A baby is only considered a newborn for those first 6 weeks of life. After that, he becomes an infant. There's something different about that initial time period that sets it apart from the rest of the first year. I love cuddling with a newborn and I love the way they fall asleep on Daddy's chest. I find it fun to get to know baby's personality. It's a challenge to figure baby out, but it's one I enjoy. At the same time, I don't mind admitting that it's completely and utterly exhausting. I know several of you are expecting your first babies sometime in 2011, or you've just come through the newborn fog recently, so I thought I'd share with you a real life look at newborn life, with some tips on keeping it all in perspective.
Between changing ten diapers a day and nursing the baby 14 times a day, you might manage to get some sleep, but it's intermittent sleep. After all, the baby's walnut-sized tummy has to be fed frequently. Add in a baby with reflux or the fact that most newborns just want to be held, and you can imagine that sleep is hard to come by. Small chunks of sleep, sometimes as much as two hours at a time or as small as a half hour, become the new norm for mommy. This is why the past five weeks have been a fog for me. Some days, I feel like I'm just muddling through. Other days, I feel like I've sort of got it under control, but please don't ask me for today's date or to remember anything important.
Fortunately, as those first six weeks come to a close, the baby starts settling into a rhythm. That's where we are now. My house is clean, Ie managed to get in a shower before noon, and I even made homemade bread yesterday. Otherwise, I can assure you, I wouldn't be blogging right now. I find it hard to blog when my house is messy and life is in chaos. Other than the past 24 hours, Andrew is finally settling into a bit of a routine, and he's sleeping for larger chunks of time. It feels glorious to sleep for 4 1/2 hours straight at night. I wake up feeling so refreshed.
One thing that helps me make it through those first few difficult weeks was to keep things in perspective. I knew it would be hard, and I remember talking to my mother about it the morning that Andrew was born. Her advice was to change my thinking. Instead of thinking about the dreaded late night feedings and the subsequent fatigue, instead, she said she always viewed it as a privilege. Think "I get to do this."
Try it. I get to do late night feedings. I get to change his diapers. I get to have the baby projectile vomit all over me.
Hey, it happens.
Really, it is a privilege. Ever known anyone who couldn't have children? I do. We all do. Know anyone who has lost a baby, full term? I can assure you, that mother would give anything for months of sleepless nights, just to hold her baby in her arms.
I think it's also a blessing to get to nurse your baby. It's so hard at first, and it doesn't work out for some women. But if you're able to nurse, there's little dad can do to comfort a hungry baby at 3 am, so much of the work falls on mom. But it's a privilege and a gift that you give to your baby.
Another friend of mine shared with me some wisdom from her mother. She said that having two kids is not twice as hard. It's not twice the work either. She's right. And at the moment, I've got two sick kids, and it's really not twice as hard as having one sick one. It has had its challenges, but other than last night, it has not been nearly as hard as I thought it would be.
I've also tried to take things one day at a time and one week at a time. As far as newborns' sleeping and eating routines go, every week is easier than the last. And when I begin the morning routine of changing diapers after an especially exhausting night, I sing to my baby "This is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it." This is exactly the day He has given me, with the kids He has blessed me with. It's hard not to have joy when you view it that way.
That said, I've had my meltdown moments. I remember one night where I only got a couple hours of sleep total. When I heard Isabelle's voice on the baby monitor, signalling that it was time to get out of bed and start my day, all I could do was cry. I just wanted to pull the blanket over my head and go back to sleep. And I did, for about ten minutes. But eventually I got up, changed both kids' diapers, and fed Isabelle her breakfast. Then I set her up with a video and I napped off and on until I felt like a human again. That's what I mean by muddling through. We've had many days where that was the only way we could function.
How do you cope when you're running on a few hours of sleep? I'd pulled all-nighters in college, but somehow it still can't compare with caring for a newborn. It's not nearly as rewarding either.