Dear Mom of a Newborn,
You’re probably reading this on your iPhone at 2:00am, because you’re up with a perfectly loud 9 pound baby who needs you again. A little part of you wishes someone else could take this job, just tonight, just so you can get some sleep, but the thought of passing her off is not only physically impossible–she hasn’t taken a bottle yet–but also causes your protective heart to pulsate at a much faster speed than is normal or healthy.
Everyone said you would love her, but no one told you her arrival would bring a surge of mama bear hormones that command your entire body every time she cries. You believe no one can care for her like you can, and this is the most wonderful and terrible realization you’ve ever had.
It’s been less than two weeks since they placed her on your chest and she stared at you with big, searching eyes. “Are you my mother?” she seemed to say, and you kissed her like she’d been yours forever. Since then there have been moments when she’s gazed up at you with the same eyes but you swear she’s saying, “Do you have ANY idea what you’re doing?”
In the good, sane, just-got-a-shower moments, you think to yourself, “YES. I do know what I’m doing. I’m a feeding, burping, changing and swaddling machine born for this very moment of motherhood.” And in the bad, insane, haven’t-gotten-a-shower or peed in five hours moments you think to yourself, “That Duggar lady is insane, and I’m a complete failure, and my baby definitely has colic and probably hates me.”
Around this time you’ll start questioning every decision you make, including but not limited to:
Are we swaddling her too tight? Does she have gas? Is her room too hot? It’s definitely too cold in there. Is she sensitive to noise? Or maybe it’s too quiet and she feels alone and afraid? Did we buy the wrong sound machine? WHY THE HELL DID WE NOT BUY A SOUND MACHINE? Am I terrible mother if I give her Mylicon drops? Is my left breast producing too much milk and giving her reflex? Are my boobs even making milk…because she seems hungry again! Maybe I should give up dairy, and then wheat, and then soy because that lady in the doctor’s office waiting room said my diet is probably affecting her. I THOUGHT PEOPLE SAID A BABY SWING WOULD KEEP HER QUIET!!
Around this time you might also start debating whether to call other moms for advice and support. Because 50% of the time, you really feel on top of your game. You’re a feeding, burping, changing and swaddling machine, remember? And by picking up the phone and calling your best friend in Miami to ask if she thinks you should be spacing her naps 63 minutes apart or 72 minutes apart you might appear like you don’t have this whole mom thing nailed. Because you do! Or at least you did…until she woke up again screaming and you’re not sure why.
So, I write this letter for you, the mom of a newborn who isn’t yet ready to pick up the phone and call a friend (or, who simply wouldn’t be able to hear your friend’s advice over the crying). I write to remind you of some truths you already know, but have probably forgotten in your sleep deprived state.
First, no one else in the world is more equipped to care for this baby than you. In the last 9 months, God wasn’t only making her, He was preparing your heart with love and your mind with wisdom. Your instincts can and should be trusted more than all your frantic Google searches.
Also: newborns cry. It’s what they do best. Don’t measure your success as a mother by whether or not your baby cries. In the early weeks you often can’t figure out why she’s crying, and this makes you feel like a terrible mother. “I should KNOW how to fix this,” you’ll say to your husband. You’ll get embarrassed when visiting relatives try to tell you why she’s crying, or strangers say you’re burping her wrong, or friends ask if she’s getting enough to eat. They all mean well. Sometimes they might even have some good ideas. But remember- even experienced grandmas don’t always know why a baby is crying. That’s because every baby is different, and in the early weeks and months you’re still learning her needs.
And lastly, savor those quiet moments with her on your chest, smelling her soft skin and marveling in her tiny feet. But don’t for a second let anyone tell you it won’t get any better than this. Soon she’ll be smiling, and you’ll adore the way her eyes light up when they meet yours. And then she’ll be grabbing at your hair, and you’ll adore the way her chubby hands brush by your cheek. And then she’ll be pulling herself up on your leg, and you’ll adore the way she begs to be lifted into your arms.
Mom of a newborn, these days are numbered…and this is both wonderful and terrible news.
Now put the phone down, burp your baby, and get some sleep.
Mom of a toddler, who is still figuring this whole motherhood thing out too
(Photo of Anna was taken when she was about a month old and we’d resorted to her sleeping in a bouncer because her acid reflux made it hard for her to sleep lying down. Why was she in the crib? I was afraid she’d “get used to sleeping in her bouncer” and not want to ever sleep in her crib. This photo is proof I drove myself crazy at times in the early newborn months.)