The first three months of Jack’s life were the worst three of mine. Because I was the one with the boobs and without a job, I had to wake up every 2 hours of my life. I didn’t have postpartum depression. I had postpartum exhaustion. When the nurse left me alone in my hospital room with Jack, I had a total panic attack. I didn’t know how to breastfeed, soothe, or even hold my baby. I didn’t know I was supposed to be changing him (I assumed they were doing that). I didn’t know ANYTHING. In that moment, with my husband passed out on the couch, I felt so alone. It was seriously terrifying. A week later, my mom left and it was just me and Jack, every two hours, non-stop. I remember thinking my life was over. What had we done? This was my life now. It didn’t help that every day from four to seven, Jack would scream. He just screamed his little heart out for no apparent reason. The only thing that calmed him was being swaddled so tight he couldn’t budge and walked around the house briskly. So, when I wasn’t sleeping, I was either nursing or bouncing around the house singing “You Are My Sunshine” in the happiest voice a walking dead person could muster.
This was my life. My old life was gone. Forever. Never again would I sleep in til 1PM after partying all night. Never again would I binge watch Friends. Never again would I take a bath without an infant in a bouncy seat beside me. WHAT HAVE I DONE?! WHY DO PEOPLE DO THIS?!
Needless to say, a lot of guilt came with these feelings of “what have we done”. I loved and adored Jack with all my heart. He was half me and half my favorite person. He was perfect and beautiful and I loved that I was one of the only two people he wanted. It’s strange how you can simultaneously love something and think it’s destroying your life. I thought my life was over, but guess what? By four months, he was only waking up once a night for feedings. By six months, he went to bed at 7:30 and woke up at 7:30. Now, he sleeps from 7 PM to 7:30AM every single day of our incredible life. He naps for two and a half hours every day and he snuggles with me at night before he goes to bed. Looking back, the ONLY thing that was awful about my life was that I didn’t have enough sleep to function.
I had the opportunity to watch a 9 week old baby this week. As we’ve all heard, every baby is different. Jack would drink his fill in about 30 seconds. He was a nursing LEGEND. Cry-Nurse-Sleep-Badabing! Braxton (the baby I kept) is a lot calmer about eating than Jack was. He’s what I classify a “grazer”. I’d give him the bottle, he’d drink a little, fall asleep, wake up, drink a little more, repeat. So, when he had 2 and 1/2 ounces and passed out and woke up SHRIEKING LIKE HE WAS ON FIRE I just assumed he needed a good tight swaddle/bounce. Five minutes later, he was still screaming. He was so mad at me. Obviously, he was trying to tell me something. As a last resort, I made him another bottle and he grabbed it with his ticked off, gummy mouth like I was the worst intern he’s ever hired.
It’s different with a baby who isn’t yours. Because I got a full night’s sleep and know he gets to go home later, it just isn’t as challenging as it was with my own newborn. We still have the “learning what your cries mean” introductory courses, but the student (me) has the luxury of knowing that class will be over soon. Braxton and I will figure out how to communicate and we never have class at 2 AM. I only spent a few hours with this little guy, but it reminded me how difficult life was only a year and a half ago.
I don’t know who these parents are who say it only gets harder. Maybe it did for them. As for me, my life has gotten better and better every day since Jack learned to sleep. He is bright and happy and hilarious. We tickle each other and chase each other and build towers with soup cans. He throws a tantrum at least once a day because he’s one and half years old, but just like knowing Braxton will be going home to his mommy, I know Jack will go to bed. I clock out at 7PM. Even through the relief I feel when having some time to myself each night, I still look forward to morning. Like any job, it’s harder when you first start. You have to figure out what you bring to the table. You have to discover what you need to work on and how you can best manage your time. You have to take breaks. New parents, your lives aren’t over. They’re just beginning. It seems like forever, but in a few months, life will get so, so much better.