Newborn- The Things I Wish I’d Known.

by Lori Dwyer on April 8, 2011 · 28 comments

Another post, written in November last year… step back in time to the Before.


This is a post for the mothers of newborns, first time mums, with first time babies. Tiny babies. Mothers who are in, or about to enter, those first grueling six weeks. Or eight weeks. Or three months. That first stretch of time, when they’re so fragile, and their cries are so heart-breakingly desperate.

And it’s for the mother’s who’ve been there, who remember it vaguely, with a sweetness and a bitterness all the same.

It’s not for every mother. It’s not for those of you who’s baby slept through at four days old, or for those women who felt nothing but bliss and security, with a tiny, curly newborn on their chest. I know those mothers exist, and I ache with envy for them. They began their parenting experience in a completely different place to me.

This isn’t for those mothers.

This is for the mothers who are so tired their skin feels peaked and raw. The mothers who are so desperately craving a hot shower and warm meal, a meal that had been properly cooked and not microwaved, they would actually consider trading their freshly birthed baby for one or the other. The mothers who haven’t had more than three hours of consecutive sleep since their thirty-sixth week of pregnancy.

The mothers who feel their lives have been taken, crumpled, decimated. The ones who feel like I felt- that they cannot possibly shift the myriad elements of their quite simple life enough to accommodate the massiveness of this tiny child.

The mothers who are starting to feel desperate.

There are things you should know. Things that I only wish someone had told me, over a hug and hot cup of tea, while they quieted and shushed my constantly screaming child.

It’s going to be OK.

I promise.

I know it might feel hopeless right now, but this will pass.

It’s not always going to be this difficult. As the baby gets older, things will get just that little bit easier. Babies don’t feed for so long as they grow bigger, they don’t need so much sleep.

The process of leaving the house, that will get easier too. I know that, at the moment, the prospect of packing up a squawking baby and heading to the shops is momentous, but do it. You will feel better for it.

Or, ya know, don’t. It doesn’t matter. In a month or two, you’ll be cruising all over the place, shops to friend’s houses and back again, baby in tow.

It gets easier. It has to.

And, while we’re being honest, night feeds don’t last forever. And certainly not at the frequency and intensity you’re experiencing them now. The night feeds, they become shorter. I promise. And here’s a major secret I’ll let you in on- unless you have nappy rash problems, really, a newborn actually doesn’t need a nappy change every night, after every feed, especially if they’re feeding every two hours. No one will ever know the difference.

Oh, and one more Big Parenting Secret The Clinic Nurse May Not Want You To Know- it’s OK to put your baby in your bed, with you. Seriously. As long as you do it safely. It will be warm and snuggly and lovely. And at 2am, it will save you countless minutes of precious, energy-giving sleep.

Since we’re on the topic, you need to sleep. I know how difficult it is to catch a catnap when your baby only sleeps for 45 minutes at a time, but sleep when you can. Don’t worry about the housework, the washing, the stuff you should be doing. Sleep. If you can’t sleep, try and relax. The world will go on without you, that’s true. But I can guarantee you won’t be missing much. There’s nothing so important that someone won’t fill you in on it later. And no one will forget about you because you’ve dropped out of life for a few weeks, because your taking care of yourself and in a baby-moon bliss. And if they do, they really weren’t adding much to your life anyway.

And do try and resist the urge to smack your childless, hung over friends in the forehead when they complain about being tired. (“You don’t not know what tired is.”)

Having a newborn baby the first time round was the most difficult thing I’ve ever done in my life, and I mean that, with all honesty. It was torture. My entire body ached. It felt as if I’d been in a horrible car accident, my son’s birth took so much from me. Breastfeeding was hot cylinders of agony in my chest, blood leaking from my nipples, weeping as the clock turned round two hours, too quickly, and it was time to feed him again.

