Mama Nuggets of Survival Wisdom
Granted, this post should probably be about how my daughter turned two and about how she has become the most magical little nugget in the universe - ALL TRUE - but let's keep it real and talk about how I've survived TWO WHOLE YEARS OF MOTHERHOOD!!! Yeah, that's right. Feel free to throw me a party (although, let's face it, the unicorn theme, cake, and rainbow tutu that she didn't wear at her party were more mommy's choice than Aya's choice - she wanted a spider party. Maybe next year honey).
I've decided to talk about what I've learned, for better or worse, not richer, but poorer (again because mommy buys herself stuffed toys that are supposedly for Aya but are apparently helping mommy relive her childhood). In no particular order, I give you:
Mama Nuggets of Survival Wisdom (trademarked, watermarked, xeroxed, and copyrighted)!
- If you survive the first six months of your infant's life, you can do anything. If you do it with postpartum depression/anxiety, you can probably take over the world (not saying that us PPD mamas are better, just that if you survive general hopeless and total malaise about your existence while sleep-deprived and caring for an unpredictable infant, you've got life's ups and downs pretty nailed - not perfected - just nailed).
- Your "downstairs" will again resemble something that you recognize. For those who had cesareans, I hope you honour and enjoy that which was not passed through by a human cranium.
- Life will slowly resemble that which you once had, but it will never be the same. This does not have to be devastating, but the sooner you accept it, the sooner you can get on with it.
- Love for your child is a different kind of love than you've experienced before. You may not feel "good" at it. You may not know how to express it. You may not even recognize it because it has a mysterious quality that is hard to capture and I find those ways that people try to express it most often don't reflect my experience. I love Aya inexpressibly. And I am indebted to everyone who reflects the love that they see me give her through all the many ways that I don't see myself.
- Being honest about your experience is the only thing that will free you from the tyranny that is contemporary idealized motherhood.
- I hate to give motivational speeches like, "You're doing great Mama!" but for real, you are, and the fact that it is little recognized has nothing to do with you and everything to do with the cultural devaluation of women's work and worlds (of which children are seen as part).
- My midwife was right when she said that all my daughter was going to need when she was born, and after, was me (and her father of course). Despite the fact that I buy her everything she touches - or at least try to until she drops it - she doesn't need much except hugs and unconditional love and affection.
- People are always going to parent differently than you. The faster you realize that your style is just perfect because it's yours - and you own that - life with a child gets easier.
- Contradictory parenting advice will drive you insane. Do what feels right. Except the dangerous stuff that you are cautioned against like leaving your kid in a hot car or eating only cheezies for dinner. Wait, we may or may not have done the cheezie thing last night. But you get my drift.
- If at all possible, don't feel that you have to defend the choices that you make for the good of yourself or your family. Explain them only if you want to and feel strong enough to do so.
- Don't compare yourself or your baby to others. I once saw a baby that looked four months old sitting up on her own in baby sign language class and almost lost my mind because Aya couldn't sit up on her own and then I later found out that the baby was much older than she looked and that baby sign language is stupid for four month old babies in any case because they just sleep through it. I mean go, for sure, if you want to, but maybe also lie down on the mat and get 30 minutes of sleep and then Google "how to say poop in sign language" when you get home.
- Take care of yourself because not doing so just causes you to become resentful or stressed or depressed or mean. You deserve as nice a life as you are trying to give your kid.
- Ask for help. Stop thinking that you are putting everyone out. Pay someone for help if you can even if it is a cleaning person once a month. Do whatever makes life easier and don't apologize for it.
- Tell your best friend all the weird stuff - what you think, what you're worried about, what comes out of you after birth. ALL OF THE THINGS! Don't be ashamed of the weird stuff. I think it's safe to say that we all experience it.
- Come up with snappy comebacks for annoying things that people say like "sleep when the baby sleeps" or "are they sleeping through the night?!?!" I suggest, "I'm a fragile new mother that is worried about everything and your cross examination of my experience is freaking me out and making me think I'm doing everything wrong and that my kid is a screwed up already because I've already screwed her up so if we could possibly just talk about the weather, that would be great" or something like that. That should safely put an end to those comments.
- Find something that you like doing with your child so it doesn't all seem like work - take a bath together, play outside, go to the park. Otherwise you'll get always feel like you are wiping butts and feeding and chasing or holding or whatever. You deserve joy. Find what works.
- And drum roll please...That the bad stuff won't last. It usually goes in cycles and those cycles are really fast at the beginning with all the changes. Then they get slower and there are less seemingly "crucial" decisions that you have to make and you gain a comfort level with being a mother and then one day, it's hard but not as hard, and you can breathe a little again. Try not to jump to conclusions when there is a bad cycle. Don't mess too much with routines, don't drive yourself crazy. Try to stay the course by being patient and practical.
Again, these are just my thoughts and I hope they help. They are not meant as a rule or guide book or as overly advice-y - rather, it's just stuff I would have liked to know and stuff that I need reminding about.
Two years honestly flew by in a haze. Especially since I didn't think I would make it through the first six months.
I'm one proud, and slightly exhausted Mama, and I've got one great unicorn kid.