It’s 2 a.m. and, for the last hour, I’ve been trying to settle a one-month-old who can’t seem to get comfortable. He’s scrunching and stretching, his face is turning a bright red, he’s crying and rooting and can’t stop fidgeting. He won’t take a bottle, he doesn’t need his diaper changed, he’s downright revolting. I haven’t slept — literally — in days. I haven’t left the house in a week. I can’t remember what the sun feels like.
Welcome to the rude awakening that’s called motherhood.
This is the part no one tells you about. How you’ll never have time for a shower. How you’ll walk around like a zombie for a month because you’re feeding a baby every two hours. How your refrigerator will only have condiments and beer — not the fresh veggies and pre-made meals you thought you’d be eating. How your body will hurt in places you never thought possible — like your nipples.
I knew that being a parent wasn’t going to be easy. And, despite the warnings from been-there-done-that friends, nothing could have prepared me for what I’m going through right now. My fantasies of peaceful, early-morning feedings where we’d listen to classical music — great for the baby’s brain! — and strengthen our bond while breastfeeding were quickly replaced by the reality of an inconsolable baby painfully clamping onto my raw boob while I struggle to comprehend whatever informercial is on TV. It’s not pretty.
Every day I feel like a total failure at this. Whenever the baby cries, whenever I open the fridge and see nothing to eat, whenever I look in the mirror and see a bleary-eyed, pasty-skinned, brain-dead version of myself. All that circulates in my head is, How do women do this? And more than once?
I’m no schlep. I can usually deal with high levels of stress, juggling multiple tasks while making sure the house is clean, there’s food on the table, the bills are paid and the dogs are walked. I do that and still manage to read books and get eight hours of sleep!
I figured adding a newborn to the mix would just be another thing to juggle.
That was my first mistake.
First of all, you can’t juggle a baby (figuratively or literally). The baby takes over everything. All those other things you juggled — work, laundry, Pilates, hanging out with friends — no longer exist. This newborn assumes every aspect of your life. You won’t leave your living room, dirty clothes will pile up, you may not shower for days. Your life will revolve around dirty diapers, sterilizing bottles and pumping breast milk. You’ll never be more interested in the color of poop and the conversion from milliliters to ounces in your life.
As much as I’ve been through — from working in stressful newsrooms to enduring a difficult pregnancy that had me sidelined for months — I never felt as defeated as I have in the past month. I can’t understand why it’s so hard for me, why other women seem to have no problem raising a newborn (so much so they have MORE), why I can’t seem to get a handle on this. What’s wrong with me? I’ve always been able to manage so much — multiple jobs, workouts, lunches with girlfriends, birthdays, family dinners, cooking, cleaning, blogging, volunteering — why was this so hard?
My body isn’t producing the amount of breast milk my friends did. (I have two girlfriends who had to buy refrigerators just to store their extra milk.) Because of my baby’s sensitivity to lactose, I’ve had to supplement with formula, a practice that has been wrongfully shamed in the past few decades, making me feel even more like a failure. I’m still recovering from a C-section and can’t hit the surf or gym like many moms can. And forget trying to scrapbook the experience; I’m lucky I brush my teeth!
I kept wondering if it’s just me. I desperately search online for confirmation of the opposite, hoping to commiserate with the frustration of other women who feel like they’re failing at this. I can’t be alone.
And — thankfully — I’m not.
While it seems like raising a newborn is some kind of ethereal, magical experience — especially on Instagram, which I had been trying to avoid — I’m here to say it’s not. It’s full of spit-up and poop-splosions. It’s the only thing in my life that has literally brought me to my knees in tears. It’s beyond humbling; it straight-up destroys you.
I feel so defeated, so hopeless, as I struggle to comfort this clearly uncomfortable baby. I can’t imagine ever getting through this stage, though I know — people keep telling me — that it gets better, it gets easier, I’ll actually sleep again. I just can’t fathom it.
But when he does finally fall asleep, cradled in my arms, and the house is quiet and the dogs are curled up on the couch with me, there is a kind of peace that washes over me, a feeling that it’s possible I’ll get through this.
But do this all over again with another baby? Ask me when I get four hours of sleep.
