Letter to a New Mom.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

I was talking with someone (not a mom,)
about the new FB page some local ladies are trying to create as an online resource
devoted to mom's in our sweet little town of Stillwater, MN.
I heard, "This is a great idea!  But it's going to scare the hell out of NEW moms!"
(Something to that effect.)
What?!  Sh**!  Hadn't even THOUGHT about NEW mom's!
We started organizing, planning, laughing our heads off, working to channel our caffeine-induced energy in to doing something fun and exciting and resourceful, but lazily lumping all moms into one big, boiling over pot.  The assumption the women out there tuning in, would be just like us.  Crazy.  And tired.  And a little perturbed.
There's a HUGE difference between the mom who is just beginning and the moms well on their way to insanity, in the thick of multiple kids, carpools and volunteering for every event that comes along, out of guilt of not doing enough.
Oh my gosh, we ARE going to scare those precious mommies!  This crazy band of raging, sarcastic, drama queens (with good intentions of course,) is going to corrupt the young, gentle, kind and innocent minds of new moms with our words, our attitudes and our sketchy behavior.
"I need to write about this!"  I thought, a sort of 'Ode to New Mom's,' not just in our town, but everywhere.  
That although our landscape has changed dramatically since bringing home our first baby YEARS ago, we remember.  We remember being you, new mom.
The minute that plus sign flashed over OUR lives, not so long ago, 
was just as life changing for us, as it is now for you.
For me, personally, pregnancy, birth, a new baby, were beyond words.
The magic in the new life, was and is, remarkable.
So many parents are thrown in to the gauntlet right off the bat with a horrifying delivery, a baby that never stops crying nor ever sleeps, severe disabilities, terminal illness. . .
We were lucky and I soaked up my easy-going first baby and those to follow.
But lost in the bliss of those first months of pregnancy, the 'honeymoon' phase of motherhood, there was so much I didn't know as a new mom.
I don't want to frighten you of the impending dark days to come, forewarn you of the task at hand of raising a child. . .you'll figure that out soon enough.
But will simply share with you what we 'seasoned' moms DO know thus far (and I say that with the utmost respect, as technically, we are still freshman at this school.)  We haven't raised teenagers, given up our car keys, only given up our anger and frustration to potty training toddlers, not to pre-pubescent tweens with raging hormones.  A battle, we've heard, is one of the most grueling.  So really, what do we know?
We didn't know being a mom would be more than sealing outlet covers, padding sharp corners and obsessive hand washing.  That the depths of mothering go so much deeper.  To late night emergency room visits, praying and sobbing in the dark, begging and pleading for respite.  To hoping a cough or a limp is just that and nothing more. 
We didn't know your main goal of motherhood may initially have been to get back into your old jeans, but would soon become getting your kids to adulthood in one piece.  PRAYing they outlive you.  Praying for their happiness and doing anything to help them get there. 

That it takes time, tears, falling down and pulling yourself back up, an UNGODLY amount of strength and patience, to get that.  Running on a treadmill that doesn't stop.  Ever.  It might slow down, you stronger, the pace easier, but never quitting.
We had no idea it'd take serious sleep deprivation, a boot camp of unwelcome hazing in to this big ol' sorority of motherhood.  A rush week to initiate you to the harshness and demands of the job.  Leaving you tattered and broken right out of the gate. 
You might not realize yet, new mom, that this sport of being a mom?  Doesn't come with a 14-million dollar contract.  Don't count on firm handshakes.  White envelopes slipped in to deserving hands with a fat bonus check for a job well done.
You're a mom, now.  You will learn quickly, this is a 'thankless job.' 
There is no paycheck awaiting you at the end of a brutal week, a solid pat on the back from your boss, "Nice work, Liz!  Couldn't have done it without you."
No line up of sweaty, brow-beaten mommies on the field after a long battle, finding support and camaraderie with each passing handshake, at a 'good game, good game,' ACKNOWLEDGEMENT that we know you worked your a** off for, even if you didn't win.
