What Having a Newborn Baby is Really Like

doctor holding a newborn baby about ready to weigh the baby

I’m Qualified To Talk About Newborns

I am the mother of three children. I gave birth three times, and survived the newborn baby phase three times. You want to hear what it was really like to have a newborn? Well I will tell you. Straight up, no BS.

Here goes!

mother reading a book to a child lying on the floor

I didn’t love my newborn when I gave birth to him

First, when the baby came out, I didn’t immediately fall in love with him. They pulled him out and laid him right on my bare chest and the first thing I thought was yuck.

I was supposed to cuddle him and love on him and have all this great skin-to-skin time and I couldn’t stop thinking about how gross he was. He was covered in all of this slimy white stuff, and he was all wet, and sort of laying there like a squalling limp slug. There had been some trouble with the umbilical cord during his birth and there had been some scary touch-n-go moments, so his skin was a little on the bluish side. I remember looking at his nails, and thinking that they needed to be trimmed.

Not exactly an overwhelming or overflowing fount of love and affection.

I went to put my hand on his head and it was a struggle to curl my fingers around the curve of his tiny skull to hold him. It wasn’t until they scrubbed him off that I was able to bring him closer to me.

Some women say that they fell in love at the first sight of their child, when he first opened his eyes to look at her. That didn’t happen with me, not even close.

And truthfully, I don’t know that I really felt like I bonded with my newborn son and felt what you might think of as love or any other maternal feelings for my newborn child until much later. I do have a moment several weeks later, where I was able to look upon him and feel that rush of love all at once. But it was well after his birth.

Breastfeeding my newborn sucked

The next thing that people don’t talk about much is that newborns aren’t good at breastfeeding. You think that they would be because it’s supposed to be all instinctive and stuff, but it isn’t. As a first-time mom, you have to learn how to breastfeed and they learn how to breast eat.

But while you both learn, you can both end up crying a lot and everybody ends up hungry. With my first child, it took close to six weeks before we had breastfeeding really solidly established. In the meantime, I suffered from horribly abused nipples, excruciatingly engorged breasts, infections, soreness, bleeding, and did I mention all the crying? Sometimes it was him, but a lot of times it was me.

Oh breastfeeding! You can get it figured out, but it just takes a lot more time for most women and this is just not something that most people talk about.

man cuddling baby on his chest with eyes closed

The no-sleeping thing is for real

With a newborn, there isn’t a lot of sleeping. When the child doesn’t nurse very well, each nursing session which should be as simple as popping the baby onto the breast, turns into a one-hour Fight Fest, happening every two hours 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

With a newborn, they sleep in short spurts and they eat in short spurts. You don’t sleep like normal. Instead, you sort of slump over when they are done nursing and snooze until someone screams and tells you it is time to eat again.

In the beginning when you are trying to establish breastfeeding, this is not a task that you can simply hand over to your partner or to a helpful grandparents. You as Mom have to be on point to have that baby nurse whatever they want to nurse in those first few weeks.

You are challenged to get them fed up and weight gained, otherwise the pediatrician is looking down their nose at you. And sometimes the baby doesn’t do a good job of letting you know what their needs are. They may be just as happy to sleep way more than they ought to, but also thereby starving themselves just about to death.

Other children will spend most of their time telling you that they just ate, or that they are eating, or that they will need to eat soon. In any case, there is not a lot of sleeping going on because this fight goes through the night, every night.

Self-care is really hard to find time for

In the first couple of weeks after the baby’s birth, there is not a lot of time for self-care. There just isn’t. You will feel pretty darn good if you managed to get a shower in during your day. If you are lucky, you have someone there who will help you with food and to help around the house, especially if you have animals or other children to take care of.

But if you are thinking that you may have time to fit in other activities, such as work or working out, or going to activities or just about doing anything else, in reality for most new parents this is no not going to happen.

