If you could magically go back in time and tell your former-self something, what would it be?
And how would you say it so that the message would be truly heard?

There are two separate issues: what to say and how to say it, and one is important as the other.

Working as a midwife, I often hear women say “I wish I’d know…” “No one ever told me…” The statements are often about the intensity of labor, the reality of new parenting, the challenges of living in relationship.

Sometimes things are not said, stories are not shared, and sometimes thing are simply not heard. The woman that shortly after her baby’s born said “No one ever told me that labor would be so hard” was the same woman that during pregnancy told me “Why does everyone tell me their terrible birth stories? Why do they tell me how hard it is?” Often, the very couple whom I worked with intensely to get a postpartum care plan together is the couple that is flabbergasted that the first weeks are so challenging: “We had no idea. We one told us!” Being told and hearing are certainly different things.

So, if you could go back in your history, what would you tell your former self about an up-coming life event? And how would you say it so that the message could be heard?

I suspect that many of us would give general encouragement to our younger selves. “You can do it.” “School is so hard but worth it in the end.” Maybe the advice would be very specific: “Dec. 12, 1980, buy Apple stock. Yes, the computer named for a fruit. Buy lots!.” Or possibly health related “Michelle, give up eating cow-dairy, it is not your friend.”

But would we even hear the message? Like my client that prenatally complained about hearing friend’s ‘horror stories’ of birth and then in after birth say “No ever told me,” the message isn’t always received. For some, experiences have to be lived to be understood.

For years (ok, more than a decade), I took Zyrtec every day, and still had dramatic sneezing fits, itchy skin, burning eyes and a drippy nose. After the fourth or fifth time that my acupuncturist asked me to do an elimination diet, I finally did. After two weeks of primarily protein, vegetables and herbal tea, I reintroduced gluten, grains, coffee, alcohol, legumes, starchy vegetables, nightshades, sugar… and there was no noticeable difference. Re-introducing dairy was completely different. Halfway through eating a beautiful omelette cooked with a little melted butter, filled with sautéed veggies and a bit of cheese, I was sneezing, coughing, rubbing my eyes. Holy Moly! The lived experience of histamines coursing though my body after two weeks without them made me realize that I had a definite issue with dairy. Thank goodness for my patient acupuncturist: she never told me I was intolerant to a specific thing, just kept saying that there was a lot of inflammation going on in my body, maybe it was diet related, and nudging me to figure it out experimentally. As stubborn as I am, I doubt that even a time-warp conversation from my Future Self would have convinced me. But eating that omelette sure did.

This week, I have been asking friends and family members the question: If you could magically go back in time and tell your former-self something, what would it be? The answers have been interesting, some practical, some sweet.

  • “Believe in yourself.”
  • “Listen to you mother. Well, at least what she says about college debt.”
  • “Stay the course.”
  • “Settle down.”
  • “Take more Statistics courses as an undergrad.” (Really. Someone said that.)
  • “Don’t just follow him. Remember who YOU are,” (whispered into the young wife’s ear).
  • “Kiss more slowly.”

If I could go back and give a message to my younger self, I might not say a thing. Probably, I would just lovingly watch the younger me, appreciating her bravery, beauty and grace. Then, barely catching her eye, I would smile.


May all babies be born into loving hands