Dear New Mama,
Hello from the other side.
Sixteen months ago, I was you. I was laying in a hospital bed with a throbbing, stitched-up vagina and aching, engorged breasts and holding a beautiful little stranger in my arms, desperate to get to know this new human.
When I took my first shower, just a few hours after pushing a 10-pound person from my body, I left bloody footprints all over the bathroom floor and stood under the hot spray feeling like I had given birth to not only my son, but to a whole new version of myself.
I see your ice-pack stuffed yoga pants, your dry-shampooed messy-bun, and the slightly crazed look in your eyes after getting about 30 minutes of consecutive sleep at a time. I see you sitting in your rocker at 3:00am, in awe, afraid, feeling inadequate, and feeling like a stranger to yourself.
I see you crying along with your baby, dripping tears onto its downy-soft head, trying to remember why you signed up for this in the first place, and then feeling crushing guilt for even letting that thought cross your mind. I see you going on your very first solo outing, taking an hour to get out the door and yet still somehow forgetting something. Working up a sweat and fighting a creeping sense of panic while clipping the car seat in as your baby wails at you, and arriving at your destination to a blown-out diaper and no extra outfit to be found.
Mama, I see you. And I’m here to tell you you CAN do this.
Soon, sooner than you can imagine, you will start to feel like yourself again. You will take showers every day. And shave your legs. And feel pretty and sexy and human. Your body will heal. (Yes, even your vagina.) You will not only have good sex again, but you’ll WANT to have sex again.
Soon, you will sleep. Even 8+ hours at a time! Soon, you will leave the house by yourself and not feel guilty. You’ll go on date nights, and weekends away, and wear fabulous dresses and stay out till long past your child’s bedtime. You will read books and drink coffee and take long baths and go for runs.
Soon, your baby will be a little less fragile and so much more fun. You will run and play together, have adventures together, laugh together, and discover the world again in a way that will absolutely take your breath away. It gets easier mama.
These first few months are the hardest of your life. But it will get a little bit easier every single day. Until one day you realize that you not only CAN do this, you ARE doing this. Soon, you will feel moments of such happiness that it will knock you to your knees.
You are still you. And soon you will see that all those sleepless nights and countless tears and hours and days of feeling overwhelmed and under-qualified have helped forge you into the most beautiful, bad-ass version of yourself that you can be. The worst bits of you will have burned away, leaving only pure gold.
You, mama, are a rockstar. Hang on. You can do this.
Kimberly Poovey is a writer, speaker, wife, and over-caffeinated new mom. She runs a teen pregnancy prevention program for a nonprofit and is a founder of Pearls, an organization that serves women in the sex industry and fights human trafficking. You can find her over on Scary Mommy, The Mighty, her blog, and on Facebook.