Dear first-time mum
You are a hero. You might need to change your preconceptions. You can be a hero while dressed in pyjamas or a tatty old T-shirt with sick stains on the shoulders. You don't need a cape. You can be a hero while crying into your cornflakes. You don't need to be strong all the time.
The job you are doing right now is the hardest in the world. It's stressful, it's exhausting, it's thankless. You're essentially a carer for someone who won't speak a single word to you for over a year. And you're on call all day and night, always. If you're lucky, you have a partner to shoulder the load. But whether you do or you don't, you're a hero.
I know you feel like you'll never get a full night's sleep again. I know you feel like you'll never look like yourself again. I know you feel like you don't have anything interesting to contribute to the conversation. All of those things will change. I know you're scared that you're not doing it right. If you're worried about not being a good mum, chances are you're a good mum. And not just a good mum, but a hero.
Don't be scared to burst into tears on a midwife, or a health visitor, or your GP. You won't be the first or the last. Don't be scared to show you're human, and flawed. None of that stops you from being a hero.
When I was where you are, in those fuzzy early weeks, I saw a mum of two in a shop. Her baby was crying and her toddler had just escaped her grasp and run away. I will never be able to do that, I thought. I was barely surviving with one. But three years have passed, and I am a mum of two, and I can tell you that it isn't as hard as what you're doing right now. There's nothing that compares to the shock of your first. Nothing tougher or trickier. Make no mistake about it. You are a hero.
If you are wondering how you're going to get to the end of the day, know that other mums are wondering too. If you are wishing for time away, and feeling guilty about that, know that other mums are wishing for the same. If you are feeling that an essential part of you, the very core of you, has been lost, know that other mums are feeling that too. They might not say it, but they are. You, and they, are heroes.
One day, you will realise that you are happy. Perhaps your child will be laughing, or you and your partner will be sharing a proud look as your child does something cute or funny. Perhaps you'll have had a full night's sleep. It might be tomorrow, or it might be in a month, or a few months. But you'll realise that you've relaxed, and that you're pulling this off, somehow, one day at a time. You still won't think of yourself as a hero, but that's what you are.
You are a hero to that little boy or little girl in your arms, and you always will be.