When my husband and I went out for our first date after our daughter was born and he asked me what I would tell myself at 37 weeks pregnant. He thought he was asking a lighthearted question to reflect on the last 4 months of our lives. He was wrong. I said with a cracking voice, “You are about to feel like a total failure.” He looked at me, shocked. He hadn’t thought either of us was failing at parenting. In hindsight, I don’t think we were failing either, but at the time, it felt like that was all I was doing.
Here’s what I would tell myself at 37 weeks pregnant.
I would tell myself that your body is about to be rushing with hormones – even more than it was when you were pregnant. You are going to be emotional about things you never gave a second thought to before. Your husband will ask you questions trying to be helpful and they will feel like attacks. Be kind to him, even when you don’t want to be. He is trying his best too.
You will be simultaneously amazed that your body just made another human life, and also feel as though you are living your life in a totally foreign body. Be patient with your body, give it time to heal, and don’t expect your old body to show up anytime soon, or ever.
You are going to question everything you do – and I mean everything. You will feel like the weight of the world is on your shoulders to get it right. You will worry that the choices you make now have consequences you can’t even fathom now. Although you can’t keep the worry from coming, know that as long as everyone is fed and warm and bathed occasionally (yourself included), things are going to be okay.
“Tired” is about to have a whole new meaning. Remember in college when you used to stay up to cram the night before a test? Or you stayed up all night with friends? Having a baby is like that, except you don’t get to sleep all day the next day to make up for it. Oh yea, and it’s every night. People will tell you to sleep when the baby sleeps. And sometimes you will. But sometimes, there will be bottles to wash and laundry to do. If people offer to help with chores, let them.
You are going to feel like each piece of advice you receive contradicts another. Take everyone’s advice with a grain of salt. Use the pieces that serve you, and say thank you and move on from the ones that don’t. Remember that any advice you receive is an attempt to be helpful. Whether or not it feels like help, appreciate that you have people who care about you.
Eventually, those hormones calm, and those worries fade, so don’t worry too much that things will always be this hard. You will find your tribe of mommas and they will support you and give you the strength to be just exactly what your baby needs and everything will start to feel okay again.