Well intentioned advice gets annoying.
I didn’t know how physically or mentally exhausting motherhood could be because I didn’t have anything to compare it to. I just knew it would be really hard. And it’s not because I never dealt with kids before. When I was 16, I babysat 2 kids, aged 3 and 5 for 40 hours a week for an entire summer. When I was 18 I babysat 3 kids, aged 3, 5 and 7 once a week. When I was 19 I worked at a daycare for a summer. I don’t think I’m a total idiot when it comes to kids. But once you take care of your own baby, every suggestion or piece of advice makes you feel like an idiot. Well intentioned advice becomes irritating, rather than helpful it makes the mother feel like everything she does is wrong. How you feed the baby, diaper the baby, burp the baby, hold the baby, whether you play with baby enough, whether you read to baby enough, whether you talk to baby enough, every action is criticized. I might be taking it the wrong way, since all the advice is meant to be helpful.
But I never asked for advice.
A little empathy goes a long way.
I’m doing the best I possibly can. Just picture doing what a new mother has to do 24/7. It’s a never-ending job. Cut her some slack, if she looks like she’s not playing with the baby enough, if she’s too tired to pick up the baby the second she cries, if she isn’t walking the baby around with bundles of energy. She (me) gets around 3 hours of sleep a night, 5 if she’s lucky.
And never ask the new mom if she’s bored staying home all day. EVER. My old 40 hour work week was a piece of cake compared to this. In fact, it’d be a vacation compared to this. At least I got to go home and sleep uninterrupted every night. I got to drink wine, go out to restaurants, go shopping. Now, something as simple as grocery shopping takes twice as much time.
So please, try to be a little understanding. If a new mom wants to complain, it’s because she wants to let out her frustrations as a way to de-stress. She doesn’t want more advice or nasty comments (i.e. “This is what you wanted, so stop complaining.”)
Breastfeeding is hard.
I never thought about breastfeeding until the day I attempted it. I mean, how hard could it be, right? You stick the baby on your boob and the baby drinks milk. It sounds easy. It’s probably the toughest thing I had to do aside from labor. Who knew you could get infections, fevers, chills, body aches, clogged ducts, etc. And let’s not mention the excruciating pain.
Ok, let’s mention the excruciating pain.
It hurt so much the first month that I had tears running down my face each time I fed the baby. Shooting pains up and down my chest. I had to take painkillers almost every day. I had help from lactation consultants at the hospital, a nurse that came to my apartment, and I even went to lactation support groups. I learned every possible way to get the baby to latch correctly. It’d work some of the time, then stop working, then work again. To me, it seemed that time was the only thing that made feedings better.
I was told to give up by numerous people. I was also told that formula was better for the baby and that she wasn’t getting enough milk from me (from multiple family members, not doctors). Even my husband couldn’t stand to see me in pain and told me there would be no shame in formula feeding. But all the talk about giving up just made me keep trying. I cried through so many feedings, then over time I cried less and less. After 2 months, it wasn’t that painful anymore. The baby learned to latch successfully. I’m still in pain but it’s on and off, and I learn to deal with it. Breastfeeding isn’t perfect for me, but I think it’s best for the baby. A baby who doubled her weight in 2 months from breastfeeding. So take that, you formula pushers.
Not that formula is bad. I had to supplement the first couple weeks because the baby was so small. Sometimes I wonder if that’s why I had such a hard time breastfeeding though…
To anyone who is thinking of breastfeeding, or is breastfeeding now, get a support group if you want to do it. And tell everyone to shut up if they tell you to give up. Or that formula is better than your milk. Do what YOU want to do and get support. Chances are there aren’t a team of cheerleaders behind the decision you make.
You get no sleep at first….but it gets better.
Everyone warns new parents that they won’t get any sleep when the baby is born. This was absolutely true. At first, we thought those people were just exaggerating, or that they weren’t scheduling the feedings properly or something. But they were right. At the hospital, Chris and I got around 2-3 hours of sleep in 3 days. Then we’d get around 2 hours a night, then around 4 hours a night for the first month. But it was on and off between feedings. You both get cranky, snippy, you can’t function properly, you surely can’t drive a car. When you shower you’ll forget if you shampooed your hair or not, so you’ll do it three times.
The first month with a baby is the hardest. For example, you’ll feed the baby at 10pm, burp her between 10:45-11pm. She’ll wake up at 12, you feed her, burp her between 12:45-1am. She’ll wake up at 2am, and it goes on and on and on. Sometimes the baby will sleep 30 minutes in between feedings, not an hour. You get fragments of sleep that add up to maybe 4 hours at most, but it doesn’t feel like 4 hours. You think it’ll never end, that you’ll never sleep normally again.
Just when you’re about to pull your hair out, the baby will sleep a good 2 hours straight. Then 3 hours, then 4 hours, then 5 whole hours. Soon you’ll be waking up just once a night in between 9 whole hours.
It doesn’t mean that you’ll get sleep though. If you have insomnia like I do.
Ironically, I can’t sleep when the baby sleeps.
It takes me a good 2-3 hours to fall asleep after the baby falls asleep. By that time, I’m up in an hour or two to start feeding anyway. Sometimes I don’t fall asleep until 7am. I pace back and forth the living room exhausted. I can’t take sleeping pills because it decreases milk production. What makes it worse is when my husband says it’s my fault I don’t go to sleep anyway. The problem is, it’s not something I can control. Not that my husband can help it anyway. As he snores soundly for hours, then says he didn’t get enough sleep.
I know why there are such things as Mommy Groups.
There are so many mom groups out there. I always thought it was so they could brag about their babies to the other moms and compete. I guess some groups are like that, but they exist because the minute you have a baby you’re completely isolated. All your friends stop calling, because they say they don’t want to disturb you or the baby. And everyone who does call just asks how the baby is doing. Nobody will ask how you are doing, how you’re coping, how you’re feeling. It gets lonely and depressing. You don’t want to complain on the phone to the people who do call, so you say everything is great. Even if someone did call to ask how I was doing, I’ll always say I’m doing fine. I rather not get more advice or the ‘stop whining’ attitude from people. I don’t think I ever had someone tell me I was doing a good job with the baby. Which is the only thing I want to hear, being isolated, stressed, exhausted and depressed.
But I hope that one day the baby will learn to say that I’m a great mommy, even if I don’t think I am. That would mean more than what anyone else says.
Smiling baby make it all better.
After a month, your baby will smile at you, and it’s not because of gas. She’ll poop on your hand while you’re changing her diaper, and just when you’re about to get mad, she’ll smile, and you’ll forgive her. She’ll wake you up at 2am crying, and when you pick her up, she’ll smile, and you’ll forgive her. You’re about to eat lunch, and just when you put the forkful of food in your mouth, she’ll want your attention. You’re exasperated and hungry, but she’ll smile and coo, and you play with her for another 15 minutes before you attempt to eat again. You always forgive her. Besides, it’s not her fault she loves you.