Life Lessons: Having a Newborn is Startlingly Horrible
Now let me preface this all by saying, I love having kids. I truly believe they are a gift from God. And kids have made my life infinitely better in so many regards. I often tell parents when they first find out they are pregnant that they will experience so much happiness and will laugh more than they ever thought possible. And I totally agree with this. But nothing prepared me for having a baby. Nothing. And I work with babies. I babysat a lot, including overnight. I read a ton of books about babies and parenting. I mean how hard could it be?
Let’s talk for a moment about a conversation I had with my dad right before I was due with my first.
“Are you ready to have a baby?”
“Yup, I mean, they sleep 23 hours a day or something like that. So just feed him, burp him, and change him when he is up.”
“Ya, it won’t be too hard.”
LIES… how could my father lie to me? I guess he was just being nice, and I get it. I try not to scare new parents, even though I am pretty sure I am not always successful. But could you believe he lied to me?!
Let’s talk about right after my son was born, and we were still in the hospital. Things had gone pretty well. Nothing crazy. My nurse after was a woman I kinda knew. She was so sweet, but she told me that since me and my husband were both pretty calm people, that our baby would be pretty calm as well.
Hahahaha! Nope. Another lie.
I brought home our first little bundle of joy with so many expectations, but was shocked when things didn’t go as planned. He wouldn’t eat like he should. He cried all the time. There was totally no sleeping 23 hours a day. All I remember was the crying and spit up. Oh, so much spit up. I didn’t sleep, he didn’t eat. Life as I knew it was falling apart.
So what exactly is so horrible about bringing home a newborn?
1. Feeding a newborn is hard
I nursed all my babies so I am not an expert on bottle feeding, but I believe a lot of the struggles are still the same. For some reason, newborns consistently fall asleep while eating, and are near impossible to arouse. There are a plethora of tricks out there that are supposed to help, and I think every new mom at one time or another has tried them all. Undress them. Change their diaper when they fall asleep. Wipe them down with a wet washcloth. Change positions. Crazy stuff like that. Because you can’t just skip it. They need to eat at least every 3 hours. So this dance never ends.
Oh, and I forgot to tell you that the 3 hours between feedings is from the start of one to the start of the next. So the baby starts feeding at 7. It takes an hour to get the baby to eat something. Then you rock the baby to sleep and make sure they are really out. You lay them down somewhere and try to walk away. If you are lucky, you get away without waking the baby. Now it is 8:45. You take a shower or nap or just stare into the great beyond and think “what has happened to my life” for maybe an hour. Then the baby is up, and it’s time to start again. Forget about going out. Forget about reading. Forget about having any control over your life. And this cycle continues day and night. Feeding is tough, and I didn’t even touch on the difficulties with nursing- the latch, how much are they eating, why does it hurt.
2. Sleeping will never be the same
Remember when you used to sleep in? Remember getting 8 hours of sleep at a time? Remember refreshing naps when you could just wake up without an alarm? Remember feeling refreshed? That is all gone now, and isn’t coming back any time soon. I remember before my first nephew was born talking to Middle Sister. I already had 2 kids at this time. The conversation went like this.
“So what’s the worst part about having a baby? I know you never sleep, but what else?”
“That is the worst part. It is all encompassing. You will never feel that depth of tiredness again. It affects every aspect of your life.”
And it is so true. Having my first was the first time I have ever felt that tired. I was unprepared for it. It put a horrible spin on everything. My patience was gone. I resented my husband for sleeping as I fed the baby. I cried (which is abnormal for me). I got frustrated at the baby. I was frustrated with me. Nothing ever got done. Remember that whole feeding dance thing every 3 hours? Well it doesn’t end at night. And for the most part, newborns always are born with their days and nights mixed up. So they cry more at night, when I think I am dying. And the depth of tiredness really made me feel like I was dying. After I had my daughter and my son was 2, I remember staying up with her til around 12:30 when the witching hour would finally end. She would sleep til 2:30 normally. I would feed her and change her and rock her back to sleep praying she would just stay asleep so I could sleep for more than 2 hours. She was finally back to sleep around 4. And you remember hearing about how a baby affects everyone? Well it affected my 2 year old son. He started waking up at 4:30 as he was trying to transition to his new life. And that meant I barely fell back asleep when I would hear my son calling my name from his crib. Maybe 2.5 hours of sleep for me. My husband had to be at work early, so I would just turn the TV on for him and lay on the couch telling him “Mommy is sick.” Which I was, in one sense of the word.
The first time the baby sleeps 5-6 hours, you will feel like a new person. When that first happens, I always ask my husband that day “Did you miss me?” Because I feel like I have rejoined the human race, if just for a few hours.
3. There will be crying
Did you know babies cry? Of course you did, but when it lasts for hours or starts up every time you lay down, it is the worst. You try to feed your newborn, and he is crying. You change the newborn… crying. You are rocking the newborn to sleep… crying. And all the time in between, crying will break through the silence.
Here’s a little nugget of truth that you will hear over and over, but won’t make sense until you have experienced it (probably after a few children). Babies feed off of your emotions.
Let that sink in. So if you are flustered, frustrated, in a rush, your baby will cry. Even if you think you are pretty calm with the baby but are thinking about something, they will know and cry. If it is taking an hour for the baby to settle down and you wish it would just end, your baby will sense this and cry more. I am not kidding. And it is so hard with the first. You don’t know if this stage will ever end. You are sure you won’t come out alive. The endless crying will wake you as you finally slip into a deep sleep. You will think it is all just a conspiracy. This baby hates you. The newborn never smiles at you no matter how much you try. They never are happy to see you. All they do is cry. And when they aren’t crying, you will hear it in your sleep. I promise.
4. Spit up… everywhere
I know this isn’t true for every newborn, but it was my experience with my first. He had this gift of spitting up- literally projectile and at least an ounce, I promise. It was on my clothes, his clothes, our carpet, his crib, our bedding, my hair. Everywhere. I could not contain it with even the heaviest burp cloth. Friends and family were not immune. Middle Sister was going on a date with her now husband and came to hold my little man, and he spit up all over her outfit. It was out of control. I did laundry like a maniac. Bibs were part of his outfits from a very early age. When we put him in the car seat, we would place a burp cloth over him just to protect his outfit. It was horrible. I am pretty sure we all smelled like spoiled milk.
But life gets easier. You adjust. Your family adjusts. You couldn’t imagine life without this little monster. Smiles start to appear. You sleep for a few hours uninterrupted. You actually leave the house. And before you know it, that horrible little newborn is a walking, talking, running, laughing toddler. And now it is time to add another monster to the mix. But this time you know. You know it gets better. You realize you won’t die. You convince yourself that if you can make it 2 weeks, you will start to see the light. You don’t hate your husband any more because he is so helpful with the toddler (well you do sometimes, but not as much…).
So enjoy those newborn cuddles. It ends all too soon.
Until Next Time,