It feels like just yesterday that I was pregnant. If I close my eyes, I can almost convince myself that the past 10 weeks have been a dream, and when I wake up, I’ll be curled around my humongous body pillow, still nine months pregnant.
But that’s not the case. I gave birth to a healthy little boy. I fell madly in love. I brought him home. And my world has never, ever been the same.
I realize that ten weeks is a little early to start dispensing parenthood advice. I’m the last person to call myself an expert. But I’m doing this, I’m living this, I’m breathing this new motherhood thing every single day, and I am startled by everything I’ve learned so far. I want to take the time to document what I’ve discovered right here in the thick of it, before the haze of new motherhood wears off and I forget what it was really and truly like.
I just wish I could go back and tell my pregnant self what I’ve discovered. I wish I could tell her that everything would be okay.
Here’s what I would say to her, given the chance:
Everything you know about love will change: Remember how you rolled your eyes when women talked about the instantaneous love they felt for their child? Well, the joke’s on you. You might not have believed in love at first sight back then, but you sure do now. You will feel literally feel your heart expand as your child is placed on your chest. And this love is rich and intense and worth reveling in every single day. But you’re also acutely aware that the strength of this love could crush you. This love is like a sea, and you could very well drown in it. Fear is the price you pay for a love this deep.
Babies don’t keep: Yesterday your baby couldn’t roll over. Now he can. Just like that, things change. He will grow so fast. And you will soak it all in. It will feel like a gift that you get to keep unwrapping. You’ll delight in seeing him learn. But you will miss the way it was before. Even now, even just 10 weeks in, you will miss the way he fit so perfectly on your chest. You will miss his newborn smell. You will miss and you will delight and you will wonder at the miracle of it all.
You’ll figure it out: This should be the manta of your motherhood. This is hard. This is new. This will remain hard and new for a very long time. Lean into the process. Change is the flavor of the season. But you will figure it out. Whatever comes your way, you will figure it out.
Wherever you go, there you are: Motherhood changes you. Let it. Let yourself be sculpted by this experience. Let it sharpen you. You will be wiser and stronger than you ever thought possible. Your love is limitless; it fills up the sky. But you’re still you. You still like the things you like and hate the things you hate. You still leave dishes in the sink and socks on the floor. Your hobbies and passions are there somewhere, buried underneath layers of new motherhood. And so are your issues. You’re still you.
Get off Instagram: Stop stalking people on the internet. Seriously. First of all, it’s #fakenews. You know these pictures are curated. You know this is just someone’s highlight reel. Real life cannot be edited and filtered and contained into tiny pixelized squares. You know this. Second, it’s not a race. There is no right or wrong way to do this. There’s not a winner or a loser. There’s room for everyone. Abundance, sweet one.
Prioritize everything: When your life feels like a hurricane, when the pieces are thrown in the air and you’re not sure where they will land, get clear about what matters. Determine your priorities. Let the rest go. Show up for the things that matter and forget about cleaning the stainless-steel appliances because, trust me, that doesn’t.
Your marriage will change: Yes, even in just 10 weeks. That love you feel isn’t just for your son, it’s for your partner, too. You are tethered to this person now, linked forever by the little life you have created. But transition is hard and brings things to the surface. Deal with them head on. Don’t let anything fester. Your marriage is the foundation. Treat it with the respect and devotion that it deserves.
You still struggle with your body: I wish I could tell you that you’d love your body more now that it has performed this life changing miracle, but that wouldn’t be true. You still hate your body sometimes. You still suck in your stomach and flatten your hips. You still complain about the baby weight. But occasionally you remember what your body built, the life it held, the gift it gave you. It was your baby’s first home. You recognize that you are forever indebted to it. You practice being kinder and gentler. Please keep practicing.
It’s both/and: Motherhood cannot be tied up in a neat little bow. It’s the best experience of your life. It is the hardest experience of your life. It completes you. It alienates you. It inspires you. It exhausts you. It’s love and fear. It’s both enriching and threatening. It’s both/and. This is exactly the way it should be.
Give yourself grace: You will mess up. You will forget the diaper bag. You will snap at your husband. You will not eat a vegetable in two weeks. Stop. Exhale. Let it go. Give yourself grace. You’re just starting out. You’re doing the best you can. And you’re doing a great job.
Jillian is part of the Contributing Writer Network at Thirty on Tap. To apply to become a Contributing Writer, please click here.