An unfiltered fire hose of flaming condemnation

Four years

Leta has recently stolen three of my delicious lip glosses, the pineapple, lime and mango-flavored ones, and this morning she begged me to let her wear the dress with the pockets so that she could take one to school and keep it with her all day. I think several of her friends are also into lip gloss, and just yesterday when I dropped her off she ran right up to one of Her Kids, as she likes to call them, and they immediately starting applying a stick of lip gloss to one another. Yeah, not so sanitary, I guess, and maybe I could have tackled them both before they shared saliva, but considering the gigantic worms of green snot I’ve seen smeared across the faces of certain kids in her class I’m thinking, shit, she hasn’t contracted The Typhoid yet, you go right ahead and share those germs. If you start sucking on each other’s noses, well then, we’ll have a little talk.

The previous day as we were walking to the car after school she spotted a discarded red Twizzler on the ground in the parking lot and headed straight for it going, OOOH! And I was all, look, I may be Southern, but I am not that Southern, don’t you even think about putting that in your mouth. And she said, why? And I said because that is just gross. And she said, you mean like Daddy’s toots? And I said, exactly!

So we’re in the car this morning, and she’s in the back seat applying half the tube of lime-flavored lip gloss to her face, only occasionally on her lips, and she starts asking about where people live. Where does Grandmommy live? How about Papaw? And after we get through the list of the whole family she asks if I have always lived in Salt Lake City. And it’s just so weird that she can conceptualize enough to even consider that I might have lived elsewhere. It struck me really hard this morning that here I am having a multi-level conversation with my daughter, my very adorable daughter whose cheeks are covered in an inch-thick crust of lime lip gloss.

I remember when I used to wonder what her voice would sound like when she learned how to talk.

Maybe it’s because I’ve been going through collections of old photos from the first years of her life, or perhaps it’s because the anniversary of my stay in a mental hospital is this month, but this morning I felt like I needed to say something to someone out there who may need to hear this right now like I did so badly back then: it gets so much better.

In fact, better is not even a word that can do it justice. There are very simple times that I’m with her, when I’m brushing her hair or watching her read herself a book on her bed, when the feeling that comes over me is not unlike how it was when I was a kid walking through the gates at an amusement park knowing that I was going to have the most awesome, most memorable day. And it’s not the feeling of riding the roller coaster or being allowed to eat an entire bag of cotton candy, it’s the feeling before all that. It’s the excitement, the anticipation, the general sense of being in one of my favorite places.

When Leta was born I thought I would automatically feel this way, and many women do. But I did not. And I did not know if I would ever get here. So many women reached out to me to let me know they had gone through the same crisis and came out the other side, and it was the hope they gave me that pulled me through. If you happen to be in that place right now, I want you to know that it gets so much better. And one day you’re going to be having a complex conversation with that baby who is screaming her head off right now, and you’re going to go, holy shit, I made it. You will make it.

  • cj

    Amen, Mama.

  • Sara

    To “the almost right word”: Do you know how incredibly rude it is to ask someone when they’re going to have another baby? First, it’s not your business. And second, even if it were, you don’t know if they A) want to have another baby, B)agree on having a baby or C) can have another baby.

    My husband and I have been disagreeing for almost a year over when to have a baby and the worst part about it was the family and friends that kept asking ME when we’re going to have a baby — like I don’t want to! Fortunately, we’re on the same page now, but I recommend you reconsider next time you want to ask someone that.

  • Jen

    Just hitting the terrible two’s with my youngest and my oldest is finally starting to behave. As long as one is good, I can keep it together. That’s all you can strive to do as a parent some days, just keep it together.
    Also, my 5 year old just slathered lip gloss all over her face this morning for the first time. I went to kiss her good-bye and said “Oh I don’t want to mess up all that pretty lip stick, I better just kiss your head” My mom said “you mean gross green slime!” Thanks mom.

  • Today is my first born’s birthday.

  • Heather, I have been reading your blog for a long, long time. Never commented before, and I’m not exactly sure why I picked this particular post to comment on now. Maybe it has something to do with my 5 1/2 month old son going through his I don’t wanna be away from Momma so I’m going to cry all day phase. Maybe it has something to do with the different stages I have watched him go through and thinking how lonely it is for the both of us. And maybe it’s just because I could never ever put into words just exactly how I feel about the accomplishments that he’s made in the short amount of time he’s been alive.

    Whatever the reason, this post seriously touched me today. And I needed to know that there are people out there who have felt the same way I have. I, too, didn’t feel an instant connection with him. I, too, wish to know what’s going through his head at times. And I, too, stare in awe at the pictures from even just months ago and think “Wow, I made it past that stage.”

    Thanks for letting me know that we will make it. Leta is very beautiful and smart (and we only know a little bit of her)… I could only be so lucky to have Oliver turn out as well as she has.