You’re doing great and should give yourself more credit. It’s incomprehensibly difficult (even the been-there-done-that friends had a different experience). You’re doing exactly what you need to (even though a shower sounds like an unreachable fantasy). 🙂 My husband claims he can’t remember anything from the first year of our son’s life because of sleep deprivation (and I beat myself up and brought in numerous lactation consultants and had to supplement with formula – my healthy, vibrant honors student is a sign that it’s OK). Keep it up, Cat, you’re a great mom.
Difficult is normal. And all the other situations you have described, you’ve been dealing with varieties of adults. This is a baby. I remember my shocker moment was when I realized that I couldn’t have equivalent of a 5 minute coffee break or even a three minute bathroom break when my newborn was crying or even just fussy , which in all of my adult situations would be considered normal, even in a hectic workday. I remember being so tired I would kind of pass out standing up in the shower, and then I would come to and not remember whether I washed my hair or not. I would have to reach over and Pat the shampoo bottle, and if it was wet, I assumed that I had used it, and if it wasn’t, I would shampoo my hair. I’m sure there’s some days that I shampooed my hair twice and somewhere I didn’t at all. I was so sleep deprived I just couldn’t remember. The superwoman model is a myth. Just as you would be kind to a friend who is being overwhelmed demands of the new baby, you must be kind to yourself. Small steps. Small goals. Some days no steps or goals at all. Sleep as much as you can.
Hang in there, Catherine. This part doesn’t last forever.
How did you manage to find the time to write such a wonderful, honest and funny piece on motherhood? What you are going through is all natural and real and don’t believe anyone who says otherwise. You have the family you’ve always dreamed of with baby and Kai and your precious dogs. You will see the surf and shower dally again!
You don’t believe it now, but one day, sooner than you think, you will wake up and realize you actually got to sleep a little! You will realize it is a little better. The worst thing about newborns is how much we doubt ourselves about our ability to do this new job! And it is new, everytime, because everyone is different! You are doing great, you just have to learn to cut yourself a little slack! Sometimes showers are overrated! Baby cuddles are wonderful!
Reading this brought back memories of when I did the same 6 years ago, at 25 years old. A young, single mom with no real support and no job, I would stay up nights with my kid just stressing about how I was going to afford her! There’s no shame in the formula game, I had to quit breastfeeding at 4 months due to actually being selected for jury duty and was stuck in court for three weeks, so to formula we went! It was cheapest at costco, and it made my life (and boobs) seem more calm. I was thankful that my daughter wasn’t a difficult baby, but your struggles, all of them, all of us first time mom’s have had. Just, nobody shares them like you. See? We aren’t as brave. Mostly, we just write some sort of zombie Facebook status once the dust has settled. You are doing great!! I didn’t shower for days at a time, and I don’t think I brushed my teeth often either (I’m amazed I don’t have more cavities). I wore the same nursing bra tank top and pajama shorts for the whole week, and really only did laundry when my daughter had a poop explosion or projectile vomited over all of our clothes (it happened one night after I had the most delicious Domino’s pizza and fed her… she didn’t like the garlic taste I was sure. Three in row 20 mins feed, then projectile vomit half digested breast milk all over herself and me juuuust when I thought she was sleeping. Cleaned us all up, and she’d be hungry again. Repeat twice and it’s morning!) Mama, the struggle IS very real. But luckily, you have dogs for company and a hubby who I’m sure is willing to assist where he can. It DOES end, eventually, and though there’s no guarantee you’ll want to hana hou the experience, you’ll be glad for this post, the memory, and the calm you feel when all is quiet will never go away. (I still have quiet moments of proud success, when she’s done her homework, I’ve cooked, fed everyone, cleaned everything up, showered both of us,got her off to bed at a decent hour, and had a beer. Trust me, you’ll feel like a supermom/badass.) Keep up the awesome mommying, and don’t forget to cherish the moments. Cheering you on in the new year!! Here’s to you, Mama Fox!!
