As you read this, picture me yawning and staring blankly at my computer screen while my seven-month-old shouts gibberish in the background as he kicks his feet in a frenzy and reaches for anything he can put in his mouth.
Whew. I'm tired.
For the most part, I knew what I was in for before Eli was born. I was reminded constantly, “Enjoy sleeping while you can,” even though, let’s face it, when you're pregnant and your stomach is the size of a basketball, can you ever get good sleep?
But sleep really is a treasured thing of the past. Eli will turn eight months old on the 16th. I can count on one hand the number of times he’s slept through the night. From about three to five months old, he’d get up 10-15 times a night. Now he averages about four times.
I don’t say this to evoke pity, especially since I know there are babies who are far more demanding than Eli. It’s just that when I was pregnant, I was so focused on getting through childbirth. In my mind, I saw that as my marathon. “If I can just make it through that, then I’ll be okay,” I thought.
Yes, labor and delivery were painful (understatement of the year). I’ll spare you the gory details. I honestly got off pretty easy compared to other women. My water broke at about 4 a.m. on a Sunday and Eli was born at 10:21 a.m. that same morning.
The thing is, after you run a marathon, you get to rest. Or at least that’s what I did after I ran my first marathon. I spent the rest of the day in bed because I was wiped.
After I had Eli, however, I didn’t get to rest. I mean, it wasn’t like they had me doing jumping jacks or anything like that, but I did start nursing right away, which was awkward and challenging at first. Then we moved to another room where we got settled and had our vitals checked by one of the nurses. Then we met with visitors, spoke with the doctors, had our vitals checked again, and so on and so forth. The action was nonstop, and all I could think was, “I can’t wait until we get home where I can sleep in my own bed.”
When we left the hospital a couple days later I was elated… until Eli let out a piercing shriek and there weren’t any nurses or lactation consultants nearby to help me figure out what was wrong. With all my strength I tried to remain calm and soothe him, but, again, all I wanted to do in that moment was sleep.
It really is true when they say those first couple months are a blur. I considered myself productive if I took a shower and brushed my teeth. I was so exhausted from getting up every three, sometimes two hours, for feedings and diaper changes.
A friend asked me what was an unexpected challenge and an unexpected joy of becoming a mom. First, let me just say you moms make it look so easy! I never fully understood how much time and effort is required in keeping a tiny human alive and well, so I thought I’d be able to knock things out like usual. Cooking, cleaning, house projects, entertaining guests — easy breezy.
*Inserts face into palm*
I didn’t do hardly anything besides tend to Eli those first few weeks. I’m so thankful for my husband who picked up a lot of the slack around the house and for family and friends who provided support. Side note: If you want to do something nice for someone who’s just had a baby, organize a meal train for them. It's so nice not having to worry about cooking when you're taking care of a newborn.
Admitting to myself and others that I needed more help than I realized was probably one of the most challenging things for me. And it's led me to realize that it's not just childbirth that’s a marathon, but motherhood in general. Parents tell me, “Just wait until the terrible twos.” Or, “Wait until they’re a teenager.” Or, “Wait until they’re 30.” And I’m thinking, “Geesh. This is never going to let up, huh?” As if they can sense my concern, they follow up their comments with, “It’s all worth it.”
I couldn’t agree more.
I’m not thinking about the hours of sleep I’ve lost when I see that face smile at me in the morning. I’m not thinking about the spit-up on my shirt when he falls asleep on my chest. I’m not thinking about the crying when he’s giggling. (To answer my friend's second question on an unexpected joy, I'd have to say how much I love baby snuggles and giggles.)
Yes, motherhood is a marathon. And I consider myself blessed to be along for the journey.
For all you new moms and moms-to-be, I thought it might be helpful to share some things that I’ve found useful.
Books I’ve read:
- “What to Expect When You’re Expecting”
- “What to Expect the First Year”
- “On Becoming Babywise: Giving Your Infant the Gift of Nighttime Sleep”
- "Waiting in Wonder: Growing in Faith While You're Expecting"
Apps I’ve used:
- Ovia Pregnancy Tracker
- Ovia Parenting: Newborn & Baby Tracker
- Baby Feed Timer (breastfeeding tracker)
- BabySparks (development activities and milestones)
I also used (well, tried using) the Contraction Timer app when I was experiencing contractions, but I was distracted by the pain and kept forgetting to hit the button when I had a contraction, so I would suggest having your partner handle the app for you if this is something you’d like to use.
Products I adore:
Halo SleepSack: I’ve used this since Day 1. There are different kinds — I used the swaddle when he was a newborn, and now that he’s bigger and rolling over I use the wearable blanket. It’s great because it promotes a safe sleeping environment by taking the place of loose blankets which could accidentally cover the baby’s face and interfere with breathing.
Baby K’tan Baby Carrier: I’ll admit, I was a little reluctant to get this at first, questioning if I’d use it all that often, but I’m so glad that I have it because I use it all the time. I specifically listed this brand (there are so many baby carriers) because it doesn’t actually require any wrapping. I tried using a traditional wrap, which essentially is a long piece of fabric, and I couldn’t master putting it on. The K’tan is made of two loops which are connected by a third smaller loop. It’s simple to put on and great for when I need my hands free.
Note: When using a baby carrier, it's important to ensure the baby has good head support and is in a proper ergonomic position to protect the baby's hips. Click here for safe baby-wearing practices.
Boppy nursing pillow: This is another product I’ve used from the beginning. It’s great for nursing, propping and tummy time.
Play Gym: This is a nice lay-and-play toy that comes in several varieties and can aid in the development of gross motor skills (under adult supervision, of course). Eli has enjoyed using this one and this one.
Zipper pajamas: This may seem trivial, but when it’s 3 a.m. and your baby is screaming at you during a diaper change, it’s nice not having to worry about buttons. I can’t tell you how many times in my zombie-like state I missed a button and had to start the process over again.
Note: With the wide array of baby products out there, it can be challenging to discern which ones are useful, and more importantly, which ones are safe. If you have any questions or concerns about particular products, consult your pediatrician. (Here's more information on buying safe baby products.) You can also check for recalls on products, which is something I honestly hadn't paid much attention to until just recently when the Rock 'n Play was recalled.
If you have any questions related to pregnancy or your child’s growth and development, your obstetrician or your child’s pediatrician should be your first point of contact, but if you have any general questions like what our day-to-day routine looks like or who takes great maternity and baby photos (shout-out to Emma Hlad Photography and Aliyah Grace Burton Photography), or any other questions like that, please let me know and I'd be happy to answer them!