How Hard It Is

As I write these posts I’m very aware that I am only reporting what everyone before me has already verified; I am like an enthusiastic scout venturing deep into the wilds of, oh, South Peoria, only to come back saying breathlessly that yes, all the streets are just where the map said they would be, and the gas station hasn’t been moved. All that I’m discovering is that what everyone says is true.

It’s not like nobody told us how hard it would be. Everybody tells you that caring for a newborn is exhausting and draining and crazy-making and just generally really, really hard. That doesn’t stop us from staring at each other, dumb with exhaustion, utterly shocked at how hard it is.

Our first night home, Robin cried more or less steadily from eleven at night until four in the morning. We flipped through every page in every parenting book we’ve collected looking for a trick to soothe him—white noise, rocking, a hot compress on the belly in case he had gas. I kept telling myself he’d wear himself out and fall asleep any minute, but somewhere he was finding inexhaustible reserves of outrage. This after five nights in the hospital of scant and fitful sleep. We were utterly broken, and both starting to suspect we’d made a terrible mistake.

Things looked better in the morning, and the subsequent nights have been much more sane. We seem to have settled into a workable routine. I go to bed around seven o’clock; Sam stays up and amuses the baby. I get up for feedings in the evening, and through the night, and in the morning I keep Robin quieted while Sam sleeps in. We love our baby, and most of the time we feel like we’re doing pretty well. But there are moments every day that we wonder what we’ve done.

I’ve cried every single day since Robin was born. Not often or for long, and not even with any real sense of sadness or despair, just as a helpless venting of tension and anxiety and general overwhelm. I know it’s largely the chemical aftermath of birth: one of my books says, “The hormonal changes you went through as an adolescent or experience during your menstrual cycle are minor compared to the hormonal overhaul you’re undergoing after giving birth.” I’m not really worried about postpartum depression, though I guess it’s something to keep an eye on in myself, and I don’t want to worry anybody else who’s reading this. It’s just that I want to write about all the great stuff, how cute he is, how sweet, how amazing it is when I hold him and he blinks up at me with bemused blue eyes. But I wouldn’t be reporting honestly if I didn’t also admit how hard it is.

3 Responses to “How Hard It Is”

  • Nina Says:

    utterly shocked at how hard it is

    And this is why I find the phrase “multiple birth” to rank just after “zombie attack” on the terror scale. How on earth do people do it?

    I wish there were something I could do, but I’m sure that even if I were there I wouldn’t have the faintest idea of how to help. So — ra, ra, Phillipses! May the naps get longer and the feedings shorter.

  • Dawn Says:

    How difficult it is also depends on the beeb in question. Your account ranks at the harder end of my (admittedly limited) experience. On the other end of the scale, I’ve heard stories of newborns that got home and slept 8 hours every night from the first night. Which is a very different thing and not because of anything the parents did.

    People have often said that boys tend to sleep less in the early months – and that was certainly our experience. Also, I know of fellow mothers with girls who then had a boy and discovered how much harder the first few months could be! (there was one in reverse with a girl)

    So hang in there – it gets better!

  • Madeline Says:

    I like the man’s comment in your other recent post about wanting to throw the baby out the window. After my daughter was born, I confessed to my mom how hard I was finding it, that I was even having violent impulses at times, and, far from being horrified, she told me that was normal. She said that becoming a parent makes you understand why a person might want to hit their children.

    Anyhow, it’s great that you’re recording the honest, not the rose-colored, version. It sounds like you’re doing an amazing job.

Leave a Reply