Dear New Mother Me (who’s covered in milky spit up),
Hiya! It’s you from 2 years in the future. Yup, that’s right, your total lack of sleep has not yet killed you (although I think it might have come close a few times…). You’re 3 days out of hospital with a 6 day old son, and have yet to venture out of the house; I don’t blame you – why does no one tell you how much your bum hurts after you’ve given birth?! I promise you will be able to walk properly again soon. Oh, but believe me, the wince you got from the community midwife 2 days ago when she examined your stitches will stay with you. FOREVER.
DEAR NEW MOTHER ME
Things are kind of fraught for you at the moment – breastfeeding isn’t going to plan because your son doesn’t want to latch, and it’s breaking your heart and making you feel like a failure. I’m afraid to say it isn’t about to get any better – that slightly off feeling you’ve got right now isn’t just from the blood loss and sleep deprivation; you’ve worked up a cracking post natal infection. And while it isn’t nearly as bad as that incredibly young, patronising, GP will tell you, the antibiotics are going to be the final nail in the breastfeeding coffin.
You’re going to spend a lot of time beating yourself up about that, and I really wish I could persuade you not to. It really isn’t the end of the world, even though it feels like it now. You’ll pump and dump in a vain attempt to keep your supply up while you’re on very strong medication, which only makes the next week and a half joyless for you, until you decide enough is enough and resign yourself to bottle feeding. I wish I could tell you that you’ll handle this with grace and composure as you comfort yourself that you’re doing the very best thing you can for your son after you both suffered from a traumatic birth, but you wont. You’ll sob.
You’ll sob in the shower when your boobs are engorged and you have to hand express for a bit of relief. You’ll sob in the shower a few months later when there’s absolutely no milk left. You’ll sob when your sister in law feeds her newborn daughter when your son is 7 months old, and sob again when she consoles you with the knowledge that this time hasn’t been as easy for her, and she’d have bottle fed in your position too.
And you’ll sob when you’re writing this letter because it will never not affect you. But I want you to know there’s nothing to be upset about. Your 2 year old is perfect; he’s rarely ill, not obese, walked before he was one and talks like a 4 year old.
All of me…
One night, very soon, when you’re sitting on the sofa at some ungodly hour with your cuddle-monster 2 week old lying on your chest, the wonder of everything from the past fortnight will hit you. The irrational guilt you felt that you didn’t have the rush of love when he was born will disintegrate as your heart feels fit to burst, and your protective Mama instinct kicks in. There’s no great moment of epiphany, nothing epic that triggers this. Just good old Heart FM on the TV as there’s nothing on at this absurd hour (and you’ve yet to invest in Netflix… you really should, btw…); John Legend’s “All Of Me” comes on and you actually listen to the lyrics in your half awake state…
What’s going on in that beautiful mind?
I’m on your magical mystery ride,
And I’m so dizzy, don’t know what’s hit me, but I’ll be alright.
My heads underwater, but I’m breathing fine.
You’re crazy, and I’m out of my mind.
‘Cause all of me loves all of you […]
You’re my end and my beginning,
Even when I lose I’m winning.
And some how it sums up exactly how you’re feeling – in a whirlwind of emotion but even the worst of it is amazing – I genuinely can’t listen to this song still without welling up, but in a really good way.
It may not feel like it, but I promise, everything will be ok. Being a Mummy is the best, and sometimes the hardest, thing ever, and please don’t beat yourself up about not getting dressed all day (we still do that from time to time) or not going to lots of play groups, or searching out some quiet time when the anxiety and stresses of every day life get too much. You’ve got so much to look forward to over the next 2 years – his first teeth, his first steps, his first sleepover, the first time he tell you he loves you. And I tell you now, he wont remember all those times you only ate a Tesco’s Cornish pasty all day, or the times where you didn’t leave the house all week – because you barely remember. Your memories of newborn stresses will boil down to the victories and the lovely moments.
So as tough as it seems right now, please don’t doubt yourself, or your parenting abilities. The secret is that everyone is just winging it, some people just hide that better than others…
With love, Me Now (covered in Dinosaur stickers instead of milky spit up)