What I Don't Tell People About Life With My Newborn And Toddler

by Esther Freedman
Originally Published: 
newborn and toddler
Esther Freedman

I have been blessed with two beautiful daughters, one of them just a little over a month old. They are the lights of my life and I love them more than anything. They’re the best things I’ve ever done.

But it’s currently 2 a.m. and I’ve been up for two hours trying to get my baby to go back to sleep. This is my new normal. In the twilight of the night, when no one is up except me and my hungry, crying baby, I think about how hard this all is, though it probably doesn’t look that way from my Instagram feed.

I think about how easy parenting can seem and how unrealistic it is that life with two babies in a home with two self-employed parents could ever be smooth sailing. I wonder why I can’t be perfect at this and have to remind myself that no one is, even if they look like they are.

So this is what I want to say:

When you see me at that event and my hair is clean and I have makeup on…

My newborn woke up halfway through my shower and screamed and cried the rest of the time I was in there. It was the least enjoyable shower of all time. She cried as I put makeup on for five minutes, which I did so you couldn’t see how tired I really look. I cried too.

When you ask me how I’m still working, even with a newborn and a toddler at home…

I want to tell you that sometimes I wish I wasn’t. The stress right now is overwhelming, and I sometimes wish I could just pause all other parts of life to avoid the guilt of not being able to be the kind of woman who does it all gracefully.

When you ask me if my newborn is a ‘good baby’…

Sometimes my knee-jerk reaction is “no.” Because she’s a baby, and sometimes in my sleep-deprived state, I mistake her needing me desperately and primally as being “bad.” Sometimes I cave under the pressure of being somebody’s everything. I forget that it’s not possible for her to be “bad.”

When you ask me if my 2-year-old likes her new little sister…

Yes, she loves her. It’s me she doesn’t like as much right now. Her dad has been doing the brunt of the school pickups, drop-offs, and birthday parties while I recover from a C-section. Those things used to be my job. I keep wondering if she’s going to be disappointed when it’s my job once again.

When you ask me how I do it all…

I want to tell you that I don’t—not by a long shot. My house is a total disaster. I haven’t stepped foot inside a grocery store in over a month (thanks, Instacart). I’ve missed meetings. I’ve missed photoshoots. I have a thousand emails to respond to. My hair is a situation that even an entire bottle of dry shampoo can’t fix.

When you ask me how breastfeeding is going, and I say, ‘Great!’…

I really want to tell you that I had no idea how life-altering exclusively breastfeeding is. I wasn’t able to do it with my first one, and while I’m thrilled it’s working out so far, I can’t leave the house for more than two hours. No one can feed her but me, which means I’m up every two to three hours to feed her or pump. I’ve never been this sleep-deprived. Sometimes I just want to throw some cabbage leaves in my bra and be done with the whole thing.

So you see, these are all true things. And would I change them? Not for anything in the world. Because life is supposed to be messy and raw and gross and beautiful, and if we wish those things away, all we’d be left with is perfection.

And in the light of day, I remember once again that I don’t want perfection either.

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