Further, you have to remember that you just gave birth. For many women, the first few weeks after giving birth is about healing themselves up. I was basically ruined by my first birth and I could barely walk in the first few weeks after I came home. This really made it difficult to do just about anything at all other than nurse my baby and lie in bed. And actually, lying in bed skin to skin with a baby while working on establishing breastfeeding is what many nurses and doctors recommend that new moms do instead of hosting family to meet the baby or engaging another activities.

woman sitting down holding baby on her lap

Combo of wonderful and terrible

Is the newborn time wonderful or terrible? I would have to say that it is a combination of both, and the truth is that I don’t honestly now remember as much about it as I wish that I did.

After the birth happens you are completely flooded with hormones. To add to that, you are completely sleep deprived and maybe even stressed out, so this is not a good recipe for performing long lasting memories. I also think that some of the memory loss is biological. If women remembered extremely well what happened during labor and delivery, it is doubtful that humans would reproduce as much as they do.

The same is true for the newborn phase. For some people it is just so darn difficult that your body just chooses not to remember all that much of it. It actually makes me kind of sad now looking back because I don’t remember hardly anything! I feel like I learned so much about myself and about being a parent during those first few weeks of my son’s life but there isn’t really anything I can do to get back that time.

Extended family can be awesome…or not

Another thing that I recall with my first child that some families may experience and others may not is that there can be a push and pull from extended family members who want to get in on the newborn time.

Having a newborn is a special thing, and it is a period that is brief. Children just do not stay that small that long and there is something biologically compelling to older people who have had kids previously about newborns. I found that many of the grandparents of my children were competitive against each other about who got to spend what time with the child. It was actually somewhat of a negative thing for our family.

We ended up having to be fairly strict about the scheduling so that we were able to have our private family time and some quiet time in addition to trying to facilitate grandparenting opportunities for other various family members.

We were fairly aggressive about opening and closing our house to people when we felt like it, but I could see how other mothers and fathers who are less assertive about this could struggle with the ins and outs of people who want to enjoy some of the newborn time.

doll house toys set up to look like a baby's room

The terror of new-parent ignorance

There are a lot of moms who really love having a newborn. It is now that my children are older that I can look back with fondness about the time of having a newborn. But also because I just know more now than I did then. The complete ignorance of new parents is astonishing in this day and age, despite the availability of information through the internet. So much of parenting is gleaned from experience, not from books of computers. It is sad that our societies these days do not involve children and young adults in birth or raising babies. But it also really deprives new parents of the knowledge they so desperately need when they have their first child.

So when we brought our first child home from the hospital, we didn’t really know how to do anything, as we have never had an opportunity to do anything. So there was a lot of stress and terror around this time because so much of it was trial and error and we just hoped for the best most of the time.

Your relationship with your partner will be tested

During the newborn phase, neither you nor your partner will be the best versions of yourself. As the mother, suffering from torn and bleeding lady parts, you may feel resentful of your husband who gets to sleep when he wants and isn’t bleeding everywhere. As the father, you may feel resentful of the new baby who now takes up all of the time he formerly had to himself. When you are VERY tired, stressed, hungry, or frustrated, you tend to do or say things that you normally wouldn’t. You and your partner may fight more. Physical intimacy is totally shredded.

You may never recover what you were before the baby arrived. In fact, I suspect that most couples don’t. But they accept the new version of their family and move on.

It wasn’t all bad

Truly, the newborn phase wasn’t all bad, though it was very, very hard at times. There were moments of wonder in there. Watching my son nurse (after we figured it out), and marveling at my ability to feed him with my body only. To see him blink his eyes and stare at me, completely devoted. To feel the absolute peace and comfort of rocking him to sleep, that I have experienced no where else in the rest of my life before or since. Those are real moments too, when you have a newborn. Unfortunately though, during the newborn phase, most of what is happening is the crying and pooping and sleep torture.

But you survive, and so do they, and then you move on into times that are a bit more wonderful. And you forget almost all the bad, and wonder why you had previously declared that you’d never have another baby. Then, having completely forgotten the first 12 weeks of your baby’s life, you decide to get pregnant again.

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