A few days after giving birth, the attending nurse came into my room and casually pronounced that my newborn son and I were being discharged from the hospital. She smiled expectantly. Perhaps, assuming that my husband and I would be absolutely thrilled to embark on our new journey together as a family of three. Instead of being overcome with excitement and joy at the prospect of going home, I remember feeling outright panic. I began frantically flipping through the discharge paperwork, in a desperate search for my copy of the baby owner’s manual. When, to my dismay, I did not find it, I paged the nurse and hastily informed her of this serious oversight. She calmly and kindly explained that there was no such manual. I was on my own. I literally thought that hospitals sent you away with a baby in one arm (JK, obviously in an obsessively selected carseat) and an actual baby manual in the other. Maybe even just a print out with a few tips and guidelines. Something. But alas, there was nothing except my abject panic.
All the nurses had a good, light-hearted laugh at my naivety, but all the while, I was completely baffled. Surely, they didn’t think that I was either prepared or competent enough to take charge of this tiny, new bundle. The same woman who once had a pet goldfish mysteriously disappear from its bowl (no, seriously, where did he go? I still have no idea.) and who managed to decimate every potted plant that dawned her doorstep. And now they were going to turn over custody of this unbelievably precious and delicate little boy and just assume that I knew what I was doing?
That initial panic, was just the beginning of a host of weird fears that I experienced while parenting a newborn.
You’ll Die Of Sleep Deprivation
I was shocked and appalled to find that the exhaustion of pregnancy was a walk in the park compared to the seemingly endless nights without sleep that accompany having a newborn. During the night, I’d laboriously go through the motions of soothing, nursing, burping, and changing diapers, only to repeat it again in 90 minutes. During the day, I’d walk around bleary eyed and so fatigued that I’d enter a room and have no idea what I went in there for. I had reached such “mombie” status that I barely recognized my reflection in the mirror. There was many a time that my husband and I wondered aloud if we might actually die from excessive sleep deprivation.
You’ll Break The Baby
Question: Can newborn babies spontaneously leap from your arms? From the moment I first held my itty-bitty son, I knew that I would give my life for him in an instant. He was the most precious gift I had ever received. But then a terrifying thought crossed my mind: What if I accidentally drop him? I was bombarded with visions of my babydolls growing up, and how their little, plastic arms always snapped off when I was dressing them. What if that happens to him? What if I’m not holding his fragile little neck correctly? Or I swaddle him too tightly or strap him into the carseat too forcefully? Could he jump out of my arms? He couldn't lift his head up, but that is something that, in my new-mom panic state, felt totally plausible. Fortunately, babies are actually pretty sturdy. And as the biggest baby in the hospital nursery, he had a lot of extra padding to protect him.
You’ll Never Be Able To Go Out Again
A few weeks after giving birth, my husband and I were in Target (because of course we were). When I looked away for a second, he jokingly took the cart, and our son who was sleeping soundly in his carseat, into another aisle. This completely freaked me out. My rational side knew that my husband was perfectly capable of taking care of our son, but the mama bear in me couldn’t stand the idea of being away from my “cub.” The idea of leaving my precious bundle in anyone else’s care was a major source of anxiety. Because no one seemed fit to watch my son the way I could, I quickly came to the conclusion that I’d just never be able to go out again. At least, not without my cub in tow.
You Don’t Have Enough Hand Sanitizer
Uh, you guys know there are literally germs everywhere, right?! With all the technological advances our society has made, how have they not invented some kind of baby bubble to protect your newborn from all of the nasty micro-organisms lying in wait? There just isn’t enough Lysol or hand sanitizer in the world, to make a dent in it. You have to learn serious evasive stroller maneuvers in order to protect your baby from the onslaught of overly friendly and touchy strangers. Who knows where there hands have been? I remember at my 2-week post-op appointment with my OB/GYN, she “oohhed” and “ahhed” and tenderly stroked my son’s foot. I should have been flattered. Instead, as soon as she left the room, I doused his foot in hand sanitizer. (Because, after all, I do know where her hands have been.)
Your Baby Isn’t “Normal”
For thousands of years, new moms have probably been second guessing every little thing their baby does. Are they eating too much? Too little? Is their poop supposed to look like that? Are they sleeping too much? Will they ever sleep again? The advent of the Internet has likely just exacerbated this issue. With an inconsequential concern, a few seconds, and a couple keystrokes, some online forum will have you quickly convinced that your baby is suffering from some terrible, horrible, rare, and incurable disease (which is probably just cradle cap).
You Aren’t Cut Out For Parenting
In those early weeks, when you and your newborn are just getting to know one another, and you haven’t quite figured out what each tiny cry or wail means, it can feel really disheartening. There were so many times as the mom of a newborn when I wondered if I was cut out for this whole parenting gig. Would it always be so hard? Would I ever find a new normal? Move past simply surviving and start thriving as a parent?
The transition into parenthood is a wondrous and wild ride. Because your tiny new friend does not come with an owner’s manual, there will be numerous times that you experience self-doubt, and combat both rational and irrational fears. But as the time passes, you’ll gain experience in the parenting trenches, and you will also slowly but surely attain more confidence and self-assuredness. At the end of the day, you were perfectly made for baby and they will mold you into exactly the kind of parent you need to be.
Images: NBC; Giphy(6)