  • Ava’s nanny

    Today she takes the lipgloss. In a few years it’ll be the shoes. Oh, the things you have to look forward to. 😉

  • Truer words were never spoken.

    Wait till Leta gets to be a teenager…my daughter is almost 13 and the conversations we have blow me away. They range anywhere from what kind of style she thinks she has to how Barack Obama is going to be the change this country needs (that last one is absolutely true. She tells anyone who will listen why she likes Barack and why he should be the next president. It’s awesome).

  • I totally know what you mean about being amazed that you’re having a real conversation with your own kid after spending all that time wondering what their voice will sound like. They just finally *get* it one day.

  • I think you are so incredibly brave for documenting the things you do about your daughter and about parenting in general. I know you’ve gotten a lot of shit for it, and I guess that happens when so many people run across what you write on a daily basis. You can’t please them all. But what you do here helps numerous people.

    On a side note, I LOVE that you document Leta’s monthly birthdays. Sometimes I feel like I’m trespassing into a very private conversation, but I think what you’re doing is beautiful. These will be invaluable to her one day.

    I lost my mother a few years back and have a very precious few letters (and my baby book) that she had written me that I dig up when I’m feeling blue. I wish so much that I could tap into her thoughts and feelings she had while I was small. And that’s exactly what you’re giving Leta.

    Didn’t mean to get all morbid on ya, just wanted to share. 🙂

  • At the moment the thought of children appeals to me as much as contracting Chlamydia, but you give me hope that one day I will get these maternal instincts and feel broody and create the most awesome little human being ever.

  • GREAT message, and very well said (as usual). While I didn’t suffer from PPD, I’ve struggled with mild anxiety on and off since I was a ‘tween, and I know what a job that alone can do on a fragile state of mind, especially the simultaneously sleep-deprived fragile state of mind that so many new moms find themselves in.

    I couldn’t agree more that there truly comes a definitive point somewhere along the way as your child gets older and more aware of the world around him/her when you realize that they are no longer the constantly needy and demanding dictators they pretty much ALL are as babies, but they’ve become people unto their own right. The first time my now 5-year-old son and I had what I would call a “real conversation,” where his input far exceeded anything he’d ever discussed before, it totally blew my mind and my heart skipped a beat and I thought I might die right there. It was exhilarating. And just the beginning. 🙂

    Our relationship now has so much depth, and our conversations are so enjoyable and wondrous. You are right that it gets SO MUCH BETTER as our kids age out of babyhood and toddlerhood and into being thinking, empathizing, caring and curious little people.

    On a parting note, I’m really glad that you chose to be honest and open and vocal about your battles with depression, specifically the hell you went through after having Leta. You’ve no doubt helped countless women just by sharing your experience, and that makes you a really cool cat in my book.

  • Yeah, everyone gives you that crap about “falling in love with your baby immediately” and so NATURALLY I felt like a total failure for not loving the newborn phase and the newborn who was in it. I feel like the only reason I’ll be able to handle another newborn in five months is because at least I’ll have an older child to keep me sane/remind me that it gets better. Because, frankly, it really REALLY sucked there at the beginning.

  • Angela

    Well said. Thank you for putting into words what I could not. We’re just seeing our way out of the terrible 3’s right now. I’ve always tried to find something I absolutely love about each age/stage. But 3 is hard. It’s where defiance meets reason, and it’s hellish. Thanks for the reminder that there is a light at the end of the tunnel!

  • Brooke

    As a new mother of a 6-week old baby boy, I really needed this post today. I read it immediately after a breakdown, and it’s an answer to a prayer. I needed this reassurance. Thank you.

  • I didn’t expect an estatic feeling after having children…which is why I think I’m a lot more relaxed about it than many of my girlfriends are. I didn’t feel compelled to buy every baby product advertised in parenting magazine to be assured I was parenting right. I figured if the baby was fed and covered in something less irritating than a burlap sack, we were doing OK. I had happy babies.

    But, now I’ve got three kids, boys, 14, 9 and 3. They are all HOME because of summer vacation and I AM GOING BATSHIT. They are bored and I am not interested in entertaining them. Today I’ve shoved them into their rooms with instructions to only come out if they’ve cut off a finger.

    This has been my most difficult summer vacation so far. (My husband is home too, he’s a teacher.) I’ve even had dreams where I beat one of them (husband included) to a pulp. I haven’t yet pencilled in my calendar a time to beat them, but oh it’s close.

    I need a bigger house. I thank god I’ve had a tubal.

