*Image above taken the day after Hill was born, while still in the hospital. TBBC just restocked the precious stork jammies he’s wearing, one of my all-time favorite articles of newborn clothing he had. Note that TBBC runs small in sleepwear.
A Magpie reader messaged me the other day in a state of despair. “I’m a new mom, and I’m lost and so exhausted,” she wrote. “Does everyone else just ‘get’ it faster than I have?”
Who else reading this vulnerable query briefly flashed back to a similar moment in her own newborn fog? I remembered — instantly — the dull headache of exhaustion, the scampering around my bedroom between feedings in the too-bright light of morning to half-heartedly shove the pile-up of bottles and burp cloths and nursing pads and snack wrappers out of the way, the time micro was up every thirty minutes for hours on end one night and I was so wiped out, I kicked the bassinet in frustration (he was not in it) and then injured my toe. Fumbling with the nursing cover. Peering into the stroller terrified my baby might “lose it” while we were racing home for feeding time. Trying every tincture and tonic to increase my breast milk supply. Standing in the shower fully clothed in a desperate attempt to soothe my inconsolable child. Stomach-churningly using the rectal thermometer for the first time. Investigating rashes and abrasions. Pondering when to call in the pediatrician after 24 hours during which my baby spit up all of the hard-earned breastmilk I’d given him. Tears of tenderness, tears of fatigue, tears that represented the surfeit of emotions I was experiencing but that I would have been hard-pressed to pin on any one thing.
The early days are rough. The exhaustion is real. That note of self-doubt is inevitable.
But, mama, you are doing it, and you are doing a great job. Being lost and exhausted was, for me, part of the territory of new motherhood, and I think many other moms here feel similarly. So I don’t have any magic answers (though if there are specific concerns about sleeping/feeding in particular, the Magpie community always delivers with practical advice, and I encourage you to post them in the comments). And frankly I wouldn’t have wanted to hear a Pollyanna line back in those early days, and I would never want to diminish the valid way you feel at the moment. (I remember gritting my teeth when a well-intentioned acquaintance said: “Oh, the newborn days are just the best. Babies are so easy compared to toddlers! Soak it up!”) All I can say is this:
- The newborn days are physically and emotionally challenging, but you are moving through them one step at a time in the best way you can and you are doing a great job.
- If you can, be ambitious in asking for help. In retrospect, I wish I had paid to have a housekeeper come a couple times a week during those first few weeks. Having that off our plate would have lightened the load considerably (for both myself and Mr. Magpie), as it was the one “ball” I was always struggling to keep in the air but absolutely could not bear to drop. (If you live in a tiny Manhattan apartment, you know why — there is simply no space to dump junk or escape mess. You have to stay on top of putting things back! Also, I’m a total neat freak, and so is Mr. Magpie.) But “help” for a new mother can take many forms: it might be having a family member come by once or twice a week, or committing to meal delivery on certain days, or visiting parents for an extended period, or hiring a night nurse, or offering a caregiver extra money to help with laundry even though it’s not in her usual duties (or heck — sending laundry out to a wash and fold!), or asking an older niece/nephew to serve as “mother’s helper” to assist with older children, or working out a nighttime schedule with your spouse where you can skip a feeding session by pumping earlier to get a head start on sleep. Importantly, it may also mean seeking help if you think you may be suffering from PPD. If you are anything like me, you are probably reading this with a million objections on your tongue: “but I don’t know where I’d find a mother’s helper” and “but I like to cook — it brings me joy” and “but I don’t want to bother my sister with this.” To all of that I say: just try. See what happens. Nothing is permanent and if it’s not helpful or too awkward or too costly, you can always change tacks. I can’t tell you how often — still! — I think loosely of an idea, like the fact that we wanted to find a new nanny after months of quarantine without childcare, and I’m intimidated to the point of temporary paralysis by the prospect of all of the effort and logistics that will go into making it happen. For example, I bristled at the idea of having to interview candidates, concerned about whether I would have to meet them outside or take their temperature or have them present negative COVID test results, and how I would even facilitate the transition to a new nanny for my children. But don’t let those details get in the way. Trust yourself and the fact that you will figure out the details. The first step for me in these situations is saying something out loud to Mr. Magpie. He’s helpful in thinking through logistics, and the conversation holds me accountable to taking the next steps and makes me feel as though I’m not alone in the process. In short: if there’s a way to ask for a specific kind of help, try.
- Know that it’s normal to feel this way. I think most new moms do.
- Know that you are not alone. I used to sit in my bed nursing my baby at 3:41 a.m. or 4:42 a.m. and think about the thousands of other moms doing the exact same thing at the exact same time–maybe there was even another mom in my building in the same posture of newborn nurture. Lean on the community of moms you have. I was lucky to have several other friends with similarly aged babies and we would text each other around the clock. If that’s not a possibility, leave a comment here, or find a forum online where you can vent or seek advice or simply lean into the notion of companionship.
I know there are so many wonderful moms (and many fellow new moms!) reading this who can relate to you and who likely have even better words of reassurance to offer. To those moms: would you share some words of encouragement for this Magpie Mom today? She needs us.
P.S. Nursery finds and my full registry. But, this is urgent: Serena and Lily is running a 20% off everything promotion, which includes their nursery furniture. This is Hill’s exact crib, and I adore it, and this is one of my absolute favorite crib sheets of his. These child-sized chairs are also beyond precious and a great thought for a bigger ticket Christmas gift (we surprised mini with her own table and chair for her second birthday).
P.P.S. More musings on the first few weeks of motherhood and more musings on the elegant and lopsided dance of motherhood writ large.
P.P.S. Parenting advice I love.