Everyone has their least favorite parts of new parenthood. For me, it was the first night home from the hospital — when you are pretty sure someone made a huge mistake giving you a newborn— and that damn "witching hour" — the time between 5:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. when my son would want to breastfeed continuously or cry, leaving me feeling like a human pacifier. And then, of course, there was the first time my baby was sick. That was heartbreaking. But in my experience, the second week of motherhood will legit try to break you.
You see, when you first bring the baby home from the hospital, you are still riding high on endorphins and love hormones, people come over to help, and you still have pain medications to help with the agony that follows childbirth. But, the second week? That's when the reality of sleep deprivation, breastfeeding difficulties, loneliness, and emotional rawness really set in, at least for me. There's a reason sleep deprivation is used as a form of torture, you guys. It's effective. It's cruel. It's the damn worst.
By the second week of motherhood I was exhausted, my nipples were raw, and I was seriously depressed and feeling totally insecure in my abilities as a parent (and, well, to stay upright and semi-conscious). To make matters worse, during the second week of their lives my previously great-sleeping newborns suddenly decided that they wanted to eat or cry all night. All of this interfered with my mental health, confidence, and my relationship with my husband. Eventually it got better, though, and I eventually loved the fourth trimester. But for a while, you guys, the second week of motherhood was the worst, and here's why:
When Sleep Deprivation Catches Up With You
After my babies were born, I managed to exist on caffeine and endorphins for a week or so. Then horrific sleep deprivation caught up with me, and the word "exist" completely changed. Let me tell you, everything seems worse when you are sleep deprived. A tiny slight becomes the worst insult. A small worry becomes an obsession. And for me, life became pretty unbearable. By the second week of motherhood, sleep deprivation turned me into a total emotional mess.
When It *Really* Hurts
By week two, breastfeeding really freaking hurt. My nipples were raw and bloody, no matter how much nipple cream I used or which breastfeeding positions we tried. And, by then, I was out of the prescription pain medications my doctor prescribed. I totally should have saved them for nipple pain, but the baby books neglected to mention that "fun" little part about the second week of mom-life.
When Your Baby Isn't Gaining Weight
All of my babies had weight-gain issues their first week of life. It was so nerve-wracking and heartbreaking to set them on the scale at the doctor's office and see that they weren't gaining weight, and all because I wasn't making enough breast milk. Or, in my son's case, he had allergies to proteins in my breast milk from things I ate. It made me feel like a failure as a parent, and the solutions seemed to only highlight that failure.
When You Are Lonely
After a week, my mom went home, my husband went back to work, and people stopped visiting. I was so lonely, you guys. I felt so isolated, but I had no idea how to leave the house with a newborn.
When You Can’t Figure Out Why Your Baby Is Crying
Did you know that babies have growth-spurts at about 2-weeks-old? I sure didn't. I had no idea why my baby was crying, and hadn't yet learned how to interpret her cries. It seriously sucked to hear her cry and not be able to soothe her.
When You Fight With Your Partner
I was so emotionally raw, on edge, and depressed that I blew up at my husband for the smallest slight. Maybe he brought me the wrong burrito, or looked at me the wrong way. Maybe he did nothing at all, besides stay asleep through a late-night feeding session. We had so many ridiculous fights during the newborn period that started to make me doubt our relationship and ability to co-parent. It was the worst.
When Your Baby Won't Sleep
My baby literally wouldn't sleep at night. All she wanted to do was eat or be held. It was exhausting. I felt like an object or a piece of furniture, like a pacifier, pillow, or swing. I did not feel like a mom.
When You Start To Doubt Yourself
New motherhood is so hard, and, as mothers, we are ridiculously hard on ourselves. I wanted to do everything perfectly and blamed myself when breastfeeding didn't work out, when my baby had trouble sleeping, and even when my baby experienced a diaper rash or a bad case of diarrhea. I was sure that I was doing everything wrong, when I was actually doing just fine.
I eventually made it through that second week relatively unscathed, and, no, I didn't actually die. In a way it taught me some lessons about motherhood, the most important being that you don't have to be a perfect mom to be enough for your baby or to be a good parent. And that, my friends, is something that all new moms deserve to hear, especially during that horrible second week.
Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.