Dear new mum,
Yes you, the one who I see at my local park, swaying and rocking and shushing your baby in the carrier, walking in circles around the block to get your wailing, sleep-despising baby to give in to sleep.
I see the bags under your eyes. I see exhaustion in your face. I see how close to tears you are. I see it all and in you, I see me.
You probably look at me and my toddler – almost preschooler – and think I’ve had it easy. You watch as she plays independently on the jungle gym, face plants after a fall on the monkey bars, then picks herself up and declares that she will try again, all while I’m laughing with a friend, relaxing nearby.
It wasn’t always like this. It wasn’t always fun and stress-free to take an outing to the playground. I remember a time when I was the one power-walking around my neighborhood to the tune of a wailing newborn, too scared to look people in the face for fear of their reactions – rarely sympathetic, often wondering exactly what I’d done to that baby to make her scream like that. I remember holding my baby upright, all night long, for weeks on end, because reflux prevented her from sleeping any other way. I remember being so tired I literally collapsed every night into a coma-like sleep, only to be woken a few hours later, hoping that the screaming, miserable baby had just been a bad dream.
You are probably asking your pediatrician for help. Desperately begging for an answer to stop the crying, the wailing, the nights where your baby is up every half hour and you think you just can’t it take any more. You’re told patronisingly that they’ll “grow out of it in a few months”, which seems like a lifetime when every day seems to last an eternity.
Dear new mum. What I want to say to you is, you are not alone. You are me two-and-a-half years ago, drowning in despair and unable to find your way out of the newborn fog. It might not seem like it, and you might want to punch your doctor in the face every time he tells you that it will end, but he’s right, it will end, even though it seems like it won’t. In the meantime, don’t hide in the darkness. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Your baby is a hard baby and you need support. Speak up and be heard – your voice matters, your health and sanity matter.
Dear new mum. I was you not long ago. I want to tell you that I see you, I see how much you love your baby even though you also want to throw it out the window some days, because no matter how exhausted and lonely and miserable you are, you are still pushing yourself past your physical and emotional limits every single day, not giving up.
You might feel like you’re struggling through this alone and that no one sees you as your own person anymore, but you’re not invisible. I see you. You matter. And it will get better, I promise.