This is the game, no cuts, no try-outs you just play to survive.  
And you might not know, there are no breaks.  No halftime show, no timeouts, no lunch breaks (unless you are cool locking yourself in the bathroom, paying a babysitter to relieve you, or waiting until the kids are in school, to finally GET one.) 
There's no clocking out.  No punch cards to tally up hours and efforts logged.  Even when you DO get those breaks, occasional vacations taking you off the map temporarily, you're still on.  Forever and ALWAYS a mom first.  Always thinking, dreaming, praying, hoping and missing for your babies, no matter where you are or how relaxed you find yourself.
You're just in.  Forever.  Your life is now about them, no matter how much you try to escape, work, seek your own endeavors.  There's a different current propelling you and THEY are the tide that both pulls you along and anchors you to the earth.  And some days, it seems the waves will swallow you up hole.
Our mothers never told us nor could explain, that the fresh newborn you brought home from the hospital just yesterday, who was your world,
that you'd one day be wishing for him to shut his ever-inquisitive pie-hole and stop annoying you so you can email in peace. . .and then feeling horribly guilty for having that thought,10X a day.
That these same babies, who you couldn't BEAR the thought of leaving, ever, would cause you to skip out the door the first chance of freedom, with so little as a blowing kiss from the car as it peels out of the driveway. 
That you could love them but, GOD just REALLY despise them and be disgusted with them all in one breath.
Your mom may not have mentioned your 'knight in shining armor' could eventually be seen as one more needy child in your life.  One more relationship that needs nurturing aside from your growing babies.  That the heaviest responsibility of raising children, the stress, money, careers, endless errands and boatloads of laundry, would put your marriage in a head lock.
That the baby nestled sweetly in your arms today, who looks to you and relies on you for EVERYTHING, will soon be embarrassed to be kissed by you in front of his friends.  He'll dodge your hugs and slam his door.  He'll be too big to cradle like the baby you hold now and your heart will ache. Your daughter, who's butt you wiped, baths you drew, first set of princess undies you just bought, will be asking for privacy before you know it.  And it will kill you inside.  But you will smile and feel pride at her sense of independence and respect for her body.
Now?  Now, I'd heavily plop down next to you sweet young thing, with all the love, kindness and understanding I can muster.  Because I know.  WE know, you DESERVE this bliss now, because it doesn't last forever.  I'd throw down beside me the seven years of baggage I've acquired so far, at my feet.  A bar of chocolate and snot-filled hankie in hand, to curb the tears as I try to explain myself and pat that innocence and naivete on the knee with a dry and weathered hand that looks far too old for my age.
"Honey?  Welcome.  And God love ya'.  But you're an idiot.  And you know nothing.  You'll see."
Again, not to scare new mom's, but there is so much you think you know.  So much you have yet to learn.  The simple truth is, you're not the first.  And you're not alone.  And you CAN NOT do it alone.  Most likely the feelings, the thoughts, the emotions you're experiencing, have been felt before.  You're not special.:)  You're just new to it.  But before you know it, motherhood will fit you like a glove.
Despite all the things you come to take for granted, that you come to (shockingly) discover about motherhood through the years, you will learn, quickly, how fast it goes.  
Remind your sleep-deprived, baby-burping, diaper changing self, that although you may not recognize yourself five years from now, you'll still be in there.  You'll ALWAYS be there, beneath the muck and the mud, waiting to become even better, simply by having known your children and had the job of caring for them.  Having gained the experience of learning to live with grief, despair, guilt, disappointment, helplessness and surviving it all. 
You will be thankful for the experiences that can come no other way,
other than through being a parent.  There will be nothing more beautiful and peaceful then a sleeping child, no matter how far their lanky legs hang over the side of the bed or how snuggled they are in to their sleep sack. 
