Let me start off by saying my transition into motherhood was rocky at best. Thinking about the newborn stage would often make me shudder, as it was heavily marked by depression, anxiety, and insomnia with my first-born. I knew with my second child things would be different, but I didn’t know how different.
Here are 10 things I understand now about the newborn stage this time around:
1. The days are long but the years are short.
I am still in the thick of the sleep deprivation phase. I can’t remember the last time I slept straight through the night, and most of my thoughts revolve around sleep. My days and my moods are affected by how much the baby sleeps, and in turn, how much I sleep. Have I told you that I so dearly miss sleep? With my first, each day felt like an eternity, and so you can imagine how long three months felt. With my second, I am still exhausted (even more so with a toddler in my care as well) , but I know this is just a stage and it too shall pass. I know the “light at the end of the tunnel” exists, even if I can’t see it yet. And the years fly by . . . so I am just trying to savor this stage as best as I can, even in all of my sleep-deprived glory
2. Getting out is important.
With Aliya, it took me five weeks to get out of the house. With KJ, I was out as soon as I could walk and sit comfortably, and almost every day I try to get out of the house. With Aliya, getting out seemed too hard and overwhelming; with KJ, whatever hassle it is to get out is worth it. There is something about seeing civilians in daylight that makes everything seem a little more normal when you are sleeping in two to three hour stretches.
3. Give yourself more grace.
When Aliya was born, I attributed my general lack of awareness of child-rearing to incompetence and failure. A perfectionist at heart, I was befuddled when I couldn’t figure out why my baby was crying. I felt overwhelmed by the newness of it all and wondered why I wasn’t “better” at this mom thing. It took a while for me to realize most first-time moms haven’t a clue, and you have to learn by doing.
4. I may or may not breastfeed, and that is OK.
With Aliya, I only breastfed for one month. In her second month, I was supplementing with formula, and by the time she was two months old she was exclusively on formula. I had every intention of breastfeeding her until her first birthday, but her thrush and my overactive letdown severely affected our nursing relationship. She eventually went on a nursing strike, and being depressed, I didn’t have the wherewithal to continue trying. I felt like a failure for stopping, but I did what I felt I had to do in that moment. This time, I had no expectations. Fortunately, my son and I have established a great nursing relationship (after a couple challenging months), and I hope it continues. But I know if at some point I need to give him formula, it certainly isn’t the end of the world!
5. The witching hour – it’s a thing.
Some newborns have a period in the evening when they become very fussy — for no good reason! Aliya went through this and it was driving me batty until another mom told me about the dreadful witching hour. Oh, you mean, it’s a thing? They’re just fussy to be fussy? Oh, and it’s EVERY NIGHT?
Both my kids had/have a witching hour in the evenings, but knowing that somewhere else in the world, other newborns and parents are just as miserable every night makes me feel a whole lot better.
6. Bonding takes time.
It takes time to get to know another human being and build a relationship, even if they are your own children. For the first several months, the relationship with your newborn is one-sided. As the mother, you feed, you rock, you pat, you change diapers. And you repeat the cycle, hour after hour, day after day. And this little creature just cries and stares and sleeps and you wonder, “Do you even know who I am?” And then one day, your baby will smile at you and you think, “He knows me!” With both of my children, it took anywhere from weeks to a couple months for me to feel this connection. Bonding is not always instantaneous, it does not always happen at first sight, and it is not something you should feel guilty about if it takes a while.
7. It’s OK if you don’t “enjoy every minute.”
For as many heartwarming and joy-filled moments with your baby, there are equally as many moments that are just plain hard. Sleep deprivation, namely, can be torturous and exhausting in those first few months, and I have yet to meet a mother who says she enjoys not sleeping.
8. Frequent blowouts.
Pooplosions = poop explosions. Move up a diaper size, problem solved.
9. Siblings are pretty great.
This picture says it all:
10. Ask for help.
In the early months with a newborn, it takes a tremendous effort to do little things since everyone is running on half the sleep, energy, and brain power than normal. If you have friends and family who offer to help, accept. If you do not, then ask. Even something as simple as a meal train can help you worry about one less thing.