When the Baby Stage is Really Hard
As a mother you hear it all the time, “cherish this time, it goes way too fast,” “the days are long, but the years are short,” “soak it all in,” and the endless articles and posts telling us how we need to slow down and savor every single second of our children’s babyhood.
But what about when you don’t enjoy it? What about when you have a baby that cries and cries and cries… for months? A baby that doesn’t sleep well. That has digestive issues, or reflux, or allergies. That seems miserable, but you can’t figure out why. A baby that needs to be held literally all the time. Or even better, a baby that seems to need to be held all the time, but somehow doesn’t want to be touched at the same time.
What about when the baby stage is really hard? We aren’t really prepared for that before becoming parents.
Now I’m not saying we don’t enjoy moments or that it’s 100% miserable 100% of the time, but it’s definitely not all rainbows and sunshine like we are so often told it should be. We are warned about the lost sleep, but not that it can last for months or even well past the one year mark. That you may not get more than 2-3 hours of consecutive sleep for a long time. And how sleep deprivation truly affects you physically and emotionally.
We were told breastfeeding could be challenging at first, but we weren’t taught what a lip and tongue tie were, how to look for them, and what all they can affect. That pediatricians and even lactation consultants aren’t always knowledgeable about what they are and how to diagnose them. That this one issue can cause painful latching, low milk supply, and a constantly hungry baby. That getting a revision may help, but craniosacral therapy will make an incredible difference. That it didn’t have to be so hard given the right information and support.
We were told there may be fussy periods, but not that they could last for months. And that “witching hour” in the evening we were warned about could last for hours, plural. And some, or most, nights baby wouldn’t pass out until two or three o’clock in the morning only to wake again a short time after. That sometimes that fussiness lasts all day long. And that developmental leaps and teething make it worse.
They told us routine vaccination was 100% safe. They didn’t tell us some kids don’t handle them well depending on their genetics and that informed consent isn’t really a thing anymore. That for the most part, we would have to figure all that out on our own. And once we realized all of this that we would have to become a bigger, stronger, louder advocate for our children than we ever planned to be and how much judgment and hatefulness can come along with that.
We weren’t taught how overwhelming and isolating having a fussy baby and toddler could be. Learning on your own how long healing from birth physically and emotionally really takes, how many ways sleep deprivation affects you, and what a rabbit hole is regarding research. And how completely debilitating postpartum depression and anxiety can be.
You will love this little human more than you ever knew you could love anything, but there will be times when you have to put them down, close the door, and walk away. And sometimes you will want to just keep on walking. You will lose it, more than once. It is essential you learn to apologize to your children, forgive yourself, and keep trying. A genuine apology is an incredible thing.
But you don’t run away. You stay. You keep walking, and rocking, and singing every random song you can think of. You nurse and you learn to babywear and do everything one-handed. You pray like you’ve never prayed before, begging for help, mercy, wisdom, quiet, sleep, and just…. everything. And when you get to the point when you want to run away again my best advice is to ask for help. Don’t ever feel guilty for asking for help. I did. Please don’t do that to yourself.
And don’t you ever feel guilty for not enjoying the baby stage. Though it feels endless while you are in the thick of it, it doesn’t last forever. The time will come when you get to truly savor every moment. For some that will be toddlerhood or the school years. For some, it’s the teenage years or even when their children become adults. No one gets to tell you when the best part of being a parent is.
Whenever that period arrives for you embrace it. Do all the things and enjoy every single moment of THAT phase. Let go of the guilt of not enjoying every single moment of every single phase. Give yourself grace and do the best you can. We all don’t get those easy, unicorn babies and that’s okay. The baby stage just isn’t our stage. If we are lucky we will get many other stages to experience and get to discover which one is the “slow down and savor every moment” phase for us.
If you know a new mom that seems to be struggling or has retreated and isolated herself, reach out. So many times we carry guilt, holding on to the false idea that we should be able to handle everything all on our own. And too often we are too embarrassed or proud to ask for help ourselves. Or when it comes to postpartum depression or anxiety we are so lost and overwhelmed we don’t even know who or how to ask for the help we need even from the people we love the most. Asking “how are you doing?” doesn’t work, you’ll get an “I’m fine, just tired” or some other monotone response. Find out the best time to go and go. Show up and hold the baby so she can sleep. Fold the laundry. Do the dishes. Listen. You have no idea how much it will mean to her.
For more information on diagnosing a lip and tongue tie check out this post from Mommypotamus. For information on vaccine safety, icandecide.org is a wonderful resource. For postpartum support check out these two sites: Postpartum Support International and Postpartum Depression Support. And feel free to share your story here. Sometimes just getting it out and sharing with someone who understands helps so much.