Dear 25-Year-Old Me,
I see you there – pregnant, unknowing what a onesie is or how game changing a diaper blowout can really be. You are navigating the treacherous first years of marriage and feel as if you are failing. This is the place you are, trying to mold two people into a partnership that is ready for a child. How…when you don’t even know if the two of you will make it?
Here is where I need you to listen – you got this.
I know you don’t believe me. In six months when that beautiful child enters the world not making a sound, you will panic. She is fine. A day later when the nurses take her away because she won’t quit crying… she is also fine. Despite your neurosis that someone will steal her while in the nursery – they won’t. Take their advice about sleeping because the next three months she really won’t stop screaming.
When your husband’s job doesn’t seem to be all that and you are working three yourself, I know you won’t believe me. Nor will you when you spend your last cents to buy a $350 formula to ease colic or when you break down at the doc’s office because you can’t nurse. “Breast is best” will echo in your head and you will wonder if you are limiting her capabilities from infancy. Trust me – she is going to make your heart fly. Her compassion for others and sense of independence is going to make you stare at her in amazement. When you see her intelligence and natural determination through pain and heartache, mixed with the depth of her spirit, you will know what was “best” is that you were looking out for her.
I know you really aren’t going to believe me here, but at 10 weeks when you recognize you have to return to work and you find the well-known “mommy guilt,” you are teaching her that sometimes you have to think beyond yourself and do what you don’t want to do. And that is okay. You will feel this every few weeks and will resolve to not settle on a job unless it allows your family to come first. You will find that job and they will value you.
Sleep apnea develops soon and you will be paralyzed with fear she will stop breathing. When you find safely co-sleeping helps, you will receive a lecture on SIDS and how you are not a responsible parent. You will question how it can possibly be better to have her sleep in another room where she stops breathing than to be by you, where she mimics your breathing rhythms. This will be one of the many parenting moments where you research until you are exhausted, only to have someone tear apart what you have determined to be best. Eventually you will learn to do what is right for you and let the haters hate.
When the day comes to discuss another child, you will grapple with your deep seeded concern of over-population versus the concept that your daughter will be alone if something happens to you. You will decide to have a second and will worry the entire time that your first will feel as if she doesn’t matter anymore.
Fast forward a few years to when her brother is called a “dummy” during a party. She will stop in her tracks, turn to him and sincerely proclaim, “You are one of the smartest, sweetest kindergartners I know. You are not a dummy – maybe someone was just mean to her to make her say mean things.”
Here, you will wonder how she became so wise and realize despite sibling rivalry, she has learned blood and love run thicker than words can paraphrase. Her importance is only intensified by all she has become and the tears in your eyes that make them giggle – “there’s mom, crying again” – reinforce that these moments ARE life.
Your second child will cause you a whole new set of concerns – ones about heart murmurs and delayed speech. School years will send you into a tailspin trying to figure out the right approach for him. At this point your husband will write you a letter and thank you for being pro-active with the kids. You will allow the tears to fall onto his carefully thought out words.
There will be two stand out moments when you will fall deeply in love with your husband all over again. You will look at him, amazed this kindred spirit walks side by side with you in this life. There will also be times you wonder how two people so very different can be so very alike. Yet, in your truest of hearts, you know there are no mistakes or coincidences. Despite any mundane bickering moments, there is not a single other person who would be a better fit for you than him. And you honor this truth.
Soon, you will cross to (gasp!) thirty and what you cannot even begin to imagine is how freeing thirty is. Twenties are self-discovery and misunderstandings. Twenties are finding out what you will stand for and won’t. Twenties are building what you believe in. Thirty – you know your truths and don’t have time for those who don’t have time for you. Thirties are laughing too loud and not caring.
Thirties are allowing the snort that follows your laugh and feeling delighted after it, not embarrassed. Thirties are taking a bite of an amazingly warm brownie at work and letting out a satisfying ‘mmmm’ only to crack up realizing how inappropriate the sound was and yet, not wanting to change the reaction because it was that good. Thirties are taking up tennis when you are terrible at it because you realize you are simultaneously teaching your kids a lesson in doing what you like, despite if others seem to be far better than you.
Thirties are when you realize time is fleeting and you decide to make the choice to spin life to the positive, to laugh at things that are funny, to embrace your dorkiness, to find people who truly enjoy the parts of life you do and to realize that acceptance and tolerance are extremely valuable to the peace of your soul.
So my twenty-five-year-old self – breathe. Focus on the breath as it enters your body and let it go. With it, release the doubt that will surround you for these upcoming years. You are fine how you are; look after those who love you; find what you think is acceptable and know that the moments will pass. You Got This.
And oh, one more thing, despite how much you and your husband try, you will never be a wine drinker. You will, thanks to “Wallace and Gromit,” discover the absolute decadence that is Wensleydale cheese. Just something else to look forward to.