Dear Pregnant Self
by Sharon Tjaden-Glass
Like so many other women, I wish that I could go back in time and talk to my pregnant self. That 39-week-pregnant woman, waiting for labor to begin, wanting to know what she could do to prepare.
What would I say to her?
I would say…
Your worries are valid. I’m not going to belittle your concerns or tell you that things will be wonderful. You don’t need to “grow up” or “get over it.” But on the landscape of your life, your worries right now are small, a mere blip.
A child could ruin your marriage. I’ve seen how easy it could have been for you to become the martyr and insist that you were the only one who could take care of your baby. I’ve seen how difficult–but important–it is to strike the balance between communicating directly, yet patiently with your husband. But you’ll find it. Because you’ll discover—after 8 years of marriage—that you care more about your husband and your child than you do about yourself. So this child isn’t going to drive you apart—this child will actually be the push you both forward.
You will see your career differently. I won’t say that you’ll find out that your career isn’t as fulfilling as raising a child or that the work-family balance is impossible. But those evening and weekend hours will become sacred to you. And the last thing that you’ll want to do is sacrifice those hours to finish what you couldn’t get done in the office.
Babies are expensive. You’ll spend $600 on car seats. You’ll spend $1,100 every month for tuition at a good daycare. But you’ll also be glad to spend the money to know that your child is safe and in good care.
Childbirth. Is. Hard. But it’s not important to know how long your labor will last or how much pain you’re going to feel. What is important is that you’ll never doubt the depths of your strength again. Ever.
The postpartum period is even harder. But you are normal. Those crazy hormone shifts that detach you from reality—they happen to so many new mothers. You’re not broken. You’re not defective. And you will be able to take care of your baby.
You will lose many hours of sleep. It will alter your mood, your health, and your ability to connect with others. And even though it feels like forever, I assure you, it will end.
You will have a hard time losing the weight. Breastfeeding will not magically melt it away for you. But you have already made that 40 + pound journey down the scale two times before. It will take a whole year, but you will do it again.
You’ll learn that some women hunker down into brands of motherhood. But rest assured, you are not required—nor is it even possible—to fit into one particular category all the time. And how you feed, clothe, diaper, and carry your child is not an indication of how much you love your child. Or how good your mothering is.
Approach the first year of motherhood like you approach labor: one small piece at a time. Don’t think about the whole year. It’s too dynamic. Every single week has its own flavor, its own rhythms, its own challenges, and triumphs. Focus on one day at time. Carve the good days and weeks into your memory. Then, remember them to give you strength to pull through the bad ones.
It’s not possible to enjoy every single minute of this first year. It’s an unrealistic, romantic standard that no mother can achieve. So, for God’s sake, sob and vent when the time calls for it. And don’t you dare feel guilty about it. Because those moments of sadness are a brilliant contrast to those moments of joy. And they will show just how spectacular this first year of motherhood really is.
And your vagina will be fine. Different. But fine.
But you’re not truly concerned about all of these things.
What you’re really concerned about is whether or not you’ll be a good mother.
So let me wholeheartedly assure you that it’s not about being a “good mother,” as if I could pull a picture from Google Images to show you what that looks like. As if there is an approved checklist of criteria to meet in order to earn that title. As if all following this mythical checklist is best for all babies.
So it’s not about being a good mother.
It’s about being the right mother.
For this child.
In this moment.
So what I’m telling you, pregnant self, is to seek to be the right mother. Every day. And if you can do that, you can find peace in the chaos of motherhood.