Having a new baby is incredibly hard. And beautiful and fulfilling and rewarding, of course—but definitely, definitely hard.
Especially the nights.
Watching the last rays of sunlight disappear would make my heart race. My 3-week-old baby didn’t sleep for more than an hour and a half at a time and had zero regard for what time it was.
She was so tiny and helpless—and it was my responsibility to keep her safe and fed and healthy. For me, that was easier during the day. Because at night, it felt unfair knowing my husband and toddler were fast asleep a few rooms over.
The minute our newborn would wake, I would spring to action. Bottle, breast, pacing the floor, bouncing on an exercise ball, loud shushing into her tiny ear—I would do whatever it would take to get her to quiet down so she wouldn’t wake the rest of the house.
The evenings also started to feel very isolating. It’s hardly appropriate to call your mom or friend or sister at 1 a.m. when your baby starts spitting up a curdled milk mixture so hard it comes out of her nose. And even if I did call anyway, it wouldn’t matter because they wouldn’t answer because they’d be sleeping.
I was used to anticipating a lack of sleep each night, which was terrifying. I felt such dread knowing I would only get a collective two and a half hours of sleep before my toddler would wake up at 5:30 a.m, ready for his morning dance party.
Fear would strike me at night, too. An incapacitating, all-consuming fear that something might happen to my sweet baby girl while she was lying peacefully in her safe crib, in her baby-proofed nursery. I often wondered how I was even supposed to sleep with such intense worry on my mind.
I would stare for hours into the pitch black night, half of me thankful my baby was healthy, the other half of me terrified something would happen to her.
I’d feel irrational in the late hours of the night (or more likely, the wee, wee hours of the early morning) often reacting with full-on annoyance because as soon as she’d started to fall asleep I’d think, this is it—I can finally get some rest, only for her to wake up a few minutes later. I’d snap, “Seriously? All you do is eat!” at my tiny baby, which would automatically trigger intense guilt over what felt like such an uncontrolled emotional response.
“It gets better” and “sleep when the baby sleeps” are two sentiments I hope never to hear again in my life because—does it get better? Well, yes it does. Children don’t usually turn into adults who only sleep for 90 minutes at a time. And sleeping when the baby sleeps sounds good in theory but it’s impractical. Plus, neither statement helps at 3 a.m., TBH.
I went to extreme measures to quell my anxiety. I sent my husband to Walmart in the middle of a tropical depression to buy a rock ‘n play. Then I sent him back when he returned with the version that didn’t vibrate. I put a $300 Owlet monitor on a credit card. I used Amazon one-day shipping to obtain a copy of Dr. Harvey Karp’s The Happiest Baby on the Block.
I eventually found there’s no magic solution to aid in this season of parenting. It helps to find a community of women going through the same struggles. Prioritizing self-care and spending time connecting with your significant other are also healthy ways of dealing.
But I’m going to level with you—for the first three months of my baby’s life, I didn’t have time to seek out a support group, wash my hair or converse about one meaningful thing with my spouse.
I was in survival mode and the only thing that helped me was time passing and binge watching Downton Abbey.
And walks around the block. And coffee.
If you loved the newborn stage and came through it with fond memories—I applaud you.
If you gave it all you had and emerged on the other side with a baby who (mainly) sleeps through the night and is somewhat happy, most of the time—you deserve a standing ovation.
You managed to prevail in a time that required intense mental and physical stamina, and you nailed it. Great job, mama.