People never talk about the dark side of being a new parent until you “join the club.” Then you’re whacked over the head with so much craziness that you can’t possibly imagine why people didn’t warn you. If I could write a letter to myself as a brand new parent, I wouldn’t talk about the details of pee and poop, sleepless nights or the constant crying (mine included). This is the letter I would write to myself.
Hey, Jenny. I know you’re in no mood to hear what I have to say. You feel like a walking zombie taking care of an infant who won’t stop screaming. But hear it you must.
You haven’t slept. You haven’t had a break in two months. You haven’t showered. Shoot. You can barely grab a slice of deli turkey from the fridge to eat.
Even though the people around you mean well, they really don’t know what to say to make you feel better. They say it’s just a part of being a parent. They don’t know (and neither do you) that your baby screams all the time because he has Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). Oh, babies cry, they say. Not for hours on end! The best the pediatrician can tell you is your son is colicky… but even this is off the charts. It will take you a couple of years to finally pinpoint what is going on and begin to proactively help him.
But I’m not talking about SPD here, which is a whole other layer to the hysteria (read here). I’m talking about the desperation every new mom feels when she brings that baby home. There is an undeniable loneliness that accompanies a first baby, especially when you don’t have your family nearby. But with some distance and time, I’ve been able to figure out what is really the worst part of being a new mom… you don’t know when this phase is going to (if ever!)end!
People say parents are so much calmer the second time around. It’s not because they know now how to change a diaper without thinking or take a baby’s temperature (which was a shock to discover). That’s because they have actually experienced the mania you are going through and know this phase will actually end. When you’re in it, it doesn’t matter how many people tell you you will be okay. In the moment, it doesn’t feel like you will make it through this frantic stage, which my husband and I called the 4th Trimester. From our point of view, it was almost like our child just wasn’t ready to be born yet and needed another three months to cook.
Being a new parent is like going into a hole in the ground. You turn off much of the world around you because you are just trying to keep up with this human being who just joined your family. It is madness and love and agony and joy all rolled into one. But then one day, around the 4th month, you will look up from your hole in the ground and see the world around you. You will take a breath… and your baby will allow you to take that breath. You will notice the sun is shining. You will start feeling like a person again. (You will not, however, go to the bathroom by yourself for years to come.)
There is light at the end of the tunnel. You need to mark the time and count down the days on the calendar. Get out the red marker and X out those dates. Knowing that this sheer hysteria will pass by the end of four months will give you the courage and perhaps a little bit of solace to help you hang on and carry on.
Love you, girl.
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