I have this annual tradition of writing a birthday letter to my daughter.
And this year, when I sat down to draft my little love note,
I noticed an old file on my computer, titled:
“Letter to Future-Violet as a Mom”
…I had completely forgotten about this letter.
I wrote it one year ago, before I launched this blog.
And so I paused my writing, and read my old letter.
And honestly… I was shocked and delighted by the rawness of my new-mom musings.
Of course… I was also *immediately* tempted to edit the letter. I wanted to add a bunch of new insights… I wanted to make it less ………intensely Beth. LOL!
…but… then I decided I’d leave it.
To honor past Beth.
And I decided I’d even like to share it here,
in case a new Mom ever finds her way to this page and needs a heart-to-heart with the woman I was in May of 2018.
SO, here’s what I wrote back then,
and who knows, maybe I’ll write a second letter to Violet as a young Mom…
If you wrote a letter to your child as a young Mom or Dad, what would it say?
What mood would you want to convey?
What assurances would you offer?
What jokes would you pepper inside?
Hope you enjoy and thanks as always for reading along!
To My Sweet Violet,
If you are reading this, congratulations!! You must be pregnant!!! And while I feel silly writing you a letter 20+ years in advance, I have the compulsion to speak to future-you, heart to heart, as we’re approaching your first birthday, and incidentally, my first year of Motherhood.
It’s hard to know where to begin. Motherhood is the most complex series of events I’ve ever experienced, and I feel like I’m just now coming up for a breath of fresh air, feeling a bit like myself again. It’s been hard. Really hard. Moving fast and furious through days that feel long as years but also, they’ve disappeared in a blink of an eye.
What you’re about to go through will completely transform your life. But I don’t say this to frighten you! I say it because, it’s going to be BIG. Big and exciting and a whirlwind of adventure. You’re entering a period of rapid personal growth, and I can say with confidence, that no matter how hard it feels, in the end, you would never ever trade it for the world.
So here’s some advice I have to offer you, as your young 27-year-old Mom, who may or may not have just gone through a minor identity crisis and definitely doesn’t have it all figured out 😉
If you are having a difficult pregnancy, please have confidence that things will get better. I hope you’re one of those magical unicorn women who has an annoyingly idyllic pregnancy. But when I was pregnant with you, it was hell on earth. Of course I was so excited to meet you, but I was SO sick, for SO long, that I was terrified I had made a big mistake. I lost confidence in my ability to tackle Motherhood, and was just really, really downtrodden. I don’t want to get too negative here, so I won’t complain about pregnancy anymore. But let’s just say, if you’re feeling lost and overwhelmed by the changes you’re going through, please try to take it one day at a time and trust me: it’s all going to be okay! …But all this is easier said than done, so if you find yourself feeling really overwhelmed, here’s a tip from my own Mom that helped immensely: just remember, “if she can do it I can do it.” Think of all the women you know who have had babies, or the women you see in the grocery store schlepping along a tribe of loud, ill-mannered kids, and think… “Wow, if she made it through this, I can definitely ace it.” And you will, Sweetie. You will.
You might feel really lonely, but you are not alone. Every phase of Motherhood, from pregnancy to breastfeeding to toddlerhood is a journey for two, led by you. Other people can accompany you on the journey, like your husband or partner, your family, your friends, but ultimately, in the minutia of each day, it’s you and your baby. It’s a privilege, truly! But it can feel isolating at times. What I can say is this: I don’t for a moment regret becoming your Mom, and I cherish the bond I have with you as a result of this exhausting, magical, Mother-Baby journey. And as you grow, I become more fond of you each day,and LOVE spending my time with you.
If you’re in the thick of it and feeling overwhelmed, please ask for help and remember to take care of YOU, too! The people who love you will feel happy to be useful, including me and your Dad!
Speaking of which, if I am obsessed with your baby and you feel jealous or overlooked, PLEASE tell me to snap out of it and act like your Mom again. It seems that new Grandparents go through something which I now refer to as “Grandparent Brain” where they’re laser-focused on the new baby in an obnoxiously sweet way. But I don’t want you to ever feel like you’re in second place. In my heart, Violet, you will always be my VIP baby!
Next, through all phases, be patient with yourself. Try not to worry about your long term plans. Whether you choose to stay at home or return to the workforce, no one expects you to return to who you “used” to be. I hope you can joyfully move forward into the brave new world you’ve created for your family! Which brings me to my next point…
If you feel like you’re having an identity crisis, DON’T PANIC. First of all, it’s normal. Around the 6 month mark, I really lost myself. I think part of this was hormonal because I had to stop breastfeeding at 6 months, and it kicked my post partum depression/anxiety into high gear. I didn’t understand what was happened because at that phase; things should have felt amazing! You were finally sleeping! I was getting the hang of things a little bit! But instead of settling into my new normal, I freaked out and realized I didn’t know who I was anymore. Who I really wanted to be anymore. And I had to go through a grueling four months of soul searching, reading, journaling, watching slightly-embarrasing self-help-y YouTube videos on existentialism, crying over way too much wine with your Dad late at night… It was rough. I needed to mourn the person I was before Motherhood, and through trial and error, discovered the person/artist/woman I wanted to be. But you know what? An identity crisis is the sign of personal growth. So if you feel any of these things, know this: when you get to the other side, you’re going to be stronger, wiser, and more confident. I PROMISE. Try to roll with the punches and have faith that you’ll be strong again soon.
Next, I hope you will try to reflect on how strong you are and how far you’ve come. Life with a baby moves FAST. So one thing that has really helped me recently is to journal at the end of each day. I am way too exhausted to write anything creative, so I just write a bare-bones list of my accomplishments. I call it my “Victory Journal” and I always focus on the unglamorous things like washing bottles, scrubbing floors, spending time cuddling.. It’s amazing to really reflect on your day and realize how much you accomplish as a Mom. It can also be a useful tool to find trends in what helps you have a positive day or a negative day. For example, I discovered through this little “Victory Journal” that my really positive days all involved getting out of the house (even just for a walk!) and cutting my creative work off midday to just focus on our family. Both those practices are easy to incorporate into our routine, and help give me a sense of control over the day! I believe that journaling it helps you mindfully nurture yourself in a positive way. So go buy yourself a little notebook and make a list of your victories 🙂
And one more tangible thing I’d like to impart: please schedule lots of self-care into your routine! It’s been crucial for me to schedule alone time for myself that is not focused on our family or my creative work. It’s totally normal and okay for you to need alone time, and when you get those opportunities, I hope you’ll do silly things that make you feel content and uplifted. Like watch junk TV and paint your nails! Seriously, relax and treat yourself!
I hope that I’ll be around to see your sweet baby! But most of all, I love the idea of seeing you blossom and flourish as a woman and a Mother. I love you so much, Violet. And while I just wrote you a looong letter shooting straight from the hip about how hellish things can be as a young Mom, moral of the story is: you’ve changed my life in ways I could never have imagined, and I’m a better person because of YOU. I’m so excited for you to take this journey into Motherhood. Welcome to the Mom-club, baby! You are gonna ace it!