Dear New Mama Self of 2012,
This is a hard letter to write to you—to my former self. I want to tell you so many things and assure you in as many ways as possible that this pain you are feeling is OK. I know myself enough to know that words only mean so much; experiences mean more. But I hope you take the following to heart.
You will get better, you can be more than just a mom, and you are a good mom. Believe in that.
Jeffrey is almost two years old now, and it’s amazing and awesome. I remember so vividly that for the first several months of his little life, it was just so … surreal. I couldn’t believe he was actually here, a person, and that I made him. Trust me, that feeling doesn’t go away. I want you to know, while life isn’t perfect now, it is and will be a hell of a lot better.
I know you feel like you are drowning in emotions right now; there’s so much guilt and fear. There are so many tears, so many feelings of wanting to run away, and there’s nothing I can say to make it stop right now. But I will tell you again, it will get better.
You’re probably reading this while holding Jeffrey while he nurses, right? Yeah, that was the biggest pain. Can you believe, on top of pre-existing depression and anxiety and postpartum depression, you are dealing with breastfeeding problems? Ugh. But you will heal, and you will grow to love breastfeeding so much that even two years later, you’ll miss it so, so much. I know it’s scary to think about stopping once it becomes so perfect and enjoyable. It’s scary to think about switching your beautiful little boy to formula, but let me tell you this: It’s OK. One hundred percent. He’s perfect right now. He’s so smart, so great. You both will benefit so much from you going on proper medication to help you heal. I know, looking back, one of your biggest concerns will be that you just started to love breastfeeding, and because you both enjoy it now, after four months, you have finally bonded with that little boy—how could you possibly think about letting that go? I know it’s hard to think about, but you’ll still bond so much more over the coming months.
Let go of the guilt that it took you over four months to really love that little boy to death. You couldn’t help it; there were so many warring emotions and problems with your mental health. You will soon be his best friend and love him to pieces. Let go of the guilt of feeling like he is sacrificing something perfect for you to get healthy. You getting healthy is in your son’s best interest, trust me.
I wish I could go back and enjoy it more, so I hope you take this advice: Do your best, do all you can, but don’t push so hard you break. Enjoy that little boy. This time with him is precious. I know most days you can barely hold him long enough to feed him without having a panic attack, and that’s OK—but do the best you can. Try to remember that this pain will recede, and you need to focus on your health and take care of yourself. It sucks that it takes almost eight months to get on the proper medication and find a therapist you like, but enjoy it when it comes.
I know that once you are alone with that baby, you look at him and the panic rises in your throat and all you can think is, “How can I possibly care for this life on my own?” You can. It’s going to be hard and tiring, and he’s going to challenge you, but it’s going to be worth it, and you can do it. In the end, you will love it so much your heart will want to burst. I know you can’t imagine that right now, because it’s just scary and you want to hide. Right now, for you, the “new baby haze” is lasting longer than it does for most women. You’ll be stuck in it for over eight months, but once you come out of it, life is really going to turn around. You just need to get help and love that little boy, and go out on dates with your amazing fiancé. You need to take time for yourself and relax, you need to let go of your guilt and hug that baby until you can’t stop smiling.
You might not believe me now, but someday, you’ll be able to leave the bedroom without fear. You probably won’t believe me that you will love your baby boy so much it will hurt, that you won’t feel anxious 24/7, that you’ll be able to focus and think about things that don’t involve being a mother, that you’ll be able to go out on a date and not worry about your son at home.
It’s hard to believe when you’re in it that good things will happen and you will heal, but if you can trust yourself just a little here, trust what I’m saying is true. Trust that it will all be OK.