Now that my daughter is almost a year old, I’ve been reflecting back a lot. I’m thankful to have a super content, happy baby these days, but the beginning months were really difficult for me. I knew that being a mom would be hard. Rewarding, but exhausting. We were the last of most of our friends to have a kid and our friends are pretty open & honest, so I thought my expectations were well-set. But, there were a few things I did not anticipate about those first few months having a newborn…
- My baby’s birth day was not the best day of my life. I knew childbirth would be really hard, especially because my plan was to do it without medication. It is called labor after all. But, I thought millions of women have done this throughout history, I can do it too. I did it, but the pain of back labor left me kind of traumatized. (Read my birth story here.) I’ve had hundreds of better days than being in excruciating pain trying to push a baby out. It was absolutely incredible (and a relief) to finally meet my daughter, so that moment was the best. But, the day itself was terrible.
- Breastfeeding may be natural, but it can feel impossible. Breastfeeding is another thing that I had heard plenty of stories about. I knew it could be painful and take lots of practice through the pain. But, I thought that getting help from a lactation consultant could fix all those things. Or that maybe people just gave up too quickly. I am so glad it is an easy, beautiful thing for some people, but, for some of us, there can be so many obstacles to overcome. I’ve made it almost 11 months and it still isn’t easy. I’m shocked and so grateful we haven’t had to supplement with formula, but I will never think less of anyone who has to for their sanity or to ensure baby is fed. Read our breastfeeding journey here.
- You may dread car rides. I thought that putting baby in a car seat and driving around was supposed to be this magical, instantly calming thing to make them stop crying and fall asleep. Or your baby is like mine and instantly loses it as soon as you put them in the car seat and proceeds to scream the entire drive where ever you are going. Maybe they will quiet down a bit once you get going on the highway, but the second you hit traffic or a red light, the screaming resumes. I’ve never hated yellow lights so much.
- Pacifiers will ruin nothing. Nor will they solve everything. I heard & read that you should never give a baby a pacifier before 2 weeks old or you could ruin breastfeeding, so I was going to try my best to follow that. Maybe it’s just my baby, but she wasn’t dumb- she knew the difference between something milk is coming out of and something it’s not. We made it a few days before getting desperate enough to try it; of course, she wouldn’t even take it, so it wasn’t very helpful.
- How it was possible to get so little sleep and still function. Maybe your baby slept through the night at 4 weeks old. Awesome. Mine didn’t until 9 months and I know some would even be thankful for that. To nap those first three months, she had to be held. Thank the Lord for my mom who would come over to hold her while I napped and for the solly wrap that allowed me to wear her and be hands-free to get things done. I still can’t even fathom how I worked full time and took care of a 3-month old fussy baby getting only a couple hours of sleep each night, but I did it. Somehow, you survive. P.S. If you aren’t a parent yet or pregnant, I recommend not saying you’re “exhausted” to anyone with a baby.
- Some babies are hot-natured. I’ve always seen newborns bundled in so many clothes and blankets babies sleeping in footed fleece onesies and thought that’s what you were supposed to do. My daughter has only worn socks like 4 times in her life. I’ve gotten plenty of judgmental looks from strangers, but I realized very early on that she was getting extremely hot in “typical” newborn attire, so I stopped. She wears long sleeve onesies and a muslin sleep sack to sleep every night and she’s just fine. And it’s got to be cooler than 70 degrees out to even consider pants. Every baby is different.
- Bottles can take practice. Babies love milk. But, even when a bottle is filled with that magical goodness, they still may reject it as if it is poison. We tried 5 types of bottles with the milk at different temperatures and several individuals trying in various positions over the course of two weeks. Nothing was working. Then, finally, the week before I went back to work, my friend (thanks, Emily!) held her while standing, bouncing and facing the tv and she finally drank it. From then on, she took it no problem. Why did that have to be so hard!?
- Schedule? What is a schedule? If parenthood has taught me anything, it is to be flexible. If I followed the eat every 3-4 hours advice, my daughter, who struggled to get enough milk or gain weight, would have been a failure to thrive. I nursed on demand and I’m thankful I did. But, it kept us home most of the time in those early months. I am still amazed when I see people out and about with their newborns because our fussy baby who needed to eat constantly wouldn’t really allow that. Eat, Play, Sleep? No way. Not for us. She nursed to sleep for months because it was the only way she would sleep. She’s always napped when she’s tired and I watch for cues instead of watching the clock. It’s what is best for her.
- The diaper part isn’t so bad, except for the blowouts. I thought I would find it far more annoying to change diapers all day than I did. Exclusively breastfed newborn baby diapers are not bad… Even my husband was surprised at how not terrible it was pre-solids. But, there is just something about that poo that no matter the brand/size/fit of a diaper, you are bound to have a blowout every once in awhile. And it will always happen when you’ve just put them in a cute outfit or are about to walk out the door.
- It can strengthen your marriage. I heard so many warnings about how having a kid is really hard on your marriage… yes, there is certainly less downtime and date nights are fewer and far between, but you still end up with many quiet evenings at home together. Of course, it takes work, but I’ve found that us both being in the “we have absolutely no idea what we are doing” stage together, especially when we were both beyond exhausted, bonded us immensely. I’ve realized more than ever how well we complement each other and what a great team we can be. I’m also thankful for the 5 years pre-kid we had to travel and learn how to communicate.
We could have never gotten through this trying time without our friends bringing us meals, supportive texts and prayers, and help from my parents, especially my mama who would come over to pray over me, hold the baby while I slept, encourage me through nursing struggles, bring me lunch, make me tea and even clean my house. If you’re in the thick of it, I pray you have a community to support you too.
Parents- is there anything missing from this list you would add? Were those first few months rough for anyone else?