I know there are some moms who really, really enjoy the newborn stage. In fact, the desire for more babies seems to be a primary reason why some people choose to have their second, third, or fifteenth child.
As for me, I found the newborn stage to be incredibly hard, and I wasn't even remotely looking forward to it with my second son. I mean, I was looking forward to meeting him, but truthfully if there would have been a way to gestate him until he was, say, 2 years old (because 1-year-olds are no picnic either), I might have done it.
The fact that I had such a hard time with my own young babies makes me wildly sympathetic to other new moms. I cannot think of a more difficult life stage than being postpartum and caring for a new baby. Yes, it's beautiful and miraculous and indescribably joyful—but it is also insanely challenging and sometimes just downright awful.
When my second son was a few weeks old, I had a terrible day that seemed to consist of endless feedings, crying, and the increasing sensation that I had become an animal trapped in a cage.
I remember that I went and took a bath that night and startled myself by sobbing sort of hysterically for a few minutes while thinking, I’m angry. I’m angry that there is so much drudgery to life right now, I’m angry that I can’t seem to consistently enjoy motherhood at the moment, I’m angry that my attention is constantly pulled away from my older son, I’m angry that my husband gets to escape to work every day and I don’t, I’m angry that I spend so much time cleaning and picking up and cooking only to have to do it all over again the next day, I’m angry that I have to get up two or three times a night and it feels like that’s never going to end even though I know for a fact that it will, I’m angry that I have these selfish moments of despondence over the things I don’t have time to do, I’m angry with my body for being such a mess, I’m angry that I sometimes feel like such a shitty mom and a complete and utter failure at this whole parenthood thing, and I’m angry for feeling sorry for myself when my kids are healthy and our life is so good.
Then I blew my nose and crawled into bed, and by the time morning came, I felt about a thousand times better. The next day while I was holding my baby, he smiled at me, big enough to pooch out his squirrel cheeks and show off his dimple, and even though he ripped a painful-sounding fart immediately afterward, which proved it was just gas, it made me feel sort of punch-drunk with love and filled—once again—with excitement and wistfulness for the months ahead.
Being postpartum is just a nightmare. Your hormones are a wreck, your life has been turned upside down, your body has transformed from "glowing vessel of life" to "partially deflated flesh-blimp," and you're sleep-deprived to boot. One minute everything seems absolutely perfect, the next you're more miserable than you've ever been before. And so it goes.
I can't count how many times I've told a desperate new mom that it gets better, and that yes, this part right now can really suck. I don't know if it helps, really, but I hope that it does at least a little, because it helped me. It helped me so, so much to know that other moms didn't enjoy every moment of their new baby-centric existence. It helped me to know that other people had the same shameful feelings of OH MY GOD WHAT HAVE I DONE.
I'm convinced that if you can get through the first few months of babyhood, you can survive anything. Parenthood is never really easy, but there's nothing quite like those early weeks with a newborn. A new baby is a wonderful blessing, no doubt about it—but oh, it gets better. I swear, it gets so, so much better.
What would you tell a struggling new mom to try and help her feel better?
Image via Linda Sharps