Now that my daughter is six weeks old, I’m feeling worlds more comfortable and secure in my role as a new parent. I’m certainly not out of the woods yet, but I look back at the past month and a half and am amazed at how difficult the transition was for my husband and me. Sure, we knew our lives would change. But there are five secrets no one shared with us that, thankfully, we learned on the job:
1. So! Many! Tears!
I’m chalking this one up to the fact that I’ve had very little newborn experience, but the crying!? Wow, the crying. For some reason, I assumed babies cried when they wanted something specific. And when you gave them that specific thing? They stopped. I mean, isn’t that how it works in the movies?
Lies. All lies. Our little one is what I like to call an escalator. If she needs something, she cries. And then she cries because she’s crying. And then she cries more because she’s still crying and it escalates until she (a) exhausts herself, or (b) forgets she’s been crying. And then everything’s fine. It’s maddening, but it’s the reality. Sometimes, babies cry for no reason at all and you can do nothing but swaddle them and walk them up and down your hallway at 3am until they decide to be finished. Also? Ear plugs.
2. Nursing is a Full-Time Job
Again, I don’t know if this is my naivete speaking, but I honestly thought breastfeeding would happen naturally. And for me, it didn’t. Between the nursing, pumping, burping, cleaning up spit-up and nursing some more, breastfeeding was an around-the-clock job. And God forbid you have a cluster feeder (I do!).
We’re now keeping to somewhat of a regular schedule where I can soak up some boob-free time, but my gracious am I tired of walking around shirtless. (Speaking of shirtless, another secret no one shares? Breasts that leak like a faucet and painful milk letdowns!)
3. You Become a Billboard
This one threw us for a loop. My husband and I have had many conversations about how we want to raise our daughter with other parents in similar stages of their lives. And rather than having an open, honest conversation, we found that it was really difficult to voice our opinion without sounding judgmental of other parenting decisions.
Suddenly, we’ve become a billboard for our views and perspectives, because the choices we’re making with our children are obvious. Vaccinations, circumcision, birth plans… it’s all pretty clear where we stand because our children are living proof of the choices we’ve made. And while we try to verbalize that these are choices we’re making for our own lives (and there’s no blanket decision that’s better across the board), it’s hard not to feel defensive when you come across parents that choose a different, “better” path for themselves and their families.
The good news? Relationships will shift, but the great ones will hang around regardless of whether or not you choose to vaccinate for the chicken pox.
4. You Might Hate It At First…
During pregnancy, everyone shares positive moments and stories of their little ones. (Well, almost everyone!) Yet when your baby arrives and you find yourself resenting them because you can’t keep your eyes open and they’re screaming at you? No one really shares those stories. And they exist. I’m fully convinced they exist with every mother that has endured three all-nighters and her 12th diaper change in two hours.
It doesn’t mean you’re depressed, and it doesn’t mean you aren’t a fantastic mother. It simply means you’re exhausted and your hormones are still settling in for the ride. Hold on, take deep breaths and call a friend to take care of the 13th diaper change. You need a shower and a nap, after all. And the next day will be worlds better. You’ll see.
5. And Then One Day You Won’t
Seemingly overnight, if you’re like me, you won’t hate this new gig anymore. For me, it was when my daughter smiled at me for the first time. Until that first smile, it seemed my husband and I were taking care of a very, very needy plant. Lots of work, but very little reward. And then she smiled. And we realized that yes, this is an investment of time and energy, but the return? Whoa. We’re in for a treat.
We’ve had bad days since then. And good ones. And although there’s still no routine, schedule or relief from the sleepless nights, we do have a smile. And that’s enough to get us through the day.
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