  • Joy

    “When Leta was born I thought I would automatically feel this way, and many women do. But I did not.” This cannot be said enough. I have no doubt that women (and men) are genuine in declaring that their absolute, passionate, and unwavering love for their newborn switched on in the delivery room, but it’s not a universal experience. And the love of a mother whose love for her child grows over a matter of days, months, or years–rather than hitting all at once as in a lightning strike–can be just as strong and is every bit as valid. I am quite proud to say I love my nine-year-old more this year than last, and I hope it will always be so…I am falling more deeply in love with him as he becomes more of the person he is. Does it mean I didn’t love him enough last year? No…it means that infinity plus one is still infinity.

  • Oh, and depending on how open you are..I didn’t realise when I was a early teenager that when I turned 21 I would be laughing with my mother, sharing a bottle of wine and laughing about small penis’ and weird dates. I’ve even been clubbing with my mum!! She’s my best friend and it definitley works both ways, you and leta are going to have a great mother-daughter relationship when she gets older.

  • Anonymous

    When you were making that trip to the hospital and blogging about it, I was on the other end of the world, going through med trials, dealing with severe PPD, and thinking I was completely alone. But I read you, even then, and in so many ways, I was grateful to you for your honesty. You were the only mom I related to then–I was surrounded by my girlfriends who were all bleary-eyed with a brand of new-mommy euphoria I could not comprehend. The only thing that has been more inspiring than watching your days grow “so much better” has been experiencing a similar evolution myself. Thanks for hanging in there. You kept me hanging in there too.

  • Beautifully said 🙂

  • Even though my daughter is only two, I COMPLETELY understand. I feel slightly guilty saying this, but just the other day I was thinking: It has taken me almost two years to love and accept this little girl completely and just like my Mom said it would be, every day is like waking up on Christmas morning.
    Except some days still end like the Christmas when Aunt Penny and my Dad got drunk and started screaming at each other and we found out ALL kinds of things we didn’t want to know about either one of them…..ummmm yeah.
    But most days it’s like waking up on the morning when you finally got that pony.

  • I have a little girl around the same age as Leta, and I’ve been marveling at the depth of our conversations lately, too. Its amazing! I didn’t go through the same trials and tribulations you did in The Beginning, but this post made me want to go back and relive my experience through my own photos and journals. You have a beautiful way of re-telling past experiences, thank you for the inspiration.

  • this is a truly inspiring post! I’m 4 months pregnant with my first right now, and my mother went through serious depression soon after I was born and I wonder if a similar fate will bestow upon me. But, I’m not going to worry about it, and if it does, I will pull through and medicate and listen to Brooke Shields and not Tom Cruise and bask in the knowledge that you are right – it will get better!

  • kimmko

    I had a similar first year with my baby boo, and you are right about how very much better it gets. But I have a serious, real question for you: How can you be ready to get back on that horse and try again recognizing that you might have to go through the same experience again? Is knowing it gets better enough? I am so afraid of that – I want another, but I want it to appear at year 1.5 or so, fully formed, and then for us all to move on as a family. I really don’t know if I can go through the pregnancy and birth and newborn-ness again and make it. I really don’t. So this is a good post to read to remind me of the other side.

  • That is so well said! Although I do not have a baby or intend to have one for at least another year I have a feeling I’ll be needing this blog entry when that baby is screaming his or her head off. Thanks!

  • that was a beautiful post. i am a relatively new reader and i have to say, you keep me on my toes with the layers you reveal.

    your sentiments about motherhood here are so on the money. my kids are teens, one already in college and it is hard for me to believe that i am at this stage. i remember them at Leta’s age as if it were yesterday.

    when they were 2 mos and 3.5 years i was walking down the street with one crying in my arms and the other literally wrapped around my leg like a monkey throwing the mother-of-all-tantrums. an older woman (probably my age now!) came up to me and said, “you will miss these days”

    THAT day? no friggin way do i miss that day! but i get it. sounds like you do too.

  • Heather – you’re awesome and this is just beautiful.

  • Heather,

    Thank you so much for all you share. I love your sense of humor, I know I can always get a little laugh from your blog. I teared up at the end of this one because I am one of those moms that needed to hear that, so I really appreciate you saying that! I hate to want my baby girl to grow up, but sometimes after I’ve done everything I can for her and she’s still screaming I don’t know what else to hope for besides that. Thanks again, your blog is great!

  • Shelley

    That was a perfectly wonderful post. Thank you for sharing your words and experiences.

  • Please, oh please, post a picture of Ms. Leta covered in lip gloss …

    I don’t have children yet (actually the thought terrifies me), but reading through your struggles, and the outcomes of those, inspire me to think that maybe, just maybe, I won’t be horrible at it. (Though I may snap and lock them in the closet. I kid, I kid!)

    Thanks for writing. And putting you out there – it isn’t easy, but we appreciate it.

  • Teresa

    Thanks Heather!

    and on a very different not…
    sorry to put it here, but the caption today with Chuck’s picture made me laugh so hard that my office mates came to check on me!

  • It’s good that you let others know it gets better. Great post. 🙂

  • What a lovely post.

