Two weeks ago, Huma Abedin, Deputy Chief of Staff for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, gave birth to a sweet baby boy named Jordan Zain Weiner. I’m not going to get into the issues that a lot of other media outlets reported on (why Huma stayed with her husband, the infamous Anthony Weiner of the sexting scandal from earlier this year).
Instead, I’m going to tell you why I’m fascinated with Huma and the tips I’d give her and other new moms for handling life as a new mom.
I’m fascinated with Huma for so many reasons. First, she’s of South Asian descent, like I am. Second, she has a fancy Washington job. Third, she’s fabulous! And fourth, she’s a first time mom like I am.
Huma was born in Kalamazoo to parents who were academics from India and Pakistan. She grew up in Saudi Arabia and went to college in DC. She wanted to become a journalist and sought an internship with the White House press office. But due to a mix-up, she was assigned to then First Lady Hillary Clinton’s office. Over time, Huma impressed Ms. Clinton sufficiently to become her right-hand woman. Huma also became known in Washington for her confidence, intelligence, and efficiency.
If you’re like me, anytime you hear about anyone remotely important who is or even could be South Asian, you Google them immediately to see if they really are. And if they are, you tell every South Asian you know that they are. Then you feel a little proud to know that someone important is South Asian (I can’t be the only one who feels this way!).
So you’ll be just as excited as I was to find out that not only is she South Asian American with an important job, but also…wait for it…she was featured in Vogue magazine! I can’t find the original article with all of the photos, but here’s a link to a few of the pictures with the full text of the article. Huma’s beauty and elegance speak for themselves.
Check her out:
|She’s pregnant here. Who looks this amazing when they are pregnant?
But now Huma’s entering a new phase of life–motherhood. There is so much to feel and know and do, and after experiencing the first few months, I was bursting to talk about it with other new moms. That’s part of the reason I started this blog.
So of course, I am bursting to talk to Huma about life as a new mom. I’d love to take her out for coffee or visit her, cook her lunch, and gab. She’s going through one of the hardest stages of motherhood. After the initial high of the birth and blissful first day, it is horrible and exhausting (at least it was for me)! No sleep. Round-the-clock feedings. Hormonal roller coaster. Breastfeeding woes. The first experience with mom guilt. Some of you are judging me now, but those of you who have gone through it recently enough will admit that the first 2 months are no picnic. You’ll be happy to know that even though it is still hard, I absolutely adore being a mother now.
Going back to those first couple of months, one thing that made me feel INFINITELY better was talking to other new moms. Breastfeeding and other new moms groups were a crucial social outlet. And bless my wonderful friends who became moms months or years before I did and assured me in Facebook, e-mail, and text messages that what I was going through was a) normal, and b) temporary.
(I would be amiss if I didn’t recognize my mom, who stayed with us for several weeks, taught us the ropes, cooked for us, and generally saved our lives when my son was a newborn!)
So, back to my coffee date with Huma. I’d give her a bunch of unsolicited advice. Because, you know, she’s not getting enough of that already as a new mom. Here is my advice for her and other new moms:
1) Let yourself go (for now). It takes awhile to get your postpartum mojo back. As a stylish woman, this may hit Huma pretty hard. But to expect yourself to bounce back right away is stressful and will make you hate your life. For now, just focus on getting used to life as a new mom and don’t expect much else from yourself. After your baby turns 2 months old, you can *slowly* work on getting your groove back.
2) Go easy on yourself in other respects. When you’re ambitious and have high standards for yourself (I’m sure Huma falls into these categories), it’s hard when you fall short of your expectations. But I’ll share an aha moment I had in that difficult first week postpartum. Parenting is such a difficult task that no one should ever judge another person about how he or she does it. Now I must say that I haven’t been able to maintain that saintly attitude, but I do try to remember not to judge myself or others too harshly. Let your best be good enough for yourself. Don’t try to be superwoman right now.
3) Breastfeeding is HARD but can be mastered with help! It seems like it would be “so easy a caveman could do it” (well, a cavewoman), but it is not. If you are struggling, get help from a good lactation consultant (Pat Shelley at the Breastfeeding Center for Greater Washington is a lifesaver), and go to breastfeeding moms groups (Virginia Hospital Center in Arlington has a great one with a helpful listserv, and the Breastfeeding Center for Greater Washington has an excellent one too). It helps to know that many women struggle with breastfeeding at the beginning, and it is just nice to talk to other moms. I know this will probably be hard for her because she’s a celebrity in this town, but perhaps she could anonymize herself by wearing a big cap and sunglasses, skipping the signature red lip, and adopting her Starbucks name.
