eight years and six pregnancies ago...

A friend is expecting her first baby, and recently asked what it's like looking back on the days when I first had Atticus - what I didn't know then that I know now, etc.  It really got me thinking, and reminiscing, and at the same time, it startled me to think about how I need to 'look back' to those days - it wasn't that long ago, right? RIGHT?!

Except that it weirdly was.  In some ways, I feel a little more seasoned.  There are things you really do learn along the way and streamline as you go.  But I think I'm also equally surprised by how everything still feels very new - I really do wonder if the motherfeelings of awe and privilege and inadequacy ever fade.

I vividly remember one night when Atticus was just shy of three weeks old.  It was Christmas Eve night (or, technically, verrrry early Christmas morning).  I was home by myself with him, since Todd was still working overnight shifts then, and Atticus would not. stop. crying.  And I felt so helpless and alone, because who was I going to call to come over and help me at 1:00 a.m. on Christmas?  And the upstairs neighbors were banging on the ceiling, yelling at me to get Atticus to cool it, and I was like, I'M TRYING MY BEST AND I CAN'T GET HIM TO SHUT UP AND I CAN'T DO ANY OF THIS.  And at that point, I was like, I think I'm in over my head.

I didn't know that the floundering feeling was normal.  I didn't know that it comes with every baby, no matter how many you've had, and at the end of the day, all you want is your own stay-at-home-mom to come mother you while you try to clumsily mother your own baby.  It's normal for it to be messy.

Luckily, there are also a few things I've learned since then, like:

1). Get someone (an actual warmblooded person, not just the book) to walk you through how to flexibly use a Babywise schedule, and your life will get a million times easier.  (Later that Christmas day, we went to the house of a friend who'd had six kids of her own, and by the end of the day, she had effectively gotten Atticus on a sleeping and eating schedule.  My life changed that day because I let someone mother me through Babywise.)

2).  Do not expect anything from a newborn.  Like, anything.  Especially in the middle of the night.  It took me until Laurelai to figure this one out, but it's a game changer.  If they wake up at 2:30 in the morning, do not expect them to stay awake.  Similarly, do not expect them to fall back to sleep.   If they do stay awake, do not assume they will stay awake for hours on end.  If they do fall asleep, do not assume they will sleep for longer than 30 minutes.  DO NOT EVER THINK AHEAD OF THIS VERY SECOND when you have a newborn.  Just do what's right in front of you.  Are they awake again?  Then get up again.  Don't calculate how much sleep you're losing, or how long it's been since they last ate, or how much sleep you'll get if they just go back to bed by such-and-such a time.  Just don't.  Don't ever look beyond this very second, and how you can muster the strength to meet this moment's demands.  You will be much less miserable this way.

3).  God shows his amazing strength most when we feel most inadequate.  Prepare yourself to see some amazing things happen with every single newborn.  Even now, I look at those photos of Atticus, and marvel at what an answer to prayer he was - it seems so silly, but I prayed and prayed and prayed he'd have tons of hair, and now every time I see these photos, I see answered prayer.  It seems silly, but that's the way it is with babies.  You will marvel over small things.  Every time.

I did some more thinking over the weekend about what else I would tell New Mom Paige if I could go back in time, knowing now what I didn't yet know then, and I compiled some advice I'd give her.  I'll post that tomorrow, so stay tuned!


todd said...

gold. every word. more valuable than literal gold.

Hannah said...

Thanks for sharing your lessons! Yes baby wise is helpful but I missed 'flexible' the first two times around and on the next three have been much more in synch with the baby's needs. Looking forward to the next post!

ohcitycity said...

Thank you so much for this post! Lately I've been anxious, wondering how I'm going to know how to be a mother without my own mother here to show me how. It's been keeping me up in the middle of the night (after the routine middle of the night pee of course). The only thing I can think of is gathering wisdom and advice from all the mothers I know, letting their e per inches guide my own. It's so encouraging to see posts like this! I feel like I can absorb it and save it for when I have a newborn that I have no idea what to do with, when I will likely feel lost and scared out of my mind.

paige said...

Hannah - I'm with you! The way I did Babywise at first, and the way I use it now, are very different, which is why I would never recommend a mom just get the book and use it as the final authority in infant care. You need someone walking you through how to use it with compassion and common sense. At this point, my most-used Babywise tips are basically the eat-wake-sleep cycle and the principle of laying them down drowsy but awake, starting at a few months of age. The rest of it either takes care of itself once these principles are in place, or wasn't really all that necessary to begin with!

paige said...

Kristin - I can only imagine what kind of feelings are being stirred up as you walk through this pregnancy without your mom. I will tell you, though, that in addition to the fear and grief that may be boiling around in you, look forward to getting to know your mom better through this new little life. You will see your relationship with her through her eyes for the first time - how she must have felt about you the way you will feel about this new baby. It was so astonishing to me how many things I never even considered about my own mom crystallized during that first year with Atticus.

I'm absolutely no substitute for your mom, but please know that I'd love to help in any way I can. I'd love to get a phone call at 1:00 a.m. when you have no one else to call and are feeling crazed! (And chances are, with our coming babies being so close in age, I'll be up at that time of night anyway!)

stef ha said...

I'm so thankful and I love you for this-- and I think you could not be more right about knowing our mothers more by becoming a mom. I remember telling my mom around month five or six that I never knew how much she loved us until now, and she was like, "Girrrl, wait until he's in your arms. Then you'll really know." Thank you for sharing your wisdom and experience with us. ~Stef