“You are already doing a fucking amazing job.”
After Zee’s birth, I received so many congratulations and kind messages, but the one that I held closest to my heart was this one. I held it like a life preserver when I thought I was drowning. The wonderful woman who sent it may not have realized until this moment that it saved me on some of my darkest days.
The early years of motherhood have had their unique challenges in every era of humanity, I’m sure. When I try to cajole my toddler into eating chicken, I imagine some Paleolithic-era mom shrieking something that roughly translates to “I don’t give a shit if you don’t want woolly mammoth again, your choices are eat it or literally die.” My maternal grandmother went through over half of her twelve pregnancies without the aid of indoor plumbing. The part of my brain that remembers five months of morning (hahahaha jokes) sickness wants to curl up and die at the thought. By just about every metric you can come up with, this should be the easiest time in history in which to have a baby. Just about every piece of information you could want, right at your fingertips!
The thing is, for new moms, most of that information is telling you all the many, many ways in which you are doing it all wrong. Sushi when you’re pregnant? Poison. Formula? Basically just corn syrup. Breastfeeding? Have fun with little Norman Bates! Cribs? Jail cells without ceilings! Co-sleeping? OH MY GOD YOU’RE GOING TO SMOTHER LITTLE NORMAN BATES HOW CAN YOU DO SUCH A THING. Wait, are you using a stroller? Are you babywearing? Did you pick up the baby? Did you put down the baby? Have you looked at the baby today? You’re not supposed to look them in the eye. They’re like gorillas. Unless you circumcised, in which case you need to look them in the eye at all times so you understand what you’ve done to them. You look anxious. You shouldn’t be anxious. Babies can sense anxiety. Here, rub some coconut oil on yourself and say nine Hail Hydrasenses.
Can I just grab this bullhorn for a second for those in the back? Thanks.
“But the books said–”
“But my mother-in-law said–“
“But the mom group said–“
Nope. Seriously, fuck that. Fuck everyone who thinks they know your life and your baby better than you do. Is your baby fed? Are they clothed or, failing that, quite happy to be naked? Are they safe from whatever wild animals are native to your area? Are they loved? You are doing a great job. Are you making mistakes? You sure as shit are, and if you haven’t then you have some doozies waiting for you. There’s no way to be handed a squalling football without the capacity for speech and raise it to functional adulthood without a few screw-ups on the way. Just give yourself permission to start fresh every day, or every hour if you need to. Give yourself the kind of compassion you would give a friend dealing with the same thing. Give yourself a break. There is no one right way to do this.
Ever since my friend said that to me almost two years ago, I say it to all my new mom friends. Sometimes I even say it to myself.
In case you needed to hear it today, you are doing a fucking amazing job.