Andy told me I smelled nice the other night. This was likely because I had not been spit up on in the last few hours, had not eaten any garlic with dinner and had taken a shower that day. It was kind of him to recognize that I was clean. It is a feat I am quite proud of.
When I became pregnant with baby Sam, helpful friends and family gave me all kinds of suggestions and tips for motherhood. But the piece of advice that I took most to heart was to set no more than one daily goal for myself. Having goals are great motivators, but when you are an overwhelmed, overtired, clueless new mom, failing to accomplish many of them on a recurring daily basis can make you feel even more insufficient. But setting just one goal and getting it done day after day reminds you that you are capable of being that productive person you used to be before that baby came along to take over your life.
My one and only daily goal, from the day we brought Sammy home, was to take a shower. Even if I knew I wouldn't be leaving the house and that no one other than Tedy the cat and baby Sam would see me all day long, I still demanded that shower of myself. First of all, it helped me to feel human again. It isn't fun not fitting into any of your normal clothes with something other than elastic at the waist. It doesn't feel very attractive to lose handfuls of hair thanks to fun postpartum hormonal changes. You pretty much feel like an ugly lump. But you feel less lumpy and gross when your hair isn't greasy and your skin isn't grimy. Nice smelling soap, hair products and lotion do wonders for building self-esteem temporarily.
Another thing this daily shower did was to energize my day. It gave me a kick in the butt. Being up and showered meant that I could face whatever options the day presented. Being a new mom is isolating enough - you don't need an excuse to isolate yourself further because you look like a mess and are ashamed that others will see you. I could answer the door proudly if someone popped in unexpectedly with a gift for the little guy. No need to duck down in my bathrobe praying that they didn't see my flabby tummy and unkempt hair. I could take Sam out for a walk if the weather suddenly cleared up and he was having one of many "moments." No need to avoid walking by the homes of neighbors who might see me yet again in the same pukey sweats and baseball cap. And if there was an emergency visit to the doctor needed, I could get my boy there without them wondering how well I cared for him if I looked like I couldn't even brush my teeth.
I also got to practice my time management skills with this daily shower business. Initially, that meant learning how to take a shower, get ready and dressed in the small spurts that Sam would provide with his tiny little naps. Sometimes when naptime just didn't happen, it meant dragging him and his cradle into the bathroom with me and singing song after song to keep him entertained while I rinsed soap out of my eyes. It was during these days that I learned the blessed fact that the sound of the hair dryer would put him to sleep almost instantaneously. Poor kid took naps in our bathroom for many weeks after that tidbit of knowledge.
But eventually, the shower forced me to learn that if a baby cries, they don't always need to be rescued. By the time I would rinse out the conditioner, grab my robe and drip water all over creation running to his nursery, he would have stopped crying or even fallen back to sleep. That's when I learned to treat my daily shower as more than just my daily goal. It has become my daily reward. When I am in there, Sammy is safe in his crib. Generally he is also sleeping. If he cries (not wailing - wailing still results in mama streaking wet through the house) he cries. I finish that shower and savor those moments to myself. And if there is an added bonus to this that my husband compliments my nice smelling self, all the better.