Being a new mom is hard.
This is probably the most obvious, overused duh phrase ever said in regards to parenting, but the simplicity of it carries weight. Being a new mom is hard. It is exhausting, emotionally and physically taxing, and easily the hardest thing I have ever done. I was contemplating hiding the grit of my new arrival into parenthood, but I have noticed that too many people do it. I went back through some of the blogs of new mothers I follow and realized some of them make their life emulate Pinterest far too closely. When I go to the archives of their posts, I notice that they mysteriously thin out postings during their child's first three months of life. Instead, they focus on flowery topics and act as though parenthood is the greatest thing that has happened to them with absolutely no pain attached. Maybe they want to paint a pretty picture to their audience in order to gain a readership, or maybe this is just their way of coping with the truth of what life with a newborn is like. Either way, it does not suit me and I stopped following them.
I feel betrayed when I think about it. I feel like I was unprepared for just how brutal these first few weeks are because no one seemed to talk about it. It is sometimes such a dark period that I can see why women would rather just not discuss it, but I can't be one of those women. I have cried and panicked more times in the past week than I have in the past few years put together. I often feel like I am barely holding it together because of how overwhelmed I am. The thing is, I know I'm not alone - even if no one is speaking up about it on a public forum. So I may as well be honest.
Tomorrow, my daughter will be exactly one week old and I still feel just as overwhelmed, confused, exhausted, and conflicted as I did on Wednesday, when we finally brought her home. It never seems to end and the anxiety just builds until I am reduced to tears on a frequent basis. I am not depressed, I should note. My system is overburdened with massive sleep-deprivation, pain from a recovering episiotomy, soreness from breasts that feel as though they have been used beyond capacity, and the fear of my husband going back to work on Tuesday as I do everything alone for ten hours of the day.
I feel overwhelmed because the entire change in lifestyle is still new, and my nerves are always shot. I just fed her, why is she raging for an hour? Why won't she just latch on this time? I can't get her to calm down. I wish she would stop crying long enough to eat, because I know that's what she wants. Oh God, I have to change her diaper. Cue crying. Shit, I have to change her onesie. Cue crying. I need to lay her down; I hope she doesn't wake and start crying. Fred goes back to work on Tuesday and I don't know how to do this alone.
Confused because sometimes, babies just cry and scream and there is absolutely nothing to calm them. In the ten thousand articles my husband and I have read in desperate hope for answers to various problems, we found that crying for absolutely no reason, without the ability to be stopped, is entirely normal. So we have had to hold and comfort her and look at each other helplessly while she rages at times. We are confused because there are different things we want to try to make this experience a better one, but the views presented by various experts and non-experts (see: parents who really just want to judge) are so conflicting, every decision we make seems to carry a huge weight with it. Breastfeeding has torn my nipples to shreds, no matter how well she latches. Should we bottle-feed breast milk exclusively? She might have acid reflux, so maybe we need to consider changing her eating schedule (I.E., implement one).
Exhausted because no matter how often you heard and rolled your eyes at, "You will never sleep again" when you were pregnant, you genuinely believe it once the baby arrives. The other night, she raged for three hours for absolutely no reason. Feeding did nothing. Holding and cooing did nothing. She wanted to scream, so scream, she did. At five in the morning, she finally decided she was done and slept for three hours. She wants food every two to three hours, maximum. Sometimes once an hour. There is no vacation from this; bedtime only means you try to sleep in-between the night feedings. Her stomach won't shut off because it is time to sleep. She cannot last through the night like adults can. Babies spent their first nine months of life in a dark, cozy womb. When we, pregnant women, were busy during the day, they would sleep. When we settled at night is when they woke up. It makes sense that their schedules are reversed now. It will gradually change, but guess what? That normally will not happen until about twelve weeks in. Three months of hell and it's all you can think about when they are screaming to be fed at two AM after you just fed them at midnight. No end in sight.
Conflicted because I never know if I'm doing this right. Our pediatrician wanted us to try something to help with feedings at night time that I cannot bear to talk about because of how massively it failed and the emotional and mental toll it took on me and my husband. I constantly feel the need to do everything in my power to give her what she needs, and often times this places her health before mine. I have been told that my health has to come first in order to serve hers, but when I look at her face, I struggle to accept trying methods and testing theories that risk benefiting me over her. Such as the ever-controversial schedule feeding that we were told to try, but are still unsure about. Such as pumping to relieve me of feeding duty for just one night here and there. There are so many conflicting views on what is best for the baby and it really tends to make a mom feel like crap for considering an alternative. I always thought that I had major decisions figured out when I was pregnant. Breastfeeding? Check. Bassinet for sleeping near me? Check (post-pregnancy decision). Feed on demand? Obviously.
But things change when you are thrust into parenthood full time for the first time. I am still learning that all babies are different and what may work for one mother will not work for another. As a friend put it, "Parenthood is a fraction of what the books tell you and a large chunk of 'to hell with it. The baby is happy so I'm happy.'" If I could release some of this heavy guilt over decision making, then I might be able to navigate this new path better. I love my daughter with every fiber of my being. Do I regret having her? No. My insane anxiety still cannot trump my strong love for her, which also falls under the "overwhelmed" category. Do I sometimes long for the days when it was just me and my husband? When I wake up for the fifth time in the middle of the night, yes. When she is inconsolable, yes. When I look at her big blue eyes, no. I can happily let go of my previous life when I focus on her magnificent, perfect existence. Perfect because despite all of the stress, anxiety, and tears, she is still here. Alive. She is my daughter. My firstborn.
I am tired. I just want to do what is right, but I am so tired. This is what life with a newborn is like. Stressful, chaotic, sleep-deprived, and pure and utterly terrifying. Getting up to go to the bathroom is nerve-wracking because what if she wakes up when you are in there, trying to tend to your episiotomy suture? What if I change her diaper and undo all of her calmness for the next hour? God, I am so thirsty but she is asleep on my arm and if I move, the tears will start for both of us. It has been a flurry of I can't do this.
But then she smiles in her sleep for the very first time, and I am reminded of everything I said before.
She is perfect. She is magnificent. She is my daughter. My firstborn.
She is perfect. She is magnificent. She is my daughter. My firstborn.