Cat, it’s hard to see the big picture when your nose is buried in a poopy diaper, but “this too will pass.” In the meantime, stop being so self critical. Stop it. You are giving that sweet baby the most important thing he needs right now and that’s all your love. That being said, you need to ask for help. Actually, you probably don’t need to ask. I’m sure plenty of friends, aunties, and uncles have offered to give you a break for an hour or two. Accept the offer. Get a massage. Have lunch with your husband. Or just sleep. You MUST take care of yourself so you can take care of baby. Sending you much love, Dan, Kehau, and Bodhi
Catherine, you are doing awesome. Let me tell you that the newborn stages of both my children were horrible, but especially my first. She was colicky and had gas issues. I didn’t sleep for a year. I almost did not have another one because of her. It was the hardest thing I endured. The only thing that “helped” was to let go of any expectation of how it was SUPPOSED to be. When I finally did that, mentally, it was so much easier to get through the days and nights. I kept comparing my baby to other babies who slept thru the night right away, who never cried, etc. That was making it more miserable. My daughter hated the car seat, too, so going anywhere over 10 minutes was a stressful ordeal and I hated it. My son was fussy as well, didn’t sleep, etc. but it was a bit easier to deal with the 2nd time around. I guess I don’t produce calm, sleepy babies! Anyway, now they are 9 and 4 and still pains (ha!) but good pains. If I may suggest, use a yoga ball to sit on and bounce baby when he is fussy. It was a lifesaver for my son and for others when I suggested it. Put on some music and just sit on it and bounce with him in your arms. Anyway, after having tough newborns, I made it a point to help support other moms who were struggling. It’s not easy, but you will get through this. I will be the first to say that it’s all temporary…every single stage, even the easy stages…it’s all temporary. It will pass. “When you’re going through hell, keep on going.” Good luck, let people help you as much as you can, and hang in there!
P.s. you WILL get back to surfing. I promise. I am a surfer and had to take quite a long break when I had kids. But it’s all in the past now, I barely remember it. Just take everything day by day, moment by moment, accept the day and your baby for who he is and this too shall pass.
Not gonna lie. The first few months of motherhood is hard. You’re not alone. And you’re never prepared for any of it, no matter how much you’ve read about it or how many stories you’ve heard. But know that you’re not a bad mother. I’m not gonna repeat everything you wrote, but all of it is true. I cried a lot with my first child. Don’t give in to what society pressures you to do. You need to do what’s right for you and your family. It gets easier. It really does. And never be afraid to ask for help. It really does take a village to raise a child. But know too that you’ll always have challenges. Just different ones as Baby Fox grows up. But it’s all motherhood! You’ll be fine!
Hey Cat, this is Craig, my wife and I survived, and I mean survived 3 children. Staying up late, no sleep, and all that, but it truly does get easier and better. Sleep will come. We thought we were failing also but you have a great support system with your family. Keep it up Cat! Your doing awesome!
Hang in there CAT! You are doing awesome! It will get easier as the weeks go by. Your life as you know it is now change forever for the better. It will take time to adjust to motherhood. Sleep when every baby sleeps. Enjoy every moment with him they grow up so fast. I raised my 2 kids almost by myself so If I can do it so can you.
Congratulations! You’re normal and even better, brave enough to face it. It WILL get better. Don’t be afraid or ashamed to ask for some help. Just having someone come over and spell you while you get a shower and a nap Will be good for all involved.
Cat you have just described what it’s like to have a baby. You are not alone and what you described sounds so familiar. Sleep deprivation is a killer and the term ” I slept like a baby” to describe a good sleep makes me laugh. My babies never slept more than 60 minutes at a time ! It is exhausting, and gosh did my boobs hurt ! I used to fantasise about getting four hours sleep at a time ! I’m a professional like you and could manage everything and when that baby arrived everything changed. The reality is different t. The first six weeks are the hardest I believe . You are doing a great job. I have three sons and the first baby is such a shock . Thankfully mother love gets us through it. What you have written is how many of us feel. Hang in there and eventually Landon will sleep and you will get into a Ruth’s . Xxx
Wow. This describes my experience with my first…TO A TEE! You are by far not alone. Love your honesty and transparency. And bravery for sharing given all the parenting judgement out there. Not gonna sugarcoat and say it’ll get easier anytime soon. The first 3 months are the most exhausting – and when people say it gets better, I’m not sure if it’s because it actually does or if it’s because it’s you who gets stronger. Maybe a combo of both? Either way, hang in there! Around 8 months, their personalities REALLY start to come out. Mine had me cracking up every day! You may still be bone-tired exhausted but the mommy/baby laughter will serve as priceless medicine. We’re all rooting for you *big mama bear hug*
This resonated with me so perfectly! I was also a c section mama with little milk and the first month or two or three were tough. I wondered what the heck I did to myself! I listened to the song “You’re Gonna Miss This” on repeat because it was a reminder I needed and clung to the words from other mothers that “it will get better.” My baby is now 18 months old and I don’t miss a lot of the first few months but it’s true, I miss a lot of it. Hang in there, mama, but you’re def not alone in what you feel.
