To The Mom with the Newborn,
You carry this baby with you for 10 months (they say it’s 9, but really, 40 weeks divided by the average number of weeks in a month is 10, not 9). You are excited to meet them. Labor and delivery is usually not at all what you expected, even if it’s not your first child. You fall completely head over heels in love with this little human. You bring them home. It’s supposed to be all unicorns and rainbows. Sometimes it’s not. Often, it’s not. You feel like you’re doing something wrong, or maybe you’re just a bad Mom. You’re not sure how long you can do this.
You’re not alone.
I have three children. I felt like a complete failure of a Mom the first few weeks with my first and last child. Somehow the planets aligned, and I was invigorated with the birth of my middle child. I’m not sure how it really happened. If I did, I would bottle it up and give it to every pregnant woman so they wouldn’t have to experience what so many of us face once we bring our baby home.
The Mom of a Newborn Struggles
The first is sleep. You feel like you will never sleep again. Whether you are breastfeeding or not, the baby still needs to eat every couple of hours. They say, “Sleep when the baby sleeps,” but the baby barely sleeps. Whoever coined the term “sleeping like a baby” obviously did not have a baby. With little sleep comes delusions. Your brain plays tricks on you. You barely know what is up and what is down. Then you become paranoid that you may hurt the baby out of exhaustion.
Next is crying. Your baby will cry. (You will cry). Some babies cry more than others. Even the babies that seldom cry will break their Mama’s heart with their cry. What do they want? You change them, feed them, rock them, shush them, sing to them, yet nothing seems to ease their discomfort. Often, you find the magic seed that quiets them just for them to start crying again the moment you set them down. Yet – YOU still need to eat. You still need to sleep. You still need to use the bathroom for just a minute. How can you do that when this beautiful tiny human needs you every second of every moment?
Then there is eating. Moms of newborns are faced with the pressure to breastfeed. If you aren’t breastfeeding, you have to explain yourself. You try to shield yourself from the Moms who seem to have no problem producing milk and have babies who latch without a problem. Or you feel guilty that you have an oversupply and a baby that figured the whole thing out without much incident. You need to eat to produce milk, but you struggle to find the time and energy to do it. Not to mention that the body you inherited by the miracle of birth terrifies you. Will this postpartum body be your body forever? You start to count down the days until you’re cleared to workout. You think about how so-and-so ended up looking better than she did before pregnancy less than two months after giving birth. You think you need to do that too.
Here comes loneliness. There is a heavy sense of loneliness that comes with being the mom of a newborn. Women bear most, if not all, the responsibilities that come with a baby. We spend every moment tending to the needs of the human we built inside of us. They are unable to fulfill any need for themselves. It leaves little time for you to take care of yourself. When you have more children on top of the baby, the time left for YOU all but disappears. Some have help. Many of us do not. (Shout out to all the 2020 pandemic Moms who had to endure doctor visits, ultrasounds, and even labor solo). You find yourself just wanting to talk to a friend about trash tv. You want to have dinner with your partner without a baby attached to you. You want to, for a moment (or perhaps more than one), not think about how YOU are going to keep this baby alive.
One day, not too many days after you have welcomed your baby home, you will feel like you can’t do it anymore. You will feel like you’re not cut out for this Mom thing. Then, magically, you will be able to sleep for more than 40 minutes. You will be able to eat an entire meal while the baby quietly wonders at the light on the ceiling. You will get dressed in the morning and thank your body for what it has brought you. You will chat with your friend about a reality tv show that isn’t even a little bit real. You will be able to cuddle your partner and not feel the need to check on the baby.
You can do it.
Finally, one day, you will forget how hard those first few weeks are and want to do it all over again.