This post was hard to write for a few reasons. For one, the constant demands of a newborn haven’t left me much time for blogging. I’ve tried to “blog when the baby blogs” but he never seems to pull out his laptop! Even when I’ve technically had the time, the task of organizing my thoughts was too daunting for my sleep deprived brain. But the main reason I haven’t sat down to write a post?
I was afraid my darkness would show.
I’m normally a peppy, upbeat girl but these last few months I just couldn’t think of anything positive to write about other than my birth story. I mean, I didn’t want to do an angry “vent” post about things NOT to say to a new mom…that would only get me into trouble. Certainly no one wants to read about those weird hallucinations I was having in the middle of the night where I thought a car was driving by with subwoofers so loud that the entire house shook, causing me to dive for the bassinet to cover my baby’s ears before I realized that it wasn’t actually happening. And the last thing I wanted to write about was how we cancelled our family photo session because my husband and I were fighting like cats and dogs and I didn’t feel like getting dressed up and “faking it”.
Don’t get me wrong. I adore my son more than anything. Each day there are joyful moments where my heart feels like it might burst. But those moments are fleeting. Nothing could have prepared me for the lack of sleep and the shadow it would cast on my entire world. I haven’t loved every minute. And I didn’t want to bring the room down by writing about it.
Until a couple weeks ago when, out of the blue, an unexpected evening filled me with gratitude and positive vibes and inspired me to write this post. Three amazing women in my life gave me the best gift a new mom could ever receive. For the first time since Beau was born I was finally able to relax – wholly and truly. I needed that night more than I even knew…
A couple months after welcoming my son, Beau, into the world, I began gradually easing back into work during the last couple weeks of my maternity leave. On one of those part timer days I was venting to a co-worker about how tired, overwhelmed, and frustrated I was. Especially now that I was transitioning back to work while my life was still a chaotic mess of breastfeeding, sleepless nights, and witching hours. At the end of the day, a Friday, she sent me this text; “Happy hour? Red or white?”
I felt so relieved when I saw those words on my phone screen. It was hunting opener and my husband was leaving for the weekend so I was anticipating an evening home alone with my son. My spirits immediately lifted. An hour later, she and another co-worker showed up at my door with a box of wine and arms ready to hold a baby. A short time later, another friend came over. (I’d sent her a text saying “Come over if you like babies and wine”.) We had four women, one baby, and a box of wine. It was perfection.
As the evening went on, they took turns holding, bouncing, feeding, changing, and loving on my son. At first I felt a little guilty but since there were three of them, no one had to do too much for too long. Plus, that’s why they came over; to help. So I finally allowed myself to relax, sip my wine, and let them handle it. We ordered a pizza, I got to vent about how relentless life with a newborn is, and they filled me in on their own life drama too. As we talked, the laundry basket full of clothes got folded and the dishes in my sink got washed. But not by me. Eventually, Beau fell asleep in one of my friend’s arms so she offered to take him upstairs and put him down in his bassinet – the dreaded transfer! It was a success.
A little later on, I remembered that my own bed didn’t have sheets on it. So we made like ninjas as we snuck into my room to put fresh bedding on, in the dark, being careful not to wake the baby (he sleeps right next to my side of the bed). It was silly. And it was during this bed making that I found myself giggling and realizing that I was indeed having fun, for the first time in a long time.
We went back downstairs to enjoy some more girl talk and that’s when my darkness started creeping back in. Soon my friends would leave and I’d be in for a long night with my baby. He still wakes up 2-3 times throughout the night and once in a while, he won’t go back to sleep for hours. I was hoping this wouldn’t be one of those nights. Not when I was all alone.
One of my co-workers offered to sleep on the couch and do his first feeding of the night so I could get some extra sleep. Again, I felt guilty. I couldn’t let her do that. Could I? They eventually convinced me to let her do this for me. I was going to have to bottle feed instead of breastfeed that night anyways. So it did make sense…and I liked the idea of going to sleep with another adult in the house.
We called it a night around 10:30pm because #momlife and I went to bed knowing I’d be getting some decent rest. Around 1:00am, my son woke so I warmed up a bottle and brought him to my friend to let her take over from there. A couple hours later, I heard her creeping back into my room to slip my sleeping boy back into his bassinet. A quick glance at the clock told me it had been one of those nights where he didn’t go back to sleep right away. I sleepily thanked her and laughed to myself as I fell back to sleep, picturing her walking home at three in the morning with a box of Franzia in hand.
There were several things that came together on that evening to make me feel not only relaxed but also understood and cared for as a new mom. I’ll be honest. I haven’t been the best friend to those in my life who have had babies. It’s not that I didn’t care. I just didn’t get what they were going through or how I could help. Now I do. And I can’t wait to pay it forward the next time I get the opportunity.
Here’s what made it so great:
- I didn’t have to ask. So often, we don’t reach out to our support system until we are desperate. It’s almost like we don’t want to “use it up” unless we really need it. My husband wanted to leave for the weekend when Beau was only 6 weeks old and I wasn’t ready for that. So he stayed. But this time, a month later, I was ready to go it alone. Beau’s sleeping had improved to where it still sucked but was manageable. Things weren’t easy but they had gotten easier, or maybe I’d just become more confident. Whatever it was, it meant I wasn’t likely to ask for a ton of help that weekend. But the truth is, even though I was capable, I was still exhausted and lonely. Which is why the “happy hour?” offer was so welcome, it came freely.
- They were there for me, not for the baby. Now let me just say up front that we are so lucky to have both sets of grandparents living within 5 minutes of us. With that said, there’s a big difference between when grandma comes over to help and when a friend comes over to help. Grandma is there for the baby. She is emotionally invested in him, she wants to bond with him. She can’t help it! Nor should she have to. But there comes a time when a new mom needs to be a little selfish. Every now and then, as amazing as grandmothers are, I want the kind of company who likes my baby…but likes me more.
- No Babysitter Needed. People often flippantly say “get a babysitter!” as though it were that easy – emotionally or logistically. Maybe I don’t want to leave my baby yet, especially in these first few months. Yes, for an hour or so but not for an entire evening. Or perhaps I’m breastfeeding and I don’t have the kind of supply that stocks my freezer in order to give me that kind of independence. Most of the time, I want to be around my son, I just don’t want to be the sole person responsible for meeting his every need at every moment. Getting several hours off from the actual caretaking while still being with my baby and among friends was the perfect balance for me that night. The point is, don’t force a new mom out of the house in the name of “helping” if that’s not what she’s needing. It’s usually simpler than that.
- The Grand Gesture. Not everyone can offer to stay on your couch and do the first feeding of the night while you sleep. Maybe they have kids of their own at home or they have to get up early or they just aren’t comfortable doing it! But when it is a possibility, it’s the best gift a new mom could ever receive. Just one night of good sleep can give me a whole new outlook on life and fuel me for days! But more than the physical rest it gave, after weeks of doing nothing but selflessly caring for a tiny little human, the fact that someone would go above and beyond like that made me feel so cared for. And that’s the kind of emotional hug a new mom needs every once in a while.