Order this IMMEDIATELY: https://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B00Y286NXY/ref=sxts1_a_it?ie=UTF8&qid=1483133250&sr=1
I tried to rock, walk, and bounce my first newborn by myself for HOURS (and hours!!) a day. Then my friends told me to get a swing that does it for you!!!
You will also feel so much better when you get 4 hours of sleep. Even if it’s 3 times a week, there is no “failure” in having someone come over and watch baby while you crash. 180 degree happiness difference after the continuous sleep – PROMISE!!
Early Motherhood is like a sledgehammer to the face. And I had a relatively easy newborn – she nursed well, slept ok the first month, my mother lived with us the first 4 months and I STILL cried so much those first 3 months from exhaustion, PPD, even regret at times. I thought I was failing too, esp those first 6 -8 weeks when your milk supply isn’t fully established. I supplemented
too – best thing I ever did bc it allowed me to nurse 14 months and counting. I’ve had many, many nights thinking she’s trying to kill me! But the storm passes, you adjust somehow to less sleep than you ever thought possible, and emerge a stronger, more resilient version of yourself that only motherhood can shape you into. You will look back on this time and wonder how you did it….and grateful that you did. Let go of expectations, you WILL survive and you WILL find yourself again.
Dan Cook beat me on this one. Take his advice and find a way to get a break. My wife had wonderful friends who stepped up just when she needed it. The hour before t to you can get to rest will make the difference. Onipa’a!!
Sorry about that last sentenced. Supposed to read: “Those hours you get to rest will make th difference.”
Long time follower Cat. I literally had the exact same New mom experience. First couple months I felt hopeless and trapped and terrible at mothering. Too 5 big things I learned – 1) post-partum depression is no joke. I have since told about 10 friends about my experience with PPD which is far more likely for mom’s like us who delivered via C-section. The rebalancing of your hormones does wacky things to your mental state all while you are thrown into survival mode to keep your baby healthy. Take care of yourself. Your own mind playing tricks on you makes it doubly hard. For me, medication was essential and safe even for breastfeeding. 2) coffee. I LOVE coffee and it was one of the only things I looked forward to each day during that time – even though I switched to decaf. Turns out my one precious cup a day was causing my baby to have acid reflux and he would curl up in a little ball and squirm around like I had poinsoned him. It took me months to figure this out and it did force us to introduce formula which I will never be sorry for. Formula took the life or death drama out of feeding and I needed that for my own sanity. I have two healthy boys 4 and 8 now and they both had combinations of breast milk and formula. 3) babies with sensitive tummies often sleep easier in an upright position. The Ergo baby carrier with the infant insert was a life saver for us. It also allowed me to get out and take a walk which significantly helped my mental state. 4) my husband and I often talk about what a disservice it is for the purist parenting groups to perpetuate a culture of shaming different parenting choices. F- that! Don’t let anybody shame you into feeling like a bad mom. Doing everything you can for child includes self preservation. 5) Best parenting advice I got was actually from a dad on my husband’s soccer team – he said to raise your kids like you have 10 kids. Enjoy special moments with them but don’t feel your whole world has to revolve around them. I continue to tell myself this when my kids bark out their breakfast requests or need help with their homework. At first it will seem like it’s more stressful than to be at the ready to just react to baby’s needs but as time goes by it conditions you both to have more patience. It also invites you to make plans for yourself – which may be no bigger than a 10 minute shower – but worth every second. I’m not sure I would say the parenting thing gets easier but it certainly gets less intense. I can say that before I had kids I think my own understanding of life was superficial and being a mom opened this whole other dimension of comprehension with a depth and breadth of love and pain and didn’t know was possible. It may not get easier but as you both learn to let go and settle in to a pattern, a new purpose and a confidence in your own approach it absolutely gets better and better. All the best to you and your family and Happy New Year!
