with Advice Columnist KAYTLIN BAILEY
Pregnancy, Birth and Motherhood
"I had my baby a few weeks ago and my body is still recovering from giving birth. It was brutal: 25 hours of labor and my tailbone is so badly bruised it's really hard to walk. How do I respond to all my well-wishers who ask how I'm doing when the truth is, while I'm obviously so excited about and love my new baby, I feel like shit and breastfeeding is so flipping hard!”
Look, you just had a baby. You made a person with your body. Labor is to women as war is to men. You’ve been through something. Giving birth is a physically and emotionally traumatic process that immediately necessitates the survivor bond for survival–like war buddies but with breastfeeding. They call this time the “4th trimester” because the baby is still attached to you, but now without the convenient carrying case!
Making nice nice with the other adults in your child’s life is Important, but not urgent. You’re exhausted. Your bits aren’t healed yet. You can’t walk and now there is a super needy person sucking on what's left of your sense of self. There will be lots of forced smiles and social obligations in your new life as a parent, but not yet.
Any woman who has been through it has been through it. Anyone who loves you, loves you. Anyone else can get the fuck out of your house until your tailbone heals.
Your neighbor, that girl from that meetup group, and your mom’s book club will be just as delighted with the damp gurgling creature after it can hold up its own head and you’re both passing solid bowel movements. You can schedule a meet and greet for your baby when you can walk without wincing.
If anyone has any questions, send them a photo of your torn taint.
"I'm pregnant, and I'm struggling because I know that I was able to develop and thrive as a creative person because of the sacrifices my parents made for me growing up. We lived in the suburbs, my parents never went out to dinner, and we never went on vacations that required flying. My mom never drank, and my parents are each other's best friends. They let me do viola lessons, sports, musicals, and they afforded it all because of their frugality. I, on the other hand, love to socialize, live in a city, and to travel. Plus, everything is just more expensive! How am I going to strike a balance? I'm just worried that I won't be selfless enough as a parent and it will affect my children's opportunities."
Look, you haven’t even had the kid yet, and you’re already beating yourself up for not being a good mother. Giving up everything that you love about your life “for the baby” is a recipe for deeply resenting your child. That’s when the real psychological damage happens. No one is in therapy because they couldn’t go to viola lessons.
Flight attendants have to tell parents to put their own oxygen mask on first, before helping their child, because the impulse to sacrifice everything, even air, is so intense. But, you can’t help your child if you’re choking on your own expectations. Obviously, all your resources will become more precious after you’ve had a child, but you’re allowed to make time and spend money on the things you enjoy. In fact, you should.
You don’t really know why you thrived as a creative person, or the reasons why your parents made the choices they did. Maybe your parents beat themselves up about isolating you in the ‘burbs where the only viola teachers are washed up hacks. Maybe y’all never went on vacation because they were afraid of flying or foreigners. Maybe they missed an opportunity to develop your incredible talents for rap battling because your musical theater teacher didn’t appreciate that kind of music. There are lots of spoiled kids who went to summer camp in rehab. You can’t really control who your child becomes.
Including your child in a life you find engaging and filled with friendships you cultivated is so much more valuable than a list of activities. Your child will benefit from the things you do and the people you bring into their lives. Teach your child how to cultivate relationships with different people, show them what friendship looks like. Let your child see the rich life you’ve built for yourself; let them see you love it.
The important thing is that your child feels seen and encouraged, not that you can afford to pursue every whim. Giving up your life to get your child into a pre-k dance troupe might be a smidge too much power for someone who can’t write their own name yet. Your kid will have plenty of opportunities to make their own choices about how they spend their time and money. Show them they’re allowed to spend it on things they love.
Plus, whether your kid goes to college or runs away to join an experimental violin troupe, you’re going to need your friends to comfort you.
Please submit your questions to Kaytlin at: firstname.lastname@example.org