The glamour of motherhood dawned on me in the wee hours of the morning during my first or second week as a mom. I woke up with my front soaking wet. Night sweats again? Maybe? Doesn’t feel quite right… Then I figured it out. Milk. Leaking. Everywhere. MILK!
That was topped a few days ago. I was all dressed to go out. I pick up baby from his nap and he proceeds to vomit all over me. Fine, I didn’t really want to wear that outfit anyway. I put him down for a last minute diaper change and he poops on his change mat. I clean it up, only for him to produce a baseball size ball of poop before my very eyes. I swear that if that change mat hadn’t been a handmade gift from my mother, it would have ended up in the Diaper Genie along with the 15 wipes it took to clean it up. Oh and did I mention that I was out of disposable wipes? Luckily this happened the day after I had cut up old clothes to make cleaning rags.
The Two Month Check-In
The first two weeks are pretty rough. The advice I wish I had received sooner was “the two first weeks should be bedrest“. Me, I was desperate to morph into a domestic goddess now that I didn’t have a giant belly in the way or spend all my waking hours at my job. Exhausted from blood loss and being up all night, monopolized by a tiny, voracious beast who wants to eat 24/7 and in pain from my poor, poor boobs, I was probably as far as you could get from any kind of goddess. And newborns are angry, ungrateful things. I swear my little guy had two modes: unhappy and less unhappy.
After that, it got better. Little one figured out sleeping and eating (glorious!). Then he started making eye contact. Then smiling. Then making cute noises. Then laughing. And now, while I’m still totally not a domestic goddess, I’m having the time of my life.
My reflections and the bits of wisdom I picked up along the way:
1- Bonding can be a gradual thing: A lot of moms, myself included, are shocked when they aren’t overwhelmed with love when their newborn appears on their chest. I had written it off as my baby wasn’t fully alive for his first few hours, but it seems that even moms with healthy babies go through this. I may even dare say that I suspect the majority of new moms aren’t feeling it right away, despite their bragging. I think my feelings the first few days were more along the lines of shell-shocked. It’s so weird. One minute you don’t have a baby, then someone hands you one and you’re responsible for it forever. Mind-boggling. Anyway, I started using terms of endearment and saying gentle things right off the bat. Over time, I meant them more and more. And once baby started smiling and laughing in return, it was a done deal.
2- Breastfeeding: When women describe it as a journey, they aren’t kidding. I swear that the first few weeks, whenever someone asked me how I was doing, all I could answer was “my boobs hurt“. Labour was painful, but at least it was only a few hours. Breastfeeding pain lasts weeks. It takes over your mind and body and makes it hard to do anything. It became obvious to me why a lot of moms find breastfeeding takes a toll on their mental health. Then one day, around 5 and a half weeks in, the pain just stopped. Breastfeeding’s been great ever since.
3- Cloth diapers: My mom used cloth diapers on all her kids. How she managed to figure it out before the internet, I have no idea. But anyway, I wanted to carry on the tradition, hopefully saving money and landfill space. Several weeks in, I don’t think I’m saving a whole lot of money (today’s fancy pocket diapers are way more of a luxury item than my mom’s re-purposed flannel sheets), but I do admit that I really enjoy the micromanagement that comes with cloth diapers. Insert strategies, washing schedules, cover rotations… Makes me feel alive! Ed refuses to use cloth and I do try to avoid having reusables on when I feel that little guy is going to be messy so I probably do cloth like 75% of the time. It would tough to maintain if I had to go back to work, though. It’s not hugely time consuming but it is a commitment.
4-There’s way too much overthinking: How do I get baby to sleep in his bed? How do I drop the swaddle? How do I manage naps while going out? How do I get into a routine? At less than 2 months old! I understand not everyone has the luxury of parental leave and need results right away. I also may have an exceptionally chill baby, but I got him to sleep in his bed by putting him in his bed. I dropped the swaddle by not swaddling him. (He seemed to hate it after the first 2-3 weeks anyway – when we ditched it was when he started sleeping better.) Going out is how I get him to nap (I suspect he’ll be a roller coaster aficionado when he grows up – he lives his best life when the rest of us are motion sick). We don’t have a routine down yet, but one is emerging organically. I feel like all the (conflicting) how-to guides out there are treated more like recipes than the troubleshooting suggestions they are supposed to be.
5- Cats: Everyone IRL wants to know about our three firstborn. Our older two don’t care. One isn’t a fan of the crying. He has a similar relationship with baby as he does with the vacuum cleaner and coffee grinder. The other is a sweetie who actually tried to groom our little one. (Baby wasn’t impressed, cat tongues are a tad exfoliating. Probably kinda unhygienic too.) Our young cat, though, is jealous AF. Whenever I’m feeding, he tries to walk on me, jumps on forbidden counters, knocks stuff on the floor, claws the furniture… Oh and I gave up on keeping the cats out of empty baby beds. Look up “futility” in the dictionary and you’ll see a picture of someone chasing cats away from baby stuff. Soft blankets make reasonable baby sleep space protectors. Obviously the cats (and the blankets) are removed when the beds are in use by their rightful owner.
François, trying so hard to be a caring big brother.
6- I don’t know how anyone can do this by themselves: I’ve never had more respect and admiration for single parents than the first time I sleepily handed baby over to my husband and said “please take your child”. The key our sanity (and our hygiene…) has definitely been taking shifts with the little one. It’s hard enough to make food and scrub pink stuff off the bathtub while keeping the little human from shrieking when you have two sets of hands. It blows my mind how some people do it with one. (And some people are single parents to twins! Like how does that even work?!?)
The Final Word
It’s like a rite of passage: Have a baby and suddenly share milk, vomiting and poop tales. The moment where I fully realized the glamour of motherhood, though, was when I put baby down on the bed to grab something in the room. A half hour later, it occured to me that I was still standing over him. The world around me had faded away and I’d been making squeaks, fart noises and silly faces to my giggling spectator the entire time.