If you are expecting your first baby, congratulations! You are about to embark on the most awesome, emotionally overwhelming, and piss-your-pants surprising journey of your life. (Literally. You will most likely piss your pants at least once. I hope you’ve been doing your kegels.)
It may sound like I’m trying to discourage you. (Too late for that, right?) I’m absolutely not. I love new babies. That’s why I have four. In fact, I’m a little jealous. My babiest boy just turned two, and I miss having his soft little head nestled against my chest, sleeping peacefully. Then suddenly waking himself up with a shuddering deep-breath/snorting hybrid that caught both of us off guard, and falling immediately back to sleep. (By the way, if you live nearby, I’m available to hold your new baby till he wakes up, make him realize I’m not his mom so he freaks out, and then hand him right back to you.)
I know you’ve gotten tons of advice. Sleep when the baby sleeps is a common one. (That’s crap, btw. When the baby sleeps you will finally get a chance to pee, eat, bathe, and you know, be a person.) You’ve heard all sorts of opinions on breastfeeding, sleep training, co-sleeping, and pretty much everything that could possibly be related to your baby’s eating and sleeping habits. You’ve heard that having a baby will change your life. That you’ve never loved anyone like you’ll love this tiny person. All that’s true (if impossible to adequately explain with words). And I know this sounds cliche, but there’s one little fact of motherhood that you might not have heard yet: Newborn babies are scary as hell.
When my oldest daughter, Emma was born, I was afraid of everything. That I would do something wrong. That she wouldn’t know how much I loved her. That I would accidentally poison her by OD’ing on Mylicon because I loved that shiz so freaking much. (If you haven’t heard of Mylicon, get familiar. It’s a miracle drug that will make your gassy baby fart and stop crying.)
I was not, however, afraid that she wasn’t eating enough. Emma wouldn’t get off my boob if it was on fire. She was a champion nurser. That girl nursed like I was lactating margaritas. And sometimes I was.
What terrified me, though, was putting her down. I am honestly not exaggerating when I say that Emma nursed between the hours of 6:00 AM and 8:00 PM, Non. Stop. I know, you’re imagining that she had extra long feedings with only very short breaks in between. If only. She couldn’t handle me putting her down for even a minute. And I couldn’t just hold her in one arm and do something else with the other. She wanted me to have both hands on her or she would cry the most terrifying sound I’d ever heard. It was like some cat in the distance was being torn apart by a pack of coyotes.
Every now and then I would put her down, of course. One time, rather than having my husband feed me like usual (since I couldn’t eat with no hands), I handed Emma over to him so that I could make and eat my own sandwich. I scarfed it down pretty quickly, but she wailed the whole time. I swear she screamed, “My boobs are eating lunch! My boobs are eating lunch! It’s not fair that my boobs are eating lunch!” (It’s possible that my husband actually said that, but you never know. She’s always been advanced in her vocabulary.)
And I know what else you’re thinking. You noticed that I said she nursed from the hours of 6:00 AM to 8:00 PM, and you thought, “Well, at least you got to sleep at night! That’s better than most parents of newborns get!”
Yes, that was nice. I was very lucky in the sleeping department. And it scared the hell out of me. Normal babies woke up at night. Babies were supposed to eat every two hours. Why wasn’t my baby waking up and eating every two hours? I had a deformed baby! She was going to die of some rare and horrible non-waking-up disease!
So, my paranoid new mommy brain came up with the most logical solution. I would set my alarm to wake me up every three hours. (Not two! See, I was getting my sleep.) When my alarm went off at 1:00 AM, I dragged myself out of bed and plodded to her room off balance. As I walked through the upstairs hallway, I passed our stairway, which was separated from the hallway by a rickety wooden rail. Every night, I imagined that I was carrying the baby down that hallway, and that I lost my balance, tumbled into the railing, and dropped her down the stairs.
One night when the alarm went off, I hopped out of bed, certain that Emma was screaming and crying right next to me. I started tearing the covers off the bed. Where was she? I shook my husband awake. “I can’t find the baby! Help me find the baby!”
Poor guy was so confused. He stood up. “You’re looking for Emma?”
“Yes!” I tore away all the covers, sheets, and pillows. “Help me! I can’t find her! She must be buried in here!” I dropped to the floor and started looking through the mess of blankets I’d made down there.
I didn’t notice, but my husband left the room. When he came back a minute later, he said, “She’s sleeping in her crib.”
I blinked and stared at him. “What?”
“Yeah, she was never in our bed. She’s in her crib. Asleep.”
He bent down and helped me off the floor, handling me gently, like I was a mental patient.
“She’s really asleep?” I said.
“Can I go look?”
“I guess.” He scratched his head, and made a mental note to research whether our health insurance covered in-patient psychiatric care.
I tip-toed out of the room and into hers. (And you better BELIEVE I was terrified of waking her up. But I had to see this with my own eyes.) There she was, sleeping soundly in her little pink sleeper and yellow sleep sack. Having no idea that her mom was a lunatic.
When I returned to my bedroom, my husband had made the bed. He’d also turned off the alarm, which I still hadn’t realized was the thing that woke me up, and not the baby. I fell fast asleep, and never set that alarm for 1:00 AM again.
So yes, your baby will probably terrify you. And bring you joy, fatigue, and uncontrollable hormonal rage. Just remember, this too shall pass. Someday, your youngest baby will be two like mine, and you’ll miss these days. Also, Zoloft is safe to take for nursing mothers. You’ll probably need drugs.
Congrats again. I’m rooting for you.