Honestly, my most difficult postpartum struggle was the language barrier. I had no idea what my baby was trying to communicate to me. I assumed the crying meant hunger, desire to be held, discomfort, or any combination of those three things. If only my baby could talk to me postpartum. Not only would it have eased some of the anxiety in those first few months, when I was trying to figure how to be a parent, but it could've made me feel a bit less silly; talking to myself in the baby’s general direction as if she was going to answer me.
Postpartum was such a confusing time. I was overjoyed to have a healthy baby, and fraught with fear that I was going to screw everything up for her. Friends and family members were supportive, and I am so lucky to live near my parents who have been instrumental in our childcare plans since my husband and I work full-time. However, to have received some encouragement from my baby directly would have been such a relief. I would have even be receptive to some constructive criticism, because in the grand scheme of things it’s better to know upfront that I haven’t fastened the diaper securely before a road trip, than to find out later in the car and 30 minutes from the next exit.
If my babies could have talked, here are some things I wish they could have said to me when I was in the throes of postpartum life, which would have really helped me to chill the you-know-what out about the whole new mom thing:
“You Are Brave”
This would have been nice to hear, especially from my first kid. I had never given birth before, and had a great fear of the unknown. I could have used a little championing of my courage from her corner of the crib.
“Thank You For Not Drinking”
Giving up alcohol for the duration of both my pregnancies was not a thankless task, as both my babies were born healthy because of that sacrifice (I’d like to think). Even though I knew it was probably safe to have the occasional beer or glass of wine, I was totally dry for years; through both pregnancies and during each of my kid’s first year when they were exclusively breastfeeding. Could my kids have given me some props for that? You know, just maybe?
“Sleep Deprivation Will Pay Off. Trust Me.”
I really would have liked the assurance that my severe sleep deficits, thanks to nighttime feedings, sleep-training (also known as never going to sleep), and random development stages that rob a baby and his or her parents of rest, meant that I would recoup all these lost hours in the future.
I hold on to the hope that one day, maybe not in the next 15 years but most definitely after both kids have moved out of the house, I will sleep through the night again. Hearing it from my baby in those first foggy, exhausting weeks postpartum would have definitely shored up that hope.
“In Three Minutes I’m Going To Suddenly Be Starving”
One of the most terrifying experiences of being a new mom is having your baby suddenly break out into a full-on wailing frenzy. Out of nowhere, my kid would just start screaming, like her hunger level went from zero to 100 in an instant. If only she could have clued me in, just a little bit, that she was going to be starving. It would have saved me, on more than one occasion, from having to jump out of the bathroom, mid-shower, to breastfeed my ravenous newborn. I have sat wet and naked on my bed nursing, just to make the crying stop (the kid’s crying, not mine).
“The Onesie Does Not Go Over My Head”
I learned this fact after both my kids had grown way past toddlerhood. If I would have known that a onesie could be stretched and pulled down the baby’s torso, instead of wrestling it over his head, it would have been a game changer.
Sure, the baby might not have known this, but they could have brainstormed with me on some better solutions for wardrobe changes after diaper leaks.
“Grab A Raincoat Because I’m About To Have An Epic Diaper Blowout”
Oh what I would have given for a little heads up about this. Moms like me have lost entire afternoons recovering from the aftermath of an explosive diaper situation. With a warning, I could have at least thrown a tarp over the furniture, and myself, before the kid let loose.
“Take A Nap Because This Time I Really Am Going To Sleep For Two Uninterrupted Hours”
I don’t remember if either of my kids fell asleep for significant stretches of time — day or night — in the first few weeks postpartum. I just remember that I couldn’t rely on them staying asleep. It seemed every time I attempted to follow the advice of “sleep when the baby sleeps,” they’d immediately wake up. It didn’t take me long to ditch the dream of napping. So my newborns could have called out the few occasions when they were actually going to let me get some shuteye.
“I Have An Itch I Can’t Scratch”
My kid being itchy and not being able to express the problem or scratch herself was one of the most haunting thoughts I had in the early days of motherhood. A perpetually unreachable itch seemed like one of the worst kinds of torture I could conjure up for an adult, so I couldn’t fathom how horrible it could be for a baby who could only cry so that his parents might guess what is wrong.
I would have been much less stressed out if my kid had been able to tell me he had an itch somewhere, instead of wailing endlessly.
“Your Tummy Is Comfy”
I didn’t exactly welcome the plushness of my fourth trimester body. Wasn’t all this baby weight supposed to go away pretty soon after giving birth? My newborn didn’t seem to mind,though, and by her expression when she was tucked in close to me while breastfeeding, it seemed like my thick middle served her well as a pillow. If only she could have articulated her appreciation for my fluffy stomach at that time.
“You’re Doing A Great Job”
Feeling like a failure seemed to be my default setting postpartum. I didn’t know what my baby wanted, or how to give it to her, no matter how many new mom books I read. My gut played tricks on me those first few weeks after giving birth; I was searching for that maternal instinct to rely on, but with the scramble of hormones and emotions and the lack of sleep, my confidence as a mom was practically non-existent. Being told I’m a good mom by my partner and parents helped, but if I could have heard it straight from my baby’s mouth, it would have meant the world.