Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Highs and Lows of the Newborn Phase

I've done this whole newborn thing twice before, you know.  You would think I would be prepared - that I would know exactly what to expect, and exactly what I am doing.

Not so.

I had forgotten.  About the highs.  About the lows.  So here they are:

The Highs

The biggest high is that I am completely in love with this boy.

I could stare at him all day (and in fact, I do spend an inordinate amount of time staring at him).  I love his faces - his pooping face, his involuntary smiling face, his sleepy face, his stretching face, and any other type of face he happens to make.  I love watching him on the changing pad scrunching up his little body and looking at his little frog legs.  I love feeding him and all the funny sounds that he makes. I love having him fall asleep on my chest and feeling his breath against my body and just keeping him there for a while. I love his smell and his eyes and his cheeks and basically every single last thing about him.

I just love this little boy.

In other good news, I have lost 25 pounds.

The Lows

Okay, now that I have painted a pretty, romantic picture, let me be real about the lows: The newborn phase is its own unique form of hell.  For the following reasons:

1) The sleep deprivation.  
Having done this twice before, I knew that I wasn't going to be getting good sleep with a newborn. But with all things baby related (like labor and delivery), in one's memory it doesn't seem so bad. In preparation, you tell yourself: Oh, it's just a phase - we'll get through it!  It can't be that bad.  Au contraire.

I don't do well on little sleep.  It exacerbates my anxiety, and generally just makes me feel sick. And with a newborn, sleep is disturbed, to put it mildly.  Suddenly the idea of getting more than three consecutive hours of sleep feels like an absolute luxury.  It's awful, and it's relentless.  And there's really no end in sight.  It could be months before I sleep 8 straight hours.  Many, many months.

Newborns need to eat every 2-3 hours a day, and so far at night, that has continued to be the case with Colin (okay, sometimes we'll get a 3.5 hour stretch in there.  But it's a rarity).  That being said, it's not even the middle of the night feedings that are the worst of it - that I could deal with. It's a baby who doesn't want to go back to sleep after a feeding in the middle of the night.  It's the feeling of getting that baby to sleep in your arms, and placing him in the crib and praying to whatever God may be listening - Please don't let him wake up.  It's thinking he is finally asleep, and then getting back in bed, breathing a sigh of relief, and then hearing that cry.   It's the anxiety that results in never feeling safe in one's own bed - knowing that at any moment, slumber could be interrupted.  It's the counting of the staggered hours in the morning - adding up a half an hour here and there to see what the pathetic grand total for the night was.

All this being said, I have to give major props to my husband for sharing this burden with me. Every day I have been pumping a bottle, so my husband does one of the feedings (and stays up with the baby if necessary).  This has resulted in both of us getting a somewhat decent night's sleep, albeit an interrupted one.

2) The Complete Loss of Freedom
It's true that I had already given up a sense of freedom in having my first two kids.  Obviously I don't travel like I used to, and whenever I have evening plans I have childcare issues at the back of my mind. But I had gotten into a groove with my two kids.  In particular, my "freedom" came daily at 8pm, when my kids would go to sleep.  I would watch my shows, have a glass of wine, and fall into a nice, deep slumber for about eight hours.

Obviously, this nightly freedom is GONE (see #1 above).  But I also have lost any freedom or ability to go anywhere on my own for more than an hour at a time.  Why?  Because this newborn baby of mine is hungry ALL OF THE TIME and I am, currently, his only source of food.

I do love breastfeeding, which is why I do it.  And I know, from prior experience, that after a few months it gets much, much easier.  Eventually, feedings are scheduled, fewer, and shorter (and don't occur in the middle of the night). So, right now, my eye is on that prize.  In the meantime, however, it is overwhelming - I am basically tied to this newborn baby of mine, 24-7.

Women say it all the time, but it's true - as a mom to a newborn, I basically just feel like a big boob. It's really all I do.  I nurse for 45 minutes, take an hour or so breather, and then nurse again.  And when I'm not nursing, all Colin wants to do is suck on my boob.  Not even for food, I don't think.  I think he just thinks of my boob as a pacifier.  The result is that when he is upset, and doesn't need to eat, I cannot calm him down.  He gets one smell of me and immediately starts rooting frantically, and sucking on anything he can - my shirt, my arm, my hair.  Obviously I can't have him sucking on me all the time, so this poses a problem.  I haven't yet solved it, to be honest.  I have found that the only real way I can calm him down is to carry him and pace back and forth down my hallway chanting "A doopadeedoopdadoop.  Da doop.  Da doop" over and over again.  After about 20 minutes, he seems to fall asleep.

And while I'm on the topic, the fact that I am feeding him all of the time also means that I have lost my freedom to eat/drink whatever I want.  Okay, let me translate what I'm really saying - I can never have more than one glass of wine at a time.  Boo.

3) My Poor Body and Mind
Normally when one goes through a major medical trauma, one rests after the fact.  Not the case with a newborn - you push that baby out of your body (or have him cut out), and then it's go time. The night I went into labor I was up all night.  And I haven't had any solid rest since.

Physically, my recovery is going smoothly, but I still did push a large baby out of my body.  I am still bleeding, and need to be mindful of that.  I was reminded of this on Sunday, when I took a nice long walk outside.  I came home and found that I was bleeding heavily - enough so to call my OB, who told me in no uncertain language to "take it easy."  Take it easy with a newborn and two other kids? Ha!  I'll try. (But no more long walks for a couple of weeks.)

And then there's my mind.  A woman's hormone levels drop drastically on approximately the third day after delivery, and that's when my mind goes a little wacky.  Anxiety, insomnia, panic, etc.  In the midst of taking care of a newborn and nursing my body back to health, this is not something I really need.  Luckily I have medication for all of the above, and it's working, but I am still not 100% "me."  I will be "me" again - I know this - but probably not until I have exited this newborn phase.

Oh, and I said above that I had lost 25 pounds?  That's great and all, but I also have 15 MORE pounds to lose, and I am still sporting the maternity clothes, and a saggy stomach that will probably never repair itself.  Sigh.

I have much more that I could say, but I probably should just go ahead and post this, since I've been working on it for 5 days.  Unsurprisingly, I never seem able to sit down at the computer for more than 5 consecutive minutes.

Let me end on this note - I am fine, and I will be fine.  Really.  I'm not going through anything I haven't done before, or anything that all mothers haven't endured at some point.  It's just hard, plain and simple.  Really, really hard.

But it's worth it.  Every time.

Now lets just get this kid sleeping through the night....


  1. Remember, the first six weeks are like boot camp. Soon over!

  2. It will be over before you know it. Hang in there!

  3. It took 15 months for mine to sleep through the night. Oh and I was working full time as well. I am too scared to have another.

  4. He is adorable. You will make it through Momma...even if it's in a daze. Hang on!

  5. The sleep deprivation is what gets me every time. What I find works best though is no matter what I am doing, I make sure to nap when my child naps. Even a short nap, it is usually enough to get me through.
    By the way, your son in adorable.

  6. Thank you for your honesty about how rough it is! so many people stop with the "my baby is beautiful and I'm so in love!" and it makes those of us who are honest about it feel like crap. It's rough but it gets easier as you know. Hang in there!

  7. Thank you for writing this. I'm currently on day four with my second and this is spot on. I'm right there with you!

  8. Almost 3 years later & your article is still helping tired moms. Hope all is well!


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