“When does this get easier?”
It’s a question I found myself asking a lot during the first few weeks after giving birth. Nothing quite prepares you for having a newborn when you’ve never done it before, and suddenly becoming a parent — when just a day ago you weren’t — can be entirely daunting.
Some people will tell you that the first few weeks are “bliss” — that it’s the most wonderful feeling in the world to officially be a mother. It’s true that there are blissful moments (like the first time your baby falls asleep on you, or when you’re able to soothe their crying). But to categorize the entire beginning of new parenthood as “bliss” is to overlook some of the very real struggles that new parents face.
Going from taking care of yourself to taking care of a newborn and yourself is no easy task — and it’s draining. There were days I didn’t brush my hair or brush my teeth, and I don’t think I even looked in a mirror throughout that first week.
To get myself through the things that were hard (the sleep deprivation, the “witching hour” of relentless crying, the fear of doing something wrong), I looked for a mile-marker, something I could count down to, a point in time when “it would get easier.” It turns out that a lot of people have different ways to look at this question, but the most common answer I got was: 4 months. “That’s when the laughing and playing really take off,” one of my friends said. “After 4 months, it gets really cool,” another told me.
Izzy is 4 and a half months now, and if I had to answer this question for someone, I think I’d say this: It gets more rewarding, but it doesn’t necessarily get easier.
There are aspects of motherhood that are harder now than they were in the first few weeks. When Izzy was a newborn, she slept so much throughout the day. There were times when I actually had to wake her up to eat. Now, her naps are short and far between, and it’s often a battle to get her down to begin with. She’s more alert now, which adds to the reward, but that also means that she demands attention and playtime nearly every second that she’s awake. She gets bored with activities easily, and she’ll whine when she needs to move onto something else.
On the other hand, there are so many good things now. Hearing her giggle or seeing her smile can completely make my day, and it seems like she is constantly working on different skills. Each week brings something new, and there’s so much ahead to look forward to.
Wanting a mile-marker is engrained in me though. During high school, I used to always find something to look forward to, in order to “get me through” what I used to refer to as “dread days” (usually days when I had gym class, or had a test, or had to give a speech in class). And now that Izzy has reached that “golden age” of 4 months, I find myself saying things like: “I can’t wait until she can sit up,” or “I can’t wait until she can talk,” thinking, perhaps somewhat foolishly, that it will be “easier” then, too.
However, what I’m starting to learn (or perhaps what I’ve always known deep down) is that each stage will be hard in its own way, but there will be rewards at every step as well. I think the key is to focus on the things that are good, let go of what’s hard, and don’t beat yourself up for rushing away the time that you’ve already lost.
In the comments, tell me: When did it get “easier” for you?
Featured image: Courtesy of Unsplash