dear new mommy,

I feel I owe you an explanation. You see, I recognized you. Long before I was close enough to make out who you were, I knew you. The droop to your shoulders, the weariness in your fingers as you raked them through your hair, the frustration in your wrist as you tossed out your barely sipped cup of coffee. Your aura of despair was as familiar to me as the sidewalk upon which our feet stamped out the cadence of left right left right left right, punctuated by the whiz plunk whiz plunk of stroller wheels crossing expansion gaps. All too well I remember the dismay of discovering that no amount of caffeine would replace the sleep I was losing. I remember the tiredness that sank into my soul, pulling my shoulders level with my weary heart and leaving me with barely enough energy to tug at the tangle of knots on my head. I remember wanting nothing more than a shower and 2 hours of uninterrupted sleep, unpunctuated by the crackle of the baby monitor and unbroken by the panic that there were cries I had missed, needs I hadn't met. I remember the barely contained tears that occupied my eyes; the same tears I saw when you turned to respond to me as I approached you. I remember the envy, the disbelief that flashed between us as you took in my unstained t-shirt and unforced smile. At that moment I wanted nothing more than to reach out and give you a hug, to offer you the strength of shoulders that had returned to their proper place. But I remembered the fragility with which I held myself in your position and knew that such a gesture might topple you, stealing from you that last bit of strength, toppling your careful projection of proficiency like a house of cards.

Instead I lied to you. I chirped a cheery "hello", cooed at your sweet little baby, and when you mumbled "She hasn't slept all day", I patted your arm conspiratorially and told you that there were better days just around the corner. I assured you that just as you were pushed to the brink, sure that you could take no more, things would change. That all you had to do was fight the good fight a few more days, weeks at most, and victory was certain. That much I offered to you in good faith, truly believing that we mothers are stronger than we give ourselves credit for and that it really is darkest just before the dawn. What I did not tell you is that with each victory comes a new challenge. That the joy of regular showering will be offset by the frustration of cleaning up after the "dump it!" game at least a million times a day. That the cries in the night will be replaced by a belligerent army of "no", "mine", and "me do". That the memory of uninterrupted sleep is destined to remain exactly that. Crackling monitor or no, you will continue to sleep with one ear tensed and at the ready to waken you at the slightest of murmurs.

What I should have said to you is that things change. You will adapt. You will find strength that you never knew you possessed and discover that you've only scratched the surface of the endless store that lies within. You will marvel at your patience and learn to laugh through your frustration. You will cry countless tears -- happy and sad, proud and guilt-ridden. You will question yourself endlessly, often needlessly. But it is through the questioning that you will learn and grow, a perfect parallel to the progress you watch your child make. There will be days when you revel in how far the two of you have come; days when you wonder if you'll ever make it out the front door.

One day, soon, you'll nonchalantly walk out the door, your not-quite-two year old chattering happily to herself. You'll turn the corner and stop short. There, on the sidewalk ahead of you, you will see yourself. Alone. New. Tired. Already starting to wither. The recognition will take your breath away and you'll quicken your step. You'll hurry to catch up with her, to talk about the battles that you've already been through and how each one has made you stronger. You'll rush to share the insight that you've gained, to pass on the gems of wisdom that you were too tired to use. You'll chirp a cheery "hello", coo at the baby. Then you'll take a deep breath in preparation for all you want to share. You'll pat her gently on the arm, smile a bit conspiratorially, look her square in the eye and lie, lie, lie. The hint of a smile that tugs at the corner of her lips, the fraction of an inch that her shoulders raise, that will be all you need to see to know you've given a greater gift than all your good intentions combined.


As they say, it springs eternal.



anne at said...

:^) love this

susan said...

Anne, thanks! Having you peek in here from time to time is an honor... your way with words is intoxicating.

The Curmudgeon said...

This was very nice.