All the Joy and No Fun

When I meet brand new first time moms I adore their snugly babies. We talk about how cute their brand new little human is, and then I ask “How’s motherhood?” The answer is always “It’s fantastic.”

The mother is typically joyful and bright eyed, eager to show off her cuteness and rave about how handsome he is.

Then I ask “How’s he sleeping?” Suddenly the new mother’s perky happiness flashes away and she answers “I haven’t slept through the night since he came home. I’m so tired. I want to start to get my body back, but with nursing I’m SO hungry all the time.” The struggles pour out as soon as you open the door.

There was a study done where people were asked what parenting was like. Researchers were lead to the conclusion that parenting is the most joyful period of life, but no fun.

With science behind us, we don’t need to pretend being a mom is awesome all the time. Being a mother of a newborn is really really hard. Perhaps the hardest phase of life you’ll ever have.

When you have a newborn baby your body has just gone through 9+ months of physical and emotional changes.

Expecting to feel 100% back to normal in just a few weeks is absolutely absurd.

Even if you were sleeping through the night, eating a meal plan that was created by a dietitian, and working out with a personal trainer; you still wouldn’t be feeling back to your usual self very quickly. Now throw in the emotional stress of keeping your baby alive, life gets hard. All while we ignore the fact that you are a different person now. Your identity as a mother could likely change every aspect of your daily life. 

The new baby needs you all day long everyday. Even when you need to sleep, eat, and shower. The baby’s needs are louder than yours, so they seem to trump your needs.

We like to pretend postpartum is a magical romantic time of life.

You bring home a snugly cuddly baby, who loves you instantly. We see posters of families sitting on their freshly made bed, and everyone is looking at the camera smiling.

What’s more realistic is that your nipples are cracked, you still look 3 months pregnant, the bags under your eyes are turning into canyons from lack of sleep, your baby has no way to show them that they love you, and to top it all off you’re wearing an adult diaper.

It is without a doubt magical that you created life.

Your baby is something to be joyful about, but early motherhood is rarely much fun. When I ask you how it’s going, you can be honest with me. We can talk about all your feelings, and how real and okay they are. We can talk about solutions, or we can just talk about the challenges as they are. We can talk about the romantic side of postpartum, and the drippy, messy, emotional, ugly side of postpartum.

Because when I ask “How’s motherhood?” I mean the good and the bad.

From Only Child to Big Sibling

As your family grows you are, of course, filled with joy for the new life about to join your cozy family of three. When you brought your first baby home it was a major adjustment for you and your partner. Now bringing home a little sibling means an adjustment for all 3 of you. How do you get your first born ready to be a big sibling?

Involve Them in The Changes

Your child already feels a big shift before the baby even arrives. The addition of new furniture, toys, an entire room dedicated to a human who isn’t living there yet, and the emotion and physical changes their mother is going through.

Find time to make them feel special.

Involve them in the process. Let them pick out a very special new sibling toy, or the first outfit the baby might wear.

Attend a Big Sibling to-be Class

Find a class dedicated just towards helping young children prepare for a new baby.

These classes will often teach children how to hold their new sibling, change diapers, and other ways to be a big help to the new baby. The aim of the class is equally about learning how to care for a new baby, and getting excited about your growing family.

Find Time for Mommy Daddy Dates

It’s important to find special time to spend just the two of you. Come into work an hour late one morning and spend it at a breakfast date with your first born. Or take them to the park after work and have a picnic-style dinner outside. Do a special craft with them where your phone is away, and your focus is on spending time together. We know those cravings could be starting to hit hard- bake cupcakes together.

What you do doesn’t matter nearly as much as the fact that you do it together.

Don’t Change Their Routine

As mentioned above, so much of their life is changing.

Try to keep your rhythm and routine’s close to the same.

If they are in preschool, don’t pull them out. If they aren’t potty learning yet, wait to make that change. If they are still using a paci or other lovey, let them keep their lovey. Stability is important for young children, so keep the same routine.

