The past few days I’ve felt sort of… off. I haven’t been sleeping at night, and I just got some new birth control installed that (I think) is messing with my hormones, and the sheer volume of Diet Coke I’ve consumed is enough to make any normal person completely schizophrenic. (By the way, I’ve since cured my sleep problems by not playing Donkey Kong 3 for two straight hours every night before bed, in case that is also why you can’t sleep). But I’ve been feeling downright crappy, and that kind of low energy and minimal patience thing is really, really exacerbated by a tiny baby hanging around that requires your attention for 12 or 14 hours a day.
Here’s my advice for getting through the not-great days:
1. Let yourself feel bad, and remind yourself that you won’t feel like this forever. Feeling sad has a way of overshadowing everything, and if you add to that a flair for drama (ahem, not that I have that), you’re basically on the first flight back in time to your fourteen year old self, who thought that every little feeling was relentlessly permanent. Your baby is not going to “pick up on it,” and if they do, they’re not going to remember it.
2. Embrace your fourteen year old self. Do you know what infants love? Bikini Kill. Or Weezer, Ani DiFranco, Heavy D and the Boys, or whatever else you were into when you were fourteen. You should listen to that, and read some zines. Babies don’t know what anything is anyway, and Baby Bikini Kill is so much cooler than Baby Einstein.
3. Eat. All naps should be devoted to consumption of dessert items or carbohydrates. Wear a moomoo or elastic waist pants (which, actually, I recommend you wear every day).
4. Get out of the house. Go to the mall and buy some stuff on sale (preferably accessories, shoes, home stuff, cute baby things- nothing that forces you into a dressing room). Take a walk outside and let your baby sleep in the stroller. Visit friends. Go to the library and borrow a bunch of very low-brow magazines. (Also, get one issue of the New Yorker or the Economist and then don’t read it, but just feel kind of smart when you see the cover on your bedside table).
5. Forget about the schedule. Let your baby nap as much as they want. Let them eat whatever. Try to figure out how they can amuse themselves so you can take a minute to focus on US Weekly. Don’t beat yourself up about anything. Let it all go.
(On a serious note, I want to say how incredibly grateful I am that I’ve had bad days since Lu was born, but no over-arching postpartum depression. I had a lot of problems with depression growing up, and I really believed I would suffer again after birth. While I was pregnant, I starting seeing a psychologist, just so I’d have someone to turn to after the birth, just in case. Postpartum depression is so unimaginably scary to me, and I can’t say enough about how much I admire the BRAVERY of the women pushing through and past it. You are the best.)
What I’ve learned so far through my short stint as a mom is that one of the biggest things I can do for myself and my baby is to forgive myself. All day long, in little and in big ways, I’m working on releasing myself from my own unrealistic expectations. We all want to be completely attentive parents, who make every moment of their kids’ life a stimulating learning experience. We all want to feed them organic baby food that we grind in a platinum, wind-powered food mill while reciting Emily Dickinson and teaching them the difference between a sonata and a concerto.
But actually? I’d rather teach her that we all have shitty days, and we forgive ourselves for that. We forgive ourselves for the chocolate bar(s) we ate for lunch. Sometimes, we take extra naps, and that’s okay. I want to teach her that mom does not beat herself up a million times a day for all of her many perceived inadequacies, and neither should she (once she knows what that means). We can actively learn to love ourselves every day, in whatever weird state we’re in. Binging on Netflix can be healthy, too, as long as we own it. The baby’s life will not be ruined because you need to escape with an episode or five of the Bachelorette.
The first best thing you can do for your family it to remember to take care of yourself, whatever that means.