To You, First-Time Parent of a Newborn
So… you're a new mom now. Amazing, eh? Not only do we rejoice because they are all precious, but it thrills me that you have joined the motherhood collective. It's a large one, to be sure—most women eventually do join, I'd imagine—but it's still no less sacred to pass through those gates into the fields where someone will forever call you Mom. It's no small thing.
But. Just because it is common, that doesn't mean it's easy. No ma'am. It's most certainly the hardest job I've ever had or ever will have, and I'm going to take a stab at guessing and say that it'll be the same for you. (You've had a small taste of it, so you're probably not in disagreement.)
Your wee one is so very wee, so you've heard advice out the wazoo from well-meaning women. And you've heard this, too—to enjoy it now, because they grow up so fast. It's really, really true, they do grow up so fast (my 7-year-old should still fit in my arms, it seems), but I'm not so far away from your stage to look back and see nothing but unicorns and glitter.
In a word… Having a newborn stinks. It's really hard to "enjoy it now." At least I thought so.
Now, it's not all horrible, so don't get me wrong. And yes, it stinks in the literal sense, too (badabing!). But I'd be lying if I said that after the birth of my first, I belonged to that school of women who couldn't wait to be pregnant again.
I wasn't. I was so very glad to no longer be pregnant. I couldn't fathom having a second. I could barely understand why the hospital said it was okay to take my tiny human home; why would I want to do it again? Don't they know how often I run out of eggs at home? Would they like to see my out-of-control laundry pile? Why on earth do they think I'd be a good mother?
I didn't love the early days. In the first few months of my firstborn's life, I felt like my life was over. I wasn't happy or joyful. I was sad. Sad to say goodbye to freedom, to living on a whim, to being who I was.
And I felt horribly guilty about that. I loved my husband and I loved God. Shouldn't I also love my daughter?
I distinctly remember the first time I felt a flutter of love towards her—it wasn't until she was six months old. I was changing her diaper, and she looked up at me and smiled. Our eyes met—really locked—for the first time that day. And my heart melted.
It got better after that.
But before that, to be honest, all I can remember is the constant influx of diapers, saying words I had never before uttered to near-strangers (reflux? swaddle? nipples?), and counting poops. And of course, no sleep for months.
I wasn't in love.
Photo by mrgreen09
Now I know you won't believe me, but I enjoyed newborn-hood more with subsequent children. By the birth of my third, I actually enjoyed it (though I'll be honest and say that in my opinion, the older the kids get, the more fun they are).
But yes, when my first child was a newborn, I wasn't glowing with the love of motherhood. I was barely brushing my teeth.
This is common, I hear. "They" don't say it often, but there are a lot of moms who've felt similar. After reading books and taking classes, you expect to be excited about motherhood. And then when you're not, it can be a serious let-down. Many of us know what this is like.
The point of this is simply to say I've been there. Plenty of women have been there. And that if you're at all like me, it will get better.
I found out later—way later than I should have (meaning, two years later)—that I had postpartum depression.
I was going through more than the baby blues, but I had nothing to compare it to, so I didn't know. I managed to cope, but not well. Stuff didn't hit the fan until I was pregnant with number two, more than two years later. Looking back, I wished I had gotten help early.
If you feel like you might have postpartum, tell someone.
A few other things:
• Shake off all those words on the internet from moms who wake up before the kids. You'll get there eventually, but right now, sleep. Seriously.
• Enjoy date nights while your baby is still immobile. Soon enough, your baby will be sitting up, then crawling, then walking. And there's no going back. (I still remember a date night when we went to dinner at 8 p.m., our newborn sleeping in her carseat next to us at the restaurant. That won't be possible for long.)
• Get some fresh air. Don't worry about hard-core working out—just go for a walk around the block. Use that baby carrier. Being outside made a world of difference for me.
• Go easy on yourself. Really. A sink full of dishes or an undusted bookshelf does not a bad mother make. Those things can wait… Snuggle with your little one as much as you like (and no, you won't spoil him).
• Or if you'd rather put him down in his bouncy seat so that you can do something grownup like flip through a magazine, that's okay, too. You're still a fantastic mom.
You're doing amazing. Really. Your body just did something it was made to do, and yet what it did is nothing less than a miracle. You birthed new life. You're amazing.
And yet—if you don't like motherhood so far, that's okay. You're in good company. It'll get better.
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