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An Open Letter to a New Mom

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Dear Mommy,

You're freaking out, and you're scared to let anyone know. You're exhausted and anxious and run ragged, but you're also in love. It's a new kind of love; a shining diamond of a thing that you had no way of imagining before.

Here it is. The love that made it so you'll never sleep again.

The love that has you hearing footsteps in the hallway at night, the door to the nursery opening.

The love that shut the bathroom door this evening, so that you could take a bath; only, the white light and slippery tile were cold and every time you tried to soap up your hair, you heard a tiny cry that probably wasn't real.

This is the love that will kill you.

It feels that way, doesn't it? It feels like there is no possible way you'll make it as a mom. There is no way you'll be able to sustain this burn. You're feeling like you've gotten in over your head, because you've never loved something so much that it made you afraid to close your eyes.

You're afraid to lay your baby down and leave the room. The bare crib mattress is so wide, it's like a cold sea of space, and the two of you were so warm, together, before. You're afraid to fall asleep next to him, though, too. So many things could go wrong, just by snuggling up into bed for the night. You had no idea blankets and warmth and softness and sleep could be so menacing.

You're so tired you're seeing flashes of light in your peripheral vision. You're discovering an obscene, pornographic love for coffee and quiet and especially for naps. You're finding that you can't be touched by your husband at night; not now, not when you've scraped yourself too thin over the rocks of your new love and you have nothing left inside but a thin thread of panic, threatening to snap. Not while your startle reflex is running so high. Not while you're so fragile, you might break if he tried to take comfort in you.

If you broke, who would stay up at night, terrified of the shadows? Who would hold your tiny miracle just right, who would love him and smell the top of his head? Who would stare at him, marveling while he slept in their arms? Who would spring out of bed, heart pounding and fingers numb, and dash across the hallway at the first hint of his crying?

Shh, mommy. It's all OK. It's just that your love's purpose has come to life, and you've never been this needed before. You've never been this counted on, and you have no idea whether you're good enough to be what your child needs. You don't know that life as a parent won't always feel this way, that your child will eat and sleep without you someday, sooner than later. You don't know the depths of your abilities, how you are capable of astounding performances of sacrifice and courage and will.

All this time you've been alive, you've had no idea that you were capable of caring for a life.

God knows nobody ever taught you to care for your own. For as long as you can remember, people have been trying to mold you and crush you, reshape you and change your mind. They have been trying to sell to you that you're too fat, too dull, too stupid, too dirty, not sexy enough and that your sexuality is a sin. They have made you ashamed to pronounce certain parts of your body. They've called you names and put you down, held up a painted, unattainable image in front of you and told you to fight for it. They've told you that if you were enough, you would be thinner, prettier and more sought-after. You'd be quieter and smaller and sweeter. If you were good enough, you would be more like they said you should be.

You had no idea, all this time, that your body was miraculous, that you could grow something perfect inside of you. That, in a gush of pain and blood, you could deliver slippery, perfect innocence and beauty. That you had him inside of you all along. You didn't need to be prettier, you were god, all this time.

And it's quite a realization, isn't it?

How are you supposed to be god when you were only a no-good, ugly, fat, loser of a girl a few days ago? How are you supposed to wake up every morning and know that you're the only thing responsible for keeping the most beautiful being to ever breathe air, alive, when you're just you? How are you supposed to make this immaculate little person happy, make sure he's healthy and thriving, when you've never managed to even be able to tolerate yourself in the mirror?

I don't know how to explain to you that I know this, but you will do it and you will be amazing. All of the beauty and capability you're expecting of yourself, now that you're mommy? We've known it was in you all along. That's why we're your friends and husbands and sisters and admirers. That's why we call you just to talk. That's why we encourage you when you write and sing.

We knew you were amazing, even when you didn't.

And you do know it, now, even though you're fighting it.

You know that you can handle this, and that you'll get through it. You don't have a choice, and so you will pick yourself up, get help if you need to, call your doctor, take pills, go out for dinner with a friend and humiliate yourself by breaking down crying, stay up all night listening for intruders in the grass, sob at your husband's feet, call him at work and tell him to come home, panic and tremble and shake if you have to. Yell and throw up your breakfast. Skip showering for three and four days in a row because you simply can't muster up the initiative. Allow yourself all of your imperfections and fears, because they make up who you are and who you are is READY TO KICK ASS at this mothering thing. Who you are is BEAUTY and WISDOM and LOVE and LOVE and LOVE.

Who you are is Mommy, and you can do this. I swear.

Love,

An Admirer

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This piece was originally published on Last Mom On Earth.