I know three people who have given birth in the last ten days.
First of all, thank God for the safe delivery of three gorgeous new babies into my Facebook feed.
I feel like I should post something newborn-related for these three moms, but the three moms in question are so different, and will be facing such different challenges (many of which I know nothing about) that one piece of all-purpose "advice" seems like just noise.
One mom just had her first.
One mom just had her second.
One mom just had her third.
One mom is groping her way through the painful, awkward first days of breastfeeding.
One mom is recovering from a cesarean with a toddler running around.
One mom is experiencing, for the first time, what it feels like to have more children than hands.
Bless their three full hearts.
And I mean that sincerely, not in the way South Carolina debutantes say it.
I remember dropping off a lunch basket with another new mom when Chicken was just a little thing, maybe 5 or 6 months old. She opened the door in her pajamas and glasses, padding around slowly, whispering over the baby in his bassinet. My God... at that moment, I felt like I was right back there. Not even "back there," not even like I had to be transported back to those first days. I felt like I'd never left. My own first days as a mom felt completely current - they weren't memories yet.
I asked her how she was doing, ready to tell her all the things I needed to hear on my first days.
It's hard for everybody.
It gets easier as you get more confident.
It's okay if you don't enjoy it or love it immediately. You will. Don't force it.
You are the best mother for your child.
Ask for help if you need it, if you feel like you're overwhelmed.
But she didn't say, "I'm freaking out," or "this is so hard."
She said, "I feel amazing. I am so in love with him. I've never been happier in my entire life."
So I was like, "But your vag is sore, right? That gets better... make sure that you use the ice packs--"
And she was like, "Actually, it's not too bad! We took a short walk earlier."
And I said, "I don't have anything else to say to you. Here's your sandwich."
My first days as a mother were characterized by a cocktail of terror, uncertainty, and rage. I didn't eat much, couldn't sleep, sat awake next to Chicken, waited for his syncopated, gurgly, hiccuping baby breaths to stop.
I just figured that was how it was for everybody. I assumed that becoming a parent was a universally terrible experience, that you had to spend a few days panicking in a hot box before you could learn how to breathe easily in this tight, new space. I assumed that people who said they were "over the moon" were lying or just being polite. I thought, "you don't have to say that to me. I've been behind the curtain, b. I KNOW what's back there. Cut the shit and let's be real."
Honestly, most of my new-mom advice was fucking terrifying.
I slipped my postpartum psychiatrist's phone number to people, saying, "she's great. She knows which panic attack medications are safe for breastfeeding."
Like Wednesday Addams all grown up, I eagerly shared the most comforting thing I ever heard at a new parent support group: "If the baby is going to die of SIDS, there's nothing you can do to stop it. It's sudden. It's not like if you were there, watching, you could have done something."
Seriously? Who in their right mind thinks that's, like, a little gem to pass along to new parents?
I had no idea what to do when faced with a genuinely beatific figure of motherhood, someone whose childbirth resulted in instant, perfect love with all the glowing, honeyed ecstasy that comes along with it.
She seemed... happy? But how? How could she be?
Like the Grinch, whose small heart exploded out of its gilt frame when he saw the Whos joining hands to praise the morning, I felt a pop in my chest as I realized that having a baby doesn't have to be the way it was for me. It doesn't have to be scary, sad, and impossible.
I'd be lying if I didn't say that I was a little sad about the way Chicken's first days went down.
I wish I'd drawn a different card from the deck.
I miss the experience I never had.
I yearn to go back and have it just be different.
At the same time, I wouldn't change a thing.
I'm sure there's a word in another language that sums up this feeling exactly.
This one goes out to the new mamas who are having some kind of day today - a glorious I've-never-been-complete-until-today day, a scary I've-made-a-huge-mistake day. Maybe both. Probably both.
What I have landed on, in my own heart, is the fact that no matter how I felt about those days, the truth is that they were, like all days, precious and fleeting, and never to return. I hold those first days close to my heart, not as the time I was terrified and unbalanced, but as the time I stumbled and eventually got up again. That time is a myth, part truth and part perception, the based-on-a-true-story of how we became three.
You will never be in this place again.
So try to just be where you are. Even if it sucks. Even if the only great thing about today is that it's about to be fucking over. It's part of your myth, part of your story.
See? Here I fucking go again with my "I know it's hard" spiel.
If you're not having a hard time, I can't tell you how happy I am for you.
I just don't have anything else to say to you.