I’ve been thinking a lot about time lately. Specifically, I’ve been thinking about the (frighteningly, at times) swift passage of it. I have flashes when I’m aware of just how rapidly time is going by. Moments that mark it dramatically, such as Queenie beginning high school or completing her driver’s ed course. And facebook, with its bittersweet “On This Day” memories feature, often socks me in the gut with poignant photos from days gone by, moments that feel both like yesterday and a lifetime ago simultaneously.
(Queenie getting her learner’s permit.)
But what really put the idea of time’s march into sharp focus for me was when I was asked to write something about motherhood for The Honest Company, a company that caters to new moms. Some of the suggested topics were sleeplessness, diaper explosions, home-made babyfood, etc. Being 15 years out from those experiences, I didn’t think I had anything to say about them, so my initial response was to decline. But here’s the thing… it got me thinking. About how much time has passed since those days. About how different those days look to me now from my current vantage point. And what I would tell my new mom self if I could.
I would tell her a lot, but first, I would give her a hug because she needed one. The transition to motherhood wasn’t easy for me. I gave birth via an emergency C-section after a long labor and several hours of pushing, and by the time they wheeled me into the operating room, I hadn’t slept in days, had a 104-degree fever and was delirious. Not surprisingly, Queenie was in distress when she was born and was pretty quickly whisked away to the NICU. This led to initial difficulties with breastfeeding, and by the time we came home from the hospital four days later, the word for me was: overwhelmed. And isolated. I was struggling and I felt alone. I didn’t know what to do or who to turn to, and the flood of postpartum hormones coursing through me was not doing me any favors – I wept at a moment’s notice. Oh, and there was a seemingly endless string of mastitis and plugged ducts to contend with.
It was a rough start, yet in the midst of all of this, I was also feeling a profound love for the tiny, precious girl who depended on me for everything, accompanied by something verging on terror that her fate was entirely in my inept hands at that point.
Before this post raises your blood pressure too much, let me reassure you that Queenie and I got through this transition and rather quickly settled into a beautiful groove, and I’ve truly enjoyed every moment of the journey since. We are, to roughly quote the Gilmore Girls, almost freakishly close, and motherhood has ended up being a role that I cherish, feel good at, and believe is the most important thing I’ve undertaken in my life. In fact, the freaked out initial period ended up being relatively brief in the big scheme of things. A blip, really. The period of most discomfort and disorientation lasted a couple of months. By three months, it was getting noticeably easier, and by the four or five-month mark, I was having tons of fun.
But if I could reach back in time to my panicked new mom self, I would tell her that she could do more than survive. I would advise her not to wish the time away. Not to just try to get through those first months. Not to fall prey to thinking that once it gets easier, it will be okay. Yes, it gets easier, but I would say DON’T MISS THIS! Don’t miss what’s happening NOW. Don’t miss a moment, even the ones that feel painful right now. It doesn’t feel like it, but these phases of disequilibrium are going to be over in a blink of an eye. It feels like you will never sleep again, but you will. It feels like your child will never be okay with weaning, but she will. It feels like you’ll never have a second to yourself again, but you will.
And I’d have some news that might alarm her, but she’d be missing my point if it did, and that is: there will continue to be periods of uncertainty and disorientation throughout the journey that is parenthood. Just when you feel like you’ve got something figured out, it will change, or there will be something brand new to deal with. This is going to happen again and again, and once more I’d say that these new phases aren’t things to merely get through. They are experiences to enjoy. Opportunities to be fully present. Chances to grow and be vulnerable and connect with that child of yours who, before you know it, will be talking about what colleges are on her radar.
I can’t tell my former self these things, but if you’re a new mom in that initial struggle phase, or if you’re past that transition but something new has cropped up that has you off balance, I can tell you. Not only can I tell you that this period will pass, but I can tell you that it will pass quickly. But please don’t count the seconds until it does. Be in it. Experience it all. And reach out and ask for help when you need it. Find your tribe, the mamas who will help you to become the mother you want to be. The experts who align with how you want to parent. Your village.
I wish I could be there to help you in person, but since that’s not necessarily possible, I hope that these words will stand in for me. You’ve got this, mama. Right this moment.