In the fog of new motherhood, I felt so much pressure. I wanted to feel that confidence so many mothers seemed to project—to get to that place where I just knew what to do, no matter what was thrown at me.
But I also felt pressure to be okay all the time. To answer questions with how much joy my baby brought me. To be grateful—endlessly grateful—because, after all, weren't there so many women who would do just about anything to be in my place?
I was grateful. I did love my daughter beyond words. But that didn't mean it wasn't hard.
That didn't mean crushing doubts didn't creep in when I realized it was up to me to answer big, potentially life-changing questions. It didn't mean dark thoughts didn't settle in my brain—angry, bitter moments I could have allowed to fester and spread until they consumed me. It didn't mean I didn't snap or cry or feel like I was drowning in waves of loneliness at times. It didn't mean I wasn't so, so tired all the time.
But sometimes I was scared to tell the truth about how hard motherhood was. I didn't want to seem ungrateful. I wasn't sure it would be received with the asterisk—the one that says, "This is hard...but I wouldn't trade it." I was worried I would be misunderstood or judged.
And so, new mama, when I see you, I want you to know that I see you. I see the doubt and the confusion and the panic and the budding confidence. I see the sleep-deprived nights and the tiny victories and the quiet moments only you and that tiny baby will ever experience. I see you, and I am here to listen.
I'm here to listen when last night felt nearly endless and you honestly don't know how you're still upright this morning.
Sleep is actually crucial to life—it's not just "self-care." Early in my first daughter's life, I looked at my husband one morning and said, "You know this is actually how they torture prisoners of war." I wasn't exaggerating, and there is no exaggerating when it comes to how depleting sleep deprivation is. You can never really anticipate just how little sleep you will get—and yet, you will still manage to function and to provide for that baby.
But what I hope you hear, mama? That it's okay—necessary, actually—to ask for help and to allow the love in.
Let your mom or your sister or your friend or a babysitter you hire come over for an hour and hold the baby while you sleep. You will never be your best mom self if you are suffering, so take the help and see it for the love it is. But, in the meantime, it's okay to tell me honestly if you are not doing as well as you had hoped (and if there's anything I can do, please tell me that, too).
I'm here to listen when you can't stand your partner.
When you resent how freely they seem to move about the world—how little seems to have changed for them—while you are floundering under this weighty new life. I will listen without judgment about what you wish they were doing and how unfair the balance of responsibility is in those early days. You can dump the bad feelings on me, and I will talk with you how we both know you still love them, even when it feels like they are letting you down.
Together, we will find healthy ways to express yourself. And I promise I will still love your partner, even if I know this information, because I know how they too will grow and improve in their new role.
I'm here to listen when you are frustrated with your child.
It's so hard to understand when you can say the hard things, and to whom, so please know I am a safe place. Because we both know that your child is still the greatest thing in your life—it's just so hard to feel that when you are exhausted and scared and overwhelmed. When you just wish they would let you sleep—even just a few minutes more.
When they cry and cry and cry and your deepest fears drown out your reason—fears that you are just not good at this. Just not meant to do this. When your joy is tinged by regret, and the guilt for those feelings is nearly crushing. Because here is the greatest secret of motherhood: Your child is the best and can be the worst. No "or." No "if." They are both simultaneously, and sometimes it will just be too much for your brain to comprehend.
In those moments, I will listen to you and still know you are a good mother who would do anything for that little baby because you love them so much. And I will remind you of that, too.
I'm here to listen when you doubt yourself.
Because, mama, there is so much doubt in those early days. The changes are immense and the perspective is small, and everything threatens to consume you. I will listen and I will hold your hand and promise you without doubt, that the day is coming—the day when you will suddenly realize you know what to do.
When you realize you know what to do for your baby better than anyone else on the planet. That your baby was meant for you, and you were meant to be mother to your baby.
That day is coming, mama. But I'm here to listen until it does.