30 July 2013

Letter to my (19 year old) New Mama Self

Hey there, new mama with stars in your eyes, cradling that precious newness and measuring yourself suddenly unworthy of the blessing she is and the trust she unreservedly gives. 

Just breathe. You are enough.

You will fail at your most cherished ideals, and you will misunderstand her. You will follow ideas that seem sound and then learn to adapt all over again when those foundations slip. Even your worst days won't break you. The curses spoken over you as a teenage mother will come to nothing, and you will prove those judgements wrong, because they are speaking out of fear and their fear has no power over you. There is nothing you can't learn from, and it will be OK!

Remember to say sorry, allow your heart to be tender and soft, work to forgive and act in ways that are grace-full and gracious - she will try to become what you are. Permit yourself that same grace when you mis-step. Because you will, and it will spur you to choose and choose again, more love, more peace, more joy.

Take brave baby steps and try things out. It's perfectly healthy to try a little and see. You can decide that something isn't for you. You can take a step in a different direction. You don't need to have a grand theory or figure everything out in advance. See the big picture and don't sweat the small stuff. Most of it is small stuff!

It isn't all yours to control.

You don't need to do it all. Your baby doesn't need a "perfect parent", she just needs you. Look, truly look, at your child, how she really is. Try to observe her without filters. She is a whole person already. You are forming a relationship with her, not with the child you thought you'd have, not with a mirror or a part of yourself.

Hold her, treasure her, don't worry about putting her down, babies don't spoil. You won't disappear or be swallowed up in giving yourself freely to her. Trust that immense love, that overwhelming bond with her, there is no such thing as too much love. Listen to even the most bizarre advice openly, and think on it, but run from blindly following *anything* you are told no matter how trustworthy the source. They are not you, and they can't know your baby in the same way you do.

When she cries, and she will, it is not about you and it is not personal. She is communicating something, yes, and you can help her, yes. But sometimes the only way you can help her is to be there - and sometimes she will still cry. She doesn't hate you. Look for the need, but let the pain flow away from you - it isn't your pain to take in. You can listen better if you are not frantic with the pain yourself.

She is not you, and you are not her.

Give her chance to relate to other people, in their own way. It's not a big deal that daddy changes her nappy differently, plays with her differently, gets the words to rhymes wrong. They will find their relationship more comfortable and much happier if you don't try to take over. A lot of the fears you have about things that might damage this precious baby are honestly just versions of the fear that you are no longer in control - well, not to be rude, but get used to it! - don't put that fear on to other people.

Appreciate the small things. You already have much more than you think you do. To slow down this crazy race, simply look around you and be in this moment, here, now. Time is not getting away from you, and it is never lost, all of this time is a part of you and will be forever. The layers are beautiful. And she will *always* be your baby.

Make space for yourself too, and fill your own cup. Find those soul sisters you can tell anything to, and treasure them. A tribe will shore you up when you need it, and celebrate you when you are dancing along in tune with each other.

Surround yourself with people who speak both love AND truth, but especially with people who see the positive, can laugh at themselves and disaster both, and encourage you to go on seeking the positive, the admirable, the worthy.

Laugh with her. Say yes as often as you possibly can. Have fun together. Be her safe place. Ask what she thinks. (And for in a couple of years, you need to know this: Stop bloody correcting her. Believe me, your inner teacher will come out when she starts talking, and I'm telling you it won't help. Trust her to ask if she needs to know. She'll forgive you, though, and you will figure out how to talk without constant "lessons" coming out of your mouth.) Learn to play, run barefoot in the grass, so many beautiful things are opening to you as she opens to the world. Embrace wonder!

This is only the beginning. I know you don't feel like you're doing that well, right now, but the things that you are growing in to will change everything. Trust yourself to figure this out, one small step at a time. You are already a wonderful mother, and just the mother this child needs. Or at least, you are growing in the right direction.


  1. I was 19 when I had my first child too, and what a lot I have learned in the 24 years since then, and still have to learn in the years to come. What a beautiful post and the photos are adorable :)

    1. Thank you! Yes, still such a lot to learn, always. :)

  2. Oh my darling soul sister, I have tears in my eyes as I write this. Oh yes, what a wonderful, truthful letter, I so wish I could have read this when I was a 19 year old new mama.
    We are all in this together, this wonderful, honourable, incredibly hard journey together, holding hands along the way makes it just that little bit better :)
    Always learning, finding the new me, then realising the new me already exists and always had.
    Love and hugs to you and your beautiful daughters xx

    1. It's such an honour to share the journey with you.

  3. This is such a beautiful post. I think so much of it is relevant, regardless of how old you are. I would like to think that if I ever got round to having children, I would want to think of these things and just try concentrate on being the best mother I could. A lovely manifesto to remember throughout raising children. :)

    And such a mature thing for you to have written when you were just 19. You certainly have a way with the words.x

    1. I wrote it this week, to myself then (so afraid that I was going to break my tiny newborn, and worrying about all the advice coming my way) - it's the advice I wish I'd had, preferably with the weight of a time-travelling me to say, "no, they really are turning out OK, and you can do it!"

      I still need to hear those things, though. And I know other mamas of all ages do too. xx

    2. Aw, but for the power of time travel, huh! And they are certainly turning out just fine. You are a wonderful mama, who puts such care and love and thought into what you do for them.

  4. Sarah you write so beautifully. I wish I had had this advice as a 16 year old mother also, so much advice comes your way being a new mum but none as helpful and meaningful as this. Making me think what I would have said to my 16 year old self if I had a chance, something along these lines, however not written quite as beautifully as yours :)

    1. It was very healing to write, made me think back to how hard that time was with a baby who just cried and cried - I wonder, if I'd had an "easy" baby first whether I would have learned half as much in those few months!

  5. Ahhhh, such a wonderfully beautiful post. Tears in my eyes too..i rather wish I had this advice when Rye was a baby, so much heartache may never have happened, had I just understood a little more, trusted my instincts a little more. I often count my lucky stars that I "met" you when I did. Blessing my dear. :-)

  6. Beautifully written.

    And that second photograph is just divine. Happy Mama. xXx


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