I was so alone. So deserted. No one came, no one called. When people did call, if the baby was sleeping, they wouldn’t bother coming to see me, as if I were a ghost, a transparent image, nothing but a keeper for my child. No one listened to a word I said, they were so focused on this tiny newborn. And everything was different. Not only was leaving the house was an insurmountable task, all the little things that used to fill up our lives- our garden, our dog, a million other interests that slid in here or there… suddenly, the time we once had for them was gone. Evaporated by the heat of a new life. And in their place was a baby.

A tiny, fragile, soft and sweet smelling baby. A baby who I alternatively felt nothing for, resented, was terrified for, and loved so much I thought my heart would break. It was incredible, how much I loved this little person. Beyond anything I felt possible, a love so like a fog that was crushing me. A love so intense it was a physical ache in my chest.

And, at the same time, a total awareness of the tininess of him, of how fragile he was. A memory of a baby, bright blue at birth, struggling to inhale through slow popping bubbles of mucous.. A baby who I now watched, for hours, monitoring the up and down of his chest, the rhythm of his breath. Watching a baby, listening for their breath in the darkness of night, it’s a ritual for mothers is it not? As if it is only our attention that keeps them respirating at all.

A new mother. Broken, stretched, changed. And tired. So very, very tired. So tired I could, would, did weep, often. I know what it’s like to be prepared, quite literally, to beg the Gods for five hours unbroken sleep. To be so tired you can’t fall sleep. So exhausted that the act of surviving has left you wired.

The exhaustion? That will pass too, or so they tell me. I’m still tired- I’m always tired- but the ache, the desperate sweet memory of sleeping till noon- that’s no longer an experience that is mine. That’s what someone else used to do, someone vague, a character in an obscure movie I once watched, in a cheap paperback book I picked up at the newsagents.

The grass is always greener. It’s just that, sometimes,
it takes you a little time to realise what side of the fence you’re on. The life I had before was jagged and lovely. But it doesn’t compare to the sweet, everyday raptures of what I have now.

Even if I am exhausted.

And I know that you are too.

Hang on in there. It’s tough, I know it’s tough. All bets are off. This baby, this tiny new life that you may actually be cradling in your arms right now- this changes everything. Your life, your soul, your mind, your body, your boundaries, your sense of empathy and existence and reality.

But it’s OK.

I promise.

Everything is going to be OK.

post signature

Leave a Comment

CommentLuv badge

{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

two blue shoes November 8, 2011 at 3:17 pm

I just found this. I wish I had found it 8.5 months ago. Things are better now, mostly, but good lord, it was HARD in the beginning. So hard. And impossible to understand unless you've lived it. You do good work, lady.


Toots April 11, 2011 at 7:25 am

Oh. God. Yes! I remember being on the verge, the absolute of verge, of shaking them. Begging, "Please, please just fucking SLEEP!"

I could not have survived without co-sleeping & anti-depressants.

Love Siphie xxx


boomerang jane April 10, 2011 at 10:07 am

Such wise words Lori. I, too, struggled with thinking it would be 'one' way (love & baby bliss) only to discover a foreign world no one had warned me about. Not that it would have mattered, you wouldn't trade those often difficult early hazy days for anything.

I had a fairly easy time compared to some, but I found one baby a luxury I was craving when child number two came along. I had an epiphany a few days after we got home from hospital with 2nd child and cried to my mother…"it was hard first time around, I was sooo deathly tired. But, how do I sleep when the baby sleeps if you have an older child to watch who's awake!" it was at that moment that I realized I wasn't going to stop being tired for a long time.

My babies are the most amazing young adults at 15 & 16 now, but I will NEVER forget how fragile & exhausted i felt when my second baby cried. It might have been the sweetest soft wails of a baby to an outsider, but to me it sounded like blood curdlingly death & I wasn't entirely sure I could deal with it some days.