CAT: While I can’t relate to everything you say, I did do the night shift for the 2 kids. It is tough to work during the day and wake up for late night and early morning feedings. Because of medical issues wife could not breast feed so there was a lot of formula. Heating up the formula and feeding at odd hours is hard. Good thing for a recliner and lots of pillows around it. I passed out so many times and the kids dropped from my arms onto the pillows…scary. Got to the point where I did not need the baby monitor…I woke up when they stirred.
Try swaddling the baby tight, but sometimes the baby is hot, try taking off the swaddle and clothing to see if he is hot. That gas medicine mylicon might work also. Taking the baby for a car ride works, I used to grab the baby and run around.
My Wife’s milk dried up after one month for our three sons so going to formula was a must. I guess that is just how it goes for some. We would buy the big cans at Walmart for like $25 I think that is the cheapest and they have a lot of variety, fussiness, soy based, all comparable to the name brands. Nothing wrong with formula as long as the baby got the colostrum already.
Oh yeah and we also had a swing and a bouncer. The automatic swing with the motor and sounds works, oh yeah you should try that cheap bouncer with the springy wires for newborns. Yeah that worked the best but you gotta bounce it yourself.
First, Congratulations; Second, We do a disservice to new mothers and fathers by not being brutally honest about the reality of parenting – because then people – especially new moms like yourself – end up feeling inadequate. Your new mantra should be, “This too shall pass” AND “I need help with …”
There’s nothing wrong with asking for help and most of us wished we had more help when going through this as it’s isolating and exhausting. You are at your most vulnerable because of hormones and being sleep deprived,
I’m sure you have friends who would relish coming over and carrying baby while you took a nap for a couple of hours or took the dogs for a walk by yourself. Consider hiring someone, if necessary, to give you a weekly couple-of-hours respite – cuz it’s true that you can’t care for another if you haven’t been cared for.
I SO remember these days with my children and more recently with caring for my grandchildren since birth (now 6 and 3). There were days when one of them was sick and ALL I did was carry them – until I passed off to Grampa to go to the bathroom or because my arms hurt! It DOES get easier – and I’m rooting for YOU, Cat!
Motherhood is brutal and i was literally hurt when no one told me how brutal it was. it sucks that some mothers, sometimes the ones who are the closest to you, will tell you how amazing motherhood is, and it is. but they don’t tell you you probably won’t sleep like you use to pre-baby, that four hours of sleep will become the norm, and that everything you use to be in control of will completely go out the window. you will literally have a little screaming meatloaf who is the most demanding person on the planet and you’re suppose to figure out what they need with little to no communication except crying. it’s hard, but i promise you will get use to it and it will get better.
for me it was the moment my baby first laughed. when they start to interact with you more everything changes. they’re not this unhappy, screaming, crying monster you thought they were but happy, innocent, and loving. i can’t tell you it’ll get better in three months, or six months, or even a year. things are constantly changing for them and they realize and learn so much in such a short amount of time. growth spurts and developmental milestones can also keep your baby up at night. so if your baby has just learned to babble you can expect they may wake up in the middle of the night and want to have a friendly chat. or when they learn to sit up on there own, you will find them sitting in the crib denying sleep because they learned something new.
you will always feel defeated, you will sometimes feel guilt, you will feel hopelessness, and you will cry in a dark corner somewhere in your home, but you should also try to enjoy it as best you can. even though they get the best of you they don’t mean to. they’re just trying to communicate the best they can and sometimes we forget that. but enjoy the little moments when you can and smother them with love every chance you get because they grow up so fast and you never get the moment back.
wishing you all the luck.