Let's get all the clichés off the table. You've probably heard that, as a new mom, you should "enjoy them while they're small" because "you'll miss them being so little.” Whenever another parent would see me with my daughter in the first few months of her life, they'd smile and get nostalgic, telling me how much they missed their own children being that age. Immediately, I’d worry there was something wrong with me. Sure, I absolutely loved my daughter, but I didn't enjoy her being that small or that young. Everywhere I went I gave everyone I saw baby fever, but deep down I was losing my mind, doubting whether I could ever do this again, whether I even liked doing this. When I look back at pictures from when my daughter was a newborn, I swoon and stare at her little fingers, little toes, and chubby little cheeks, but then the anxiety sets in. I hated the newborn stage.
I think back on that time in my life and I get flashes of what it was really like to have a newborn. Everyone tells you to “enjoy” it. But honestly, that's the biggest lie I’ve ever heard. I kept trying to enjoy it and I failed miserably. I knew being a mom would be hard, but I kept telling myself I needed to enjoy this. Everyone said these were the moments I’d miss, the ones I’d be devastated over, the ones I looked back on as some of the most magical, most profound moments of my life. But when you're in the moment, really deep in the trenches of new motherhood, it's really hard to "enjoy it" when you can't remember the last time you showered or ate or even brushed your teeth.
In reality, I was so exhausted all the time that I’d sometimes choose sleep over eating. I was so tired that I sometimes forgot to shower. I barely took care of myself. I barely spent any time with my husband. I was constantly washing my hands and making sure everyone else had washed theirs, sanitizing and sterilizing, worried out of my mind that one of us was carrying around a germ that would get her sick. I feared a scary trip to the ER if she got a cold. I struggled with breastfeeding and pumping. We tried every technique to get her to sleep better. We rocked and rocked until our arms felt like they would fall off and our backs were about to break. We drove ourselves insane with theories on sleep, but nothing ever worked.
My daughter’s first weeks passed by in a sleepless fog. We were constantly shopping for diapers, bottles, and any new device that would help her sleep. We’d get home, desperate for some rest, only to realize that we’d have to run back out because we’d forgotten something — more often than not, it was the one thing we actually needed from the store. My house was a mess. And in between endless doctor appointments, the constant unsolicited advice from family, friends, and strangers, the sleepless nights, and revolving door of visitors who meant well but whom I could have happily done without, my head was spinning.
Whenever someone mentioned that I should "savor" the newborn period, I felt like it was a backhanded way of telling me I wasn't a good mom. Because, after all, moms are supposed to relish in these all these firsts, right? So what, then, was wrong with me that I didn't?
I will not miss getting just five or six hours of sleep a week. I won’t miss worrying if I picked up on the right cues when she cried. Was she hungry? Was she tired? Was it gas? Was she sick? I won’t miss having absolutely no time for myself, no time to use the bathroom alone before someone else — the baby, my partner — needed me. I will not miss worrying over every sound she made, wondering whether she slept too much or not enough, or if I was making enough milk. I won't miss the "witching hour" when nothing would soothe her. I know full well now that it’s no fun sleep training. It's also no fun to spend hours making homemade baby food only to have it end up on the floor or in the trash.
My husband and I often joke that during this time I cried more than our baby. But you know what? He’s right. I felt so isolated as a new mom. I felt like I was the worst mother and wife. I thought I would’ve adjusted faster or would've been more efficient with the little time I did have, but I was constantly behind on everything — the chores, the sink, which was always filled with dirty dishes, the floors. I didn’t even attempt to make dinner for months. I felt like a failure. It seemed as though every other mother had it together — every other mom, of course, except me. I really needed someone to tell me this was normal. That it was OK. But I didn't have that.
I didn’t enjoy the newborn phase. I'm sorry, but it's true.
The pressure to “enjoy” this phase weighed heavily on me. Whenever someone mentioned that I should "savor" the newborn period, I felt like it was a backhanded way of telling me I wasn't a good mom. Because, after all, moms are supposed to relish in these all these firsts, right? So what, then, was wrong with me that I didn't? One particular conversation I’ll never forget was one I had with my mother-in-law. I was venting about the fact that my daughter woke up six times one night and I was losing it. She looked at me lovingly and excited and said, “I wish I'd been there. It would've been so much fun to see her face six times a night.” Uh. What? Instead of commiserating with me, I just felt like crap.
Of course, there are happy moments, like when my baby smiled or laughed for the first time, the first time she rolled over, and when she'd reach for our hands before sweetly drifting off to asleep. But contrary to popular belief, and contrary to what my friends' social media pages would tell you, those incredible moments felt few and far in between. The reality looked much, much different.
I didn’t enjoy the newborn phase. I'm sorry, but it's true. I didn't expect parenthood to be a walk in the park, but from the very beginning, with all of the adjustments, worrying, and sleepless nights, it was really hard for me to "enjoy it” and "savor the memories." Coming clean about how tough it was for me is a relief — but looking back, I wish I'd said something sooner.