I’ve been thinking a lot about that tricky 4th trimester. Partly because I’m smack dab in the middle of it (actually 2/3rd’s of the way through, but who’s counting), but also because a family friend is due to have her first baby in a couple of months.
I’m going to her baby shower in May, and while I want to pour my heart out and let her in on these motherhood secrets, instead I will just bring a present, smile, hug her and say: this post is for you.
When I was pregnant with my first baby, I had heard it would be hard. But I had NO idea what that meant.
This post is for that new mama-to-be, filled with excitement at the blessing of having a baby and counting down to those first moments with her babe.
This post is for the during. When the family and helpers all go home and onto their own lives. When the rest of the world is sleeping and she’s awake – nursing and rocking and shushing and bouncing. And wondering why no one ever told her…
So, let’s break it down. What exactly makes those first months with your sweet new babe so hard?
Here’s my take…
LACK OF SLEEP Let’s start with the obvious. Sure, you hear mamas always reminiscing about the days they were able to sleep. But, why? Google anything about newborns and sleep and you’ll learn they sleep 20 hours a day. Piece of cake, right? Not exactly. First, most of that sleep is during the day. The sleep at night is often very fractured, sometimes in 30-45 minute increments. The 4th trimester puts your sleep-deprived college days to shame. Sleep is essential for all of the life things, which you need when you’re taking care of a little human. Take sleep away and you can’t think straight. You’re in a fog and you feel like it’ll never lift. But, it does. (Here are some tips…)
YOU DON’T KNOW YOUR BABY…YET It takes time for you to get to know that little bundle of complicated joy. After all, he’s a person. An individual. What works for your ex-step sister’s new baby girl may not work for your baby boy. It’s a game of trial and error, and it’s HARD. But, it’ll come. I promise.
NO ONE ELSE (INCLUDING YOUR PEDIATRICIAN + DR GOOGLE) DOES EITHER Girl, it’s all a guessing game. I know that can be scary to read. I mean, Ped’s are like baby experts, right? Sure, when it comes to the black and white issues. But NO ONE will know your baby like you will. And as I mentioned above, even that will take time. You’ll turn to Google at 2 am for an answer to WHY YOUR BABY WON’T SLEEP LONGER THAN 40 MINUTES AT A TIME, and you’ll get a bajillion responses. And none will help. Why? Because no one is talking about your baby. And yes, you will soon become an expert at your sweet babe.
IT TAKES TIME You’re going to hate hearing this, especially when you’re wrestling with the car seat and baby is wailing his little heart out. He’s not used to this bright, loud, cold world. And he’s definitely not used to being strapped into a weird contraption. But, even if he doesn’t like something right away, that doesn’t mean he won’t like it in 4 days. Slowly, he’ll get used to the stuff. And you will, too. Soon you will pull that stroller out of the back of your car and swiftly transform it and be on your merry way. Maybe not today, but soon.
YOU DOUBT YOURSELF. CONSTANTLY. Here’s that existential struggle. In an instant, you’re transformed from feeling like a capable woman who has pretty much figured out this whole life thing to one who feels lost and overwhelmed and completely incompetent. Rest assured, sweet friend, this phase doesn’t last. You will once again start to feel the ground beneath you and enjoy life. You will once again take deep breaths, sleep deeply and feel human.
You may not remember who you were before this baby came in and rocked your world, but here’s the thing: YOU WON’T WANT TO. Because now? Now you’ve survived the hard season, and you’re stronger for it. Now…you’re a warrior.
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