Dear Postpartum Self:
Congratulations! You did it! You endured months of vomiting, nausea, swollen feet and stretching in places you didn’t think could possibly stretch that much. You made it through the labour... All 47 hours of it... Thank God for epidurals!! And no matter what anyone says to you, Gurrrl, you look fabulous! You may not think so right now; because your stomach still looks like your 5 months pregnant, you don’t fit into any of your pre-pregnancy clothes, and quite frankly, you may never. And your vagina feels like it may fall out of you at some point. But- you just made and birthed a human. You are a f*ing Queen, a goddess, a warrior. Hell- you are Beyoncé.
And because you are all of those things, please be kind to yourself. You are going to doubt if you are doing anything right. You’re going to doubt if you are cut out to be a mother and if things are going to ever feel normal again.
And to be completely honest- no- they never will, because everything changes, but a lot changes for the better. When I think back on that postpartum period, I realize there are so many things I would have done differently. So the advice I wish I could have given to you, my postpartum self, is this:
After delivery, take all the baby diapers and of those huge, stretchy, netted underwear’s they give you at the hospital for yourself, and all the wipes, butt cream, formula, and pads in your hospital room each night before checking out. They’ll replenish it every day, and it’s one less thing for you to pick up later.
Accept all offers of help, and even when it’s not offered, ask for it. I know it’s hard. You want to be a supermom, the mama that can handle it all, but you likely can’t, and you shouldn’t have to. A lot of people are going to come over to see your new bundle of joy, but feel free to tell them that stopping by means also doing a load of laundry and dishes. Tell them it would be greatly appreciated if they would bring food that you can freeze, but also, try to stock that freezer beforehand. This is not the time for you to host. You just pushed a watermelon out of a hole the size of a pea; you are the one that needs to be looked after.
Don’t feel the need to do your makeup for these visitors either, unless you really want to. If the people visiting care that your hair is greasy, your boobs are leaky and there are circles under your eyes, then they don’t need to be there. Also, stop worrying about who sees you breastfeed. If they have an issue with seeing your baby eat, they can put a cover over their own heads.
It’s okay to skip the shower if it means getting in a quick nap or watching your favorite show uninterrupted. There is a reason why dry shampoo was invented.
Do not for the love of god take a mirror down there for at least the first 6 weeks. Just trust me on this one. Your hoo-haw will look normal again I promise, but some things cannot be unseen.
Know that no mom understands how to use that torture device they call a breast pump. Don’t worry- you’ll figure it out. Don’t feel pressure to have to choose between breastfeeding or formula feeding. You need to do what’s right for you and what’s comfortable for you, and you can always do a mix of both. Healthy babies can be exclusively breast fed, exclusively formula fed, or fed using a combination of both. If anyone tells you otherwise, tell them to shove it where the sun don’t shine.
Don’t always be the picture taker. I know it’s hard and you still might feel like you’re in a foreign body. But your kids will look back and want those pictures of you as a new mother, especially when you’re gone. Life is short, but pictures are forever. You won’t regret it, I promise. You’ll flip back and see how good you looked even with that crazy hairdo and you and your kids will always looks back together at those photos and smile.
Soak in that smell of your baby’s head. Memorize it if you can. Because when it’s gone you’ll miss it so much. Relish the moments of just sitting there and staring into your baby’s eyes for hours and knowing that you are the only one they want. But then take time for yourself away from your baby. Go on dates with your husband. Invite that friend over that always offers to babysit and go have a nap and read a book because you need those moments to yourself to keep your sanity. It doesn’t have to be all baby, all the time. It’s amazing how after you become a mom, going to the grocery store for 20 minutes can feel like a mini vacation.
Don’t try to sleep-train a newborn. Newborns don’t sleep. Wait at least until they are 3 months old. It’s okay too if the sound of your infant’s cries may grate on your nerves. You will reach crazy levels of sleep deprivation that you didn’t even know were possible. You’ll sit in bed at 3 a.m., and you’ll pray for your baby to shut its eyes so you can go to sleep. You’ll wonder if this is normal for a baby to not sleep. It is. If anyone tells you differently, sleepily hand them your baby and take a nap. And no- you cannot return the baby, but it’s okay if that crosses your mind sometimes.
You will cry over everything for the first couple weeks. If you thought pregnancy hormones were crazy, wait till you get postpartum hormones. It will all make you cry. I once cried because the corn on the cob that I was craving was taking too long to BBQ. And that’s normal. Get yourself to a doctor if the crying lasts more than a few weeks. If you find yourself crying for a month or more, it’s time to call in backup, whether that means your doctor, husband, mom, friends or all of them. There’s nothing to be ashamed of. More people than you know suffer with postpartum depression. You can get help, the darkness will disappear, and things do get better, a lot better.
Wrap your mind around doing gross things like removing a onesie covered in poop all the way up to the neck. Just throw it away at that point- don’t bother trying to get it clean. Poop and pee will get on you- just come to terms with that now, there is no avoiding it. You will be puked on, many times, and at some point you will even try to catch that puke in your hands rather than get it on your couch. At the time it will seem logical.
Speaking of poop- oh the joys of the first postpartum poop. People will only talk about how torn up your vagina gets after labour, but that baby was also pushing on your butt when it made its glorious entry into the world, and you may have been put on meds which have some great side effects, like constipation. So don’t wait until you’re close to a hemorrhoid. Ask for the stool softener at the hospital and start popping them like skittles. Eat your fiber. Drink your coffee and then make a date with that toilet, but first make sure someone is home to hold your baby. You will not regret those stool softeners, I promise.
If your gut tells you something is wrong with your baby, fight like hell until someone listens. Get a second and third opinion if you have to. Nobody knows their baby as well as a mama.
My last piece of advice for you is to realize that you don’t suck as a mother. In fact, you are doing a fantastic job! You are keeping a human being alive that couldn’t last more than 10 minutes by itself. None of the baby books will prepare you for what you are going to go through, but here’s the thing- no first- time mom on this earth knew what they were doing right away! You will make it up as you go along, and everything will work itself out. So when mothering gets you down, just remember that.
Or- do what I do, and just keep whispering to yourself, ‘I am Beyoncé, I am Beyoncé.’