My brain makes a crackling, cellophane sound, like a tv that can’t quite make the connection, every time I go to think. Third trimester is pulling out the baby brain, throwing up walls where I used to make connections. Twice now, driving has been an adventure –mid-route my mind breaking and stalling so that I didn’t know how in the world to get to the place I was going. The well-working home-bound routines are also permeated by a hazy fog that hasn’t lifted in a while, veiling my deep feelings and thoughts, like how I might feel about all this upcoming change, the end of so many normalcies.
Don’t hug me too tight or the waves of emotion might come spurting out, all these mid-process thoughts that won’t be ordered into understanding. For instance, my mind is divided between longing to hold my baby for the first time, see his red tinged skin and draw him into me, and being overwhelmed at the thought of not being able to jump in the car and go, say I just need a day to myself and head to the coffee shop with the friend. The cold, common selfishness that shirks at being needed constantly wildly juxtaposes the warm peace that fills me at knowing he’ll need his momma to draw him from the bassinet and press the nurturing life-food into his ready mouth – me, and not the random woman on the street.
He rolls around like a whale in my stomach and I need to hold him, see him, pat him gently on the bottom while I rock him to sleep in the same chair my momma rocked me, in the same room I grew up in, brought home from the same hospital where my parents met me. If you don’t know, my husband and I temporarily live in my childhood home while we penny and pray our school debt away. It’s a gracious gift that sometimes sits uncomfortable in Cody’s and my stomachs as we long for a home of our own, where we’d nurse our baby in his own nursery, the room he’d grow up in, in a neighborhood full of friends ringing our doorbell begging to play. Sometimes I don’t feel a full mother without this. Which is silly. But it’s there - rooting out my fears and fighting my misplaced hopes out of the dirt.
He’s told me to trust Him a thousand times over. But sometimes the “yes” takes a while to make it all the way into my hopes and dreams, my relentless desire to have the material things and know all the parenting statistics. “Yes” I trust You with all my heart but my mind is still straggling behind.
There are so many fears that a new mother faces. Some are written on our faces, some hidden in our hearts. If I felt confident to tell you that I fear not getting enough skin-to-skin with my baby, of people crowding too close and losing intimacy with him (that crucial time to bond early), then I might hold back telling you I fear someone hurting my son, or worse, of hurting him myself – not knowing every detail of his developmental stages and all the best ways to stimulate his body and mind (because this is where the real insecurity hides). If I tell you that I’m tired and can’t imagine the tiredness coming, then I’d stop short of saying that I’m afraid of losing all my friends – being just outside the beltway of all the places they might drive and being too exhausted to drive myself. Fearing my interests won’t converge with theirs’ and that every time I’ll want to talk about my son I’ll feel guilty, knowing our lives don’t look the same and that I could be burdening or boring them. The lies we tell ourselves are the most convincing feelings.
Maybe it’s all this and more that makes the kindest advice from the kindest momma feel like another rock in my pack, weighing me down even as I think I want to hear you! I want to know what you know.
The new momma, the one with the first babe still warm in her womb, the one with the crackling, cellophane mind – here’s what she might want you to know and to say.
Know her mind is wracked with thoughts and emotions as she works hard to prepare for this new normal. Know she values your input, has a million questions, covets sound counsel – and that some days she’ll have the mental space to listen long to your wisdom (mulling it over well and considering the benefits), and some days she’ll be the one that needs to talk it out, these confounding feelings bearing down on her.
When you meet with her, try not to heap suggestions on a young mother’s head. Don’t take your strongest held parenting dogma and tell her she has to do this because it’s the only way that works. Do look her in the eyes and tell her she’ll do great. You won’t notice the eighth inch her shoulders raise, the way you’ve removed a fraction of the burden she feels. But she will. Don’t tell her all your hard-won, childrearing wisdom in one whirlwind sit. Do ask her what she wants to know, and what she’s looking forward to, checking in with her often with an ear quick to listen. If you’re able, turn back the pages of your mind to when you were in her steps, and empathize and joy with her. Remember the fear and the excitement and the lurch in your stomach every time you realized that this humongous tummy sitting on your legs was a very real human waiting to call you mom. Hold her hand – she’ll need you. She doesn’t know how to read this new map. Be her friend – that might be more than she’s capable of asking.