“This too shall pass.”
“It gets easier.”
“The fog will lift.”
“You have your hands full!”
We’ve all heard these statements from friends, family or well-meaning bystanders as we tiredly rock a crying baby or try to race through the grocery store before the next feeding. It’s true, “the days are long and the years are short.” But hearing those words in the midst of the first, hard days of motherhood is enough to make you want to throw a punch in the middle of the bread aisle.
I’ve survived it twice, and I can now say, with hindsight, that I had a love/hate relationship with the days of infancy. Experiencing a new life is like no other. Feeling the depth of love you never knew existed is indescribable. Hearing the coos and reveling in the warm snuggles may possibly be the biggest high achievable. And having a living, breathing person depend on you for every need of their existence is both touching and exhausting. I look back at the days of infancy with a fondness but also distinctly remember how incredibly hard it was to endure.
The first days and weeks are met with utter exhaustion, physical pain and spine tingling worry. The fact that I ever, even once, complained about being tired before parenthood is laughable. The roller coaster of emotions that made me weepy one minute and fly in to a blind rage the next (which was mostly because the dog started barking at the mailman) left me feeling drained, always. The toll it took on my body physically, and the fact that my body alone was sustaining a life was an enormous pressure to bear. The constant, confusing feedings, that left me sore and (literally and figuratively) drained were overwhelming. And the whirlwind of life that is so new and different that any notion of time before baby seems so very, very far away was at times like a slap in the face. It’s true, the infant days were tough.
All of this is enough to make you wonder how we all make it through! How is it possible to get through another sleepless night, another hour of constant crying for no rational reason at all? I would sometimes feel myself wishing for things to speed up, or to get easier. “I can’t wait for him to sleep for two hours straight.” “I can’t wait for him to take a nap in his crib.” “When will I be able to feel like myself again?” Predictability was all I really wanted, unaware, as a new mother the word itself doesn’t even belong in the same universe as an infant. At times it’s easy to wish away the days and long for normalcy, whatever that means. It’s hard to see past the long nights.
And then, magically, it happens. In small increments, things change. Each day and week becomes easier. Your body begins to heal. Soreness lifts and emotions even. Slowly but surely, the world of a newborn evolves. They, and you, become more stable. Cries turn in to coos. Tired eyes feel (slightly) rested. You begin to understand what they need, when they need it. They know the touch of your skin, and the feel of your hair against their cheek, and it comforts them. Their movements and glances become more purposeful. Days become less worrisome and more relaxed. They reciprocate the love you show them with soft touches and smirks. Those moments are when you will know it was all worth it.
You have made it over the infant hump. You’ve been officially christened in to motherhood. From braving the most strenuous physical task your body will ever go through, to surviving on mere minutes of sleep, and figuring out, all on your own, how to nurture a baby. It goes by in the blink of an eye, and yet you’ll feel as if the days and nights can drag on. Soon their soft skin will be roughed up from catching themselves when they fall. Their babbles turn in to words. Every new developmental milestone met means a little more independence, not only for them but for you as well.
Those friends, neighbors and pesky strangers were right. You do have your hands full, but yes it does get easier!
Moms out there wishing for a few more hours of rest or wondering when in God’s name a baby outgrows colic, trust me you WILL get there. It DOES get easier. The hard days will be tremendously outweighed by ones filled with giggles and snuggles. The fog will lift, I promise. Do not feel guilty for looking forward to the easier days, as we have all been there! For now, embrace the unknown and relish the snuggles.
With enough time, you’ll forget about the exhaustion. You will look back and long for the days when they simply wanted to be cradled. Pictures of their first days on Earth will make you wince with both pure adoration and longing. The smell of their skin and the feel of their head on your shoulder will still be a vivid memory.
And then it will happen, you will ask yourself…“Should we try for another?”