I’m sitting here at my computer working on my blog, and he’s sleeping. It’s mid-afternoon on a weekday, and it’s quiet. At the risk of sounding like an elementary school kid boasting about a job-well-done sticker, I did it. I accomplished the silence that is currently filling my home.
If you told me six weeks ago that I’d be here today working on my computer, in the silence of my home, without anyone else’s help, and happy I would have sobbed and slapped you, calling you a liar.
Six weeks ago, I came home from the hospital with a new baby, and my world got dark.
Not what you’d expect, right?
At least that’s not what I expected.
I have an amazing mother, the best friends, and the most supportive family. I was thrown showers, given adorable gifts, and received thoughtful cards and well-wishes. Yet when I found myself home from the hospital with a new baby, I wondered why no one had mentioned the darkness.
I think it’s the pure exhaustion that got the ball rolling. For the first few weeks, there is no resemblance of a sleep schedule. The nights were long and dark, and eventually I lost any bearings I thought I had. I came to understand first-hand how and why sleep deprivation is used as a torture tactic. The exhaustion wore me down to my inner crazy and all bets of preserving a facade of a fully functioning adult were off.
The worst part, for me, was that one moment when I felt like I had just fallen asleep, only to be jolted awake by a blood curdling scream. I would jump up, determined to figured out how to fix it. Sometimes the baby was hungry. Sometimes the baby needed to be changed. Sometimes I was unable to do a Goddamned thing, and with every scream I felt a chipping away at my very core, wondering what was so wrong with me because I couldn’t comfort my own child.
I began to question everything. The second guessing was relentless. Sometimes it was about important things, and other times I just wanted Cory to tell me what to have for breakfast so I wouldn’t have to make a decision.
In the first few weeks at home, I felt a deep, deep sense of despair. [And at the time, a “few weeks” felt like it had turned into “the rest of my life.” It was beyond difficult.]
For the first few weeks, I cried all the time and I felt so alone. Because no one talks about this dark hole, I assumed no one else experienced it. I figured I was a failure and that I wasn’t cut out for motherhood, because I thought it was too hard. I couldn’t help but think: what is wrong with me?
I cringed every time someone asked me how much I was loving it. Does ‘it’ mean my son, or being a mother of a newborn? Because those are two totally different things. When I was asked how I was doing, I was too ashamed to admit how I felt like I was drowning.
All I wanted was for someone to ask how many times I’d cried that day. I wanted someone to ask me how sad I was. I wanted someone to ask me how confused I was to simultaneously feel such an intense love and such deep despair. I wanted someone to ask how lonely I felt.
Because if someone asked me any of those things, I would have known it wasn’t just me.
One night in the middle of a 2am feeding when I was feeling particularly overwhelmed and exhausted, I remembered a random Facebook post that my friend Shannon posted about having a hard time after her son was born.
For the first time, I wanted to talk about it, this darkness, with someone other than Cory or my mom. So, I messaged Shannon, and to grossly understate it, she saved my sanity.
She told me “the first six weeks are bullshit, but I promise it gets easier.” I cried at the time because I didn’t believe it, but as someone who has made to the six-week check point, I can assure you, she was right.
From that first message, we started a refreshingly real conversation about how fucking difficult the first few weeks as new parent can be. She gave me the courage to slowly start talking to other people, to shed some light on the darkness.
I was shocked by how many of my friends knew exactly how I was feeling. They could all relate, and they assured me it was normal.
Then how come no one talks about it?!
I promised myself that once I started feeling better, that I’d start a conversation here on the blog, because it’s important.
Well, friends, I’m feeling better. So much better. The darkness (not to be confused with trying moments or bad days) has lifted, and I’m finally able to take on the difficulties and joys of motherhood with a clear head. Simply put, a shift occurred.
If you’re a brand new, first time parent like me, I want you to know that the nights won’t always be so long and dark, and that your baby will eventually sleep for more than an hour or two at a time. It took us five weeks, but we’re finally getting a solid five-hour stretch at night and it has restored my faith in God.
I want you to know that it’s normal to look down at your new born baby as you feed him or change him or try to soothe him for the umpteenth hour on end and wonder will you ever smile at me? will you love me? because in the beginning, there is zero positive reinforcement.
I want you to know that you won’t always fall asleep and wake up to screams that send your heart into a cold panic.
I want you to know that it’s okay to envy your husband who gets to leave for 10 hours every day and go to work, eat a warm lunch with both hands (at lunchtime!), interact with adults, and wear/fit into real clothes.
I want you to know it’s okay to feel a sense of rage when your baby, who has been crying for what feels like ALL DAY, finally falls asleep 20 minutes before your husband gets home from work. (Double the rage when he walks in, looks at the sleeping baby and says he’s just so peaceful.)
I want you to know that it’s okay to feel lonely and to crave social interaction, but also fear it at the same time. I wondered how I’d ever muster up the energy for small talk, smiles, and chatting about how the baby is sleeping without wanting to shake the woman in front of me and say TELL ME IT SUCKED FOR YOU, TOO.
I want you to know that the first time you do get out, it’s okay to feel guilty for leaving while also wondering if you’ll run away and never go back.
I want you to know you’re not alone. You’re the best mother for your child. You’re doing it right. You’re going to be okay.
It will get easier.
Note: I don’t ever ask you guys to share my posts, because I figure you’ll do it if you want to, but if you know a new mom, please consider sharing this with her. It’s a newfound passion of mine to start a conversation and to normalize the difficulty of bringing home a baby, so if this post helps just one woman, it’ll make my day. A new baby is not just tutus and rainbows and cuddles, and it’s OKAY to struggle. That doesn’t make you a bad mom, it makes you a real one.