I went to a baby shower on Saturday for a friend I have known since first grade. First grade, y’all! I have known her for 26 years! That is kind of a long time. This is an open letter to her about new motherhood.
Dear New Mama,
You can look back over old posts and see what Atticus’s first year was like for me. People say you forget, or you look through eyes of nostalgia, but I haven’t forgotten how hard it was. I didn’t fall in love immediately. I didn’t treasure every minute. Even though I am proud of a lot of our decisions for Atticus, those things did not keep me from resenting how tired and spent I was. I did not do everything right. I wish I had been able to be happier and more attached.
Here is what helped:
Believing that Atticus, like all babies, is the least of these. Taking care of him is part of what it means to me to be a follower of Jesus. This bigger picture of who I wanted to be helped guide my decisions when I didn’t much want to take care of him. For me, belief often follows action. I acted like the parent I wanted to be. Bit by bit, my heart caught up.
Knowing that Atticus was born out of a deep love that Mike and I have for each other, love that, I believe, comes from the Source of all love. Even when all I felt for Atticus was resentment, I had eleven years of foundation with Mike that I knew I could rely on. Mike was a rock over the past two years. Watching him with Atticus is truly a delight.
Trusting my instincts. I am stealing this phrasing from my friend Brandi: Parenting books are all well and good, but there is no book on my baby. We broke all kinds of “rules” with Atticus. We coslept, and I nursed him at 4am for a year. We swaddled him for longer than the doctor recommended. I don’t regret any of that, because it was all what was right for our family.
It’s okay to be overwhelmed, to wish, sometimes, for your old life back. It’s okay to take time for yourself. It’s okay not to live up to your own expectations, whether it’s nursing or cloth diapers or making your own organic baby food. It’s okay to make your own path. It’s okay to call a friend and cry. It’s okay to get help if you need it. I did all of those things, and many more.
It is a privilege to help shape a soul. It’s also incredibly hard, but it gets easier and better all the time. Don’t listen to anyone who tells you otherwise.
Babies seem like they need a bunch of stuff, but they really just need you. And that is how I know that it’s all going to be okay, because you are a person of deep love and loyalty, of wisdom, and of kindness. Your baby is lucky to have you and your husband. I can’t wait to meet him or her for the first time.
P.S. Babies also need diapers, but you have that under control.