The first few months with a new baby often slips by in a blur of diaper-changing, middle-of-the-night feeding, rocking and shooshing, onesie-washing, and of course, thank-you-note-writing — for all of those cute little onesies you got as gifts, that is.
After my first son was born, I diligently spent hours writing thank you notes not just for the onesies, but for all of the gifts we received. But now that a bit of time has passed, and those fuzzy first few months are sharpening into view, it occurred to me that there may have been a few more thank you notes I didn’t pen, but should have. Because while I was busily thanking my great aunt for the baby swing she gave me at the shower, I’m not sure I adequately thanked the people who truly deserved the biggest thank yous of all.
In all honesty, the best gifts during those days weren’t the ones that came in pretty packing with big bows and cute wrapping paper, but the ones that didn’t even come in a package at all. The gifts I am by far the most grateful for were the ones of time and patience, kindness and love.
Unfortunately, because I was drowning in a sea of postpartum emotions, confusion, and sleep deprivation, I probably forgot to thank these people for their gifts with as much praise and fanfare as they deserved. But better late, than never, right?
So without further ado, I’d like to send out a GIANT thank you to …
1. The friend who dropped off dinner but didn’t stay to visit.
People often bring meals after a baby is born. Each and every meal was helpful and appreciated. But the real gifts were the meals brought by someone who not only understood a new mom’s need for food, but also the need to be left the heck alone. This particular friend would drop off a meal – usually a pre-prepped casserole dish and the skedaddled out of there, leaving me to sleep or shower or just watch trashy soaps while I fed my son.
2. Our first pediatrician.
After my oldest son was born, I found it nearly impossible to leave the house, but there was one outing that I always looked forward to: his pediatrician appointment. I didn’t even realize until my son was two months old that his pediatrician wasn’t actually a doctor, but a nurse practitioner, and by then it didn’t really matter. Not only was she kind, patient, and wise, but after she finished scribbling her notes at the end of each appointment, she would look at me and say, “You’re doing a good job; keep it up.”
I wanted to cry and hug her all at the same time. I felt such a profound sense of relief to know that I wasn’t failing at motherhood because I wasn’t breastfeeding or because I cried myself to sleep most nights or because I didn’t want to hold my son all the time. For those few minutes after she left the room, her words — You’re doing a good job; keep it up — still rang in my ears. I felt like a freaking rock star parent. And what better gift is there than a little confidence?
3. The friend who listened to me cry, but didn’t offer advice.
The amount of tears shed after my first son was born could have filled an Olympic-sized swimming pool. I’ve always been a crier, but add sleep deprivation and postpartum depression to the mix and, well, let’s just say the waterworks reached an all-time high. Not only does crying make many people uncomfortable, but it also creates an irresistible urge to dole out advice. Those people who simply let me cry, without offering unsolicited advice, gave me something that no one else did – the gift of bearing witness to pain, which is sometimes all that is needed for the growing and changing mama heart.
4. The friend who told me her kid STILL wasn’t sleeping through the night.
One of the questions I hated most after my son was born was: “Is he sleeping through the night?” The short answer: No. The long answer: No and please stop asking and looking at me with pity while you make comments about how he is a “difficult baby.” Whenever I brought up sleep with one of my friends, she simply offered her own tales of sleepless nights, reaffirming that I was not alone – which was one of the greatest gifts of all.
5. My Tribe.
Finding one’s tribe is essential to surviving the transition into parenthood. Unfortunately, it can be hard and long process to find one’s tribe. And it can feel a lot like dating. Awkward introductions, Internet chat rooms and MeetUp groups, Facebook stalking — all in a quest to find a few people who you click with as a parent. After a few months of searching, I found a group of moms who became My Tribe.
We went for long walks in the middle of the afternoon. We met for Friday afternoon “happy hours” to enjoy a glass or two of wine while our toddlers littered the floor with Cheerios (don’t worry, we cleaned up and left a big tip). We laughed together and we cried together. We talked about sex and sleep schedules and how to deal with tantrums. We helped each other through miscarriages and infertility struggles and marital catastrophes. We admitted to hating being a mother sometimes and screaming curse words at our spouses and to not being sure if we could love a second child as much as our first. For three years we saw each other through the best and worst of motherhood, marriage, and life. We grew as women and as mothers together, and through it all, our babies grew up alongside one another as well. Eventually we moved away and our regular get-togethers dissipated, but I will always think of this group of women as My Tribe and be forever grateful.
6. My husband.
During those first few months, I was fixated on how difficult things were for me that I didn’t realize my husband was dealing with new parent growing pains as well — all while listening to my cry, making dinner, helping me through postpartum depression, working long hours, and handling middle of the night feedings. I wonder if any “thank you” could ever be enough for a good parenting partner. Perhaps there aren’t words to suffice. Fortunately, though, a good partner usually knows just how much we appreciate them.More On