety and GMOs. You will join an online mommy group where there is a huge virtual fight over circumcision along with photos. You thought high school was bad? It was NOTHING compared to Mommy World. You will write a Facebook status about something your kid did and read it 67 times before posting it to make sure there is no way anyone could judge you for it and then decide to erase it and post about Scandal instead. You will post a photo of your kid eating a chicken nugget and a “friend” will private message you about setting him up for a lifetime of obesity, diabetes, and misery. This friend was someone you drank copious amounts of grain alcohol with in your early 20’s, who ate numerous amounts of fried trans fats at a dirty Waffle House in Florida. And life has become this thing where she messages you about the dangers of chicken nuggets. You have entered a weird world, sweetie pie. A very weird world. That kind of stuff won’t anger you, it will just remind you that your friends are now fighting these battles too. They’re trying to figure it all out. So be kind, Not-Yet-A-Mom Alison. All these moms are fighting a hard battle.
--- But seriously. If nothing else, don’t Google “mucous plug”. You will thank me.
The Mom You