After having my baby, I spent the first few days confined to the hospital worrying over a sudden, never-ending checklist of tasks. My husband and I were the parents of the tiniest, most fragile human on the planet! If you add in the fact that my husband was living on what can generously be referred to as a glorified recliner in our hospital room , saying that we were eager to go home was an understatement. Those first few days at the hospital blended together, but I figured that my feelings of sleeplessness and worry would dissipate once we were home.
I was so wrong.
We arrived home in ignorant bliss. We introduced baby to the dogs and had a super cute photo op in her crib (which, spoiler alert, she would not sleep in until fifteen months later). My parents came over to welcome baby home. It was all very exciting and lovely.
Then it was time for bed and our happy ignorance was over.
I fell into a wormhole or a black hole or. . . something dark and endless. I didn’t really do well in science class, but I’m sure you can figure out the analogy.
I was frightened by how tiny and delicate she was. I couldn’t bring myself to put her into her Pack ‘n Play—it seemed that she would get lost in the immenseness of it! Luckily, someone had gifted us an in-bed bassinet so she could lie safely between us. I didn’t have a game plan for the animals. One of our cats literally banged his head into the door all night as our dogs whined to be let inside.
I didn’t just worry about my family’s sleep situation that first night. Prior to giving birth I had read tips for breastfeeding and had bought every gizmo and accessory that I could for my boobs. But let me tell you, when your tiny human latches onto your breast and doesn’t want to let go for HOURS. . . no amount of motivational memes can help.
I cried. This was not how I imagined our first night.
Throughout the passing days we would sing Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star about one hundred times until she finally drifted off to dreamland with us rushing to follow. We would all sleep—for thirty minutes. And then she would wake up, ready to eat for the next two hours. Eat, sleep, eat, sleep. It felt like an endless cycle.
You can do all the research you want, but no one really warns you of the complete upheaval that happens to your household in those first few days. The doubts, the frustrations, the sleep deprivation.
You know in season seven of The Walking Dead when Daryl is locked in a cell while his torturers play Easy Street on a constant loop? That’s what those first few days with a newborn is like. Only the upbeat song playing is the happiness you know you should be feeling at being a new parent of an amazing baby girl and the cell you’re locked in is sleep deprivation. The only difference between being Daryl in season seven and being a new parent is that the love you have for your little bundle keeps you moving forward.
“What’s today?”I remember asking my husband around day five. “I have no idea” was his response. Around this point we had fallen into a steady routine taking shifts feeding her, changing her, and soothing her. It was hard, but establishing a routine—even a sleep deprived one—brought us a much-needed sense of normality.
But then little by little things began to change. When our baby slept for a couple hours, then four hours, I began to relax. I felt like maybe I did have a sliver of ability for this whole parenting thing.
On day eight a game changer happened. At 2:00 AM I gave in and sent my husband to the only twenty-four-hour grocery store in town for formula. Sometimes you need to be flexible.
On day ten we hit another milestone. We took our daughter out to lunch. It was the first time I had left the house since giving birth. Just the simple act of putting on makeup and picking out clothes that weren’t leggings gave me hope that I was still me.
Stepping out of the house was like stepping onto an alien planet. It seemed like the whole world had carried on without me. I had to remind myself to relax and just be in the moment. Enjoying the world for the first time as a family of three awoke something in me that told me we were going to be just fine.
By the time those first two weeks ended I felt less doubtful, frustrated, and sleep deprived. My husband and I looked at each other and thought, “What just happened?”
Now, many months later, when I start to feel like I have no idea what I’m doing, I look back on the hot-mess-mom that I was in those first two weeks and know that if I got through that then I can get through this.