Letter to myself as the mother of a newborn

Newborn Zoe

Dear Zoe’s mama, in 2006

I know you know she is a miracle and you love her fiercely. But I know how you struggle every day with mothering. With getting it “right.” When your refluxy baby screams night and day and cannot get the sleep she needs – and you cannot get the sleep you need – you feel like a failure. When listening to her cry feels like the deepest pain, like listening to the little girl inside of yourself cry, and there is precious little you can do to soothe her.

I know your secret thoughts, that you should leave this to someone else and return to work. And I know the thought that followed unbidden. That if you do that, you might as well kill yourself.

Slowly the reflux will improve, slowly you will begin to bond with her when you feed her to sleep (all the experts say don’t) and when you let her sleep with you (all the experts say don’t). But you will still struggle with parenting the “right” way. Toddlerhood will seem like a battle of wills, as you try to mould your child so that she doesn’t become “spoiled” or “selfish” in the eyes of those so ready to judge. You’re always trying to do the right thing. Swimming lessons, soccer tots, the right nutritional mix of foods, but now you are also working all week, so can’t spend hours at the park or take her to mainly music sessions. Motherhood constantly feels like a test you are failing.

I’m glad you couldn’t know the future, that your precious daughter will be dead before her seventh birthday. Your parenting will change dramatically when she is first diagnosed with cancer. You will forget the rules, you won’t care about the judgement of others, you will simply start to parent by heart. It still won’t be easy. You are after all now a working single mother, and Zoe is smart and feisty, but you won’t feel like you are failing so much any more, you will feel like a team navigating this world together. I just wish you had learned some of the lessons earlier.

  • That you can’t fix some things, all you can do is hold someone while they cry, be with them in their pain. This doesn’t make you a failure.
  • That there is nothing more precious than sleeping with a little person who needs physical contact with you, whether she is a newborn, or six years old, still appearing in your bed some nights. You are her whole world. (After Zoe dies, you will wonder, did she know she would just have a short time here, that she needed to be with you as much as she could, because it needed to be enough for a whole lifetime, for the both of you?)
  • That you cannot spoil a child with love. It’s why those time outs never worked. They need to know they are loved, no matter what poor decisions or mistakes they’ve made.
  • That it doesn’t matter what the world thinks. Your only responsibility is to your child.
  • That you are a good enough mother. That you deserve the love your daughter gives unconditionally to her beloved mama.

You will be ok. You will face tragedy and heartbreak and you will survive. You will be reborn through it. Just hold her. Breathe in that baby smell that will never really change. Love her while she lives, enough for her lifetime, then keep on loving her, enough for yours.

With love,

From Zoe’s mama in 2015

Some resources:

19 thoughts on “Letter to myself as the mother of a newborn

  1. I lost both my parents in less than a year and though I loved them both I never shed a tear. But on that day I received an email entitled “Angle Zoe” my heart broke, and yet I’d met her only once or twice in person and similarly her mother. Harder still was going home that night to tell my young daughter, only a few months older than Zoe, that her friend would not be there in NZ when we arrived. Instead she would be watching us from heaven above. Thank you Kiri for being such a great mum to such a wonderful child and than you too for sharing her with us all.

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  2. I loved your phrase “Parenting by heart” – It is probably the most difficult thing to do, to act from the heart in all of life’s tasks. We spend so much of our lives acting from our head, with doubts created from the judgements of others. If only we could live from the heart a little more, what a different world we would be living in.

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  3. Parenting is one of the most challenging roles we take on. Even now, when my children struggle in any way as adults, I question, what could I have done different, what didn’t I teach this child? At the end of the day, loving them unconditionally is the best we thing we can give them. I am certain your daughter felt your love in every way possible.

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    • Yes, it is certainly is challenging, I’m sure that never stops! One of the miracles of parenthood I think is learning to accept their unconditional love of you. I think it helps you to be a bit kinder to yourself (if you’re a personality type like me anyway!)

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  4. Oh dear this is so touching 🙂

    I am sorry for your loss. Though this post clearly shows that you are a strong and thoughtful woman. You did your best and learnt your lessons. Love knows us and guides us through our hearts and then rules need not be followed, strictly and rigidly 🙂

    Love and light ❤

    Anand 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I think most parents can relate to this in some way. I tried to put my first child in a very structured routine and it was very stressful. I knew I had not done the right thing. My second child was attachment patented and things just felt right. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves as Mothers. X

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  6. This is amazing, and so true. I’m crying. We mothers are so hard on ourselves, and I am sad for you that you had less than seven years to learn how to be Zoe’s loving, wonderful momma. I’m sad for the lessons you didn’t get to learn, but, oh, your post shows that you learned so much during the time she was with you. Cherish the memory of those nighttime visits. She was lucky to have you.

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    • We are hard on ourselves, but I guess that means we are making conscious decisions about how we want to parent instead of just doing what we know or what is expected.

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