being the parent of a newborn is totally fun some moments and totally shattering others. i’ve been composing this post not as a list of gripes about my tiny blessing but to provide other parents out there reassurance.
several times recently when i’ve been worrying over some aspect of how i’m caring for henry, i’ve had good friends w/ kids say, simply, “me, too!” and then they’ll share guilty mom stories about ways they feared they failed their kids and then we’re all in the same sinking boat together.
and boom, i don’t feel like the crappiest mom on the planet! when i fearfully admitted recently that some days i just don’t really like parts of this mom job, a brilliant friend was quick to say, “oh, honey. the first few months? they’re hell!”
oh, thank God! i thought it was just me! and after all we went through to acquire little hank, i thought i should be in constant revery and bliss, but no…it’s a little hellish sometimes! what a relief.
so here’s my “me, too” list to all you readers out there with newborns.
-feeding your kid is hell- or at the very least, it comes with baggage. if you use formula, you feel guilt that somehow your kid could have ended up at harvard instead of yale and you blew it for them already. if you’re nursing, you have a whole pile of problems, too. am i making enough milk? is he latching? can i eat/drink that? how can this work logistically when his head is like a tiny moon orbiting the giant sun that is my boob? and pumping is annoying and tedious and exhausting. sore, chapped nipples and leaking boobs= tons of fun. and a phrase like “nipple confusion” which, previously in your life would have made you giggle (how can a nipple be confused? tiny dunce cap and all that) will now ruin your day.
-body image is hell. i mean, seriously. you can attempt to reassure yourself that it will get better over the next year, but you are IMPATIENT and you’ve spent nearly the last year feeling and looking like a parade float and all you want is to spring back to how you looked in high school without having to make any real effort. really is that too much to ask? you’re disgusted and embarrassed by how much weight you gained and angry when you look in the mirror. none of your clothes fit and you’re thinking of just giving up and living in muumuu’s the rest of your life (“i don’t want to look like a weirdo, i’ll just go with the muumuu.”)
-insecurity is hell. you have no idea what you’re doing. i mean, you’ve read the books, you’ve watched your friends and family like a hawk to see what to do (and what not to do- although this is when you start eating those words “when i’m a mom, i’m never going to…”) and you consider yourself a fairly reasonable individual. none of this matters when you find yourself totally confounded about whether to wake him up and make him eat or let him keep sleeping and risk certain doom. pump or nurse? onesie or footie pajamas? DEAR GOD, ONESIE OR FOOTIES? boggles the mind. and all these stupid little choices matter so much because you just want everything to be perfect for this tiny screaming bean. you want him to have every comfort and resource starting from day 1. and there will be moments and whole days when you feel like you’re the last person who can meet his needs. and you feel inadequate and insecure and you might consider going back to work before your leave is up to be somewhere where you at least sorta kinda know what you’re doing. in dark moments you might even consider walking out. you wouldn’t actually sell your precious bundle to the gypsies like you’ve threatened, but you might consider joining them yourself…(before you throw yourself off a cliff, the caveat to this is that there are moments and whole days when you feel totally in sync with your bean and are savoring the smiles and hugs)
-not being able to fix it is hell. when that baby cries, it breaks your heart and you just want to make the pain/hunger/wetness/poop in the hair go away now. and sometimes he’s fed, he’s burped, he’s changed, he’s slept and there is no poop in his hair and yet he’s screaming at you. and it feels miserable.
-relationship with spouse is hell- or at the very least, it’s challenged. even if you have a rock solid marriage and you’re pretty much able to laugh at and with each other through all these changes and at the chaos that is now your life…it’s different. it’s hard. you’re both consumed with caring for this screaming bean and you both feel insecure about how you’re doing it. which translates into snappishness at each other. and you’re sleep deprived and the house is a mess and you have visitors all the time and the normal activities you enjoyed right up until the birth are now impossible or very challenging- try going to a movie. i dare you. or out to dinner. get a babysitter and you will have a stressful evening out. don’t get a babysitter and a whole theater/restaurant full of people will have a stressful evening out. and you need exercise to burn off the baby weight but your spouse gained sympathy weight and also needs to exercise, so the precious few hours you have in the evenings together you’re not together. and when you’re still on leave, when your spouse gets home from work you either drop kick the baby to him and run out the door for some quiet time away by yourself or you cling to your spouse and talk his ear off as you’re so deprived for adult conversation. and forget sex for a while. just revisit the topic when the kid turns 5.
-being stuck in the house is hell. while on leave, you get the blessing of bonding with your child and seeing a lot of developmental firsts. but you also are in the house alone for 9 hours a day talking to a human puppy who cannot talk back. it gets lonely and boring and a little bleak sometimes. and in the 30 minute naps the baby takes you are told by EVERYONE (seriously- like checkout boy at grocery store. everyone) that you should also sleep, but instead you have SO much to do you are paralyzed because you can’t decide if you want to eat, shower, do laundry, check email, play with the dog, clean the house, do the dishes or write thank-you notes. once you’ve settled on one of those things the baby is back awake and you’re down to one hand to attempt to do anything while also not dropping said baby or letting him smash his forehead into a pan you’re carrying when his head rolls suddenly off his neck like it’s oft to do (for example. never happened. can’t prove anything).
there. now you’ve heard from another mom that this whole newborn thing can be really rough. you are not alone.
on the flip side, of course, there are lots of heavenly things about having a newborn. he looks directly at you and smiles and laughs. his tiny fingers w/ those ridiculous tiny fingernails grip your big hand like he needs you/loves you. his little arms wrapped around your neck all day is like a constant hug. you can see him taking in the world and it’s a world you’ve given him and what a blessing it is for both of you. you can see his little thighs and chins and cheeks and necks getting pudgy and you know YOU DID THAT! it’s cuz you’re not totally blowing it that he’s growing.
perspective helps with all of this. i’ve collected enough days with him on the planet now to know that there will be a good day following the bad.
overall, of course, the scale tips in favor of completely wonderful. and, for some hope for you moms of brand new beans, it gets better and better. at 2 months he can now play by himself for a while on his back. he is less screamy and more coo-y. way fun. and his toothless huge smiles are heavenly.