The first night home with my newborn went, um, OK. My daughter was calmer than I anticipated, actually slept, and her behavior was generally low-key. I started to wonder what I had been so stressed out about. I mean, this parenting thing was a breeze. Why worry so much when my little nugget was so content and quiet? Clearly I wasn't prepared for the second night home with baby, because in the span of 24 hours my tune would change drastically.
If you've not been through the utter confusion of the second night, let me be the first to tell you that it's a hard wake-up call. Since the first night home was a breeze, it never occurred to me the second would be any different. "What a great demeanor she has," I thought. "How lucky am I?" Then the wails began. They were ear-piercing and endless. No amount of my breastfeeding attempts, rocking, shushing, or holding would make them stop. I told myself if only I'd been aware of what actually happens to a baby on that second night home, maybe I would've been better prepared to handle her.
When I brought my second baby home I anticipated the dreaded second night. Yeah, it didn't make a difference. Hard is hard, no matter how you slice it and especially after a grueling delivery. The reality is, second night syndrome is a real thing and happens because it takes approximately 24 hours for baby to realize they're no longer in the womb. I'm sure it's a pretty traumatizing; feeling safe and cozy one minute, then feeling confused and cold the next. I can't really blame my kids for the fear and confusion they experienced. On that note, here's some things I was in no way ready for on the second night with either baby.
The Non-Stop Crying
It's baffling to bring home a sweet, calm baby who's content sleeping, only to watch that baby transform into a screeching human I didn't recognize. My daughter's incessant crying didn't stop, no matter what my partner and I tried, and we tried everything. We eventually went to a swaddle, but it took a lot of practice to work. Until then, it was constant crying.
Not only was it a shock to the system I thought we had in place, but a much-needed reality check. Now I knew how exhausting taking care of a newborn was going to be.
The Endless Feedings
I'd never breastfed before, so when I had my baby I had no idea how painful, uncomfortable, and generally awful the experience would be.
I attempted to nurse in the hospital after my baby was born, but there were far too many people around for that initial attempt to be successful. The first night felt slightly easier, but not easy enough for me to feel triumphant over my breastfeeding struggles. The second night, however, was a nightmare. My daughter never seemed satisfied with what little milk she received.
The Absence Of Sleep
Sleep? What's that? There's just no way around it — no one sleeps the second night, or most nights, after a new baby comes home. Sorry.
The Next-Level Anxiety
I'd already been dealing with high anxiety that was emphasized by pregnancy and delivery, but nothing compared to the postpartum anxiety that accompanied second night syndrome. The nonstop crying was enough to make my nerves rattle. Mix in some exhaustion, stress from no longer just having my partner to worry about, and not having the experience seasoned mothers have to calm my baby down, and I was a mess. It was too much all at once, and though it eventually passed, I'll never forget it.
The Feelings Of Inadequacy
I went home fairly confident I could master motherhood, but that's because it was easy at first. Once all hell broke loose and I couldn't figure out how to calm my baby, I absolutely felt unworthy of being her mother at all. If her own mother couldn't make her feel better, who could?
The Clueless Partner
Bless my partner for being fully present from pregnancy through delivery, but on that second night he knew about as much as I did. We'd read all the baby books, gone to the classes, and listened to all the advice, but once our baby was in front of us and screaming, we both felt like clueless failures.
When it came down to it, neither of us knew what we were doing.
I hate to admit it, but once the euphoria of delivery wore off, and that glorious first day ended, second night syndrome gave me some fleeting feelings of regret. It wasn't because I didn't care about or love my new baby, because I absolutely did. I was because I felt inadequate, was unable to soothe her, and started to wonder if motherhood was really for me. She'd ben home 48 hours and, already, I'd failed. What would the rest of her life be like? In my mind I thought I didn't deserve the responsibility of having her at all.
Then, a few days later and while I was crying some tears of my own, something happened. We found a routine and I learned how to soothe my baby and, suddenly, she didn't seem so afraid of the world around her. Come to think of it, neither did I.