Posted in Baby sleep, Blog, Breastfeeding, Caring for your baby, Emotional wellness, Featured, Just for you, Mother, Posts for mommies-to-be, Recovering from childbirth, Shawna, Still pregnant?, Working or staying home

Newborns: the magic, the misery

Now that Quinn is well into toddlerhood, and the burgeoning bump of my second baby sometimes edges into my field of vision, I have both the emotional distance and the sense of urgency needed to look back critically on the newborn period. My memories are often sepia-toned, infused with the magic that tiny little being brought into our lives.

But the picture isn’t always pretty. I didn’t realize it at the time (or at least I didn’t acknowledge it to anyone, especially myself), but there were times when I was miserable. I’m not talking about discomfort, sadness, exhaustion or raging hormones (though I’m sure they played a big part). I’m talking about true misery, where I was certain there was no escape, and I saw no way out of it. My life was often hellish, but I loved my little baby so much that I disregarded that part most of the time, even while I was living it.

I do remember, though. I remember how Quinn didn’t sleep three hours in a row until she was well into her third month. I remember how she screamed for up to four straight hours during her “happy hour” period (also lasting about three months, though down to just an hour by the end). I remember taking turns with Todd bouncing her on the bouncy ball for hours, the bouncing partner dripping with sweat, the non-bouncer squatting centimeters away, shushing loudly into Quinn’s ear. In the morning we would joke about how “crazy baby” had paid us a visit again. We were both beaten, exhausted, and inexplicably, euphorically happy.

Then there was breastfeeding hell. Knowing what I know now (that Quinn eventually became a happy nurser and self-weaned at 18 months, though she was never able to nurse without the nipple shield), it’s easier to take. But at the time, I was really suffering.

There is nothing more acute for a new mommy than the fear that your little one isn’t getting enough to eat. At just over six pounds, Quinn was tiny and frantically hungry, desperate and impatient, and she could never latch without help and without a lot of pain. My breasts were big and pendulous and my milk came in right away, taking a minute to let down and then drowning her when it finally did. I remember all the times that she would get so hysterical from botched attempts at latching that she would give up and launch into hour-long fits.

I remember when I had to allow two hours for each nursing session, because that’s how long it would often take for us to get a latch and let-down. I would use an eyedropper full of milk to keep her spirits up, but she was still so unhappy. She would always be sobbing still for at least the first half of a nursing session. Then she would drift off for 20 minutes, and we would (pretty much immediately) start all over again. I would have never admitted it at the time, but it really is shudder-inducing now. I had a hard time scheduling visits to the house, as I really couldn’t nurse with anyone around for the first few months. I felt so isolated.

Between the nursing and the lack of sleep, I slept a total of about 10 hours in the first two weeks, and never more than 90 minutes in a row. Looking back on the pictures though, I was blissfully happy. I loved having my little family together at last, and wouldn’t have traded that time for anything. But still. Holy God, it was sometimes awful.

It wasn’t until Quinn was five weeks old that I finally made it to a First Weeks meeting and learned that we weren’t the only house receiving nightly visits from “crazy baby,” that I wasn’t the only mom in breastfeeding hell, that this was all part of fairly normal newborn behavior. I thought I had prepared for parenthood, but while people like Harvey Karp gave me some good tools, they also made me think that there would be a “cure” or a “solution” for most newborn problems.

Now I know that when it comes to eensy weensy babies, the solution is to just hold them and wait four to five months for the misery to pass, enjoying the magic as much as you can along the way.

P.S. The baby period lasts a lot longer than that, but the period of misery, ache and exhaustion gives way to a much more endurable tired period. I’m not really sure when that part ends. Quinn slept through the night, a.k.a. five hours in a row for the first time at 13 months. A month later, she was doing six and seven hour stretches.

Now, at 18 months, she sleeps nine or 10 straight hours about half the time. The other half, she wakes up once in the night, usually around 3 or 4 a.m. (after about 7 hours of straight sleep) and I usually just pull her in to bed with me at that point. I know some people would cringe at that, but I’m pregnant and I really don’t have the energy to do anything else right now. I’m hoping the magic of time will solve some of that problem for me by June. The rest I will just live though. I figure if nothing else, it will be a lot easier for me to make the transition to newborn sleep this time around.

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