On September 11, 2014 at 9:14 p.m. my life as I knew it changed forever. After 40 weeks and 5 days of waiting, I welcomed my first child, a son who we named Leo. Just like that, I was a parent. It has been almost 4 weeks since that day and this blog post is dedicated to the adventure that the last 4 weeks have been…..thanks to you, my son, Leo.
Towards the end of my pregnancy, everyone asked me if I was ready for parenthood. I would always respond, “I’m as ready as I’m going to be!” While this statement is still true for me, being “ready for parenthood” is something that I have learned is just not possible! I talk to new moms all the time as part of my job. New babies and their parents are some of my favorite patients. I tell them about sleeping, feeding, peeing and pooping and walk out of the exam room feeling pretty good about my advice. Even though I know all the answers to the “is this normal” questions, having my own baby at home showed me that even though I have had my questions answered, I still constantly question myself with every whimper, spit-up and muscle twitch. To explain, let me tell you a story…
About day 4 after birth, Leo seemed to be crying anywhere from 20 minutes to 1 hour after eating. My husband, my mom, and I would rock him, shush him, sway, swaddle and do anything else we thought would work with little to no change. We kept saying, “He can’t be hungry – he just ate 40 min ago!” Then it hit me – cluster feeding!! I let him nurse and the crying stopped. It was like magic. And then he cluster fed for the next 2 weeks for what seemed like all day and all night. Then one night in between one of these feeds as I was changing a diaper, he wet his outfit. So I changed the outfit and the diaper again. Then as I was finishing that new outfit and diaper, he pooped all over…this went on for 5 outfit changes. Of course during this time Leo was ravenous again and was screaming for food. I yelled for my husband to come help as I was at my wits end! There was nothing me as a pediatrician could have done/known to make that night any better. This was Leo’s show and I was just the food supply and the maid.
While that was one of the hardest nights, they have since gotten better – for the most part. I am still exhausted every time he wakes me to feed. Nursing still is painful on occasion, although it has improved greatly, thank goodness. But through the pain, the exhaustion, the dirty diapers and costume changes I have continued to learn about being a parent – and I have experienced the love for a child that is unparalleled and worth every ounce of anguish.
I want my newborn parents to know that it is OK to question yourself all the time. It is what makes you a parent – and a good parent at that! I also want you to know that you WILL cry (lack of sleep, hormones, breastfeeding soreness, etc), you WILL have moments of doubt (why won’t you stop crying?! What am I doing wrong?!) and you WILL wonder if you are ever going to sleep again (after the longest 4-6 months of your life, you will get better sleep again, I promise). Along with these feelings, though, you WILL succeed and you will be a great parent to your little bundle of poop…I mean joy!!
With that said, I’m here to offer my story as a way to tell you that you are not alone at that 3 a.m. feed or when your baby won’t stop crying or when you’ve changed 5 diapers in a row because the poops just don’t stop coming! I feel you. WE feel you as your pediatricians, fellow parents, families and friends and we are here for you! Make sure as a parent of a newborn you have support when you need it. Support can be a person to hand off a crying baby to, a person to talk to, or a person that will let you shower while they hold your little one. Make sure to ask your partner for help when you need it as well – they may not know when or how to help, so, vocalizing your need for their support is important. As a new parent you also need to make time for YOU. Whether that be a date night with your partner, time to go grocery shopping, or just an hour to nap (and yes you NEED to sleep when your baby sleeps whenever possible)! While you can’t predict your baby, you can make your life easier by having these support systems in place to get you through the tough times. Remember that it is always darkest before the dawn (literally – I have seen this dark hour nightly for the last 4 weeks!) but the sun will rise and you will be a great parent to your great newborn.
Cheers from the land of parenthood! Thanks for reading.