So, you had a baby. And your life is not the existence that you once recognized. Heck, your body really isn’t even the body you once knew (or your wife doesn’t look entirely like the gal you fell in love with, but to you, she is still insanely beautiful, right?) You stare into the mirror at those dark circles and puffy eyes, at a body worn out from labor and delivery and sleep deprivation and think (or maybe say aloud) who is that woman??
I remember doing that very same thing in front of my bathroom mirror. I didn’t recognize myself. And sometimes instead of simply wondering who I was, I wondered why I barely remembered anything before baby. No, baby didn’t wash everything away. But there is quite a stark contrast from the person you are before and after you have a child, even if that baby is only days old. Everything seems like a millions years ago. You any quite put your finger on it, but you know that now everything is different.
Those thoughts are all perfectly natural. The early weeks of motherhood are some of the hardest. The marathon midnight, 2 a.m., 3:37 a.m. and 6 a.m. feedings, the pre-baby clothes that don’t yet fit again and the maternity clothes that don’t fit either or even worse, that still fit too snugly (well, that’s just peachy) and the diapers that you becoming adept at changing in the dark while remembering to point your son’s wee-wee down so that he doesn’t shoot it out of the top of his Pampers and leak on his clothes….
Welcome to parenting. And you thought those last few weeks of pregnancy, swollen feet and all, were unwelcome. The best and most rewarding work you will ever do is parenting. It’s also the hardest.
And those few initial weeks into your journey, they are at times completely ridiculous. And what’s funny to me ( as if sleep deprivation is hilarious, right?) is that…now, I can’t really recall how awful it was. Certain instances I can remember, yes. But on a whole, I don’t remember it in all of its entirety. Only that it was ridiculously hard. And while I was in the throes of it all, boy, I definitely had myself convinced that I would never sleep, wear normal clothes, leave the house, do a jumping jack, be able to bend down and tie my shoe or blow dry my hair again.
The new-newborn months are tricky. But, I have some good news for you. It gets a bit easier as time goes on. People insisted that it did to me, and even though I wanted to poke those people’s eyes out at the time, I’m here to be a nag and tell you that they will.
If you’re still preparing for baby, I’m quite certain those last few paragraphs scared you. Try to stick this one out anyway and I’ll try to make it worthwhile. (No refunds)
Here are some reminders to help you realize that you will survive that pesky newborn stage:
Yes, you will...
You name it, you’ll do it again in no time – Sleep. Wear normal clothes again. Leave the house again. Have a social life again. Feel like even having a social life again. Feel like a normal person again. Be able to wear pants that aren’t elastic around the waist – whatever it is, you’ll do it again. It will take time, and unfortunately lots of energy. But one night, you’ll wake up and realize that the baby skipped a feeding. And you’ll panic and rush over to the side of the bassinet…and realize that your bundle of joy is still asleep and is doing just fine. And you will breathe a contented sigh of relief, but then all of a sudden say, “aw, MAN” because you realize that you need to go and use the breast pump. But, trust me, it will happen. Some things will return to the pre-baby ‘glory’ that they were once in. Not like you were itching to go rock climbing again anyway, right?
Yes, you will sleep again.
I’m pointing this fun-fact out in an entirely different section because this is the most important part about those first few months of parenting. If you don’t believe me, just wait until you’re a few weeks deep in dirty diapers and bottles and let me know how you’re feeling. At a certain point, you’re going to hit a wall and the one thing you will want the most is sleep. You would use a rock as your pillow if you could just close your eyes for more than an hour at a time. Let me assure you that, yes, you will resume normal sleep activity as some point. Ok, I lied. Truth is, your days of having a large surplus of sleep are limited. But you will get to have relatively normal amounts of sleep again. And sooner than you think. Until then, go to sleep when baby sleeps. As long as you aren’t driving or operating heavy machinery.
So the doctor says this, but your friend Sally says that the moon is full today which means…
You’re gonna get a lot of advice (just ignore the fact that I’m trying to give you advice for a hot minute) but what you need to consider is if the advice you’re given jives with your own instinct (and is also medically sound.) I was lucky to have a handful of friends that were already moms, and my mother and mom-in law to bounce questions off of. But babies don’t necessarily go down an ordered list when hitting their milestones or with their needs and wants. They’ll do things when they’re ready to do them and your baby is going to do things differently from the next baby. And when in doubt, don’t hesitate to ask your pediatrician or trusted circle of wise moms and dads a question or two. But other than that, politely accept advice – even if you’re not planning on using it. Most people just want to help. Even if they are driving you nuts.
Just when you’re getting used to having no sleep, no space and no time to brush your hair…
It’s all going to change. Your baby will start sleeping more at night. They’ll fall into a much easier eating schedule. They’ll begin to enjoy some tummy-time or play time on an activity mat. And suddenly, you’re second fiddle for a hot second to the mirror toy thingie that someone gave to you as a gift at your shower. And these moments come sooner than you would think. You will simultaneously welcome them and yet mourn their arrival. From the moment you give birth, your baby is already growing and working on leaving you. Isn’t that sad? And while the first few weeks, months even, your body will be in survival mode, don’t wish it all away. I was a mess those first few months. Sleep deprivation and hormones will do that to you. But it was also an extremely emotional time for many reasons. Which leads to my last point…
The stretch marks (I mean it), the belly that isn’t flat anymore, the spit up all down your arm, the makeup-less face when you go to the grocery store. You will never, ever be as beautiful (your lady will never, ever be as beautiful) as you are right now. Yes, I know. I was a fuzzy headed monster trying to catch some Zz’s on our sofa while wearing my husbands plaid pajama bottoms. You might not feel like it, but you are. New mom glow isn’t just about how we appear physically, though. Take a look at your baby. Be proud of what your body just did, of what you and your significant other created. That’s right. The work you do now will be the most tiresome, but most worthwhile work you will ever do. And all that baby needs is you, brushed teeth or no brushed teeth.
So, you just had a baby. OK, well actually, nobody just HAS a baby. A baby doesn’t just appear, but you get the idea. Now, why are you sitting here reading this. GO TO SLEEP.