Friday, August 9, 2013

Dear Allison

Since I am now the mother of a one year old, I figured that I am now that "experienced" mom, the one that I looked up to when I was pregnant and when Lemon was a newborn. I thought that if someone could survive that first year, then they must know what they are talking about. So here I am.

As a mother, people try to give you advice all the time and it weighs you down sometimes and lifts you up others, depending on how hard you are on yourself. Advice to me was disheartening because there were times, and still are, where I felt like I was doing absolutely everything wrong and when someone suggested something else, I took it as though they thought I was a failure. Being a mom is tough, harder than I ever could have imagined and I'm pretty sure I helped make it that way by being too hard on myself. 

I am a planner and am the type of person that envisions something in my head and if it goes differently I definitely do not go with the flow, I just go home. I am an only child and came from two successful and educated parents, also planners and also people who have high expectations. I am often disappointed and if I am out of my comfort zone I will just try to find a way to fix it or leave; did I mention that I'm also a fixer?

When it took us 8 months to get pregnant with our blueberry I didn't understand it, my planning mind did not envision it happening. When we lost our baby it sent me into a downward spiral of believing in nothing and no one and separating myself from everyone in my life. Then when we decided to try again and that took forever too, I was thrown a loop again, and definitely out of my comfort zone of expectations. I was hard on myself, so much so that it caused problems with family, friends and even my husband. I had no idea what was happening, why it was happening and my planning mind couldn't wrap itself around the idea of it. I finally had to come to terms with the fact that ALL of this was out of my hands. Imagine that, I couldn't control this. Wow, what a realization.

So, that's what I did this whole year, tried to control a situation I knew nothing about. I was SO out of my comfort zone, being a new mom, that I tried to hang on to something, anything and grasp control. Whether it was nursing or naps or bedtime - I tried desperately to make sense of this nonsensical creature that now lived among us. It was madness and I drove myself and Ian nuts.  See, being a mom is not all roses and sunshine, it's fucking tough sometimes.  (Yep, fucking tough.)

Now looking back, I wish I would have done things differently. I wish I wouldn't have taken it all so seriously, so personally, and so emotionally (although I think that comes for some of us after childbirth, it totally takes awhile for your emotions to stabilize again) and I wish I would have just laid down and snuggled my newborn whenever she would let me. I wish I had learned from her and been more adaptable, more relaxed and more spontaneous; accepting the craziness as it came and not taking it all to seriously. I also wish I wouldn't have googled so much. 

So here I am, a year later, a year wiser and as I listen to my daughter cry before bed sure it's sad but I know she's fed, changed and ok, she just doesn't want to go to bed. The newborn mama in me wonders if something is wrong, if I should have done a thousand things differently to help her fall asleep and feels like it's my fault that she can't put herself to sleep tonight. But this one year old mom knows that sleep will come, and although all of those thoughts are still in the back of my mind, I  have faith in myself because we got here, to one year, together - and we all made it out alive.

So, here is a letter I wish I could have written myself a year ago. Things I would do differently next time (will there be a next time?) to make our lives a whole lot easier. Do I think I did anything wrong this time? No. We made it and we are all healthy and happy and I truly believe that moms do it all, more than anyone knows, and I give myself a lot of credit for all of it. I am celebrating this girl turning one also, I made it and I amazed even myself.

(I am aware that many of the things below were told to me by my family, friends and husband; and that I did not listen.  I have already explained, above, the type of person I am and why I decided to do things the way I did them.  Do I wish I would have listened?  Maybe, about some things.  Can I change that now?  Nope.  This letter will just serve me best if I have another baby, so that maybe I can stress a little less and enjoy my time a little more.  It will also help me to remember how fast the time goes and that I should cherish every moment instead of being so overwhelmed - advice I now remember daily.)

Dear Allison,

Before you even finish this letter, that tiny babe you hold will be a minute older. Those minutes turn into hours, days, weeks and months and before you can even comprehend what has gone on over the past year, your snuggly baby will be a walking 13 month old. So, before you start reading this, grip that baby a little bit tighter and get ready for some advice from an older, wiser you.

Don't worry about those dishes in the sink, that laundry to do or those clothes to hang up. Don't even worry about all of the home repairs still left to do or having money to do them. Lemon has no idea any of that exists and just wants your undivided attention and a warm place to lay. All of those things can wait, and don't listen to your husband when he tells you the house is a mess. Who cares? Your baby is only a tiny baby for a very short time.

Don't stress. Lemon probably isn't sleeping, she probably can't figure out nursing and you are new at it too - stop googling and reading about what she "should" be doing at the moment or about what other babies are doing, none of it is important. Every baby is different and you guys will figure it out, together. Don't be so hard on yourself.

