The truth about having a newborn

Two of my good girlfriends recently had babies. I’ve been texting with both of them here and there to check on them. I remember when I first had Brooks and one of my friends, (Gail, I’ll always love you for this), would text me and tell me that I was doing a great job. I knew that she didn’t actually know how I was doing since I hadn’t seen her yet, but it didn’t matter. I needed to hear that and having already had a baby, she understood.

That’s the thing about having a baby. This shit is hard. I want to say that no body tells you how hard it is but maybe they do. Maybe it’s just that there is no way to understand just how hard it is until you live it. Either way, I found myself feeling somewhat isolated when I had Brooks. Your life changes overnight. You are immediately filled with love and gratitude but there are also moments of extreme tiredness, frustration, self-doubt, and fear. As a mother you feel guilty having anything other than happy, blissful thoughts. Yet, there is also a need to share these feelings…to give them a voice and to let them go. That’s why I’m writing this…for all of the new mothers for the first or the fifth time who are in the thick of it. I’m here to tell you to hang on. I promise it gets easier.

According to Harvey Karp, author or “The Best Baby on the Block”, babies are born before they are really ready for the world. It is during the “4th trimester” that he calls it, when babies digestive systems develop, they differentiate night and day, and they become more comfortable with life outside the womb. This is also the time that as a type A mother you rack your brain about what you should be doing differently. Should I change his diaper before or during his feeding? Can I put him down awake? Am I eating something that is bothering his stomach? Why is he so fussy? How do I get him to fall asleep without me rocking him? We plague ourselves with endless questions thinking that there must be a better way.

After Brooks was born, all of these questions led me to the book “Baby Wise“. I’ve heard other mothers who followed this book’s recomendations and got their baby to sleep through the night with in the first 3 months! After reading the book and trying (to the best of my sleep deprived ability) to put the things I learned into practice, I was basically still right where I left off. I nursed Brooks to sleep. I played with him at the wrong times. I rocked him. I nursed him on demand. We had no schedule. I’m pretty sure I broke every rule in the book. I felt even more incompetent.

Life went on. We slept a little more. Things slowly got easier. And then Maddox was born and we did it all again. This time I was a little more relaxed. I still broke every rule. I would prop pillows up in my bed and sleep partially upright holding Maddox while he nursed. I did what I could to get through the difficult stages of having a newborn and a toddler.

I guess that’s the point of all of this. I didn’t do a lot of things “right” in the beginning. Looking back though, I don’t think that’s what the newborn phase is about. I think newborns are so fussy and needy because they truly do need us. I’m not suggesting attachment parenting either (no offense, but it’s not for me). I’m just saying that during these 3 very long months the whole point is to love your baby. I promise you that you can deal with sleep training later. You can develop a schedule later. You can undo all of your “mistakes”. I think the only thing your baby really needs is you. So as it turns out, you are doing a great job. You are loving your baby. Job well done.

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