A letter to new moms
Dear young mama,
Yes, you, the one with the bags under your eyes, breasts painfully engorged with milk and baby weight “pooch” hanging heavily over the maternity pants you’re STILL wearing three months postpartum. I’m talking to you.
As I type this letter, seated in my all too-quiet home office, I can’t help but remember what it was like to be in your sleep-deprived shoes. The memories are still as vivid and fresh as if they just happened yesterday. You see, nobody really prepares one for motherhood. All those baby showers and now the more de rigeur “gender reveal” balloon popping parties tend to highlight only the pretty aspects of becoming a mother.
As you are showered with colorcoordinated presents while sipping pink lemonade and eating dainty finger sandwiches, you’re told that “you’re glowing” and that “pregnancy becomes you.” And as you sit there, basking in the light, warmth and love from well-meaning friends and family, you feel like life couldn’t get any better than this. BLISS. PERFECTION….until the first labor contractions come in.
Truth is, becoming a mother is not a steady process. It’s more like a jolt, a shock to the system just like those painful contractions that signal the beginning of a different life.
Whether you pushed that baby out of your nether regions or bore it out from your belly, the pain and elation are the same. While you think, at the height of your pregnancy (37 weeks onwards) that you would give anything just to “give birth already” so you can sleep comfortably once again, you sing a different tune when your newborn comes home with you. You actually wonder, WILL I EVER SLEEP AGAIN???
Believe me, I’ve been there. I’ve asked that same question with tears streaming down my face. Breastfeeding, burping, changing diapers on repeat while surviving on maybe three to four hours of broken sleep can do a number on your sanity. With a full time job, this can turn into a full blown episode of postpartum depression. So if you’re there, I suggest you seek help. Yes, you’re a mom BUT you’re also just human, after all.
The thing is, you will eventually get used to your new normal and before you know it, your baby will be hitting milestone after milestone, the biggest of which is sleeping through the night! You will feel so ecstatic, like you can conquer the world until they start teething…and it all goes haywire all over again.
From infancy to toddlerhood to big school transitions straight into puberty and full on young adulthood, I’m telling you that the challenges will always be there. The concerns will evolve and change over the years, but your mama heart will never ever be at rest. You will stay up awake at night, not because of late night/early morning feeds but because of a prom date that went a little too well. You will cry NOT because you are so exhausted from round the clock sponge bathing/paracetamol dosing BUT because your teenage daughter is suffering from her first heartbreak.
Whatever it is that concerns you right now, and I’m guessing it’s managing to get through another sleepless night, here is my ADVICE: Stay in the moment. Savor it. Live it. Maybe even try to enjoy it. I know it sounds crazy but it’s true. One day, when like me, you have your house all to yourself and it’s so quiet you can hear a pin drop, you will actually long for something to shatter the silence. ANYTHING- a fight for you to break up, a cry that you need to comfort with the breast/bottle, a call for help to do maths or simply a “Mama, can you come here please?” Things that used to annoy you, irritate you, bother you or drive you straight up the wall will now be things you will long to hear again. YES, it’s true.
Don’t get me wrong. I am loving my new normal. I love the fact that at this stage of life I’m in, I have the freedom to pursue other interests and passions, which is something that I couldn’t do when my children needed me 24/7. I am also loving the fact that I’m not running around like a headless chicken bringing one child from one appointment to another while worrying where the other one is. There is a certain joy in knowing that you’ve done your job well enough as a parent that you actually have a little piece of you somewhere out there in the world TRYING to make it in life. Hopefully, a responsible, kind, morally upright human being who still doesn’t forget to call her mama from time to time.
So, mama, with your bedraggled state and milk-stained sleepshirt. It may not seem like it right now, but in the not-so distant future, everything will be alright. You will be able to sleep again without being jolted awake by a newborn baby’s shrill cry. You will be able to go to the toilet without children banging on the door.. But for now, this is your life. So enjoy it. Every single bit of it. I am rooting for you.
Sending you virtual hugs and a glass of wine,
About the writer: Chie Gatchalian is a full-time mom to two children and a part time everything else. She is a wine and spirits educator who loves to spend her free time traveling with her family. After moving to and living in 7 countries for the past 20 years, she is finally settling back in at home in Manila as a “half empty nester.” From being a constant nomad, Chie is looking forward to finally having a permanent home in the Philippines.