Scooping naked little butts from the bathtub and snuggling them in to towels, never gets old.  Sleeping with a newborn on your chest, feeling their little puffs of air married to your own, is the most beautiful thing you'll ever do.
Holding that same child, years down the road, if you're so lucky, interlocking your own legs and arms over theirs, to remind them they are a part of you, will become a heaven-sent gift that you will cherish.
The joys, the tears, the feelings of relief, unadulterated happiness, appreciation and pride will swell you with a joy so grand and beautiful, you feel you might burst in two.  Those days FAR outweigh the challenges in this job.
How remarkable it will be to you when you learn the past life you so selfishly squirreled and squandered away for so long, you'd give up in a heartbeat, if it could save your own childs' life or make easier their days.  Somehow, and in interesting and unexpected ways, you will be brought back.  Back to what's important.  Back to that undying and unconditional love you hold for each of them.
Every story of a child caught up in the net of illness, every child lost, will send you like lightning to your baby's room as they sleep, to squeeze one more time, whisper I love you and kiss good night.  You will discover how other moms' tragedies will bring your own life in to focus.
You will learn, no matter how dark the days get, how frustrating the challenges, they too, will pass.  That life continues to move forward despite what you're going through.  That life stops for nothing and will have no pity on you and maybe, eventually, find some comfort in that.  Because in the midst of all the darkness that will befall you as you mother, 
there will always be a flicker of light to guide you,
in the hands and hearts of mothers before you.  There to hold you, support you and carry you through.  The angels of women in your own family, your own community, their voices, their pot roasts, their prayers, will be there.  Finding peace and humility in the dense forest of motherhood, light and openness in the clearings that are also sure to be there for the taking. 
A dear mom friend of mine practices a beautiful ritual.  When she is at a loss, feeling helpless and alone, she gives back to another, looking outside herself and her own woes, to honor a fellow mom and HER struggles.  Putting aside her own angst to serve someone going through worse, which you'll always find.  THINK of how much good could be done, how much you could change your intimate little world, if you reached out and gave back every time YOU, as a mom, felt helpless? 
That is what we envision for this new page we've created.  A place of "Hey!  Being a mom is hard, no matter where you're at, but we're here, in Stillwater, MN.  And we get it.  And we have a lot to catch up on!"
Reminding the local moms of Stillwater, that most likely, next door, the next block over, the next town, the next state, another mother is going through the same thing or in a far worse predicament.  So, to ante up, lose the sense of entitlement you've accrued over the years and give back.  Share what's gotten you through, pose trying questions, ask for help, offer good humor, harnessing the silent strength of local moms, a tribe of women, who although sometimes may appear judging, catty, angry and downright bitchy, (with good reason,) are equally as kind, loving, nurturing, thankful and appreciative for the support they've found in each other over the years.  The recognition we see in each other's eyes and the uplifted spirit that comes from a hug or a meal or kind words in our inbox.
Juice spills, ketchup stains, vomit, poop and tears will seemingly be violent and widespread in this job.  Trips to Target and the grocery store are sure to be filled with shame and embarrassment.  But eventually?  Eventually, with the help and guidance and support of mothers around and before you, you'll come to weather each storm with all the confidence, strength and nonchalance of a swarmy sea captain.  Maybe an "aaaaaarrrrrghhhh" of frustration but a quick tilt of the wheel, you the crabby helmsman, steering your vessel that is your life, into a new and better direction.  Eventually, up and out of motherhood, in to another chapter.
{Stop by and say hi on our FB page for Moms of Stillwater.  Created to have a social and LOCAL network for new and old mom's alike, to have a place to commiserate, find refuge, offer the simplest of tips and ideas, from where to get the best massage, how to deal with a teething baby or a tantruming toddler, where do get the best deal on go-gurts but most importantly, to laugh, share and maybe, if you're brave, ask those tough questions you're having a hard time finding the answers too.
Know that at the end of the day, you are loved, appreciated and the person that matters most, a mom.  We'll be there waiting with much love.}


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