Courtesy of Leslie Bruce

It’s 3 a.m. Somewhere

by Leslie Bruce

3 a.m. is by far the loneliest hour. Ask any new (or new-ish) mom, and I guarantee she’ll agree. It’s when the night is at its darkest and the morning still feels so far away — and no matter what logic might suggest, you are convinced that you and your baby are the only two people in the world who are still awake.

In early motherhood, feelings of loneliness and isolation are common, no matter the time of day. In the weeks after my first child, a little girl, was born, I grew more and more disconnected from the outside world. The revolving door of visitors became fewer and fewer as everyone returned to their previously scheduled lives and I rarely managed to get out of the house on any given day. Those long, foggy nights made for even longer, foggier days… most of which I spent at home alone with a new, beautiful little girl who I couldn’t seem to make happy.

Learning to navigate this new life together as mother and daughter proved far more complicated than I had imagined. My little girl was what people call a “fussy baby,” which meant that no matter what I did, I couldn’t seem to keep her content. My own mother reminded me that I, too, was a fussy baby, which might explain why I am now a “fussy adult.” (Her words, not mine.)

My daughter's discomfort always seemed to peak at 3 a.m. Our carpet became worn from the pacing as she squirmed and wiggled and cried because of lactose intolerance that I didn’t have the mental clarity to identify. Looking back, I don’t know how I couldn’t see that something was truly bothering her; in my mind, I figured it was just my inability to comfort her. I was blowing it — and my daughter deserved better.

For a new mom, 3 a.m. isn’t just a time of day. It becomes a state of mind.

Photo: Courtesy of Leslie Bruce; Design: Allison Gore/Romper.

It’s where weeks blur together, and minutes seem to last for hours. It’s where you doubt every decision you’ve ever made, and wonder why it is that you’re struggling so much in this new role, in this new identity. It’s where you wonder why other women seem to have an easier time — and begin to believe there’s something wrong with you. It’s a place where you discover an unfathomable love for this little human who is sobbing in your arms, out of hunger, or gas, or yet another dirty diaper. It’s where you fumble around in the dark to undress, to change, to swaddle and re-swaddle, because turning on a light would only make them cry harder. It’s a place where you begin, if ever so briefly, to fantasize about the life you had before the baby arrived, only to be followed immediately by immense guilt for allowing that thought to even cross your mind. It’s where you cry. It’s where you sacrifice your own sanity in order to be the mama your baby deserves.

The darkness of 3 a.m. threatened to consume me, and it was in that hour that I, like so many moms before, found myself with a decision to make. I could either continue to doubt, berate, and punish myself for buckling under this incredible responsibility… or I could choose love.

Being a good mom meant being good to myself. It meant giving myself the credit for showing up, for trying my hardest and for sacrificing so much for this small person. I needed to remember that she was more a part of me than anything else in this world, and that in order to best love her, I needed to love myself.

Allison Gore/Romper

As moms, it’s so easy to question every decision, but finding confidence where I could was essential. For our family, we recognized the importance of having products we could rely on, and deciding to use Pampers saved us from a lot of unnecessary stress during an already stressful time. I knew when my baby had a dirty diaper because the yellow line would turn blue. I knew a wet diaper wouldn’t wake her up because Pampers has an absorb-away liner. There’s a lot to question at 3 a.m., but my decision to put my child in Pampers wasn't something that I thought twice about.

So, while the world slept, I fought and battled and earned the most incredible title I’d ever be given: mom. Motherhood is an amazing blessing; it is a gift that is complex, messy, and hard-fought. It was in those lonely hours that I learned what it meant to truly be a mother. What my baby needed most at 3 a.m. was me… no matter how imperfect, how un-showered, or how overtired. None of that mattered to her, because what she needed most was my love, my touch, and my presence. And I’d give it to her, at 3 a.m. and every hour, every day for the rest of my life.

This post is sponsored by Pampers.