No matter what your circumstances, there is no way to be completely prepared for how a new baby will change your life & lifestyle if you are a first time parent. I remember as John & I were anticipating the birth of Olivia, we would often talk about the things that we didn’t want to change about our lives… we still wanted to see our friends, go out on the weekends sometimes… I mean, how hard could it be? It was just one little baby.
Boy were we wrong.
I read the books, bought the stuff, set up the nursery… but the moment where you and your baby daddy go from a couple to a family of 3 is easily one of the most life altering. All of a sudden you are responsible for a whole little person… one second she is in your tummy, safe and warm… the next, she’s out in the cruel world with you as her strongest advocate. The first few days in the hospital are “easy” as you can trust the nurses to help you do your job. Then, you bring the little one home and it hits you: panic, anxiety, excitement, fear… however, your feelings at that moment are about to be overtaken by exhaustion for the next six months. What I realized was that no one had warned me about all of this. People have babies every day, yet not one person accurately depicted what my life would to turn into for the first months of parenthood. Maybe I am naïve and all of this was supposed to be common knowledge. I didn’t have many friends with kids and the people that did have children, probably didn’t want to revive those memories as they were just too painful. My theory anyway, Ha. Here is the truth from my lips: IT IS HARD. REALLY HARD. With my hormones all over the place, I just focused on getting to the end of the day. I could easily see how many Moms slip into postpartum depression, feeling too guilty to speak up. Don’t get me wrong, becoming a Mommy is a miracle and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. However, the reality of the first few months is this: a marathon of diaper changing, feeding, and rocking to sleep. Add onto that, if you are lucky like me, a whole lot of crying. It’s mind numbingly draining.
Olivia came out screaming and didn’t stop for the first 9 months. She had reflux and a temperament that could awake the dead. For those of you with angel babies who slept 12 hours a night after the first week, I hate you. (I don’t really now, but back then in the midst of my transition to Olivia’s Mommy, I definitely would have hated you. LOL.) I breastfed Olivia for the first 10 months. With her reflux, her schedule was all over the place and I could never tell if she was screaming because she was hungry or because she wanted to drink something to lull the burning in her throat. I was afraid to go anywhere public because she would lash out at the drop of a hat. I remember meeting my Mom for lunch once and booking it out of there the minute she opened her eyes. No way was I risking a public meltdown. She was LOUD (still is, but now she sings Disney Princess Songs which are much more pleasant) and once she started crying it took at least a half hour to calm her down. She slept on my chest most of the time. I gave up on housework, on cooking and just focused on getting through the day, hour by hour. I watched a lot of movies… let her fall asleep wherever and whenever. I was at her mercy. We had a ton of family to help, but I was the only one with the boobs and I remember being very protective of her. I call it the Momma Lion syndrome. MINE. (With the twins, by the time I had them home, it was much different. I sent out a plea… ANYONE with two arms and a heart, please come rock and love my children. Help!!) Anyway, it was very overwhelming.
Besides attempting to keep my sanity as a sleep deprived new Mom, the most testing part of all of it was resolving who I was, with who I was becoming. Olivia was born in December. I remember vividly, John & myself going out on a date night for Valentine’s Day at a trendy restaurant that we had previously frequented as partygoers. We were both in shock. We could only eat, stare around at a crowd where we used to fit in and return home to our little bundle of … JOY. (I’ll keep it at that just in case she reads this later in life.) Maybe it was because of her reflux, or the fact that I was tied down breastfeeding, or maybe that I had such a dramatic change in lifestyle. But, for some reason it was very tough for me to try to find my place in the world that was still moving forward without me. People’s lives went on while I was stuck at home most of the time. I watched as old friends went places we used to go and stopped including us in invites after a while. When I did join, it was like I was from another planet with little to contribute to the conversation. “Oh well, yesterday I pumped 6 ounces from one boob!!! It was a record!!” Yea… no one wants to hear about that. I’m pretty sure I made an awkward comment just like that here and there and scared some people.
The good news is, it’s over quickly. I think once you see the first real smile that you know isn’t gas and hear that first infectious baby giggle, then you know you are starting to see the light. For all you first time parents out there, the first months are just a speck in the timeline of parenthood. When you are in the middle of it, it’s difficult to see a way out. It gets easier in most ways, and harder in many others. I promise, you will get to a point where you remember who you are and have reconciled yourself with your Mommy identity. You will reconnect with friends and find new ones. Sleep deprivation will never fully cease, but definitely will improve. The second time around (even with twins!) was significantly easier in the sense that my mindset was in the right place for the challenge. Recently, John & I went back to that same restaurant where we went that first Valentine’s Day after Olivia was born… we drank sangria, ate too much and headed home eagerly to see the kiddos who greeted us with huge smiles on their faces. Thank God.