Thursday, March 10, 2011

The 10pm Nap

...and other things you didn't know about having a newborn.

I'm continually amazed at the surprises that await new moms. Several of my friends are having babies lately and many of our conversations (though few and far between while juggling our changing schedules) revolve around the things we never knew or forgot about having a baby. Sure, there are dozens (hundreds?!) of books about having a baby but I think they focus more on how to take care of a new baby than prepare you for the nuances. So in an effort to make light of the sweet things of newborn-ville and remind you that you are not alone, here are some things you might discover in your baby's first four months of life!

1. The 10pm Nap. No longer the beginning of a stretch of dreams and quiet, your normal bedtime will become the start of a nap. You'll be up within the next 2-4 hours, feeding the sweet thing. So forget taking sleeping pills and prepare to be tired. VERY tired. It could be months and months before you get a full night of sleep.

2. The "Sleep while s/he is sleeping" advice is darn near impossible. While this is meant to encourage new moms to rest, I found that it was a complete challenge. Once the baby falls asleep and assuming you can put it down (see number 3), you will find 1.) you're not tired, 2.) that laundry, dishes or some other chore must be done, or 3.) your favorite show has just started. You will start a load of something, wipe down the counters, eat something and pee, then fatigue will start to set in and just as you curl up with your head on the pillow, the baby will wake up. No joke.

3. Your baby will sleep best (and possibly only) while being held. By you. By your spouse. By a grandparent. By a stranger at the grocery store. It's wonderful that babies require such physical touch and cuddling, and believe me, I love to snuggle with my kids and realize they won't always voluntarily crawl into my arms. But after working for 15...30...60 minutes to get your baby to sleep, you'll hold your breath and place it in bed, only to find it waking up immediately. We resorted to arranging pillows and blankets and the boppy (stopping just short of a heating pad but considered it!) to simulate our arms but that little nugget will know the difference! Argh!

4. Is my baby breathing? One of my most vivid memories of Zoƫ's first days was sleeping with the light on. She was in the bassinet next to my side of our bed but I couldn't bring myself to turn off the light because I wanted to make sure she was breathing. I was afraid to fall asleep because I was just positive she would stop breathing. It's so frustrating but most every mom experiences this fear. You'll be desperate for the baby to sleep for 5-6 hours and as soon as she does, you'll wake up in the middle of the night and rush to her quiet room, thinking it's only because she's passed out. Really. This happens.

5. The Phantom Cry. When you finally get a moment or two to shower, you'll swear you hear the baby's cries muffled by the sound of the running water. You'll hop out, soaked and covered in shampoo to check on the darling, only to find he's fast asleep and not making a noise. WTHeck?!

6. Your brain will change. I love how God created a portion of a woman's brain to start functioning as soon as the baby comes out. For nine months, your pregnancy required no mental thought to create the baby - it just happened on its own. Motherhood, however, requires every ounce of brain matter to remember, organize, structure, function, cope, and manage diapers, feedings, clothing, formula, pacifiers, naps, meals, and hygiene ALL while worrying about germs, growth rates, a healing mommy's body, and comparing yourself to every other mom in the world. Embrace the change.

7. Breast feeding might be best....but Similac/Enfamil/Gerber will make you think otherwise. By the time Tucker was born, I had seven (7!) full-size samples of formula in our closet. I mean, COME ON! There is nothing more tempting than giving up nursing when "the answer" sits in a hidden corner of your pantry. In just one pregnancy, the formula industry sent me over $100 worth of products to lure me in. It's worked every time. :-( You are not a bad mom for giving your baby formula.

8. Pacifiers are a blessing...and a curse. "Do you have the pacifier?" became as common as making sure we had the baby when leaving the house. I am so thankful for something that provides a sense of peace to soothe when my baby needs it but hate the dependancy it creates. It doesn't stay in. It gets dirty. They get lost as easily as ponytail holders and are only found when not needed. There are so many kinds (silicone? latex?) and are only cheap because you'll go through dozens in just twelve months.

9. You will expect the father of your baby to be a mother. You and your husband will care for the baby differently. Very differently. I believe that God created the woman to be the primary caretaker of children and this applies to newborns, too. I don't believe it's meant to be a 50/50 partnership of shared feedings, diaper changes, and wardrobe updates. He won't know when to feed the baby because you did the last feeding. He won't know if the diaper needs changing because you put on the last clean one. He'll want to hold the baby but won't offer to take it from you because you're its mother and wild animals kill anyone who tries to take their baby. He won't warm up the water for the bottle because you told him it was too hot last time. He won't get up in the middle of the night because he has to work the next day and doesn't even have an opportunity for a nap. He will try very, very hard to be a great dad but he's just not sure what that means and he's so overwhelmed with love and responsibility for this sweet bundle of joy that he doesn't want his weakness to make a mess of it. But he will be a great dad, if you let him.

Welcome to motherhood and take hope! Do you know the strength and power that resides in your heart? Do you know that you'll lose your life as you raise this child and surrender its every purpose to God? You'll die to yourself throughout every moment and realize how many rights you think you still possess. But your character will be beautiful as it's refined. You are not alone - God is with you and He's the perfect parent. He has all wisdom and knowledge for every challenge you're facing with Sweet Pea. He is our strength in moments of weakness. He provides friends who also go through the fires of motherhood, some who have gone before, some who walk alongside us, and some have yet to start the journey.

You are not alone!

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