Yeah, sure, you learned a lot while babysitting. You may have even thought to yourself that you spend more time with the children you were watching than their own mother or parents. I get it. I thought I had a lot to preparation too. Here’s the thing though… it’s so different. SO different! For starters, if you did babysit you probably have never babysat a child who is under 3 months. And if you did, it wasn’t for long periods of time. And, fun fact… the first three months, well, those might be the hardest.
In the first three months two things stand out as the biggest challenges to adapt to as a new parent. Those challenges are night-time parenting and breastfeeding. I use the term night-time parenting to simply highlight parenting that occurs during the night when your baby is awake and needs something from you that is not sleep. And, if you happen to be breastfeeding, you get to do even more night-time parenting! Lucky us, ladies!
During the first three months, I remember first adjusting to waking up in the middle of the night. I was so tired during the days of those months that I would often fantasize about getting a hotel room somewhere and getting someone to watch my baby while I went off and slept for an entire day straight. Ah, that never happened. Most of the time I thought I was going to die because I was so tired. But I didn’t die. One of my favorite quotes about motherhood is from Tina Fey. Tina is quoted saying, “You go through big chunks of time where you’re just thinking, ‘This is impossible – oh, this is impossible.’ And then you keep going and keep going, and you sort of do the impossible.” That is exactly how those early months felt.
I was breastfeeding too and that meant I had to wake up at night, and I was too tired to pump milk to even attempt giving my baby a bottle so I could sleep more. People are always like, “give them a bottle so you can go out or sleep!” Yeah, okay. I was worried enough about my supply. To pump extra, I had to either stay awake at night or during naps and did you read the part about how tired I was? When my fatigue didn’t feel like a double-edged sword through my body (am I exaggerating? No, I don’t think so), I was able to pump after my first feed in the morning. That takes time though.
To sum things up, I was too tired to do much of anything. Even eating was difficult. I also remember when the baby went down for a nap, thinking to myself, “What is the most important thing I have to do right now? Sleep, eat, shower?” Showering was never the most important, let’s just be serious. If I was starving I’d grab the easiest and quickest thing I could find. Then sleep. I was not accustomed to sleeping during the day so getting my body in that groove took time. Then, of course, I had to adjust to the fact that my baby was going to wake up at any point. That was nerve wracking to my already anxiety ridden body. Sleeping was hard to do during the day. Sleeping was not happening at night. My body felt like it was breaking down. Tears streamed down my face often. Fights escalated with my partner. This was my new life and it felt like a nightmare.
I am on a tangent, yes. But I am going to keep going. I want to highlight the fact that I didn’t get much sympathy from those around me. I felt pressure from people around me to pull myself together and get going on life. I know after having discussions, especially with my partner, that I should have communicated better or more often about the help I needed. However, at the time I didn’t do that and I felt that pressure which made my whole situation worse. I was very, very tired and I was overwhelmed and I should have made more of an effort to get assistance to just sleep or rest more.
Life is life and we learn as we go so back to my original point – babysitting doesn’t prepare you for night-time parenting and breastfeeding. You won’t be able to babysit enough kids to get properly prepared to all that is motherhood. Night-time parenting is exhausting. Breastfeeding is not as easy as you think. I will be writing another post to get into more detail of breastfeeding obstacles. That’s coming, m’ladies. Don’t you worry.
Anyways, these things are hard. Instead of birth plans, people should be making postpartum plans. In fact, I will develop a postpartum plan template people can use for these purposes. In hindsight, I would have gotten a postpartum doula to get me through the first few months. I would have hired as many people as I could have afforded! Additionally, I would have gone to the free mom groups in my area WAY sooner. The mom groups helped me feel normal and that my crazy was okay and that there was a light at the end of the sleep deprivation tunnel.
Well for now… keep on mothering, mommas!