Newborn: a tiny human that resembles a loaf of bread — if that loaf of bread could scream and had no control over any of its bodily functions. Those first hours and days with a newborn are often a blur of tears (both yours and the baby’s), soreness, and lots of sleep deprivation.
Even now, almost five years later, the first week of my son’s life is still mostly a blur of beeping of hospital machines, crying, failed attempts to get the perfect swaddle, breastfeeding, more crying, tiny diapers, and even more crying (from the baby and me).
Everything felt slow, like I was walking through a swamp. Probably because I was wearing a diaper between my legs and had to sit on the edge of the toilet seat to pee. Like most new moms, I was afraid to put him down so I held him — a lot.
My boobs felt like dripping boulders. I diligently logged every pee and poop on a spreadsheet because that’s what I had to do to get out of the hospital. And all the while, there was this tiny little person who wouldn’t stop crying.
Motherhood is beautiful, no doubt, but there is a gritty underbelly that often gets glossed over when we talk about it. Motherhood — especially with a newborn — is painful and exhausting. It is lonely. It is long hours staring at a tiny human who never stops screaming at you. It is confusing and scary and lots of hours awake while the rest of the world sleeps.
In a unique and somewhat unconventional video, home security company Canary shared a video where three moms captured the realness of those first few weeks of the newborn days via their home security cameras.
The newborn days are a flurry of chaos, emotions, the highest highs, and some serious lows. There is very little sleep happening, and often you feel like you are drowning, either in a sea of exhaustion, diapers (yours and the baby’s), and tears. You now have this person that will depend on you for everything.
Those first few days are also a bit of a time warp, with time slowing so much that sometimes you swear it’s moving backward and then all of a sudden you realize that the entire day has gone by and you still haven’t showered or eaten more than a bowl of cereal.
“You know, 10 o’clock in the morning, you look back up, and it’s 5 p.m and where has the day gone?” one mom asks. Truer words have never been spoken.
While childbirth and new motherhood looks different for everyone, there also seem to be some similarities. We talked to some other Scary Mommies about what those newborn times were like, and how they coped with the exhaustion, pain, confusion, and loneliness.
Some folks relied on split “baby duty” shifts with their partner. “My husband and I were alone with this little creature who did NOT want to go to sleep, and we were both so sleep deprived,” Caolan M. told Scary Mommy. “I think I started crying, and he was almost crying –but then I sent him to bed, and I sat up nursing the baby and calling relatives on the phone, and he got enough sleep that he was able to take over and let me sleep for a while.”
Stacey S. had a radically different newborn experience. After years of infertility, she was pregnant with triplets. Sadly, though, only one of the babies survived, spending four months in the NICU. Having such a medically fragile baby added a new level of fear, even though technically she was no longer a newborn.
“She was all we had left,” said Stacey. “I was so scared to leave her for one moment and found myself watching her constantly, making sure she was OK. I had already lost two children, I was paranoid that something could happen to her.”
Some women spend those first few newborn days in a such a blur that they need to ask others to update them on what happened. “The bad thing about a C-section is you’re drugged up for a while from the anesthesia,” Terry W. told us. “I feel like that first day is a bit of a fog, and I ask my husband a lot to remind me of details about it.”
And of course, there is the emotional rollercoaster that is bringing a new baby into the family. Sarah N., an adoptive single mom, wasn’t present when her son was born because he was born in the middle of the night at just 29 weeks.
“I flew across country on the first flight out,” she told us. “His tiny hand grasped my finger, but it was so small it didn’t make it but halfway around my index finger. I left the hospital around 10 p.m. that night, checked into a hotel, and collapsed in a heap of tears.”
These stories are proof that those first days of a newborn’s life follow no script, but through it all — the tears, crying, exhaustion, loneliness, confusion — there is the steadfast commitment to this new life. There’s the waking up at all hours to tend to a newborn’s needs. There’s holding them and rocking them and changing about 15,000 dirty diapers. There is love — a big, bold beautiful love — and you can feel it, even when it’s shown in a grainy image of a security camera.