The longest shortest time. It’s the most perfectly poetic description of the infant months that I have heard yet. As a new mother, I had no idea how long the roughest times would last, and just prayed that they wouldn’t hit the delete button of the good times in my heart’s memory.
My husband heard Hillary Frank’s interview on NPR’s “The Story” in July. He knew the topic of baby challenges would hit home for me. And so on his recommendation, I looked up Hillary’s blog http://longestshortesttime.com/ and got to “know” her a little. Hillary Frank is an author of novels and radio producer. A new mother herself, Hillary created The Longest Shortest Time as a bedside companion for new moms who want to hear they are not alone. And that as never-ending as those first months seem, they don’t last forever.
iknowamom :: Can you tell us a little bit about the inspiration behind The Longest Shortest Time?
Hillary :: As a pregnant woman, I was terrified of childbirth. Absolutely out of my mind terrified. Like a lot of moms, I tried to do everything in my power to prepare for this inevitable process. I did prenatal yoga, I took childbirth classes, I read books. I desperately wanted to avoid C-section or episiotomy. And my natural childbirth books told me that the odds were in my favor, as long as I used their recommended relaxation techniques. But when it came down to it, my daughter was facing “sunny side up” in my belly and one of my greatest fears came true: I needed an episiotomy. A week later we discovered that my stitches had busted and I had to get re-cut and stitched. Then I had an allergic reaction to those stitches. The pain and discomfort prevented me from walking normally for two months. I couldn’t do a lot of basic things to care for my baby: change diapers, breastfeed in a seated position, walk her around to calm her. I felt completely helpless and I felt like it was my fault, for not “doing better” at childbirth. Six weeks in, my friend Kirsten—the mom of a 5-year-old—came to help me out. One time when I was freaking out about my situation, Kirsten told me to remember that these early days with a newborn are the “longest shortest time.” That while you’re in it, it feels like it’s going to last forever. But then you look back on it and it seems like a blip. That phrase, “the longest shortest time,” really stuck with me, and when I was thinking of a title for my project it seemed like the perfect fit.
iknowamom :: How do you find the women that you interview and how do you get them to talk so candidly about their stories?
Hillary :: Some of them are people I know. Some are friends of friends. Some are strangers who find my podcast and contact me through my blog. Those are the ones who really blow me away. These women (and occasional men) have never talked to me in their lives and they are willing to tell me about their most intimate, fragile experiences. I’m truly so honored. I don’t really know the answer to why they are so candid with me, except that the tone of the podcast must be resonating with them. I think they trust me enough to know that I will present their stories with respect and depth and they have faith that the project will provide comfort to other people in similar shoes.
iknowamom :: What message would you like new moms to come away with?
Hillary :: It sucks now. And it’ll suck for longer than you’ll feel like you can stand. But then one day it’ll suck a little less. And a little less. Until eventually your child will have a bed time and won’t wake up until the sun rises. And then you’ll be talking to the mother of a newborn, who will ask you when your baby started napping on a regular schedule. And you won’t remember exactly. Because those early days will be covered in fog. This is not to say that everything becomes a cinch. But no matter what your struggles are as a new mom, those struggles do change over time.
iknowamom :: What is the best piece of advice that you’ve received as a mom-in-waiting or as a new mom?
Hillary :: Don’t let anyone tell you how to be a mother to your child. You’ll know what feels right for you and your family. And seek out professional help when you need it.
iknowamom :: Writing requires a certain creative space in your head as well as a generous amount of time to put the words down and then edit through them. How do you find the time to be creative and motivated as a mom?
Hillary :: For a long time I felt as if I would never have an idea again. I really struggled with wanting my old creative self back, and I still do. But once I started thinking about this project, I felt so driven to do it that I knew I needed to figure out a way to make it work. I have a babysitter who comes once a week. I work on the podcast then, and sometimes during the baby’s naps and in the evening. For that reason, production is very slow. I stay motivated by all of the heartfelt and touching comments and emails I get from new moms, telling me that the podcast is helping them get through the day. That’s why I started The Longest Shorest Time, and it is so amazing to know that it is working. It’s also really cathartic for me to be able to connect with other moms who are willing to be honest about early motherhood. I know a few special moms who are like that, but in my daily life I also hear a lot of, “We didn’t have any problems. Sadie was such an easy baby.”
iknowamom :: What is your favorite way to take a break from work and motherhood?
Hillary :: I’m a pretty big TV-watcher. I recently finished watching “Party Down”. My favorite show at the moment is “Breaking Bad”. It’s so good that I can deal with the violence (I just cover my eyes during certain scenes). And I am easily sucked in by things like “The Bachelorette”. And last week, I somehow wound up watching “Bachelor Pad” — the entire 3-hour premiere.
Thank you, Hillary, for sharing with iknowamom. I think your insight into the first months of motherhood, whether it’s the first time around — or the second, or third, and on — are inspirational and a great support. I can’t wait to hear what you come up with when your daughter reaches ”the terrible twos”! (Which I hear actually extend well into three.) Thanks for sharing.
posted Aug ’11