It was bordering on 3 weeks of post partum newness, newborn colic fits, and I was past exhaustion. The dishes piled crusty and high in the sink, the floor crunched when you walked on it, and the laundry was past mountain status and close to becoming a range of mountains. I walked around in a continual haze, listlessly doing what I could one handed, because whenever I put our brand new little infant down for even a moment, she balled her tiny fists, opened her perfect tiny mouth, and let out an incredibly un-tiny wail of protest. Which continued until she was picked up.
One day past losing my ever-loving mind, I actually let it slip when someone asked me how I was doing.
Tears filled my sleep deprived eyes, and I whispered how tired I was, and how much I just wanted some sleep.
The seasoned mother of many opened her well meaning mouth and her words made me want to curl up in a fetal position and bawl. “Oh, I know,” she said nonchalantly. “I don’t think I’ve had a good night’s sleep since I became a mother.”
I could see all hope flaming up and disintegrating into ashes before my bloodshot eyes. I was plunged into a black abyss of self pity and sleep deprived martyr status that I could mentally picture continuing for 40 long years. Really? Not even one good night’s sleep?
So here, ladies, is a short list of things that I beg of you to never say to a new mother.
- Never, EVER tell a new mother that she will never sleep well again. What she hears is that it will always be this hard, and that is the hope deferred that makes a heart sick. Sick, I tell you. Tell her you remember how exhausting it is. Tell her it’s hard, but she’ll make it through. Better yet, tell her that you’ll drop by and hold the baby for an hour so that she can get some rest while you put in a load of laundry and make a simple dinner.
- Don’t tell her that these are the easy years. (Even if you believe with all your heart that it’s true.) Nothing about being a new parent feels easy. Be gentle.
- Don’t tell her to sleep when the baby sleeps. She has been told that by all the other well-meaning older mothers, and hearing it again may make her want to scream. Especially if her baby just. doesn’t. sleep. (I speak from experience.) Tell her that she’ll find her rhythm and routine eventually. Tell her that it will become easier (because, let’s be honest, it does). The work becomes harder, but the managing of it all…don’t you think it becomes easier? I do.
Our oldest is 5, and I still don’t get much sleep – but somehow, it’s not as horrible or hopeless as it felt in the beginning. Life is full, and hard, and wonderful, and busy. I have ten times more on my plate than I did when I was a brand new mother, but it feels so much more copable.
I remember reading in The Hand That Rocks the Cradle: Inspirational Meditations for New Mothers that eventually I would feel like myself again. That there would come a day when I found joy in all the things I used to enjoy. Oh, I clung to those words through the very, very difficult first months as a new mother. And I found them to be blessedly true.
So when you see that brand new mama?
Throw the girl some hope. Tell her how sweet her baby is. Ask her how she is doing, and mean it. Look into her eyes. Wait for her to give you the real answer.
And for goodness’ sake, buy her a latte!!!
What was the worst or the best thing anyone said to you as a new mother? I’d love to hear from you!
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