If I could go back fourteen years to the beginning of this Mama Gig, there are things I’d tell New Mama Me.
Things she should hear.
Things she should know.
Things I’d deliver straight to her heart, like that violent Pulp Fiction through-the-chest resuscitation shot, to help her breathe just a little in that time when new mamahood first destroyed her but before she really lived again.
Oh new mama, I would say, this beginning, it’s hard. It is. It’s hard.
Your feet are moving on a marathon that’s just begun, but you haven’t trained because there’s no way to train for this. No way to build your muscles or increase your endurance or improve your time other than to start running. And that is okay. It’s the way this thing is done. You won’t always feel this exhausted. This off-balance. This delirious. But I know that doesn’t matter right now and that you want to punch people who say, “It gets better” right in teeth. (But it gets better, mama. It does. And the secret is you get stronger.)
I would tell you, sweet new mama, that postpartum depression isn’t just a biological phenomenon reserved for mamas who grow their babies themselves. I would tell you that I know you adore your baby. I know you’re wildly grateful for her. And I know you’d give your life for her and that some days you’re so strung out you wish you could. All kinds of Postpartum What-the-Hell is normal — even for you, the adoptive I-was-so-desperate-to-be-a-mama mama. Welcome to the land of Both/And, lady; both crushed with love for this new little life and breathless with the loss of yourself.
Parenting is relentless no matter how you arrive there.
Oh, New Mama. You will feel beaten, sometimes every minute, but I promise you, you will not stay down. You are a woman and you are just beginning to learn how very strong you are.
Parenting is relentless. Have I mentioned that? Relentless. But eventually it gives you a better version of yourself, and then eventually-eventually you’ll consider it a worthy trade.
You gasp with pain some days. So lonely. So unsure. And that’s okay because you are dying, mama. You are dying to yourself, laying down the you you once knew. But you will rise again, and you will go far. All the way to the moon. You will. To infinity and beyond, like Buzz Lightyear, except real. Your life won’t be only diapers, late nights, early mornings, toddler fits and mommy tantrums. I pinky swear and cross my heart. You will seek and you will find inside yourself the spark of a woman who knows from hard experience, to the marrow of your bones, that you are resilient and capable and strong.
I know you wonder how it is that momming can be so isolating when billions of women do it every day. I know you didn’t see the loneliness coming. If I had a genie in a bottle I would wish for a Zoom Out button for you; in the middle of the night, when you’re sitting on the hard floor with your crying baby and your crying self and your despair because you want to just stop it but you don’t know how, you could zoom out and see. You could zoom out over your house and then out and then out again, like Google Earth for mamas, and from that high place in the sky overhead you’d see that you’re one of an ocean of mamas rocking on the floor in the night. You’d know that you’re not alone. Not really. And you’d wave at the other mamas, and they’d wave through their tears back at you.
You’ve heard about the Village — the one they say it takes to raise a child — and I know you wonder how to find it. Damn Village. The Zoom Button sure would help, wouldn’t it? But I would tell you to hang in there. Breathe breath after breath and keep trekking. Because the Village is there, mama. There’s hope! You’ll get there! The illusive Village is there, and you are so right to keep moving ’til you find your mama tribe.
And the mamas that you find? Some of them in the wilderness just like you? They will point the way to Love and hand you a beer and teach you to laugh at the mess. You don’t know it yet, but the sweaty, miserable work you’re doing in the jungle isn’t just for you, mama. There’s a purpose for all of your wandering. No, you don’t know if yet, but you’re cutting a trail that others will follow to the Love and the beer and the laughter, too. Can you even believe it?
Oh, New Mama. If I could tell you just three things, I’d tell you these:
- You’re okay. You are. Both the dark and light of you. The despair and the hope.
- The hope will win. I swear it.
- You’re not alone. Love is there. And so are you. And together, you’re enough.