You look so beautiful in your vlog Lori; so serene, with an inner peaceful glow. Heartwarming. xx


connieemeraldeyes April 9, 2011 at 4:53 am

I let my baby sleep with us. I would wake up all the time listening to him. We even bought two beds and put them together for room for him. Then we got a king size bed and one of those mesh portable cribs and I put it right beside my side of the bed for him to sleep in. He finally went into his own room when he was 2 1/2. He did wake up a lot when he was just born, but then it would be once or twice a night. The key was to put rice cereal in the milk, it made him fuller.


JulieCottle April 8, 2011 at 10:50 pm

What a wonderful post Lori. My baby is now 13 weeks, he only sleeps for 30-40 mins every now and then and if I let it, it could destroy me. The main reason it doesn't is that I have done it 3 times before and I know this baby daze passes in the blink of an eye. He will never need me like he does now and one day I will ache to have him look at me the way he does now. Anyone who says motherhood is easy is taking the piss.


River April 8, 2011 at 10:20 pm

I'm another one of those "other" mothers. I had easy going babies who ate and slept pretty much on schedule, when they weren't sleeping they were happy to lie in their cots or on the floor blanket while I did "me" stuff, like shower, cook, laundry etc. I took them with me from room to room, talked to them the whole time. It was VERY much easier with the 4th one, because the older kids entertained hm.


Erin April 8, 2011 at 8:15 pm

I was one of those mothers who had it easy… at least the first time around! The second time I wondered what was wrong with me. I was so tired I cried and cried, holding my crying baby and begging him to sleep baby, just sleep. So Mummy can sleep too! Please. It did get easier, but gosh! Your words. About THOSE feelings.

But, as crazy as I felt I was dealing with it for a second, and yet a first, time… I did it again!!

Sometimes we miss our life before. Mostly I miss the sleep, but I wouldn't trade all that sleep for the three beauties I have now.

Great post!


Christine April 8, 2011 at 7:15 pm

I am not a mother, but a stepmother about to be a stepgrandmother. I will 'cut this out and keep it' to give to my 'dil'… probably in about eight weeks from now.


The Mummy Hat April 8, 2011 at 3:58 pm

What a wonderful post!
I don't think ANYTHING can possibly prepare you for a newborn!
But this post does a great job at letting them know, they are not alone!
I felt alone, and I had a relatively easy bubba.
And yes, the friends visiting for hours, go away people, I want to sleep!


Leigh April 8, 2011 at 3:48 pm

What an amazing post… every word a truth. I just wish I had read that three years ago… This needs to be published as the intro to every bloody pregnancy book….


Sarah April 8, 2011 at 3:45 pm

Nothing to say other than, BRILLIANT xx


Kate April 8, 2011 at 1:07 pm

Oh the blinding agony of the early daze. This takes me back to a time where I'd dread it being evening because it meant bed time, and what was the point of bed at all?

I was blessed with an 'easy' baby, but my FIL passed suddenly within minutes of his birth so instead of being cared for I was the carer, and the host, and the entertainer. I am forever grateful for my baby who woke and fed and all that hard stuff like a baby, but who's disposition was relaxed enough to allow be to (barely) cope.

And no-one tells you. Or if they do, you can't quite believe it could be like that.

Brilliant post.


Alison Kathleen April 8, 2011 at 1:00 pm

I know all about that feeling of abandonment from everyone around – and it's hard, but you adapt. You learn. Beautiful post as always.


Donna April 8, 2011 at 12:44 pm

Oh how I wish I'd had this to read in those God-awful first few months when I felt for sure I was the only mother thinking this way. So beautifully written xx


pinkpegasus April 8, 2011 at 10:48 am

My bub is 14mts old and I still don't get more than 3hrs sleep at a time. I'm wrecked. Beyond exhausted. Constantly trying not to tip into that hole that comes from extreme exhaustion. Some days I jst cry from being so tired. People think I'm 'strange'. They don't get that, 'no, I'm just tired. See me on proper sleep again – even 5hrs a night woud be great – and i'm a very different person.' I wasn't prepared for hw hard it is to think when so tired. Hard to change things wen you can't think. i live in a fog. Great post. It needs to be said sometimes that its normal to be soooooo tired. That you're not broken, just tired and it will one day get better.


