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Dear Laura, on the day you became a mama, 3.30.16 —
Welcome to motherhood, mama.
I’m writing this to you from the future; from the eve of Raleigh’s first birthday, 3.29.17.
Life on this end of the first year is a whole lot different than the beginning.
I’m here to tell you that things will get better.
Those early days will be some of the hardest, most humbling and uncomfortable days of your life.
But, the swelling will go away. The catheter will be removed, your incision will heal, and your soreness will get better.
Little by little, you will feel better physically until one day, you can climb stairs again without wincing. I don’t want to be the bearer of bad news, but your stomach is still nowhere near as flat as it used to be, even a year later. But that’s ok; we are working on self-acceptance and giving ourselves grace.
In addition to the physical healing that will follow Raleigh’s birth, the coming weeks will be more challenging that you thought. You, sweet girl, will struggle.
But hang on. As Grandpa Pettit used to say, “This too shall pass.” And I’m here to tell you, it will.
Learning how to be a mom is going to be hard for you. It won’t come effortlessly to you like it seems to for so many women. But that’s ok.
There will be days in the coming weeks where you wonder if you and Raleigh are bonding. Where you wonder if you are doing anything right, or if you are cut out for motherhood. If you will ever find your footing and feel competent.
I can unequivocally say to you, YES. Yes, you will.
You will slowly but surely bond with your son until one day, you look at him in awe as you realize how much you adore him.
You will one day realize that you smell his head for no reason, and subconsciously kiss him repeatedly without even knowing it.
One day, you will find yourself thinking, “I just want to squeeze him, I love him so much!”
In the early days when he seems like a foreign, fragile, mystery of a wiggly newborn, just know that a new season is ahead.
His tummy issues will settle, his spitting up will slow, his evening fussy phases will end, and it takes awhile but he will eventually learn how to sleep through the night.
Your entire life is different now than it was just a day or two ago, that much is sure. Your comfort zone is gone and your routine has been flipped on its head. This will leave you reeling, but hang on. Be patient.
One day soon, you will realize that even though your days look nothing like they used to, you and Raleigh have developed a new daily routine together. The familiarity and security that comes with a routine will help you feel like you are finding your footing again.
It may be hard to believe right now, but the days are coming when leaving the house is a manageable task again. Sure, it takes longer and you’ll likely be a little bit late everywhere you go. But you will be able to leave the house again, and you will be able to run errands with relative ease.
My biggest message for you, Laura, is to rest assured that things WILL get better. They will be different soon.
The beginning is hard. Harder than you ever thought it would be, and so unlike the rosy story so many new moms seem to tell.
You and Matt will look at each other in those early weeks and say, “Everyone always says having kids adds so much joy to their lives. What are they talking about? THIS IS NOT FUN.”
It is ok to feel that way. The beginning sucks.
But take heart; better days are ahead.
Once Raleigh starts to smile back at you, that’s when things will improve remarkably. That is when you will notice your bond solidifying.
Soon, he will be laughing, cooing and babbling. Before long, he will be finding his toes and trying to get them into his mouth. Not long after that, he will be rolling over, and then sitting, crawling and finally walking.
There’s a popular saying by Gretchin Rubin that says,” The days are long but the years are short.” You will write this on a notecard and tape it to the wall above the changing table to give yourself strength in the exhausting middle of the night feeds.
Oh, how true that message is.
On the eve of Raleigh’s first birthday, I am here to tell you that sometimes the days seem to stretch on forever. You will watch that clock with more ferver than you ever did before. And you will heave a huge sigh of relief when you hear the garage door open and Matt walk into the house.
Some of the days are just plain long, hard and utterly exhausting.
Don’t feel bad or guilty about those hard days. Give yourself grace when they come.
But in the back of your mind, and in the corner of your heart, keep the other piece of truth there: the years are short.
Oh, how short they are.
With a lump in my throat and a tightness in my chest, I can wholeheartedly say that this year passed the fastest of any in my life so far. Sure, our year on Oahu passed fast too. Time seems to pass fastest when things are good, and Oahu was really good.
But this year? This year has been remarkable.
What started out as the hardest year of our lives has turned into the greatest. This year, this first year of parenthood, has been the longest and yet fastest, most utterly exhausting and most completely joy-filled year of our lives.
God has been good to us.
Being a mom still feels surreal, even after a year with Raleigh. Referring to myself as a mother feels strange, even now. But that little boy, the same tiny newborn you hold in your arms right now, that little boy has worked his way deep into my heart in a way I never imagined possible.
Sweet days are ahead, dear Laura.
There’s more I want to say about motherhood, but sometimes words seem to fail. Just know that this next year will be one you will never forget. It is going to be filled with the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, and you will feel every emotion on the spectrum. You will wonder if you’ll ever feel normal again, and if you are doing things right at all. You will feel like a big, fat failure a lot of the time.
Give yourself grace, mama. Take your time. Be kind to yourself.
Things will get better.
They will. I promise you.
And when you are on the other side of these initial tumultuous weeks, I urge you to extend a kind word and a helping hand to other struggling mamas in the thick of it. It makes all the difference to know you are not alone.
Do your best to take a deep breath when you need it. And even though it’s hard, try to sit in the mess and be present as much as you can. The years are short even if the days are long, and they will be done and gone soon.
You can do this.
You can be, will be, and are a great mom.
Your son is a lucky boy and you are lucky too.
I am praying for you.