Dear Brand New Mother,
Tonight is a special night – it’s the very first night of your baby’s life. Yesterday, they weren’t here, and today they are. You’ve known they were there coming for a long time, and, for months and months you’ve tried your best to imagine what they’ll look like and who they’ll be.
Tonight, now, you know. The moments before they came were hard, harder than you ever imagined they could be, but, with that first cry, you became their mother and them your child. It was seamless really; they slipped into your heart like they’d been there all along.
While they grew inside, you felt your baby’s kicks and wiggles and hiccups, you sang to them and read to them, you loved them already but, also, you wondered. You wondered about motherhood and love and what their voice would sound like.
Today, when your eyes found theirs, you were shocked to realize how simply “them” they were. The moments after their birth were loud and happy – there were pictures and calls and tears of joy. Right now, though, in the darkness and the quiet of their very first night, take the time to look them up and down, to examine every perfect wrinkle and to kiss every crease.
As you examine them, mama, know that you have a big job ahead.
First you see those little eyes, opening and closing drowsily, dreaming already.
Those eyes will see, first, blurrily, your face. And then they’ll see lights and then colors and then, soon, the whole world. There will be sunsets that splash the sky in pinks and yellows and trains that move faster than they thought was possible.
They’ll see the smile you give you partner on their first birthday and watch you clap your hands with glee as they take their first steps.
They’ll see the tears you cry as you walk them into their first classroom and the worry that creases your brown when their fever spikes.
Those tiny, beautiful, blinking eyes- the ones that will see the beauty of the world anew, they’ll also, surely, see pain and sorrow and hate. They’ll see their first dog buried, and their first crush turns away and the letter saying they didn’t get in. They’ll see people hurt others without reason and watch violence haunt our world.
Those eyes, those beautiful eyes, will turn to you mama, every time they see something new, to ask for help understanding. It’ll be your job to help them see that for every terrible thing that happens, there are a hundred wonderful things that follow. It’ll be your job to teach them to see the good in the world and each person that they meet.
You must teach them mama, to use those eyes to look for ways they can help make the world a better place.
Right on the sides of that tiny little head, you see those ears- so small and round and soft.
Though today was the first that they heard so clearly, they’ve been using those ears for a while- they’ve heard you sing, and they know your voice. Those ears will hear every word you that say- they’ll hear you tell them how much you love them and how proud you are of the person they’re becoming.
They’ll hear you tell their teacher that they’re trying and tell their dad you can’t believe how fast they’re growing up. They’ll hear birdsong and thunderstorms and crashing waves. They’ll hear laughter and song and the secrets of friends but, along with the beauty, they’ll probably also hear things they wished they didn’t.
They’ll hear small people with big microphones telling the world to hate and bullies, both small and grown, calling names. They’ll hear the cries of a friend less fortunate and the sadness that the evening news brings home. Even when you think, or hope, that they’re not paying attention, those little ears will hear it all.
Your job mama is to teach that baby how to listen- to listen to what matters to other people and to what makes them happy and what makes them sad- to listen and then to respond- to comfort and to carry and to help.
Below those little ears and right above their rounded chin is their beautiful mouth.
Oh mama, do you see that mouth?! All bowed lips and rooting, rooting, rooting. That mouth will one day be the vessel that carries your child’s words out into the world. At first, they’ll use that mouth to suckle, to eat and to grow.
They’ll use it to cry when their belly is empty and to coo when it’s full. That mouth will give first, slobbery, kisses and will utter first words with pride. It will sing and shout and yawn and laugh.
You’ll come to know the voice that leaves that mouth better than your own and to be comforted by the simple sound of their “hello.”
Sometimes, though, that mouth might be used to spit words with hate instead of love or with anger instead of peace. When a friend betrays them or a teacher grades them poorly, they might use it spread rumors or insults. When they’ve done something they’re not proud of that mouth may twist into a lie and say things they wish they could take back.
Your job mama is to help your child learn to use that mouth for good, to spread joy and happiness and truth, to express sadness and pain, to tell someone that they love them. You must teach them how words can hurt or help or heal, and that when their angry or sad or confused, their voice will be their most valuable tool.
You must, mama, teach your little one that their mouth should be used to speak up not only for themselves but also for those who have no voice.
Below their chin and their chest, right at ends of those rounded arms and rolling wrists are the hands that you’ve waited your whole life to hold.
Look at the beauty of those hands, the creases as they flex, the tiny fingernails, the softness of their palms!
Impossibly small, those hands squeezed your finger today, and, your heart, already swollen, threatened to beat right out of your chest. Those tiny hands, flexing and pawing, will be the hands through which your child explores the world.
They’ll tangle in your hair as they nurse or cuddle and be used to bring toys to mouth over and over and over again. Those hands will scribble with crayons and will pat the dog. They’ll write out letters and then words and then sentences. They’ll catch and throw and whittle and work.
Those hands will fold a first shirt and cook a first meal; they’ll cup a lightning bug and hug a friend, they’ll brush the knee of their first date and retreat, quickly, as their own heart begins to pound. Those hands will grow and harden but, whenever you take them in yours, you’ll be reminded that they were once this small.
Those hands, as tiny and perfect as they are now, might also someday hit. They might push or slam doors or snatch a coveted toy from a friend. Those hands might copy answers from another child’s test or slap the books from the arms of a classmate.
It’ll be your job mama to help your child learn to use their hands with grace. You must teach them to be gentle and kind, to reach downward to help others up when they fall and to carry the load when others are weak.
It’ll be your job to help them find meaningful, purposeful work to do with those hands, work that makes a difference and that leaves them happy and fulfilled.
Oh, the feet! Down their trunk and below their thighs and knees and ankles are the feet that were kicking and pushing you from the inside just yesterday.
By now, they’ve been graced with a thousand kisses. Eventually, those feet will be the way your child makes their way around the world. Kept warm in booties and socks, they’ll kick with glee before they’re used for walking.
The first, shaky, steps will turn quickly into the walk and then the run, of a toddler and then a child. Those feet will take your little one around your house and your neighborhood and your city. They’ll chase and kick and dance. They’ll feel the sand between their toes and grass tickling their arches.
Those feet, so tiny now, will take your child to their first day of work and down the aisle and to faraway places you’ve never been.
Sometimes, though, those little feet might go astray; they may lead your child places they don’t want to go or to places they shouldn’t be.
Your job, mama, will be to teach that baby to use their feet wisely. You must teach them to run as fast as they can and to rest as long as they need. You must teach them that their feet should carry them to new and interesting places and that, when they get there, those feet should guide them towards people who will be kind to them.
You must teach your child to let their feet carry them to places of beauty and places of need and, with enough steps, help them realize they’re often one and the same.
Oh, mom, tonight is a very special night.
Tonight is the very first night of your baby’s life. As you hold them tonight and thank the grace and glory and magic that brought them to you, look deeply into their eyes and show them how happy you are that they’re here.
As your eyes fill with tears, both of joy and of amazement, lean into their ear and whisper how much you love them. As you sing their first lullaby, trace their lips with your finger and listen for their coo’s and sighs. As you count their fingers and their toes, over and over again, rub their hands and feet and promise them that you be there, always, to guide them.
You’ve got a big job ahead – a job that’s both harder and more wonderful than any other.
Your baby is here now mama. And tonight, this very night, is the night that their life begins.