When I was approaching the final weeks of pregnancy, my partner and I had pretty much accepted the fact that the first few months of our kids life were going to be a hot mess. Not to say that our kid's life would be a hot mess, but our lives would be as they adjusted to orbiting around a brand new central object — our baby. Of course, we resolved to do our very best and to make it through that mess, no matter how hot it might get, but thanks to advice from our friends and family, media portrayals of new parents, and well, common sense, we knew our world was going to be turned upside down.
And the thing is, there was only so much we could do to prepare. Sure, our nursery was painted and stocked with burp clothes and blankets; the bassinet was set up next to our bed; the hospital bag was packed. But a real sense of what it was going to feel like? What was going to happen to our time, our energy, our sleep, our priorities? Yeah, no. We had no clue. There’s no way to really have a clue. Like any venture into the unknown, you can do all the research in the world, and equip yourself with everything you think you’re going to need, and talk to people who’ve been there before you, but when it comes down to it, what your journey will be like, and the way your particular body and brain will react to the experience? Those are things you simply can’t know until you’re already past the point of no return. It’s as thrilling as it is terrifying.
The good news is, we made it through. And, it’s true what they say: We’re totally enjoying parenting more with each month that goes by. Though, for the sake of all the other new parents out there staring at the door of their yet-to-be-filled nursery, I’m revisiting some of the feelings I had in those first weeks at home. You’re not alone, friends. Here’s where my head and heart were.
I thought I would turn into some kind of fairy princess who only attended to my baby, but in reality, I was a ravenous beast trying to curb the insatiable hunger and overwhelming thirst that came from those early weeks of breastfeeding and being sleep deprived. (If both food and sleep give you energy, and you can't get any sleep, doesn't it make sense to think that eating more food will compensate? No? Just makes you an exhausted zombie with food on your shirt? Shrug.)
I remember the first real cry our baby gave us, on his second day at home. I held our son and paced in our hallway, singing songs from my days as a camp counselor. It was both excruciating to see him so upset, but also empowering to see him slightly calmed by my attempts to soothe him. Turned out, he was just hungry (of course) which we figured out quickly enough, but still… he liked my singing, you guys!
I hate whoever first uttered the words "maternal instinct." While I think it's meant to empower new mothers to trust what their gut tells them to do — a great message! — I think it also sends the message that new moms are supposed to know what to do. And, uh, we often don't. At all.
When my kid was first born, it seemed like everyone was a step ahead of me when it came to caring for our baby. In the hospital, my husband was in better condition than I was to get quick instructions from the nurses on things like diapers and bathing, so he was the one showing me a thing or two once we were all back home. When my own mom came to help, she brought with her confidence and comfort about babies that she’d earned from raising two of her own (and from being the oldest of five kids), so it felt like she was lightyears ahead of me, too. The reality? I actually wasn’t that bad, I just needed to some practice.
I thought that a point would come when I would automatically know what my son needed, and why. While it’s true that I’ve gotten much better at reading him and interpreting his cries, it took months and months of practice. It wasn’t instinct — it was trial and error.
OK, it was pretty low on the list, but excitement over not being pregnant was definitely one of the many, many reasons I was glad when my kid was born. I was so ready to be done, and to having my body back to belonging to me and only me. Little did I know. recovering from pregnancy and delivery was going to take months. It was probably better that way, now that I think about it.
True story: One morning a few weeks after we’d brought our little home, my husband and I were considering a trip to a nearby coffee shop for some caffeine. In my sleepy stupor, I wondered aloud, “Are they open on Tuesdays?” to which my husband replied, “It’s Friday.”
At some point, you’ll make it through a few hours or maybe even a day or two without any major catastrophes. Your baby will latch on during your first attempt to feed him, she won’t leak out of every diaper you put her in, and you won’t need to change her out of a spit-up covered onesie after every meal. Dinner won’t get burned, and you won’t forget about a load of wet clothes in your washer. That doesn’t mean it suddenly becomes easy, but it’s definitely not as hard as it used to be. Finally.
Images: blanketboat/Instagram; Wifflegif(7)