You read all of the books. Okay, you read a few of the books and some articles on a website or three. You went to all of your doctor’s appointments, spoke with parent friends, received a lot of awesome gear and things at your baby shower, and then welcomed your little bundle of joy into the world. You dressed your bundle in just the right going home outfit and departed the hospital for the whole new world of having a new baby. The future seemed bright and full of new baby smell and happy cuddles. Then reality hit. Hard.
The first three months of a baby’s life can be the most rewarding and challenging time in a parent’s life. This is largely in part because once they are born babies are making a big transition from being in the womb to being in the world. This time, sometimes referred to as “The Fourth Trimester” comes with a whole set of challenges that don’t often get considered in the nine month run up to your baby’s debut. Here are five things that I’ve learned during my son’s first three months of life.
You cannot prepare enough
You can have a stockpile of diapers and wipes, have all the little laundry washed and neatly folded, and even have a general plan for what your daily routine is going to look like, but inevitably it’s not going to be enough. That stockpile of diapers you thought would last forever? You’ll blow through them in just a few weeks because babies are poop machines. Or you might not make it through all of those newborn-sized diapers. Babies grow quickly and gain weight fast, too. That means that diapers and clothes may only get a couple of weeks of use before you’re moving on to the next size. And it’s not just outgrowing things that can throw you for a loop. Babies make their own plans, so even if you planned to breastfeed you may unexpectedly find yourself having to formula feed, which presents its own set of challenges and adventures.
You will not bounce back as fast as you think
In the hospital my nurses kept trying to get me to sleep and take advantage of a whole ward of nurses willing to mind my newborn while I took a nap. I had a c-section, but I also noticed that they did this with other mothers as well. I didn’t understand why until I got my baby home. Having a baby, no matter how you deliver or how fit you are going into it, takes a lot out of you. And not just that. Your body has a long healing process even after the nurses wish you well and send you on your way. Add in lost sleep and possibly infections and complications and you’ll find yourself running a little slower than you ever could have predicted.
You will lose your patience (and maybe your mind)
Newborns don’t like to sleep unless they are being held close and cuddled. It doesn’t matter if they have colic or not. Your new baby just wants to be close to you. It makes sense if you think about where they’ve spent every moment of their life up until birth. They’re used to being close to you! It’s their favorite place and they feel safe there, especially since everything is so new and loud now. But just because it makes sense doesn’t mean it will keep you from being exhausted, frustrated, and short-tempered. One notable night about two weeks after I brought my son home I was so tired I was slurring my words and made coffee without the coffee. This will happen. You might also even yell or cry. It’s completely normal.
The laundry never ends
I had enough outfits, sleepers, and other cute things lining my son’s drawers dress him up every day in something different for over a month. I thought for sure I’d be able to do one big load of laundry weekly and call it good. More time for naps! I was so wrong. Between spit up, epic diapers, my own clumsiness, and some of those outfits being just too complicated to put on a squirmy newborn I find myself doing laundry at least every other day. And this doesn’t count my own laundry because, guess what, that spit up and diaper situation sometimes spills over onto mama. It’s quite an adventure.
A new milestone can make the worst days worth it
A month and a half in my son screamed for a full twenty-four hours. This is not an exaggeration. He could not and would not be consoled. Bottle, favorite jammies, clean diaper, being held constantly, nothing would soothe him. It was the worst night of my entire life. When he finally fell asleep I ended up crying myself into a nap, certain I wasn’t cut out for motherhood and even more certain that nothing was good in the world. The next morning? My son woke up, looked at me and smiled for the first time. For all of the challenges new parents face during those first three months there is so much rapid development that each new milestone truly makes the sleepless nights and endless laundry totally worth it. There is nothing quite like seeing your child grow to let you know you’re doing a good job.
Have you been through the fourth trimester and have a life lesson or encouragement everyone should know? Be sure to share it in comments!