While I was at the dermatologist having a mole burned off my arm last week (See? California isn’t all palm trees and Disneyland. After living here for more than a year you get inaugurated into an annual dermatologist skin-burning appointment no matter how old you are…), the doctor asked when I was due.
“Six weeks or so,” I said.
“Congratulations!” she said. “Your first?”
“Second,” I said.
“Ah,” she said. “So you get it. Six rough weeks, three long months, and then it’s all good.”
So, so true.
When Lincoln was born in 2012, I honestly thought my world had ended. He was beautiful and sweet and healthy and I adored him, but I was utterly unprepared for how everything would in my life would change. Sleep? Gone. Having some semblance of control over my body? No more. Being allowed a shower every day? Nuh-uh. Having a heart-to-heart with my husband that didn’t end prematurely when I nodded off? Not for a long, loooooong time.
I was so tired. I felt so overwhelmed. I thought that this would be my life forever now. A non-sleeping, non-sentence-finishing, non-hot-meal-eating, showerless, bedraggled, poochy-tummied, brain-dead, anxiety-ridden, never-read-a-book-again, milk machine sort of life. I fluctuated between being drunk in love with this adorable, snuggly newborn and really not liking him at all. He interrupted everything! Constantly! Just who did he think he was?
But then he grew up. Not all at once, but a little bit every day. Before long we had a nursing rhythm down and I wasn’t leaking through my tops anymore. A week or so later I could tell by the tenor of his cry whether he was hungry or wet or tired. A month after that he could hold his head up and I could take long walks with the stroller and start to feel like I might, one day, be at home in my new body–the one he’d changed forever with his presence.
The newborn weeks flew by. People told me “oh, enjoy every minute!” and I wanted to punch them because when you haven’t had a REM cycle in two months you become utterly incapable of enjoying anything, but I didn’t know then that those first weeks of utter zombie-faced agony don’t last.
When Lincoln was born I didn’t even have newborn photos taken because I thought I had plenty of time to get them. But then the craziest thing happened. In a matter of weeks, he wasn’t a newborn anymore! It really did surprise me. [I’m not that observant when it comes to babies, clearly…]
I now know that having a baby feels a lot like six weeks of hazing, three months of survival, and three years of finding a new normal thats not only sustainable but joyful, too.
This time around I’m looking forward to that. Not the sleep deprivation because, frankly, that’s pretty rough. Not the physical adjustments to nursing because, well, those are pretty rough, too. [I actually checked to see if Lincoln was born with teeth because during his first latch it was certain I had birthed a shark-baby. YEOWCH.] I am looking forward to the sweetness of the first days and weeks and months where this little baby and I get to know one another for the first time, and where I have the honor of welcoming him or her into our family.
If you’re expecting your first little one, be infinitely patient with yourself during those initial three weeks. You’ve heard it before, but don’t do much but nurse and cuddle and sleep. Let the laundry go – someone else will get to it, or else you can just order new undies and onesies on Amazon.com. Accept offers of help, of meals, of a housekeeper or a coffee run or a pedicure. Don’t worry about fitting into your old jeans – there will be time to exercise down the road, and your soft postpartum tummy is the perfect place to snuggle a soft baby.
The initial days will be tough, but they will end. Drink in that tiny otherworldly face of your little one because, before long, he or she won’t be a newborn anymore. And on days when you can’t drink in that tiny otherworldly face because your eyes just won’t focus on anything, give yourself loads of grace.
You got this.
I got this.
God’s got us, too.
If you’re on a second (or third, or fourth, or fifth…) pregnancy, what advice would you give to a new momma?