Prepare for Regressions

Your child may not fully understand what bringing home a baby means. So be prepared to help them through the process.

Prepare ahead of time for your older child to need more of you.

Be prepared for them to have potty accidents, and possibly sleep less. This preparation can come in the form of a postpartum doula. She’ll come to your home and give you time set aside for you to enjoy your older child without caring for your infant. Or have your postpartum doula prepare a very special ‘big kid’ activity that she can do with your oldest.

We hope the transition from family of 3 to family of 4 is smooth sailing for your family. Preparing yourself and your child can make it an easier adjustment for everyone.  

When Your Husband Doesn’t Understand

So you have had your baby with you at home for a few weeks now. Your partner is back to work and you’re home with the baby. All day. Every day. When you tell him about your day he just doesn’t understand what was so hard. Because in his mind you only have one job- taking care of the baby.

 

Even with one responsibility of caring for this new little person, your day was hard. Because with that one responsibility comes so many other tasks. Keeping your tiny human alive means keeping your house semi-functional. Semi-functional is at least keeping up on laundry, dishes, making food, keeping the whole house sanitary enough for your baby, remembering to buy diapers, wipes, formula, bottles, and all the other things your baby and house need. That’s a full time job.

Let’s be real- pumping and nursing are both full time jobs. So if you are doing at least 2 of those things, you have 2 full time jobs. So even if the day goes exactly as planned, it’s already a hard day.

 

Then we remember that your baby has opinions and emotions. They have good days and not so good days. Maybe your baby wouldn’t latch today. And they cried at you. You’re offering them your breast because you know they are hungry. They. Wont. Latch. They just cry at you with your nipple in their mouth, refusing to latch. And they are hungry but they just will not not eat. And you cried with your baby.

 

Maybe they finally nursed, and you cried tears of joy because they finally stopped crying. Maybe you tried changing their diaper and when you zipped their cozy jammies back up you caught the tiniest bit of their baby skin in the zipper. And they cried, and you cried again.

 

Maybe you snuggled them and shushed and finally comforted them to sleep. You thought you’d jump into the shower and do a tiny bit of self care. Because at this point you’ve already cried at least 3 times, and your baby always sleeps 45 minutes. The warm water hits your back and you close your eyes. Envisioning the water as tension rolling down your skin and into the drain. You relax. Until you hear your baby cry. It’s only been 10 minutes.

 

You jump out of the shower. Wrap yourself in a towel. Bolt down the hall, water dripping behind you as you hurry to soothe your baby. You open the door to your baby’s room, and find them sound asleep. You cry again because phantom crying is both real and not real at the same time.

 

You repeat many of these steps all day long. All alone. Until your husband gets home. You want to tell him all about your day and how challenging it was. He replies with “I’d love to trade places. I’ll stay home all day and you can go to work.”

 

He loves you. He loves your baby. But he doesn’t understand. He doesn’t understand that you don’t have a sense of humor because you are too tired to laugh. He doesn’t understand that you don’t even understand your wave of emotions because you’re riding the hormone roller coaster. He doesn’t understand the struggles of nursing, even if he tries his hardest. He doesn’t understand the isolation because he goes to work. He doesn’t understand that it take 3 hours to execute dinner. Because planning, shopping, and cooking take at least 3 times as long with a newborn interrupting you. He loves you but he doesn’t understand because you’re too tired to explain it to him. He doesn’t understand because you’re a new person with a new identity.

 

What he does understand is that he loves you fiercely, and is trying to get to know the new you. He wants to grow with you, and become more than a couple. He wants to be a parent with you. He wants to be a family.

Involve him in your day where you can. There is no way that he could perfectly understand the changes and struggles you are experiencing. So when you can, be understanding that sometimes he just can’t understand.

 

~~~This blog post is written from a husband-wife perspective, but all couples go through a dramatic shift when they welcome a baby into their family. ~~~