    My friend and I had babies last year a few months apart and she is going through a very hard time right now. I have a hard time understanding it because after my father passed, I came to terms with how fantastic life is in general. And a healthy baby? Well, that’s just about the luckiest thing ever.

    And Leta rocks.

  • darcie

    oh, lord! i don’t even ~have~ babies and i’m all teary and ridiculous at the thought of how i just know that i probably wouldn’t like a new baby. i would be scared, depressed and inconsolable, but then would fall so in love with her over the course of four years that i couldn’t try and imagine my life without her. and you’re saying i could be excited and happy every day about her potential? …like giving selflessly to another is the secret to my own happiness?! what the hell, heather?!

    so, geez. thanks. i’m going to have to re-rethink this self-centered, child-free decision.

    …but in all seriousness, this is a gorgeous post. thank you.

  • Anonymous

    Good posts this week! Happy Friday!

  • sabrina

    thank you. please tell me your recent manuscript has something to do with how to make it to the other side.

  • Your candor regarding mothering was one of the reasons I continued to follow your site. A friend of mine gave me “The Mask of Motherhood” by Susan Maushart. Susan Maushart is from Australia and the book will either speak to a person, or offend them. “…the early years of motherhood are physically difficult and can be emotionally devastating.”

    You’re so right. The sky turns blue again, and anticipation is almost always the greater part of joy.

  • For a very long time I felt like my parenting was based on sense of responsibility but not love or enjoyment. It seemed tedious and horrible and I couldn’t imagine why anyone would have children on purpose. My daughter seemed to spend the first entire year crying – always always crying. Now that she’s nearly 9 years old it seems hard to imagine when I didn’t love her to pieces. It does get better. kim

  • Nice post, dooce.

  • this made me cry. in a good way.

  • One time about a year ago after reading your archives, I sent you an email. It was really brief, and it basically said that I applauded your willingness to publicly document your experience with mental illness, and that I was going through it, too and it was kicking my ass. You wrote back, and it was also brief, but the resounding tone of your email was “It gets better.”

    You weren’t the first, or the last person to say it to me, but I include you in my thoughts when I try to remind myself of it. And now I’ve got my own kid, who is 5, having conversations with me that blow me away. And even though it’s still hard, it’s getting easier to say “it gets better.”

  • Anonymous

    I’m totally that mom ! Worked as much as possible when my son was small to keep busy, 10 years later stayed home with my daughter. I loved them both to pieces as babies but OMG grown up is BETTER !!!!!!!!Wait until she’s 14 and publicly berates you !!! You’ll want to kill her but thank GOD she didn’t poop her pants too!

  • heather

    Thank you. The first month of my daughters life I thought was the most difficult of mine. She’s now 10 months and some days are better than others. Thank you for letting me know that I will find my way through. I need that. A lot.

  • Emma

    Thank you, Heather. And thank you Leta.

  • Donna

    Beautiful post. You truly are a gifted writer and storyteller. Thanks for an uplifting story and wonderful tribute to motherhood — a job that is all too often undermined and overlooked.

  • I cannot say enough thank yous to you and all the women who have started to come out of the closet about PPD. Now, when and if I have children, I’ll know it’s not abnormal to think you’re losing your mind. I hope Leta continues to grow into a woman who knows how lucky she is to have you as a mom.

  • Amen, sister. Four is SUCH a great age. That was when I realized that I was lying on the couch reading a magazine while my daughter did who-knows-what in her room, and that it was okay.

    Thanks for that post. It does get better. Except for the lipgloss–that part gets worse.

  • robin

    Thank you Heather for a great, honest post, and thank you post #69 for your response. Proof that we are all going through the same thing here, and we can all be there for each other.

    Heather, this is what you were put here to do. The obstacles you have overcome in your life, were there for a reason. You were strong enough to deal with them head on (along with a very supportive husband) and in turn have been able to help others with your writing and WEB skills.

    You should be proud.

  • Jenn C.

    What you say is so so true.

    I was the same way when my daughter was born, chewing the walls with I don’t even know what.

    She’s seven now, and it just gets better and better and better, ever day.

  • I so needed to hear that. I actually filmed a tantrum that my 16-month-old had last night so that I could look back in a year and breathe a sigh of relief that he’s finally over me not giving him the french fry that was deep inside the sofa cushions.

  • Nora

    Thanks, Heather. Am having my first baby any day now and this is great to hear. I am prepared (I think) for it to be hard and it is very nice to get this encouragement right now.

Heather B. Armstrong

Hi. I’m Heather B. Armstrong, and this used to be called mommy blogging. But then they started calling it Influencer Marketing: hashtag ad, hashtag sponsored, hashtag you know you want me to slap your product on my kid and exploit her for millions and millions of dollars. That’s how this shit works. Now? Well… sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.

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