“How old is your baby?” asked a woman not much older than me as I tossed four bars of chocolate into my grocery cart, two of which would be my reward for getting the baby to sleep that afternoon.
“Almost 3 months,” I responded, blinking in the harsh light and quickly rubbing my eyes to check for crust, after remembering I hadn’t looked in the mirror before leaving the house—again. It wasn’t until someone spoke to me in public that I realized that in rushing around like a lunatic getting the baby ready, I didn’t even give myself a once-over.
The woman nodded sagely and said, “Ah, you’re still in the 100 Days of Darkness,” before commenting on how cute my baby is.
One Hundred Days of Darkness—I’ve thought about it often since.
I’ve heard other terms describing life with a new baby. My mother asked me around that time if I’d come out of “the fog” yet. A month later, an exuberant cashier, when finding out my baby was 4 months old, stated, “Great age. He’s finally become human now.” Both were apt at describing the madness that is motherhood in the first few months, but 100 Days of Darkness? It’s perfect, because it covers it all:
– The terror of being responsible for keeping this little human alive.
– Being overrun by hormones gone wild and engulfed in all the feels: anxiety, guilt, sadness, joy, pride and rage—sometimes swapping one for another within seconds.
– The sleep deprivation that leaves you wondering how you ever could have complained about fatigue before.
– The seismic shift in your relationship. True story: Before editing the previous sentence, I’d written: “the seismic shit in your relationship.” This also could have described the state of our union during the first 100 days. Things were shit. It was hard. Learning to communicate on the fly without screaming over the screaming baby was an interesting adventure, and oftentimes a dark one.
– The loneliness that hits at random times, not just at 3 o’clock in the morning with a colicky baby.
– The endless hours of feeding and boobs that are trying to figure out what the hell has just happened.
– The boredom that sneaks in and is cause for surprise.
– The craziness that is diaper blowouts, incessant crying, not being able to eat, sleep or shower. You’d heard it all before you popped the baby out, but it was nothing like you’d imagined it would be.
– That your life has irrevocably changed and you have to figure out how you fit in this world again. You can’t even shower or scarf down a sandwich, so how will you be able to see friends, exercise, read a book, become the next Picasso, or pen your bestseller?
How did we make it through the early months with a new baby? Although it’s all a blur now, I think we muddled by fueled on baby smiles and giggles, endless pots of coffee, watching every comedy on Netflix, savoring the perfect moments, and learning when to duke it out and when to walk away. Apologies, appreciation and acceptance flowed in between emotional outbursts. And most importantly, we tried to laugh.
I would like to make it clear that all of these things don’t magically disappear on day 101, so don’t set a countdown. But the cliché is true: It does get easier. The good days begin to outweigh the bad. The baby does stop crying and starts smiling, and the smiles will melt your heart and expand it in ways you never imagined possible. The terror decreases, the feeds ease, your relationship will start to fall back into place, and you will begin to feel normal again—well, a new normal. And those dark days fade away into light, sometimes so much light that the thought creeps in unannounced: Should we try for another?