When I was pregnant with my first child, a co-worker told me that the “dark times” of having children are in those first few weeks of life. I didn’t listen to a word he had to say about how having a newborn was the toughest part of parenting. So what if they can’t reciprocate the love and who cares that they just sleep and eat. I thought the newborn phase was going to be the absolute best and easiest part of it all.
And then I had a newborn. And it wasn’t the best and easiest part of the parenting gig.
Throughout pregnancy number two, I was very excited to have a tiny, cuddly baby again, but I was also apprehensive (and kinda dreading) going back to square one — the witching hour, nursing constantly, gas pains, triple the laundry, nighttime feedings. Having a newborn is so much work.
It’s strange how much I love it and how much I can’t stand parts of it. I know — I am beyond blessed and filled with immense joy to have healthy babies, but that doesn’t mean it all comes easy.
Here’s the dreadful, chaotic, dark side of having a newborn:
Those smiles aren’t really smiles. No matter how much you cuddle them or talk sweetly to them, they’re not smiling because of you. Most likely they’re smiling because they just farted. No matter how much you love them up, they can’t show it back. Of course this isn’t something to get upset over, but as a parent you just want to feel loved back, especially by your tiny, cute newborn.
Newborns can be so demanding. Cluster feeding, fussiness from not getting that last burp up, crying for no apparent reason — that’s enough to make any sane woman go mad.
Nursing is the hardest during the first couple weeks with a newborn. Your supply is still evening out so you’ve always got that pins and needles feeling. Engorged, leaky boobs are a constant. And of course, it feels like you are tethered to another human being because they nurse so frequently in the first few weeks of life.
The nighttime feedings can feel so isolating. It’s just you and the baby while the rest of the world sleeps. You start to think back to when you could sleep for a full, uninterrupted eight hours every night, and then you start to hate the rest of the world for sleeping while you’re nursing, burping, and changing wet diapers at 2:45 a.m.
Phantom baby cries are for real. They will haunt you wherever you go, including the moment you take five minutes for yourself to step into a nice, hot shower. You will come rushing out of the shower only to find the baby sleeping peacefully, and your spouse looking at you like you’ve completely lost your marbles.
Newborns are fragile. Their immune systems are weak, and they are easily overstimulated by loud noises, smells, and voices. They get cold and overheated. This means you can’t get out of the house like you used to. By the end of the day, I have a 104 degree (cabin) fever and am desperate to get out.
If you asked me 10 years ago what my idea of “getting out” was, I would have said something like going to the hottest club and dancing the night away. These days, my idea of getting out and having fun is bankrupting my checking account on a trip to Target or perusing the aisles of Whole Foods. #momlife
And now, let’s look at the wonderful, cuddly, loveliness of the newborn phase:
The newborn smell is everything. It’s that wonderfully sweet, intoxicating smell that every mom would pay hundreds of dollars to bottle up and save forever. Words can’t describe the newborn smell, and I don’t know why moms go crazy for it, but it tops my list as one of the best reasons to have a baby.
They make the cutest little sounds and faces when they’re asleep. Newborns are noisy little creatures. They grunt, squeal, smack their lips, and laugh in their sleep all the time. They are so expressive with their faces, too, like the adorable duck lips and the pooping faces. I have about 2,500 pictures of just these faces between my two daughters.
Newborns sleep a ton during the day. They can only tolerate one to two hours of wakefulness at a time. I call this the “newborn grace period,” and in my opinion, it was made so that moms can gradually acclimate to life with a new baby — take a nap, take a shower, do the dishes, whatever it is that you need to do to get life back in order.
There’s none of that, “Mommy, Mommy, Mooommmmmyyyy!!!! Watch this!” or “Mommy, let’s play, and read, and color, and go outside, and build blocks!” Newborns are so easy when it comes to entertainment. They only need food, cuddles, and sleep. It’s so much easier to get things done and have a minute to yourself since they don’t require constant endless entertainment.
They are just so tiny, and when you pick them up and cuddle them they are just a curled-up little ball of baby goodness. Their little chicken legs are hiked all the way up to their bellies and they basically fit into the palm of your hand. I love it.
I wouldn’t change any of this for the world, and I know that in a few short months when my newborn isn’t so new anymore, I’ll be longing for this time — the fun, cute, cuddly, crying, fussy, needy time.