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What I Wish I’d Known on My First Mother’s Day

Courtesy of Sasha Emmons

This weekend I will celebrate my ninth Mother’s Day. If I could go back to my very first one and tell myself a few things that I know now, here’s what I would say.

Dear Mama, 

Happy first Mother’s Day! Chloe is less than a month old and you’re still getting that happy little jolt that comes from hearing someone use the word “mom” and realizing they mean you. The title will feel like a second skin after a while but you’ll never tire of introducing yourself as your children’s mom.

But right now it’s all so new and surreal. Did they really just let me go home with this baby? 

You’re exhausted, too tired to even eat, and on the edge of lunacy but you don’t want to admit how hard it is not getting enough sleep. After all, one of the many books you’ve read has called getting up with the baby at 1am (and then again at 2:30am and 4am), “nighttime parenting,” as if a shift in mindset is all that’s needed to combat the physical torture that is sleep deprivation.

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You’ve spent several hundred dollars in lactation consultant fees, but breastfeeding is still just not happening. You're pumping breastmilk, but it’s not being delivered via the breast, and therefore sans optimal bonding, so you feel tremendous guilt.

You went to your neighborhood moms group a couple times. Everyone was perfectly nice, but why did it feel all of a sudden like you were holding the baby wrong? No one else seemed to be fake mothering; how long before they realize you’re an imposter? So you never go back.

You’re terrified you’re doing it wrong. You’re holding her too much, you’re not holding her enough. You’re trying to get her on a schedule, you’re following her lead and feeding on demand. That little old lady on the street says you suck for forgetting socks. The world is a Greek chorus of opinions on your parenting. 

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It feels like there are so many ways you could be screwing this up, but from eight years down the road, I want you to know: you’re not.

On the pie chart infographic of How to be a Mother, there’s a tiny little sliver of wrong. Everything else is right, or right enough that it all shakes out in the end. You’ll use the binky and sleep train and eventually switch to formula, and it will all be okay. You won’t even be able to tell the difference between your kid and the ones whose parents made the exact opposite choices. Almost all those decisions that feel so monumental now won’t make any difference later. Friends who have kids after you will be in the throes of some horrible phase, and you’ll look back and realize it’s just a blip.

Also, know this: you’re going to get a do-over, and it’s going to be so much better.

Everything that felt scary and overwhelming with Chloe will feel natural and doable with her brother. Nursing will just somehow work, and you’ll understand for the first time why people mourn when they wean. You’ll try the moms group again, but this time you’ll be able to handle people doing things differently than you. You’ll make roughly all the same decisions you did the first time around, but with confidence because by now you’ll know you actually did a pretty good job figuring things out the first time. Your amazing, quirky, resilient kid is the proof.

So, on this first Mother’s Day, take it from me (or, you): You’re doing just fine. You are a good mother already. You’re figuring it out and doing your best, and that’s all any kid can ask for.

Now go take a nap!