4) Sleep when the baby sleeps. Easier said than done, but when you’re type-A and used to being on the go all the time, you will be tempted to get stuff done while your baby sleeps. Don’t. Sleep and/or rest. I had to “ground” myself from my smartphone so that I could force myself to rest. Huma may have to do the same thing with her Blackberry (or all of her Blackberries, since she has more than one).
5) Get out of the house. When my son was born, I didn’t leave the apartment for a week (was so groggy and overwhelmed that I don’t think I realized this until the week was over). It was terrible because I felt cooped up and depressed from not seeing anyone outside of my immediate family. I realized to keep myself happy, I’d have to leave my apartment at least once every two days (or every day, ideally). A simple trip to Target to just walk around did wonders for my morale. Again, this will be a challenge for Huma since she’s a celebrity, but I’m sure she can pull it off.
6) Read a few good books for fun only. Reading will be something fun and low-key to do when you can’t sleep (because you feel like by the time you wind down enough to fall asleep your baby will be up again, and waking up from that long-awaited sleep would feel WORSE than the sleep deprivation you already feel). You can also bring your baby into bed with you and do skin-to-skin while you are reading a book. Some moms like Kindle for its portability, but I just got regular books. I liked The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin (a light hearted, fun read at a time when you’re questioning your priorities) and Tales of a Female Nomad by Rita Goldman Gelman (a travel memoir by a woman who abandoned her home and possessions to become a nomad, having adventures around the world). One rule, don’t read books that you “should” read, just read books that you want to read.
7) Accept offers of help from those you trust. There is so much to do with a newborn and you’re so sleep-deprived that normally manageable tasks like buying groceries, doing laundry, and taking out the trash feel impossible. When your friends and family offer to help, be specific about what they can do, and let them do it.
8) Take visitors only when you’re ready. A corollary to #7. You’re so tired that you don’t need the added pressure of entertaining or making yourself or your home presentable for company. Other new parents will completely understand why you need time to yourself, and those you trust should understand why you need them to drop off that pack of diapers, do your dishes, hold the baby for a little while, then leave. Everyone else can just get over their indignation at not being allowed to visit sooner. Even if they did visit, there wouldn’t be much to see as babies don’t do much until 6-8 weeks anyway. A convenient way to keep people away is to blame your pediatrician — “He/she said that because it’s cold and flu season we should wait to have visitors until after the baby gets his 2 month shots.”
9) Commiserate with other new moms. Though holding your baby for the first time is an amazing feeling, and it’s lovely to count those little fingers and toes in the first miraculous days after birth, that high soon wears off. It’s replaced by a sense of vulnerability you’ve never felt, a weird hormonal soup inside you, physical pain from the birth, and sleep deprivation. Newborns are incredibly demanding (they sleep in 45 minute cycles throughout the day, punctuated by feeding, diapering, burping, and rocking). This, paired with the fact that you are brand new to it all and are waking up from deep sleep multiple times a night for the first time makes it so hard. Seek out a new mom you trust to vent these negative feelings to. They won’t judge you for feeling the way you do, and getting it all off your chest will free you to be a better mom to your baby.
10) Get through the first two months somehow, and it will get better. If you’re reading this and pregnant, I’ve probably scared the crap out of you. I assure you, being a parent will be a WONDERFUL experience, the likes of which you’ve never had before. My son is the greatest blessing of my life. Seeing his little smile in the morning makes me feel like the luckiest woman in the world. BUT it didn’t feel that way in the first 2 months, and that is a completely normal feeling. I’ve been assured by even veteran parents that the newborn stage is the most difficult age. So, do what you can to get through the first 2 or 3 months (I felt a turning point at 2 months, but the newborn stage technically ends at 3 months). Over time, your baby will start doing more, you’ll develop your parenting routines, and parenting will become so much fun.
Well, Huma, if you are reading this, I would LOVE to take you out for coffee or hold little Jordan while you take a nap. You can reach me at email@example.com!
If you are another new mom, I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments section, and you can email me too.