there are two quotes i've come back to a ton of times during these early weeks with ellie:
"having a baby is like getting a tattoo on your face. you need to be certain it's what you want before you commit." - elizabeth gilbert in eat, pray, love
"babies are such a nice way to start people." -don herald
really, it depends on the hour as to which quote seems to be more true to me! to begin, me even writing this post is sort of like reading good night moon and assuming you could talk to neil armstrong about what it's like to walk on it... i've been a mom for 8 weeks. that said, this blog is all about being honest about where we are & my hope is for other new moms, this post provides a bit of comfort. for all you more experienced moms, it'll probably just give you a good laugh! ok, numbers help me think, here we go:
1. you really can't explain childbirth or motherhood
when ellie was born i felt like i just entered a secret club & couldn't understand why NO ONE had told me what it would be like. i'm slowly realizing that they couldn't. people always say babies don't come with instruction manuals. the reality is, there are tons of books, just none of them are about your experience or your baby! to me, that made these early weeks really disorienting -- "wait, i thought i was prepared! i took an amazing birthing class! i read a ton of books! i asked a gazillion questions of other moms! i researched what to buy! we spent time with other babies! why the heck do i feel like a fish out of water?" the answer i'm coming to is that it's because this is your baby & no one can tell you what that's going to be like. i'm actually starting to think that's a wonderful thing, because this new life is for you to explore & figure out & soak up, so, in my better moments, i try to do just that.
i also found i needed to talk though the birth a lot with people i love -- especially ryan, my mom & close friends -- it is so much to process, you're just trying to piece together this amazing story of how your little one arrived.
2. how physical being a mom is
a few months before ellie arrived, i was talking with a young mom about what it was like to take care of a baby -- she said she was stunned by how physical it is -- you're constantly feeding them, picking them up, changing their diaper, soothing them, putting them in a car seat. especially before they can even hold their head up, or sit up on their own, they literally depend on you for their every physical need.
this has rung true with me many days -- especially the times when ryan has been pulling long hours & it's just me with ellie. it's something i'm glad someone mentioned to me in advance, because especially in these early weeks, it's been one of the strongest parts of my experience. i think we focus so much on the emotional experience of becoming a mom, the physical side can get overlooked.
3. you know your child so well, so quickly
the very first time i held ellie, after 30 hours of labor & three hours of pushing, my overwhelming feeling was "i know you!!" i've thought it a million times since then. i look at her & it seems so clear she's my daughter. she felt so familiar, so quickly, that it took my breath away.
& often times, it also means i know what she needs. i hadn't spent a ton of time around babies, especially newborns, and yet when ellie arrived, so much of it seemed intuitive. we had incredible care by the nursery nurses at the hospital (and asked a ton of questions), but it wasn't nearly as scary as i thought it might be -- taking care of someone else's newborn might terrify me, but holding ellie & knowing she was counting on me led me to follow my intuition, and sure enough, many times it worked! other times, it's trial & error, but we're all learning around here.
4. it really is the small stuff
my most vivid moments of the past few weeks have been small moments -- a text from ryan that simply says, "how are my girls doing?" and my heart wants to beat out of my chest knowing that's me & ellie! or these moments ellie & i share when she's so animated on the changing table in the morning. or the determined look on her face as she tries to straighten her legs & "walk" as i hold her up. or seeing a dear friend hold her for the first time & feeling their love for her so clearly.
5. you need other new moms on speed dial
in terms of the babies being a tatoo on your face thing, there have been REALLY overwhelming moments. times when i haven't felt like i know what to do, feel totally drained, or worried & it has been oh so comforting to have other young moms to turn to (it also helps some of my closest friends are doctors & nurses -- bless their hearts for answering my frantic/crazy texts!!).
it's that comfort in turning to someone and realizing, "oh, it's not just me." or having a good laugh that diffuses all that anxiety. i tell ya, it's what's kept me on track these past few weeks. so, find another new mom to go on walks with (a grace for me each week) or meet for coffee or just text/email with during the day. we need each other.
photo above taken by ryan while ellie & i were having a very fun conversation in our living room!