Before my first child was born, I figured this motherhood thing would be easy. Babies eat, sleep, and poop, right? Breastfeeding was natural, I figured. He would sleep when he was tired. And I’d changed diapers before, so no problem!
As every mother knows, this is not how it works.
I was lucky in that breastfeeding did come naturally. But the sleep and the poop… Oy vey.
Why didn’t anyone tell me babies don’t simply go to sleep when they’re tired? And that when they’re really tired getting them to go to sleep is actually harder rather than easier? How did humans not evolve to the point where sleep comes naturally?
My first son sort of had a sleepy phase like most newborns do, but not, I now realize, quite as much as a typical baby. And very shortly after birth he stopped sleeping altogether. Or at least that’s what it felt like to me.
He was the sort of baby who screamed at the top of his lungs as soon as his head touched the crib. He sometimes slept in the swing, but not reliably and not long enough. And he didn’t sleep in the car either. He screamed there too.
He was up several times a night and was fond of long periods of refusing to go back to sleep. You know those onesies that say, “Party at my crib. 3 a.m.”? Those were made for my kid.
He was fussy at night and he was fussy during the day. He fussed in the car. If I put him in the carrier he was okay as long as I was bouncing. Otherwise he fussed. By the time he was four months old I was losing my mind. And I was getting sick of changing him — and sometimes me — from head to toe following diaper blowouts.
Looking back, I think my son’s temperament was partly why I suffered from postpartum depression when he was a baby. Which is not to say it was his fault; just that I think having a fussy baby exacerbated an already difficult condition. It’s hard to feel sane when you are desperately sleep-deprived and have a small person screaming at you all the time.
I’m now on this new-mom ride again after my second son was born in October, and this time things are so much easier. He slept almost solid through his first few weeks of life. He rarely fusses, and while I do see him at 3 a.m. we have much more civilized visits.
Maybe it’s because I’ve learned a lot in the four years since my first was a baby, as every mother does. I know some tricks for getting babies to sleep and I no longer blink at the amount of laundry babies create. Or maybe it’s because my second is a much more mellow baby. Either way, I’m grateful for second chances.