It won’t always be like this. The days and nights become one long run on sentence, and you’re not sure if you even fell asleep since the last time you were awake. The rest of the house peacefully sleeps as your body aches from pure exhaustion. They use this type of sleep deprivation as torture, yet you are expected to be up all night and function all day with a smile on your face. The silence of the night creates a deep loneliness, even as you hold your beautiful child in your arms. Your only solace is knowing another mama out there is also silently rocking their sweet babe back to sleep. You know this isn’t forever, but this is so hard.
You hope it won’t always be like this. The guilt of not being able to give everything to everyone. You hold your first baby, the one that for so long had all of you, as she cries tears filled with jealously and sadness. You grieve the time where you could give her your everything. Now you feel like you are being ripped in two and just wish you could be more. You find yourself crying, because there is no choosing and feel you like you’re letting everyone down. You promise her it won’t always be like this, but you both wish it just wasn’t this hard.
No, it won’t always be like this. You look at your body and don’t recognize who is standing in front of the mirror. You are so proud of what it has done and know every stretch mark is a trophy, but you can’t help but wonder who this new woman is in front of you. Your eyes, baggy and red from the months of sleep deprivation, seem almost like a strangers. You hear this voice of how you should “bounce back”, but you just want to spend those precious moments noticing how your new softer body molds perfectly to this new baby on your chest. Birth has changed you, physically and emotionally. And just as you spend all that time getting to know your baby, you will spend years getting to know the new you. And as much as you know this change is all for the better, you also know this change is hard.
You know it won’t always be like this, where the man you married at times feels like a stranger living a different life than you. You try not to be resentful as you see him sleeping soundly through another feeding, or as he takes his time getting ready for work each day while you question the last time you showered or ate. You envy that he talks to other adults and spends his commute not trying to get a screaming baby to calm. You know he will never understand the hormonal reaction you have to your baby’s cry, how every inch or your body and soul has a piercing visceral reaction to their distress. But you wish it just didn’t feel so lonely. You wonder if he sees the change in you and understands how complex this time right now is for you. You wonder if some days he sees you at all. And you know one day you wont just feel like passing ships, but for today, it is just so hard.
Sure, it wont always be like this,. When some days you just desperately want to ask for help or even just a short break to feel human again, but then you realize the world expects you to resume functioning like you once were. But your body hurts. You are tired. And there is a new human in this world who is entirely dependent on you. They assume you only needed help for those few short weeks your husband was allowed off, and now you should be able to do it all alone. And you want to be able to do it all but know right now you are just trying to do your best. And your best looks nothing like it did before. Your best is often messy and ugly. And maybe that is how it should be. Because the world may not know or accept it, but right now this is really hard.
And it won’t always be like this. When you are almost brought to tears when someone asks “and how are you doing?”. Not because you need a shoulder to cry on (or maybe you do!), but because those little questions remind you that you are not invisible and you are not alone. Just those few spoken words give a wealth of acknowledgement that what you are going through is in no way easy. They remind you that so many other mothers have stood in your shoes, have felt the emotional roller coaster of postpartum days. And even on the days where cant even fathom leaving the house, you can feel their presence telling you “it’s ok, this is just really hard.”
And with this intense sadness, you know it won’t always be like this. He will never be this little again. His sweet baby smile and little coos. The way he looks at you as he wakes from a deep slumber, such excitement to be reunited with you, his one true love. That soft skin and tiny ears. His sweet baby smell. The way he searches for you when he hears your voice and all those daily changes that teach you more about who this little one is. You are his everything and to him you are perfect. You want to remember every inch of him, every moment with him so little. You hold him for hours on end and feel the oxytocin pulse through your body as you stare into his sweet sparkling eyes. You made him. You grew him. You birthed him. You nourish him. And you never want to forget these moments because these moments are the most magical you’ve experienced. And all that hard that is part of the day is so worth it, because all that hard means you have him.
Mama, it won’t always be like this. You won’t always be fighting the paradox that is postpartum. The love is the most intensely beautiful thing you’ve ever experience, but the loneliness is the strongest you’ve ever felt. It’s ok to not love all the things these first few months bring. And it’s also ok to stare into those baby eyes and wish that this time would never end. Some days the confusion of feeling all the feelings makes the exhaustion even more intense. Your body has changed, your life has changed, and you have changed. We ask so much of moms, expect them to do it all and love it all while they do it. But it’s ok to give yourself permission to just be. Be in the exhaustion. Be in the messy. Be in the grief. Be in the love. Because mama, just because this doesn’t last forever does not mean that this is not so hard right now.