Will, approximately 3 days old.
I’m sharing previously unpublished baby-related posts this week that have been stashed in my drafts queue over the past year. This one was originally written in May 2012.
A few weeks ago Will and I took the metro a few stops to go visit an old friend with a new baby.
Before I had a baby I would not have thought of a two month old as a “new baby.” Looking at my bouncy 10-month-old and then back at that beautiful baby girl though, with the impossibly tiny feet, sweet little squawks and coos, and those big blue eyes, I remembered that a two month old is still a really little baby.
At two months, I was still waking up a gazillion times a night, still needing two hands to nurse and wishing I had a third, still holding Will nearly 24/7 because he refused to let me put him down. Leaving the house still felt like a production. I still felt the pains and twinges from childbirth and I still wondered if there was some sort of miracle solution that I had somehow overlooked and that would free me from nightly shh-and-bounce bedtime marathon.
My friend is going through that tough time right now. Watching her with her daughter, she is such an amazing Mama, it brought tears to my eyes. And yet, that 2 month mark is still hard.
By two months most of us are living under a thick fog of constant exhaustion that obscures both personality and the ability to do mental math. At two months the need to always be thinking about that tiny helpless baby already feels like second-nature; but the memories of long, unhurried showers, 4 hours of sleep in a row, and the freedom to do what you want when you want to, those memories are still so fresh, they sting. By two months, most of us with colicky babies have tried everything to no avail. We make ourselves feel better by mentally composing hate mail to baby advice book authors, as we sashay our screaming babies around the room for the 565th time in a row.
We love our new babies with a fierceness and an instinct so powerful it is both amazing and a little bit frightening all at the same time, but I’ll be darned if we don’t all, at one time or another, look at the haggard-looking woman in the mirror and think “Huh, they never made it sound this hard in the baby books…”
I write all this now from the other side of those first few difficult months, from that lovely honeymoon period, between little baby and feisty toddler. My baby takes naps in his crib now, instead of on my lap. When he’s not cutting a tooth, he only wakes up once or twice a night. We spend our days together happily. I wash dishes while he plays with the dishwasher. We play hide-and-seek and peekaboo. We go out for long walks and make picnic pit stops at parks to share a meal from a food truck. I have to watch him like a hawk at home, but he can’t run away from me in the store yet–not when he’s tucked so sweetly into his Ergo on my chest.
That’s not to say that things are perfect and easy–oh no, far from it. But had you told me when Will was 8 weeks old that being a Mama could be this easy, this relaxed, this fun, I wouldn’t have believed you.
Neither did my friend with the new baby. “I promise you,” I said to her, “I promise it gets better, it gets easier.”
So, to all of my friends with new babies, I just wanted to say this:
I promise you that one day your baby will fill out and sit up and smile and look exactly as adorable as those cute babies in the Gap advertisements. Those aren’t 3 month olds in the magazines, those are 15 month olds, no use comparing your tiny little newborn to those fresh-faced “big kids.”
I promise you that no matter what you do, no matter whether you sleep-train or co-sleep or don’t do anything but whatever works on any given night, eventually your kid is going to learn how to sleep on his own. It might take 2 months or 6 months or two years, but it will happen, I promise. Until then, do what you need to do to get as much rest for as many people in the family as possible. And when someone asks you if your kid is sleeping through the night, feel free to lie through your teeth.
I promise you that it’s ok if your marriage suddenly feels different. It IS different. For most of us, having a baby is the first time we have to acknowledge any real gender divisions in our relationship, not to mention all of the weird, wacky postpartum hormones that can get in the way of feeling close to anyone or anything but your baby. It gets better, it really does. Be as kind and loving and gentle with one another as you can manage on 3 hours of sleep and eventually things will start to feel normal–even romantic and exciting– again.
I promise you that your kid will hate tummy time. You will do it anyway and he will continue to hate it until approximately 2 days before he realizes that being on his tummy allows him to scoot around at will…at which point he will refuse to lie flat on his back ever again. Anyone who says their kid likes tummy time before that point though, is probably lying.
I promise you that there will come a day, and likely sooner than you can imagine, that you’ll be able to put your baby to bed for the night and go sit out on the couch and cuddle up with your spouse to watch a movie–without once having to get up to put the baby back to sleep. Truly, it’s possible. If you set your alarm early enough, you might also get to eat breakfast in peace as well!
I promise you that one day you’ll take a shower and put on something besides yoga pants again. Your tiny little baby who’s head and neck require so much careful support right now will someday be strong enough for you to hold him/her on one hip while you put on mascara and brush your teeth and feel like a million bucks for doing so.
I promise you that there will come a day when that baby will feel less like a tiny stranger and more like a little piece of your heart and soul crawling around on the carpet, stopping once in awhile to look back and grin at you. Some of us are lucky enough to feel totally bonded to our babies from day one. For others of us it takes a little longer. Either way, doesn’t matter. You’ll soon love your kid with such depth and feeling that one day it will suddenly hit you: all of those people who said your baby will be “the best thing that ever happened to you”—they were soooo right.