I’m writing this mostly to document and remember the crazy, amazing, exhilarating, exhausting, beautiful thing that is becoming a mother and having a newborn. I’ve been a mom all of five seconds here, so don’t expect any earth-shaking advice…but maybe there’s someone out there who can identify with my experience.
I always thought motherhood would come naturally to me. I’ve absolutely adored children from a very young age. I begged my parents to give me a younger sibling, and was truly mad at them and God when it didn’t happen. My first jobs consisted of babysitting and working in kids church, and at gatherings of family friends, I instantly became the fill-in caretaker and entertainer for any children present. I was a natural, or so I thought. None of that prepared me for motherhood…not even close.
Post traumatic panic from labor disorder… self diagnosed…For a long time after V was born, I would close my eyes and relive the scary moment where the nurses couldn’t find his heart rate and instantly start crying. James would reassure me our baby was here and healthy and perfect, and he’d pray for me to have peace, but it was days before I was able to sleep at all. Between the sleep deprivation and hormones, there were a lot of tears. More than once I gave my husband the baby for a few minutes and went outside legit wondering if I was cut out for this. When sleep came, it was interrupted by my sweet, hungry baby, who cried…a LOT. Am I the only one who didn’t know newborns only sleep for like two hours at a time tops? Yes? Okay cool.
On top of that…breastfeeding…holy cow, I wrote a whole separate post on that, because it is a doozy all on its own.
I remember thinking, “I need a village.” I fantasized about living in some non-western culture and soliciting assistance from every woman nearby. I felt I needed 20 more hands on deck, because it was so so hard. But those first few weeks were like a purification by fire, with each day I was losing the layers of my “perfect” little self-gratifying life and learning what it really meant to be selfless. I never knew how selfish I was, before I became a mother.
Motherhood is active humbling around the clock, learning to deny creature comforts at the call of something greater, and this requires strength from someone greater.
My biggest revelation as a mother was how inadequate my own strength was. I had to draw strength from somewhere outside myself, because my capabilities were frail. My capacity to sacrifice was unpracticed and weak. My potential to give love unconditionally was lacking. I think the hardest part was/is that I am hardwired to problem solve and correct things. I like to see immediate results. Newborns don’t have rule books, solutions, or even consistent evidence that what you’re doing is working. I have learned and am learning daily how little I am in control, and how much I need wisdom and strength beyond what I can produce on my own. Letting go and letting God.
There was a very real feeling that this baby was a complete stranger, and I had no idea who he was or if he even liked me. I know that’s a shallow and absurd statement, but it was so true for me. Those first three months of motherhood were the hardest of my life, but there’s this insane part of me looking back that yearns for them and adores them. It was the collision of my old ego with a new purpose, and it broke me in all the right ways.
My best friends during the first three months:
People: Having a friend come bring you a meal, or someone come help you clean or do your dishes or just hold your baby while you go pee is a dream come true for a new mama. So ladies and gents out there, if you know a new mama… bring them a hot meal for goodness sake. Do their laundry, clean their kitchen, walk their dog. Be their village.
Netflix: Moms…you will need a good series to watch during those late night feeding or nursing sessions. I watched ALL of The Office and Parks and Rec…So sorry V, Michael Scott’s colloquialisms will forever be your introduction to planet earth.
Podcasts: It was helpful to just play something that stimulated me and passed the time while walking the hall with the baby during those “witching hours,” where nothing would soothe him except for walking around. My favorites were: Precious Little Sleep, Serial, Radiolab, More Perfect, Revisionist History, The Liturgist Podcast, LifeChurch, and Ted Talks
V’s best friends during the first three months:
The Swing: This thing is a LIFE SAVER. Many times V would fall asleep within a couple minutes of swinging, and those hands free moments are so valuable. Front ways, side ways, get you a swing that can do both, because babies are picky.
Velcro Swaddles: Most babies love being swaddled, but mine could wriggle out of the regular swaddles very easily. I used these Halo velcro swaddles, but there are tons of options. They are safe, secure, and super easy to put on.
Baby Wearing: V is ALWAYS content being worn. I don’t know that it matters so much which wrap or baby carrier, babies just love being close to you at all times. So find a wrap you like and try it out with a doll or something before you purchase it.
One funny thing I remember is when other people would be holding V and he would start crying, people would instantly hand him back to me, and I would just think to myself, “Well I don’t know what to do either.”
The best advice I received was to “Be a good animal.” It’s easy to get caught up in wanting life to get back to normal or wanting to be productive, get your body back, accomplish tasks you did before. But this stage is really just the time to get in touch with your inner mammal and react to your instincts. Feed your baby, rest, cuddle, heal… repeat.
For all of you in the newborn stage, I promise you will make it, and those creatures transform from little strangers in your house to your biggest contribution to the world. This work is the.most.important.work. you will ever do, so do it with all that you have.