First appeared on parentsociety.com, 15 February 2013 -- http://www.parentsociety.com/parenting/todays-family/mom/things-ive-learned-about-being-a-new-mom/
As my daughter and I were muddling through the beginnings of our relationship and getting used to our new roles, I began learning new things about myself, my limitations, my strengths, my ever-growing weaknesses, and started seeing everything anew through my kaleidoscopic, perpetually-smudged, new-mommy-glasses.
- I learned that extreme exhaustion has a taste; sawdust with just a hint of dried cumin, for some reason.
- Exhaustion swells the eyelids and makes it feel as if I’m using them to store grit, like a highly confused chipmunk; it also swells the tongue to twice its size (or so it feels).
- I lost the ability to stand still; even when not holding the baby, my body automatically rocks side to side (could be a problem in a china shop).
- The books say that newborn babies sleep 14 to 18 hours a day, they just neglect to mention that’s broken down into 34-minute naps over a never-ending 24-hour period.
- I had visions of carting a sleeping angel around in her car seat as I efficiently moved through the house getting things done, but this is a fallacy beyond measure.
- Newborns cannot be bought; no matter how many ponies or brunches with Cinderella or safari trips I offer. If she’s not interested in being soothed and put back to sleep at 4:12 a.m., it ain’t happening. (Tears from mommy are equally ineffective.)
- I’m learning to severely limit my expectations of daily accomplishments, and just be happy with a shower, a clean baby, and maybe reading an email or two (this was originally entitled, “New-Mommy Observations - Week Three”, and in all honesty, it was actually written in week five; don’t push it.)
- I had visions of mommy and baby lying down happily for their daily naps, but I have yet to master the ability to fall asleep immediately and maximize my allotted 34 minutes.
- I had several moments where friends, and even my husband, pointed out that I’ve asked the same question three times, or made a nonsensical observation, to which I point out that my reduced brain-capacity has left me with frighteningly low reserves and frankly I’m just delighted that my body continues to breathe without my having to think about it.
- The name of the daily game is, “Guess my issue.” Babies have five basic issues at this stage: hunger (therefore feed me, faster!), full diaper (get it off, get it off, get it off!), low-cuddle-quotient (hold me, or I’ll die!), pain/discomfort (toes are bent in the footie, diaper’s too tight, I’ve drooled in my ear, etc.), or stimulation (either too much, so take me in a dark quiet room to detox, or not enough, so show me something interesting before I collapse from boredom). If none of those soothe the screaming fussies, then I can’t help myself and bring out the brunching with ponies and Cinderella card again (apparently I’m not a quick learner at this stage).
- I found a new sense of peace and zen-like calm in the ability to do dishes (which meant I’d passed the baby on to my mother or Daddy for a mini-break).
- I learned I had the ability to quickly adapt to a one-armed lifestyle, and other than using a curling iron, have come across few insurmountable obstacles.
- When I would tell people the baby’s on a three-hour feeding schedule, their faces light up and they exclaim, “Oh how nice, three-hours to sleep is great!” But I had to point out that a three-hour feeding schedule broke down in to verbal request from awoken child (i.e., screaming), diaper change, bottle prep, feed sleepy baby, burp, feed more, place in bassinet and soothe with various shhhh’ing or zoom-zoom-zoom’ing combined with the modified panini-press, invented by Daddy during those first few nights after the hospital. All of this resulted in a two-hour nap on a good day.
- I spoke to more strangers in the first four weeks of my daughter's life than in the previous ten years; and found great comfort in the sleepless misery of others; impromptu support groups meet at Target check-outs across the country daily.
- It’s never helpful when you complain about your exhaustion and someone would retort, “I told you so!” Was I supposed to reply, “You’re right, I never should have had children.” Instead, please just empathize and offer to take the two to seven a.m. shift.
- I fell in love with two baby products more than any other; the Baby Bjorn carrier and the SwaddleMe swaddlers. My love of both was in their ability to soothe a fussy baby with seemingly magical powers. Bless you both! (Plus, I could even do dishes while wearing Bean like a barnacle.)
- I started to think that mommyhood was nothing more than a pyramid scheme. Before the baby, other moms would regale you with delightful stories of angelic children, cupcake parties, adorable giggles and smiles that would melt your heart. After the baby, they chortle at you when you begged for advice on how to soothe a newborn to sleep and suddenly reveal, “Oh, Bob didn’t sleep through the night until he was five and a half!”, or “Marylou would scream and turn purple every night from eleven to two a.m.,” or “I had to learn how to sleep while walking in circles with the twins strapped to my chest for three years.” I figured they’d let me in the club if I could find some poor sap to join the ranks behind me. Now, who do I know who doesn’t have kids yet?