An Open Letter To Everyone I've Flaked On Since I Became A Mom
Over the course of the past three months, you have probably made plans with me. Maybe we were supposed to go see a movie, or have a sushi lunch date. You might have invited me to your house party or to that cute new cocktail bar down the road. Perhaps I promised I'd visit when you got that flu you were certain would destroy your entire body; when you really needed me.
Please believe it when I say that I wanted to be there. I, too, could taste the California rolls in my mouth. I could imagine the joys of belting '90s Whitney Houston, drunk on homemade strawberry margaritas, in your bedroom. But I I didn't make it. I didn't make any of it. Intention crumbled beneath the weight of a week's worth of dirty diapers and all the piles of baby laundry I had to do.
Chances are I have already apologized for flaking on you. Maybe you were understanding; maybe you were annoyed. Both reactions are valid. I mean, no one likes being stood up. But I'm writing today to let you know that I'm probably going to flake again. I guess I want you to realize that it's not about you. And while I get that "it's not you, it's me," is as cliche an excuse as there is for bailing on anything, well, it's pretty legit this time around.
Here's the thing: I was terrible at keeping plans before I became a mom. My anxiety and mental health issues have long disrupted my ability to hang out with the friends I want to hang out with, or meet the deadlines I want to meet, or show up when I want to show up. And when I became a new mom, well, let's just say my natural flakiness was compounded tenfold.
I'm sorry I missed that dinner party. I'm sorry I didn't cuddle you until you felt better after that horrid illness. I'm sorry I missed that Google Hangout meeting.
Truthfully, no one prepares you for this stuff. No one really can. I'm convinced that if anyone was 100 percent honest about how difficult having a child is (especially for the first time, when you have no clue what to expect), no one would ever want to do it again. Homo sapiens would go the way of the woolly mammoth, only to be replaced by whatever extraterrestrial life forms out there are waiting patiently for us to self-destruct.
For me, the lack of sleep has been the most difficult struggle of all. For 14 weeks, I've considered myself lucky if I manage to get 3 hours of sleep per night. A few times, my daughter has managed to sleep five hours, and I literally wept at the precious rarity of the occasion.
The lack of sleep makes me temperamental, agitated, and clumsy. It makes me navigate the world in slow motion. Every benign part of the day taking so much longer than it once did. Each drive to the grocery store, or visit to the doctor, or walk taken to get some fresh air is an eternal process made all the more eternal by the baby bag that needs packing or the sitter that needs finding in order to complete it. It's impossible to just get up and go somewhere without extensive planning beforehand.
Sometimes, I've actually managed to get myself dressed and ever-so-nearly out the door. Maybe I've even made it into my car, and on the highway. But then something happened: The baby was inconsolable, failing to settle for anyone else and very clearly needing her mom.
More often than not, I'm just... kind of... overwhelmed.
One time, she had a small cold, which became nasty enough that she started choking on her bottled milk. She was unable to breathe through her nose, and not yet aware of how to drink while also taking time to breathe through her mouth. So I had to stay behind to take care of her. Another afternoon, I tried to take her with me to see one of you. But we got stuck in some of the worst traffic of my life, only for the baby to start screaming like she's never screamed before, utterly fed up and ready to go home.
Usually, I just can't manage to pump enough milk to leave her in the first place. Pumping is another struggle: A long, exhausting one that seems to take me hours and produce minimum results. Unfortunately, supplementing with formula is no longer an option for us, as it seems to make her vomit profusely. For this reason, my baby survives on my milk alone. Her survival is literally dependent on her proximity to my body. And sure, the decision to breastfeed was mine and only mine. But I never could've conceptualized just how demanding and physically draining it can be.
More often than not, however, I'm just... kind of... overwhelmed. I make plans because a big part of me really wants to keep them. In fact, I feel excited and optimistic and a little more like my old self when envisioning all the rad stuff we're going to do together. I remember that I'm not just a mom. I'm a person and a woman and a 25-year-old who's still figuring her sh*t out.
When you're still learning to balance being a parent with being a functioning member of the world, even the simplest tasks remind you that you've lost your formerly fancy-free self. And you really, really miss that person.
But then everything starts to feel so difficult. Getting out of bed or putting on makeup or changing my clothes or taking a shower or packing that baby bag or driving the baby to her grandparents' house or pumping the milk: These are tasks that seem so straightforward on paper. But when you're experiencing this new stage in your life, when you're still learning to balance being a parent with being a functioning member of the world, even the simplest tasks remind you that you've lost your formerly fancy-free self. And you really, really miss that person. But you also realize that going back to them means sacrificing a new part of yourself, an important, magical part of yourself that you could never have discovered if things had stayed the same.
I don't say all of this to make you pity me. Being a new parent is all-consuming, but it is also incredibly rewarding. It's a challenge, no doubt, but one I have found worth taking on. I get to see the development of an entire person right from scratch. I get to see her discover new emotions and facial expressions. I get to have a role in helping mold her mind and soul. I get a best friend.
I want with all my heart to be the friend, sister, daughter, co-worker, employee, or neighbor you want and need me to be. I hope that, in some ways, I still am.
I say this so you know that I want to be there for you, too. I do. I want with all my heart to be the friend, sister, daughter, co-worker, employee, or neighbor you want and need me to be. I hope that, in some ways, I still am.
Things are just hectic right now. They're complicated in ways I never could have predicted when that first pregnancy test came back positive. Hours pass by in a quick blink: Hours spent reading cardboard picture books, helping strengthen an infant's neck and arms via tummy time, or sterilizing pacifiers and breast pumps. Hours disappear without the slightest hint of where they've actually gone. Days are lost. Mondays turn to Fridays and then I press repeat.
So I'm sorry I missed that dinner party. I'm sorry I didn't cuddle you until you felt better after that horrid illness. I'm sorry I missed that Google Hangout meeting. I'm sorry I canceled our shopping date when you were already dressed to go. I'm sorry I haven't answered the myriad Facebook messages and tweets and WhatsApp messages and emails and texts you've sent my way. I have so appreciated every single one. Just as I so appreciate you.
But bear with me, please. Everything is just new right now. Everything feels hard. And I'm trying.
Love, Your Friend