When you’re pregnant, everyone congratulates you. People tell you how wonderful it is to be a parent. Other moms hug you. They give you all manner of unsolicited advice.
But no one warns you how hard it is to be the parent of a newborn baby.
No one tells you just how exhausted you will be those first few weeks, how defeated, how scared, how overwhelmed.
No one says, “You will not be up in the ‘middle’ of the night. You will be up all night, period. And all day. Sleep will be a distant memory.”
No one says, “Your baby will be crying and you will feed him, burp him, change his diaper, rock him, rub his back and give him a pacifier, but none of this will work.”
No one told me that, at least. And in those first weeks after my son was born, I felt like a failure.
“Why can’t I get him to sleep? Why is breastfeeding so hard? What am I doing wrong? Being a mom should come naturally. I was not cut out for this.” These were the things going through my head.
I found out later that lots of moms feel this way in the beginning. And I don’t understand why no one talks about it.
I had only one mom friend say to me, “You will be tired. … Tired like you’ve never known. And you’ll bleed for weeks. But you will live!”
That was just days before my son was born. Those words meant more to me than she will ever know. I kept reminding myself during my all-nighters that I would adjust eventually. That maybe I wasn’t a total failure.
When a pregnant friend of mine from college got close to her due date, I felt it was my duty to tell her.
“Motherhood is hard, but awesome,” I said. “I love my little guy so much! But I cried so many nights/mornings in the beginning. The baby will keep crying and you’ll say through your own tears, ‘What do you want, baby? I have tried everything.’”
I told my friend that being a mom is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. But it’s also the most rewarding.
My son is 6 months now. He rarely cries unless he’s hungry or tired. More than anything, he smiles, and those smiles light up a room. And my all-nighters are a (mostly) distant memory.
“Is he sleeping through the night yet?” a co-worker asked me the other day.
Ha, ha, ha.
“No,” I said. “He still wakes up at least once to nurse.”
“Well, it gets a little bit easier every day.”
And that’s true. I just wish someone had told me that 6 months ago.
To reach Pamela E. Spencer, send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.