Last week, I snapped and said, “If one more person tells me that ‘it will get easier’, I’m going to FREAK OUT.” Unfortunately, I said it to my sweet mother, approximately three seconds after she gently told me, “Honey, it will get easier.” My patience may or may not have been worn a little thin due to the stress and exhaustion of new motherhood. (Sorry, Mom.) The veteran parents who have knowingly assured us that this difficult newborn phase will indeed pass certainly mean well, but it reminds me of the kind people who told me that “time would heal everything” while I was going through an excruciating separation and divorce. Those people had been correct, but at the time, I needed instant gratification- RELIEF, not TIME.
Hmmm. I think I just aligned the bliss of life with a newborn to one of the more horrible times in my life, which is certainly not a fair comparison. Being a first-time parent is incredible in every way, and we are oh SO grateful for Oden…but it’s not all butterflies and rainbows so far! Being a parent to a helpless infant is challenging on a unique level. One lives in a New Baby Black Hole for a while. I brushed my teeth for the first time today at 1:45PM.
As with pregnancy itself, there are a lot of things about this “fourth trimester” that I wasn’t expecting. For example, did you know there is such a thing as postpartum nausea? It’s like morning sickness but after you have the baby, and I had it. I didn’t know I’d struggle so much with breastfeeding or feel so unbearably emotional over the situation. I didn’t realize one could lose 27 pounds in 13 days or sweat buckets every night and have it be normal and healthy. I didn’t know I’d have a 9 pound, 9 ounce baby and was unprepared for my little-ish infant to grow out of newborn-sized clothes and diapers at 2 ½ weeks of age, or how sore my back would be from carrying around or burping him all day long. I had no clue that I’d find myself terrified to trim my baby’s fingernails or totally grossed out when his belly button stump fell out. I can’t deal with the cries of pain from my baby thanks to a diaper rash, circumcision, or tummy aches and gas and just cry along with him. I quickly learned the benefit of snap- or zip-up clothes vs. over-the-head outfits, especially when attempting to change a diaper at 3am. I have not gotten used to Oden unknowingly kicking his own poo across the changing table or peeing on his own forehead, and marvel at the amount of laundry loads full of teeny, tiny baby things. I was completely unprepared for the C-section recovery process and healing time and didn’t expect to be so limited, even after a month’s time. Who knew that almost four weeks post-surgery, I’d still need mini-pads? I didn’t know I’d develop a Mama Bear protectiveness over my newborn, how he’s held or fed or comforted. My baby radar/Mama ears are supersonic. And I was probably least prepared for how deeply I want everything to be right for Oden and how much guilt and fear and doubt comes along with Mommyhood. Am I doing this right? Is he ok? Am I messing up…again? The list of postpartum surprises goes on and on and on…
When my parents rolled in from Colorado on the day I was induced, they came straight to the hospital to check in with us. I was still waiting for the Cytotec to begin its job and had high hopes for powering through the birthing process with some semblance of our original birth plan. Before my dad followed my mom out the door, he came over to me, kissed my forehead, and said, “Don’t be a hero. You don’t need a medal; you need a healthy baby.” As the next 24 hours unfolded, his words echoed in my ears as I had to let go of my own desires of the birth process. And in the end, I didn’t get a medal, but I did get the best prize possible: Oden.
The night before my folks went home (after three weeks of Baby Time here), my dad and I had a moment to ourselves. Again, he had some wise words for his over-achieving and self-critical daughter. He basically said, “There’s no one way to be a good parent, and you never know what it’s really like behind closed doors. Don’t compare yourself to the superstar new mom who seems to have it all together- she doesn’t. No one has it figured out, so do what’s best for you and your family.” I can almost feel all of the moms reading this nodding their heads.
Life is pretty good at throwing John and I wicked curveballs, and that won’t stop now that we have a child. (Example: the violent stomach flu that took John completely out this week, leaving him in quarantine and me a ‘single mom’ right after my folks left.) I don’t want this fleeting newborn time period to be over with; I just need to remember to be kinder to myself when things get tough. John and I have always made a great team, and parenthood has proven the same. We’ll just wing it as we go, reminding ourselves that everyone else is doing the exact same thing. We’ll do all things with love and trust that it will be enough.
Eventually and slowly, my confidence will grow and I won’t feel like I’m doing everything wrong. Things will click and we’ll find a rhythm and there will be less tears and more smiles for everyone. We’ll figure out ways to steal more sleep. We’ll fall into something resembling a schedule (so I can brush my teeth at a more appropriate time, for one thing). As the spring sunshine warms up, we’ll get out of the house on a regular basis, breathing fresh air and enjoying a change of scenery. Those heart-melting baby smiles will be shared more often and with purpose, and our already fathomless love will grow even deeper for our sweet little sunbeam. My mom’s words are true. It will get easier..and I can’t imagine anything more rewarding.