Kristy April 8, 2011 at 10:46 am

I had a MAJOR ADJUSTMENT problem when my boy was born. I thought something was so wrong with me. It was awful. I eventually started blogging because I finally came to the conclusion that I just could not be alone in how I was feeling. What I wouldn't have given to have read this back then. A relief. Another who KNEW. It was rough, man. And then I felt guilty for feeling it was rough. I STILL interact with these new mothers who seem to take it all on with such…ease. They either are having a different experience than I, or they are acting and lying. Now, my boy is 3. What fun! I truly enjoy it as he gets older. I would much rather have a toddler than an infant. But, that's just me. To each her own. Love ya.


Miss Pink April 8, 2011 at 10:28 am

Oh the sleep. And those smug mothers who sit there telling stories of how their days old babies sleep a full 10 hours at night. How i hate those smug mothers.
Babies wake up. They're MEANT to. It's just what babies do!
If there is anything i tell an expecting mother it's that they need to accept that sleep? It's a thing of the past.
Maybe that's why so many elderly people sleep all the time? They're catching up.


Leah April 8, 2011 at 10:20 am

I loved my daughter so much the second she was born, after very ambivalent feelings during pregnancy. But a few days after we got home from hospital I remember thinking, abortion must always be legal, you can not do this (birth, a small baby!) to someone against their will! It was so much easier the second time around for so many reasons.


HeatherB April 8, 2011 at 9:57 am

Yes, yes, yes. A million times, yes. Thank you.


Amy April 8, 2011 at 9:32 am

Love everything you've said here, especially the part about feeling like you were in a horrible car accident. I was expecting everything else- a newborn who cried all the time, never getting any sleep, all that. What I wasn't expecting was to feel myself like I'd been hit my a car and could barely move. All those photo's belonging to stupid friends who looked glamorous and lovely post-birth- so misleading.


Karla April 8, 2011 at 9:31 am

Oh I remember those anxious, desperate, exhausting days. I recall thinking over and over again that I was teetering on the edge of a very deep, dark hole (felt I was losing my mind)and it scared me. Got help, got through it and survived! Yeah!


Marianna Annadanna April 8, 2011 at 9:17 am

"It's going to be ok. I promise. I know it might feel hopeless right now, but this will pass."

Gorgeous post Lori, and gorgeous photos too.

xo Marianna


Sarah Kaye April 8, 2011 at 8:22 am

I could've written those words as my own. I wish that someone, anyone, even myself realised what was going on with me in those precious first months. Great post Lori, really well written.


Teni April 8, 2011 at 8:21 am

Perfectly timed, Lori – I haven't been having it as hard as it seems you did, but I've had such an awful few days/nights that I briefly considered selling Amelia on eBay last night!


Steph(anie) April 8, 2011 at 8:16 am

I remember. I remember being so tired that I cried about being tired. And she was crying (again) and I was just so goddamned tired. I can feel it still.


Ms Styling You April 8, 2011 at 8:09 am

You know what my pet peeve was. Childless friends coming to visit and staying for HOURS. Precious hours when I could have been sleeping, not talking, surviving. Great post, Lori. Those early months are survival months. You just need to get through them however it works for you.


Tara @ Our Whirlwind Adventures April 8, 2011 at 12:57 pm

I am one of those mothers who's children slept right through from the word go. It seemed the OLDER they got the LESS sleep I got.

It does get better. I know it gets better x


Good Golly Miss Holly! April 8, 2011 at 10:40 am

Wow. That post just took me back to a dark place. It's amazing how there can be a shroud of darkness over one of the best moments of your life. Love this though Lori, every tired new mum should read and be reassured x


Previous post:

Next post: