Before I had my son I read a lot about parenting and life with a newborn.
During my incessant google searching and stalking babycenter forums I came across two trends, neither of which I liked.
One was a proclivity for many mommy bloggers to approach parenting from a pretty negative standpoint. Often if seemed like the author was trying, pretty obviously, to be the ‘sarcastic, tell-it-like-it-is’ mom. The website Scary Mommy has a lot of these types of posts. Don’t get me wrong, I can see how reading an article on ‘12 Reasons Mom is awake at 12 a.m.‘ feels comforting when you are up at that exact time with a screaming newborn. But, when all you see are articles focusing on the more challenging aspects of parenting, I think you run the risk of beginning to focus on that in your own life.
I can’t tell you how many times I read “you’ll be lucky to get a 5 minute shower each day” or “I eat chocolate in the closet so my kids don’t see me.” I wondered, what the hell was I getting myself into? Was parenting really that hard that you couldn’t find 5 minutes a day to shower?
Yes, it absolutely can be.
Which leads me to the other trend I found that I didn’t quite understand. In trying to get a better picture of what life would be like with a newborn I was hoping I’d come across some ‘day in the life’ type articles that would explain exactly why it was so hard to eat a meal, shower, or get dressed with a new baby. I didn’t get it. Babies sleep an average of 18-20 hours a day so where did all that time go? Most moms couldn’t explain what life with a newborn was really like and relied on the old ‘you just have to experience it to understand’ cliche.
As I’m quickly approaching the one month mark with my baby I feel like I have enough experience to at least explain what life with my newborn is like.
That whole ‘babies sleep all the time’ thing? They neglect to tell you many babies (like mine) will only fall asleep when being held. He spent 9 months living tightly bound up inside my uterus and when I try to lay him down on his back, in a lonely cold crib, he freaks out. So, I pick him up and he passes out again in a few minutes. I think it’s safe to put them back into his bed, and 5 minutes later he is crying again. So half of that 18-20 hours of sleep is in my arms (or my awesome grandparents that I’m temporarily living with while my husband drives to Alaska.)
When I finally get him to sleep in his Rock N Play I’m terrified to make eye contact with him. Like he’ll see me and know if he starts to cry for more than a few minutes I’ll pick him up and start the ‘walk around the room holding him until he passes out’ routine for the 12th time that night.
So, that leaves about 9 hours of ‘hands free’ time when the baby is sleeping. Well, half of that (or more) may be naps under 30 minutes. Just when I am falling asleep myself (remember you have to sleep when the baby sleeps! Most frustrating advice ever…) the baby wakes up screaming because it’s been two hours since he’s fed last and he’s hungry.
We had a fun day yesterday. Baby was awake from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.! If I put him down for more than 5 minutes he’d start crying. My arms are exhausted.
Now I’m down to maybe a good 3-4 hour block of sleep a night, at which time I am passed out myself. All that time I thought I’d have to work, shower, get dressed … totally gone. During the times he has slept for 1-2 hours during the day I can usually get a good amount of work done if I’m not totally zombie sleep deprived from the night before.
Most new parents will have a partner there to help out, and my parents are helping out every chance they get. Thanks to them I usually get an hour break over lunch when Mom comes home from work, and a few hours at night when the baby is sleeping or Mom and Dad are taking turns cuddling with their first grandbaby. I’ll use this time to go on a walk, shower, clean my room/do laundry, and get whatever work I absolutely have to get done that day done.
Is having a newborn as hard as I thought it would be?
Yes and no.
I haven’t cried in a closet while eating chocolate yet (but I have cried, along with the baby, at 2 a.m. after hours of trying to get him to sleep.)
I haven’t gone more than one day without a shower (but I have worn clothes covered in baby vomit to Target to buy diaper wipes.)
I haven’t gone a single day without being grateful to have a healthy, happy baby (but I have texted Travis a few times that I’m at my wits end and don’t know how I’m going to do this X more days without him.)