If I Could Write A Letter To My Postpartum Self, This Is What I Would Tell Her

by Elizabeth Broadbent
Originally Published: 
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Dear Self, after you just had your baby:

Congratulations, by the way. Because it’s only polite to say, you have the right to punch anyone who says anything else. You were not aware of that. You were also not aware you have the right to punch anyone who comments on your postpartum body, for better or for worse.

Because, bitch, you look fabulous. Oh, you don’t know it now. Your stomach feels all loosey-goosey. You don’t fit into those pre-pregnancy jeans. (Don’t bring them to the hospital, lady. Seriously, don’t). You think this equates to unattractive. But, girl, you are glowing. You still have all that shiny pregnancy hair. You have a gorgeous baby to haul around. You are spectacular, and you should be in all the pictures. You won’t regret it later, I promise. You’ll flip back and see how good you looked. Just let them take all the pics, and smile wide. Don’t Wednesday Addams this shit. You just had a baby. Just for that baby, try to get a few pics where you look happy…which you might be. Which you might not be, and that’s okay.

You will spend New Year’s Eve weeping in the bathroom and wondering what the fuck you’ve done to your life. That happens. It’s normal, and it doesn’t mean you hate your baby. It just means you’re trying to adjust to the idea of caring for a creature that will shrivel up if left in the middle of the floor for a day. That’s a hefty responsibility. It’s okay to wonder how the fuck you’ll cope, and what the fuck you’ve done, and how the fuck this is going to all work out, and all the other fucks you can summon. These will make you cry in the bathroom. Do that now. It’s easier without some toddler barging in to poop.

Speaking of poop, oh, poop. Oh, for one glorious, normal poop. You’re on a ton of pain medication because you tore like one of those banners a football team busts through, and those meds have some, um, side effects, like not pooping. Take the Colace now. Don’t wait until you’re close to a hemorrhoid. Eat your fiber, eat your greens, eat kale and fennel and yogurt, and hell, drink coffee because you were a good girl and avoided it during pregnancy. You missed it — didn’t you? Now it’s your new best friend. Brew a pot and make a date with the toilet. You will not regret this, unless no one’s there to hold the baby when it hits.

Coffee is also your new best friend because you will reach hitherto unknown heights of sleep deprivation. Newborns don’t know day from night, so you’ll sit in bed at 3 a.m., this little golem of a thing staring up at you, while you pray it’ll just shut its eyes so you can go the fuck to sleep, please God, please. You will think your baby is defective. They’re not. They’re a baby, and babies don’t sleep. Hate anyone who tells you differently or offers any solution other than sleepily handing them off to your spouse like a game of hot potato.

So rest up while you can. You can sleep when the baby sleeps if you let your house go all to hell, which I highly recommend. No one cares if your laundry is in drawers; you just pushed a human being from your vagina. Let that settle in for a moment. Do not put the baby in a Moby wrap and clean the bathroom. Do not decide to take a 5 1/2-mile hike. Rest. You won’t, and you’ll wonder why you bled for six freaking weeks. This is what happens when you have a baby and don’t take it easy afterwards.

You are doing some things right. That baby wrap, for instance, you use it all the time, and that’s awesome. You can keep up with your regular life that way, things like going out for oysters and hanging out with friends and drinking wine. Put a napkin on the baby’s head so you don’t spill the wine.

You’re also rocking this breastfeeding thing, which is wonderful, but stop fucking worrying about who sees you do it. You’re fumbling with covers and worrying about offending someone. Nope. If they don’t want to see a baby nurse, they can put a cover over their head. If they tell you to leave an establishment, you can threaten to call the police. So set those boobies free. If you nurse in the wrap, no one will be able to tell anyway.

And spend as much time as possible chilling out with that baby on your chest. Catch up on The X-Files or something. Make someone bring you food. After all, you’re mama. You’re the one the baby wants. But don’t forget to pass him over to your husband once in a while too. Then you can take an uninterrupted shower or read an uninterrupted novel or simply not have a baby on your chest, who, sooner or later, is going to start to root around to nurse. Try to balance that baby time and alone time. It doesn’t have to be all baby, all the time.

Most of all, you’re doing great, whatever you do. You’re keeping a human being alive. That takes some serious effort, both mental and physical. Don’t forget to take care of yourself. That human being will be lots happier if you do.

And don’t think you’re going to do that elimination communication stuff. You don’t have the patience for it. You can stop trying to make the baby pee in the sink.


Your Later Self

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