I’ll never forget the mom who saw me struggling with my one-year-old at the library over a decade ago, when I was an exhausted, stressed out new mom. My son had just learned how to walk, and he was taking full advantage, waddling around, pressing buttons on the computer, sticking his finger in the electronic book drop, and somehow repeatedly setting off an alarm at the entryway of the library.
Every time I would walk past this other mom, sitting calmly at a table helping her school-age daughter with her homework, I would apologize for all the mayhem and noise my son was causing. And every time, she would have nothing but sympathy and compassion for me. It was so refreshing—and needed.
Finally, she motioned me over to the table where she was sitting and showed me that there were crayons and paper in case my son wanted to color. He wasn’t that into drawing at the time, but he was thankfully happy to sit on my lap and play with the crayons (and probably munch on a few).
As I sat there, this mom took some time to ask me how I was doing—like, really ask me, not in some kind of small-talk kind of way. And because she was no nice and open-minded, I told her the truth.
“My son turned one a few weeks ago, but I’m still so tired,” I said. “I feel like it hasn’t gotten easier yet, like everyone says it would. It’s maybe even gotten harder, now that he can walk.”
“Oh honey,” she said (I swear this woman was sent from heaven or something). “He’s still a baby, and you’re still a new mommy. Of course, it’s hard. They don’t get easier for a really long time, and you’re still not totally yourself either for at least another few years.”
In a few minutes, it was time for this mom and her daughter to leave—and by then, my son had probably gotten himself wrapped up in some other mischief. But even though our conversation probably lasted under ten minutes, it had a major and lasting impact on me.
It seemed like since my son was born, I’d been waiting. Waiting for things to get easier. Waiting for sleep to come. Waiting for my body to return to normal. Waiting to feel like myself again. Waiting, waiting, waiting.
Everyone and everything assured me that the waiting was supposed have come to an end by now. Sure, everyone understood how disorienting it was to have a newborn. Once my baby was a few months old, though, people seemed to expect me to be a normal, functioning member of society again. You know, one who had the time to call people back, attend social events, and shower more than once a week. But it still wasn’t happening.
This mom was one of the first people to reassure me that this was totally normal. What a breath of fresh air.
I was reminded of this mom and the impact she had on me a few weeks ago when I came across a tweet from Chrissy Teigen, who always keeps it real AF about parenting.
I started yoga this week and my first class, after giving myself some belly complaints, the instructor said "well didn't you just have a baby!?" and I said "no, like 18 months ago" and she said "that's JUST" and let me tell you, true or not I could have cried.
— christine teigen (@chrissyteigen) December 10, 2019
Teigen shared a quick anecdote about attending a yoga class for the first time since her son Miles was born 18 months ago. At first, Teigen says she shared some “belly complaints” with her yoga instructor. (I remember finding it very hard to hold a plank within the first year or two after having a baby—damn my stretched out abs.)
Rather than telling her to push past any weakness or discomfort, her instructor helped her put her postpartum body into perspective.
“[A]fter giving myself some belly complaints, the instructor said ‘well didn’t you just have a baby!?’ and I said ‘no, like 18 months ago’ and she said ‘that’s JUST’ and let me tell you, true or not I could have cried.”
Can we give this yoga instructor a hearty round of applause? What she did was just a small thing—reassuring Teigen that 18 months is super short, and of course her body wasn’t back to normal yet. But for a stressed out mom, this sort of thing can mean the world.
Teigen decided to share this anecdote with the world, which is awesome, because all new moms should hear this perspective. If you read the comments on Teigen’s post, you’ll see tons of moms chiming in, thanking her, and assuring her that yes, it can take years to feel like yourself again after having a baby. And that’s okay.
Amen sister. We’re all so quick to pretend we didn’t just grow a human from scratch from our LITERAL DAMN BODIES
— Dr. Felisa Reynolds (@felisa_reynolds) December 11, 2019
I have to remind myself that my daughter isn’t even a year old and I don’t have to get back in perfect shape right now.
— Young Ms Claus (@alannahwho) December 11, 2019
Ever since that incident in the library all those years ago, I have made it a point to give back to any new moms I see. If I notice a mom struggling with her small child … if I hear a mom disparaging her postpartum body … if I hear a mom generally complaining that she doesn’t feel like herself, I always try to reassure her that she is 1000% normal.
Just a quick nod, a “There is no need to apologize,” or “I’ve been there!” is sometimes all it takes for a mom to feel like they are normal and fine. If there’s an opening, I try to get into it further, listening to that mom’s worries or concerns, and sharing my own real, lived experiences back from when my kids were small.
It truly takes a village—not just to raise a child—but to support the parents who raise them. We can all give back to new moms. Just tell them that you get it, that it really does take that long to heal, to get back on your feet, to get out of that baby-fog. It’s so reassuring and important for moms to have that perspective—especially when the rest of the world is so quick to tell them otherwise.