Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Dear Erin (and other new moms)

I have been reading this blog for months now and have been agonizing for the poor mother who writes it. She is a new mom and has found that it is not as easy as anyone would hope it to be. My heart goes out to her with every new post that she writes as she struggles to find her balance as a mom. After reading this particular post of hers today, I have decided to dedicate this one to her. Hang in there, Erin!

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     Occasionally, you are going to come across a mother who claims that her baby was the best thing that has ever happened to her and that her life has never been better. She is going to try to convince you that regardless of how little sleep she actually gets a night, it's totally worth it to look into the eyes of her precious newborn. She may also confide in you that since having this bundle of joy come into their lives, her relationship with her hubby/partner/significant other/baby daddy has never been better; that the baby has in fact brought them so much closer. DON'T LISTEN TO HER! Don't fall for it! She is lying! In fact, I suspect that what mothers like this are really doing is trying to convince themselves that this is how their life is, when it is in fact the complete opposite.

     Here's the truth, straight from my mouth to yours, being a parent is HARD! It is one of the most difficult things that you are ever going to deal with. You can read all of the books published on how to be a parent, but not a single one is going to prepare you for the real thing. All babies are different. They do not come with an instruction manual. And books are not targeted toward your specific child. Unfortunately, you will have to figure out the ins and outs of your baby on your own. And there is nothing more depressing, more lonely, or more frustrating than being a first time mother. Trust me, I've been there.

     When I had my first son, it was the biggest change in my life that I had ever encountered. I was dealing with hormones and emotions that I had never felt before, and I had to do this with 4 hours of sleep a night at best. Owen was not one of those babies that we all hear about who is sleeping for 4 hour stretches at a time at night within the first month. In fact, up until he was at least 6 months old, he was still waking up every two hours. And since I was breastfeeding, this meant that Daddio got to sleep at night while I was up all the time with Owen (although he would have used any excuse NOT to get up with either baby at night). And since Daddio worked all day, I was home with Owen all day by myself. And to anyone who suggests that you "sleep while the baby is sleeping", remind them that being a stay-at-home-mom, most of us are still expected to take care of the household duties as well, including laundry, cleaning, dinner, showering, etc. Try doing any of those things if you are sleeping.

     Between the lack of sleep and the lack of help that I was receiving from Daddio, I was a mess. There were times when Owen would be crying for what seemed like hours, and I would have no idea what was wrong with him. Was he hungry? Was he tired? Was he in pain? Did he have gas? I had no idea. And there is nothing more frustrating than hearing your own child screaming and not being able to do anything about it to help. There were moments when I was so tired and frustrated that I just HAD to leave him in his crib crying while I walked away from the situation just to regain my own sanity. And there's nothing wrong with that. In fact, it's best for both parties involved. A baby can sense when the person holding them is stressed, tired, tense, and upset, and it will only make them cry more. They are very receptive little creatures. And forget calling in any reinforcements; we were living in Texas at the time, a gazillion miles away from our family who lived in New York. I was on my own, and I was so depressed, and tired, and frustrated and I was crying all the time. (This also happened with my second child, so I think the hormones can be partially to blame here). But it does get better. And it does get easier.

     My advice to you, and other first time mothers who are experiencing the same things, is to stop feeling guilty, and stop feeling as though you are the worst mother ever. You aren't. You are a normal mother experiencing normal things that come along with a newborn baby. Don't feel guilty if you let your baby cry for a little while. No matter what anyone says, there is NOTHING wrong with doing this. A few minutes of crying never hurt anyone, in my opinion. In fact, it will eventually teach them a valuable lesson, that crying will not get them anywhere; that Mommy is not going to come running every time a tear is shed. And that's okay.

     Let your baby cry herself to sleep. The best decision that I ever made with Owen was to train him to put himself to sleep. At first, I felt guilty every time I put him in his crib and he started crying, so I would instantly pick him up and try rocking him to sleep. But then I realized, that if I kept this up, I would be doing this for the next two years! (Lesson I learned from my second son, Ben). So I decided to force him to put himself to sleep. I placed him in his crib and let him cry. After 5-10 minutes, I would go into his room and try soothing him by patting his chest, but not pick him up, then walk out of the room and let him cry again. With this first attempt, I had to go through this process repeatedly, for at least two hours. I let him cry for a few minutes, then went in to soothe him, let him cry, soothed him and on and on. I'm not going to lie, it was difficult to hear him cry. In fact, there were times when I had to walk outside the house so I couldn't hear him and wasn't tempted to go in his room and pick him up and hold him, but guess what? Eventually, he fell asleep.

     I stuck with this, not giving in once, and after two days, he was putting himself to sleep without a single tear. And it was the best thing I could have done, for both of us. The stress of bedtime was gone, and eventually I was able to discover a pattern with him that helped me to develop a sleep schedule for him (Throughout the day, I would put him back to bed after being awake for three hours). He was still waking up repeatedly at night, but at least I knew what to expect during the day and could start planning my own actions around his naps. It was great.

     Of course, this is all based on my own experience with my own child, and like I said before, each baby is different. But eventually, after many sleepless nights, and tear fests, and screaming matches, you will figure it out. And then, it will get easier. And as the months pass, you will actually forget how difficult the first few months were (much like how we mysteriously forget how difficult and painful labor was), and after a year or so, you will start finding yourself thinking about wanting a second child because you miss the baby that you once had. (You will, trust me). And then in no time, you will be blogging about moments like this and this. And you will look back on your posts from the first few months and realize that it was all worth it (no lie, it is!) and you wouldn't change a moment.

Well, maybe a few.



  1. Krista -

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. I'm now bawling...right along with my baby! This is exactly what I needed to hear right now. Thank goodness for people who are real...who tell the truth...who make me feel like less of a freak.


  2. This is exactly the kind of post mothers need to see. Thank you for being so honest!

  3. You are both very welcome. It think that for some people, myself included, it's just easier to write about the good things because facing the more difficult ones are a challenge. Sometimes it's hard to admit when you need help or when you can't do it all on your own.

    From here on out, I'm going to try to include posts from both sides of motherhood, the good and the bad. That is, if I can get myself back into the routine of posting on a regular basis! :-)


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