A Letter To Myself
Dear 7 Months Postpartum You,
Life feels pretty surreal, huh? People keep referring to the “new normal,” but nothing has felt normal for a really long time. 2019 was anything but, kicking January off with a positive pregnancy test and ending with a 9pm bedtime on New Year’s Eve. For over a year, every month has felt further away from life as you knew it.
But, there was a brief return to some version of normalcy. Picking up freelance work, hiring a part-time nanny, and emerging on the other side of sleep training. The fog of sleeplessness began to lift and you could start to see how your old life and your new role as a parent could join forces. It was kind of exciting.
It seems as quickly as you were let out of the baby cage, you were forced back inside. There is no old life to mourn because you haven’t had an old life in so long. In some ways that’s been helpful; there’s no looking back, only what’s directly in front of you and not much beyond.
There just isn’t bandwidth for introspection. It’s a bit overcrowded sharing the physical and mental space with your child, husband, and all of your newfound work deadlines. There is no downtime. No room for self-care beyond the occasional bath after the baby goes to bed. Every nook and cranny of time and space needs to be maximized to accommodate the sheer volume of work, childcare, and endless cleaning.
Every day feels exactly like the day before. Closing the curtains three times a day for naps and bedtime you think, “Wasn’t I just here? Didn’t I just open these?” The amount that needs to get done in a day is exhausting. In a previous life, you would frequently lament, “I am so tired.” But, now you know the truth. You were never really tired. It was just something you said to fill a pause in conversation. It was something you thought you felt. Now you know what tired really feels like.
You would love to be bored enough to make your own bread.
You would even settle for enough time or mental energy to be properly anxious about the state of the world. You only have enough to give to the tiny microcosm that exists within the walls of your two-bedroom house. To shoulder one more iota of worry would break you. It’s already asking too much of yourself to worry about what would happen if G-d forbid you or your husband get sick. Are my fatigue, headache and nausea because I have the virus, or because I’m just exhausted? Who would care for the baby? What if you were hospitalized and not allowed to see your baby? What if the baby gets sick and you can’t be there to hold him? And those aren’t even the worst-case scenarios that run through your mind.
When your son was born, you didn’t fall madly in love like Instagram said you would. How could you? You didn’t even know this new person. But, you did feel an immeasurable urge to care for and protect him. As your love has grown, so has the intensity to keep him safe. The fear grinds you down.
The repetitiveness is grueling. Most of the world has been isolating for two months, but you’ve been doing it since last September, holed up on the couch in a closed circuit of breastfeeding, diapers, soothing, and napping with the occasional outing to Target or a coffee shop. You’re equally well-prepared and well-worn of this exercise.
It’s hard not to feel resentful of the experiences being robbed of you, showing your baby the world, and introducing him to your favorite people and places. It feels silly to be depressed about not being able to push your baby around in his stroller at local gardens, having lunch with friends, or going away on a weekend trip when there are millions of people suffering. But, it’s valid. It’s OK to mourn the time you won’t get back and the experiences you’ll never have with him this small. He’ll never be this age ever again.
And yet, in what you’re losing, you also see what you’re gaining. This time is not all frustrating, scary and stressful. In fact, it’s kind of nice. Life is simple. It’s quiet. It’s spring. You walk around the block twice a day and notice new flower buds on bushes and regrowth on trees. You are learning the names of your neighbors and their dogs.
The routine is no longer a constraint, but rather a steady guide. You no longer have to feel bad about being tethered to the house, a slave to the nap schedule. There is no choice, and you aren’t missing anything.
How lucky is your son that both of his parents will have been his primary caretakers for his first year of life? We’re learning how to parent together. You take turns testing each other to see who has more of a children’s book memorized. Family time is every day, not just on the weekends. How fortunate we are as parents to watch him grow, noticing and celebrating daily developments. We were able to witness his first attempt at crawling the other day. For how many more milestones will we get to be so absolutely present and together as a family?
Every day you wake up grateful for work, grateful for everyone’s health. Every day is surreal. You have to remind yourself that you’re living a prophecy come true in more than one way. You’re somehow functioning on unprecedented lockdown during a scary open-ended pandemic, and somehow… you’re also a mother. Both are wild. Both are unbelievable. Both will dramatically change you.
How did you get here? I can’t wait to see you come out on the other side.
7 Months Postpartum You