Nurse, nurse, nurse. Nurse through the confusion, nurse whenever she wants; it all helps to build your supply. You don't want to nurse because your nipples have just had enough? Give yourself a break. When Lemon is 10 no one will be able to tell which kid had breast milk and which had formula, so feed her if she's hungry and give her formula if you gotta. The breastfeeding police will not come for you and you will not have failed as a mother, take a breath and take a break. Relax. The milk will come, the pain will go, you will go 13 lovely months nursing your babe, just take it easy and try to enjoy it. Enjoy the night time feedings, the nursing snuggles - eventually she will roll, kick and tumble with your nipple in her mouth. Enjoy the calmness.

Sleep together. Don't rush with putting Lemon in her own space, nap with her and sleep with her. Don't worry if it's the right thing or how you will have to break the habit later; take all the time you can to cuddle your muffin, who cares if she never leaves your bed. Nap as a family and sleep with her in between you - it will teach her that she can sleep anywhere.

Don't try to put Lemon on a schedule, she's a baby. When she's tired, try bed time. When she's hungry, feed her. Babies will adapt, and if she gets overtired try an earlier bedtime the next night. Don't spend hours trying to get her to fall asleep, she will sleep one day so snuggle and watch a movie instead. One day (maybe not even a year from now) but one day, she will sleep. Don't waste your time trying to make it happen, enjoy all of your time together instead.

Calm down. Don't get frustrated and don't be so hard on yourself. This is tough, yes, but know that you are doing your best and you're doing an amazing job! Ask for help, take a break, let someone else try something or put her to bed, let those that love you help you.  Accept the help offered to you.  You can't do it all and you need a break.

Even though the time is short, get out and see your friends. Don't worry about bottles or formula, just go. Feel like yourself and not just a mom for a bit, and put on some cute clothes and rock those milky boobs, they won't last forever! Put away your maternity clothes and maxi dresses, throw on something from before and something not covered in spit up. Do your hair, put your contacts in and makeup on, try it and see how you feel.

Find a way to work part time (this is something I never thought I'd write).  I know you love your job, I know you've been doing it for 13 years, and I know what stepping away or stepping down means.  It means no job security, no money but it means more time.  Time with your baby is fleeting and precious.  Take a leave of absence, take a part time job, work less.  If you can't (because I am talking to myself and I know what I would say to this, even next time), enjoy this time at home, enjoy your maternity leave if it's all you have.  Don't get frustrated, just cuddle up and kiss your muffin realizing that before you know it you will be back at work.  Work will make you feel good, will make you feel like more than a mom, and you may need that eventually, but find a way to work less if you can.  Time away is definitely a good thing too.

Do things together as a family.  Tell Ian to take some time off, with you and the baby.  Spend more time together instead of just you at home or just him at home.  I know that someone has to work but time together is so much fun - find the time, find the money.

Be patient, be calm and take naps.  Be patient with everyone around you, they are just trying to help.  Be calm when dealing with a fussy baby, family and friends - breathe.  Take more naps, take them with your baby, take them as a family.

Find peace with being a mom.  Accept your role as a mother, believe in it and feel it with your whole being and your whole heart.  Don't be fearful all the time.  Focusing so much on loss isn't good for the soul, focus on the present instead.  Live in this reality and stop being afraid.  Accept that this wonderful, gifted life is yours, this beautiful baby is yours and always will be.  Stop being afraid.  Stop being afraid.  You deserve this, you wanted this for so long and now it's here.  You are someone's mother, stop being afraid that it will all be gone.  Lemon is yours forever, there is nothing to fear.  Let your happiness shine out, let those dark days of sadness go.  Live in the moment and be happy because you are the luckiest woman in the world.


An older, wiser you.

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  1. Words cannot express how much I love this post. I was nodding my head the entire time.....I can totally relate. Thank you for this...I really needed to read it tonight!

  2. Very sweet letter, Allison! Hind sight is always 20/ will be interesting if you want to write another letter once she is 2, about how you handled the second year! ;)

  3. What a wonderful post. Hi, from your newest follower! I am going through fertility issues myself. We are at 11 months trying, and I am now on birth control. So I understand. And I hear all the advice about my fertility, and I know all the advice people love to give pregnant women and new mothers and sometimes, its all enough to make you wanna pull your hair out. Anyway, great post. I look forward to following you. Stop by when you have time

  4. Be kind to yourself. Recognize yourself as a friend. You are not the only first time mother who has struggled and certainly you will not be the last.

    I don't have children of my own, and I can't understand what it means. But! I was raised by a working mother and father, and it has inspired me, as a woman, to achieve my own goals and have my own life. My mother once expressed to me that having children changed her, made her less selfish, and gave her a purpose in life, but she made it clear to me that she did not see herself as a mother exclusively. Lemon is likely to benefit from having a strong mother. My mom cuddled me in infancy, but I don't remember it. I only remember her example and strength.

  5. Wonderful! So well said. I know I heard all of this when I was going through it, but you just have to get through it yourself before you can truly understand. That first year really does fly by.

  6. I just found your blog and absolutely love this post! So beautifully written. Looking forward to following along!
    - Laura