There is nothing anyone can tell you to prepare you for what the first few months with a newborn are like. There is no amount of reading/ class taking that will help you to be more prepared. All the advice that people will give you when you first start out, though it is true, will not help you. It may actually make you feel worse, or like you suddenly need to punch them in the face.
The other day I read an article on the Huffington Post about a woman’s experience with her newborn. She wrote how in spite of exhaustion, she found waking up in the middle of the night to care for her newborn the most rewarding experience. She enjoyed sitting in the quiet with her daughter at 4am, and cried tears of joy because she was so happy. When she went out for some time for herself, she cried because she missed her baby so much.
The mama in me is happy that she enjoyed that special time with her new baby. Everyone does tell you to enjoy it because time passes so quickly. But honestly, my first reaction to reading that article was, are you kidding me??? I mean crying tears of joy to be awake in the middle of the night? Come on. The first time I left the house by myself I was deliriously giddy with happiness. I didn’t shed a single tear.
I debated whether or not to write this story for a long time because it is not a happy/lovey story like the one I read, and it’s still uncomfortable for me to think about. My heart could very well burst from the love and joy I now feel for my baby, so it also feels a little wrong to go back to a time when I felt more frustration than joy. Then, I remember how alone I felt during those first few months. I was overwhelmed by the amount of new mom photos on Instagram declaring, ‘She brings us so much joy!’ and ‘Best job I ever had!’ and ‘Loving every minute!’
I did not like our daughter when we first took her home. I loved her, but I was completely blindsided by how physically and emotionally draining a newborn can be, and on how little sleep you have to survive. I know that there are so many mothers out there who instantly bond with their children, and cherish everything about their new life together, but I was not one of those women. I’m sure it wasn’t the author’s intention, but this article brought me right back to being a new mom, and feeling like I was the worst mom ever for not loving every minute of my life as a new mother.
When I reached out to my mama friends, I found that they were going through some of the same things that I was. One of them said that she didn’t think enough women were honest about what it’s really like. People only post pretty, filtered, or professional photos. I myself am guilty of this, but it’s a damaging habit. When you are a new mom covered in spit-up/pee/poo, and you’re scrolling through your Instagram feed at 12am, 2am, and 4am, and you see all these perfect pictures, it starts to make you feel like there is something wrong with you. If my not-so-happy, messy, true story can make just one new mama feel even slightly better about herself, I feel I owe it to her.
The first few days in the hospital were wonderful. There was room service where I could order as much food as I wanted for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Pretty sure I ordered two desserts every time. There were doctors and nurses who were always checking on us to see if we had questions or concerns. You sleep on a bed that periodically inflates and deflates to make sure your post-pregnancy body is getting appropriate circulation. There are lactation specialists who answer your every question, give you free nipple shields, and coach you through the pain and frustrations of breastfeeding for the first time. Your baby sleeps in a clear little box right next to you so you can see everything that’s going on. Life is perfect.
Then they make you leave, or rather, insurance carriers do not allow you to stay for the duration of your babies first year. The following are some highlights of our first few months together:
Esmé required feeding every two hours. It took her 45 minutes- 1 hour to feed. I was so frazzled and stressed that she would start crying again, that it generally took me about 30 minutes, at least, to fall asleep. You do the math.
I had some tearing from giving birth to Esmé, so things were very, very sore down there. I was fortunate not to get any hemorrhoids, but sitting down was painful. I had to sit for about an hour, every two hours. It wasn’t fun.
This did not come naturally to either myself or Esmé. It was extremely painful for me in the beginning, and she also fought me during feeding. I wasn’t aware of it for at least a month, because I didn’t know that what she was doing wasn’t normal. My husband actually woke up some nights, not because the baby was crying, but because he heard me sobbing uncontrollably. I was past my wits end trying to figure out why my baby was crying, and how to make it stop.
We actually discovered this because our baby started pooping blood. We took her to the pediatrician who then asked what she did when she was breastfeeding. When I told her she said, ‘Ahh, yes. That would be a dairy allergy.’ I was instructed to cut out dairy from my diet until she was 3 months of age. I was told her diapers may get worse in the following week, but should start to get better after that.
I cut out dairy and Esmé improved dramatically! We were thrilled that feeding sessions were no longer a battle.
About a week after improved feedings, she started fighting me again, crying and fussing a lot, and she started pooping blood again. Back to the pediatrician we went. We were told that she also had sensitivity to soy, so that had to go too.
I would just like to point out that breastfeeding makes you just as crazy-ravenous as a pregnant lady. When you can not have anything containing dairy or soy, your options for food are limited. Like not eating out anywhere, not eating any take-out, shopping at only Whole Foods limited. It was a very trying time for this foodie.
After 3 months without soy, 6 months without dairy, and a consultation with a lactation specialist, we were back on track with no food limitations. YAY!!
I really was not an emotional pregnant lady. Heart-warming commercials, looking at baby clothes, listening to lullabies… none of that really got me misty-eyed. When I came home from the hospital? I cried all. the. time.
I cried because my husband only took one week for paternity leave, and I didn’t know what I was supposed to do by myself with a newborn when he went back to work.
I cried when we sat down to watch the news together because I felt like I never got to see him anymore.
I couldn’t sing lullabies to my child because I always got choked up and started crying halfway through.
I cried when I couldn’t fall asleep because I was terrified that the baby would start screaming the second I closed my eyes.
I cried at 2am because I had never felt so isolated and alone.
I cried at 2am because everyone else in the world was sleeping, but me.
I cried because I thought I was going to spend the rest of my life in an uncomfortable glider chair, in a dark nursery.
I cried because my baby cried a lot, and I didn’t know why.
All these things said, we did have our idyllic moments as a new family. She loved snoozing on her Daddy’s chest, and would often fall asleep on me when nursing. She was also such a little squish for awhile, preferring to have her legs tucked under her. It wasn’t all terrible, but the moments of pure joy and happiness were very few and far between. They really didn’t become a regular thing until about 2.5-3 months, when we got her upset tummy under control. Once we did that, she was happier. She slept more, so mommy and daddy were happier.
I’m not trying to scare any future new mamas out there, or discredit anyone who had an enjoyable first few months. I just want you to know that you are not a bad mother for not liking your baby sometimes. You are not a bad mother for letting your baby cry while you give your ears a break for 20 minutes in the other room. You do not win worst-mother-of-all-time award for shouting at your baby, ‘What is wrong with you???!!! Why won’t you stop crying??!!’ But most importantly, you are not alone. There are many other mother’s who are going through the same thing, even if they look pulled together on the outside.