Dear Six-Weeks-to-Go-Before-the-Baby-Comes Angela,
This is WTMother. I’m you in a few years. I’m pretty sure if you met me in person, you’d think I was a total freak-show. I’m okay with that. I know you’ve read every book and talked to all of your new mommy friends. The nursery is in place. (It really is beautiful, by the way.) You’ve picked out an elegant, well-thought-out name for our baby girl, (You aren’t going to ever call her that, but good effort!) Your hospital bag is packed, and you are feeling great about this impending motherhood thing. But hear me out anyway, because there are some things I really want you to know so that my your life is a little easier.
1) Stop pretending you aren’t scared schmitless. You aren’t fooling anyone. ALL soon-to-be-mamas, even the experienced ones are terrified. Your friends with kids who are nodding their heads and praising your preparedness? They’re making plans behind your back to make sure you have support when you lose your schmit. (This advice is directly related to: Stop pretending you have your schmit together. But that is going to come in a different letter. I’ll send it after the baby comes.)
2) You are better at being a mom right now than you are ever going to be again. (Feeling smug aren’t you? That happens to the best of us.) Remember the hundreds of times you rolled your eyes at a kid screaming in a restaurant and said to your girlfriend, “Ugh, why isn’t that mom doing something?” Or that time you thought “Why is that kid running toward the train platform like that? Just hold onto your kids, people!” Or remember that time you called out a friend who was a new mom because, “she never leaves the house anymore. It’s ridiculous. For wuck’s sake, she had a kid, she didn’t go on house arrest.” Or how you aren’t going to be seen in public without makeup or wearing Target yoga pants because YOU have some self-respect? Or…? Or…? Or…? You have it ALL figured out now. And you’re kind of an assclown.
Right now, you’re thinking, “This WTMother person is such sanctimonious betch! And totally wrong. I read all the right books! I went to college! I GOOGLED.” But it’s time to put down the books and step away from Google. You’re driving yourself CRAZY with this perfection obsession. You’re totally right. You are going to be better at this than all of those other moms — until you actually have a kid. Then you’ll surrender to secret-eating Nutella in the pantry, wearing the same maternity yoga pants for a week straight, and pretending to not notice that you have 127 unanswered text messages from your friends who don’t have kids. You’ll be a better mom/wife/friend/person for it. So stop wasting all this energy. Enjoy the next six weeks. Because it’s the last time you’ll ever be a perfect mom.
3) Add the following to your pre-baby shopping list: Tucks Pads, ice packs, granny underwear, a case of those pads favored by 1950’s era school nurses, dry shampoo, spray deodorant, Colace, and PreparationH. (Oh? Thought you’d escaped those? Whomp whomp… sorry!) Include some of those things puppies pee on when they’re house-training, (Don’t ask. You’ll know.) 5-6 gallons of OxyClean Spray, a head of cabbage, and a huge bottle of a decent mid-priced Bourbon. (That last one’s for WTFather. He’s still Dan to you for just a little while longer.) This list looks really strange, especially since everything you’ve done or bought in the last few months has been for the baby. But that’s the point. Things are going to be kind of rough for a little while. You’re going to forget to take care of yourself. Worse yet, trying to figure out the logistics of getting the things you need is going to seem overwhelming. This is probably where I should tell you to ask for, and accept, all of the help that’s out there for you. But you aren’t going to listen to that advice. At least with this stuff on hand you’ll be able to achieve the lowest acceptable levels of personal grooming and comfort.
4) You aren’t going to have the wondrous Hollywood moment of overwhelming love and joy the first time you see your daughter. Your moment? Total terror. Your husband and mother-in-law will be complete messes, hugging and crying and completely out of control. (You’re going to be more than okay with your mother-in-law being there. You’ll actually be relieved and thankful she was. It becomes one of the defining moments of your relationship. AND in a few years, you’re going live on the same street by choice. Really. Take THAT in for a moment.) The NICU team is going to come barreling in. (She’s okay.) Your OB will be shoulder-deep up in your girl parts while casually chatting with the nurses about the color of your toenail polish. And YOU, brand new mom, are going to feel time stop. The only thing you’ll hear is the voices in your head screaming “WHAT THE WUCK WAS I THINKING?!?! I’M NOT READY FOR THIS! WHAT JUST HAPPENED?!? THIS WAS A TERRIBLE IDEA! PUT HER BACK! PUT HER BACK!”
Don’t panic. The love and overwhelming joy come. (The terror stays. But it eases into a kind of constant drone of worry/panic/insecurity. I’m five years in and I still don’t have any tips for that.) You’ll just need some sleep and some food and a little time to process your new reality. This is not some sort of bad-mom omen. It’s a sign that you’ve been awake and hungry and thirsty for 24 hours and just pushed a human out of your vagina. Please don’t waste any time at all feeling guilty for feeling like this. Because once you summon the courage to share your experience with others, you’ll find out that it’s so normal you’re a cliché.
5) You aren’t going to recognize WTFather.
Remember when you found out you were having a baby girl? He looked up and said, “Are you ready to no longer be the most important woman in my life?” You both got a good laugh out of his clever sarcasm. Yeeeeeeeeah neither of you knew it at the time, but he wasn’t kidding. Watching him with her is going to give you the feelings. So many feelings. The bond they share continues in perpetuity. Please don’t resent him for it. It’s going to be really hard not to, but give it a try anyway. You’re going to flail about ass-over-elbows trying to figure out this whole keeping a baby alive thing. He’s going to make it look infuriatingly effortless. You’re going to want to punch him in the kidneys question your own abilities and be all “What the Fellers?!?!” when he makes a perfect swaddle on the first try, can get her out of the car seat one-handed, and stop a 2-hour crying spell (sometimes hers, but mostly yours) just by taking her from your arms. Be kind to him despite of all of your hormone-fueled, violent fantasies. Make him sleep, eat, leave the condo. He’s going to be as terrified as you are, he’s just not going to share that because, mostly he’s going to be terrified of YOU.
Give some thought to what I’ve told you. You’re the most stubborn person I know, so I won’t hold my breath that you’ll take any of this to heart. But at least I’ll know I tried. We’ll talk again when you’re on the other side.
PS: Fold the laundry and put it away before you go into labor. Yes, WTFather said he would do it. He won’t. This will give you the upper hand in prevent pretty much every marital spat you’ll have in the next 5 years.
PPS: It is NOT a good idea to attempt a last minute effort to groom your bikini area during early labor. Just trust me on this one.