After a two-year struggle trying to conceive, I got the call I had been waiting for: “Congratulations, you’re pregnant!” From that moment, life was all about the little human I was growing inside of me. I spent 40 weeks preparing for his arrival and surviving pregnancy at work – and watched as my belly grew, my feet swelled and my body underwent changes I hadn’t anticipated. Sixteen hours after my water broke, I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy at 9:04 a.m. on April 27, 2017. His name is Nicholas John.
As senior editor at Metro Parent, I thought I knew how much my world would change when Nicholas arrived. But, the truth is, I hadn’t realized just how much, nor had I imagined how different I would feel now that I’m a mother. What I also failed to realize is how quickly the time would pass as the days blurred together during my maternity leave, and how many discoveries I’d make – about him and myself – in those first three months of his life.
The baby journals are all blank (#newmomfail), but I did make time to write a weekly maternity leave diary. Here’s a peek into my initial journey into motherhood.
Week 1: Nicholas has exited the womb
I still can’t believe the little human I’ve been growing inside of me is finally here. Childbirth has left me feeling achy and exhausted, but the weirdest part of all is how different I feel in my own skin. It doesn’t feel like mine anymore. My deflated belly feels loose. In fact, the skin all over my body feels looser and rougher than before – and well, I can’t even imagine what’s going on with my vagina. I don’t have the nerve to look down there yet. I feel like a new person, and I wonder if anyone realizes that I’m not the same person I was a week ago.
My husband, Kevin, and I are adjusting to our new life as parents – and the struggle is real. So are the sleepless nights. We’re taking shifts to care for our little man who has yet to distinguish night and day, and the exhaustion has already set in.
Week 2: Pump it up
Pumping is hell. Nicholas wouldn’t latch and as hard as I tried to fight the nurses in the hospital, we’re supplementing him with formula as I pump to increase my supply. This was not part of my plan. I thought I would breastfeed him exclusively for one month and then start pumping – extra time to scour those breastfeeding pump reviews – but we’ve moved right on to pumping and it’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.
I feel guilty for hating it so much. I should be able to produce enough breast milk to feed my son, but I’m not, and I find myself crying every single time I pump. I can feel myself slipping into a depression and I wonder if this is really worth it. Why make things harder than they already are? I’m exhausted enough as it is. Maybe it’s time I pull the plug on pumping and focus my attention elsewhere.
Week 3: Sleep deprivation
I’m Googling “ways to help your baby sleep.” Will Nicholas ever get any shut-eye? He’s wide awake at night and naps during the day. Everyone tells me I should sleep when he sleeps, but I don’t know how to sleep during the day. I just can’t. I’m used to being at work right now – not napping at noon. But the nights are so rough – and these four hour shifts we’re splitting are killing me. Anxiety sets in as it gets darker outside, and I feel so lonely and sad being wide awake with a newborn at 3 a.m. It’s as if we’re the only two people awake in the world, and while I know that’s not true, I feel so alone.
I miss my husband. We’re like ships passing in the night. We haven’t shared a bed much in the last three weeks. I’m grateful for the nights that my mom comes over to help us. Having a child of my own has made me cherish my mother even more than I had before. She’s the only reason I’m able to rest occasionally these days.
Week 4: Missing my old life
I used to want to be a stay-at-home mom. In fact, it’s all I ever wanted growing up, but I’m wondering if I am really cut out for this motherhood thing. I miss working. I miss talking to people during the day and focusing on more than feedings and dirty diapers. While everyone is at work, I’m home feeling so isolated from the rest of the world. I love looking at my little man while he sleeps, but it’s boring. He doesn’t do anything but eat, sleep, poop and scream. I talk to him, sing to him, try to entertain him, but he doesn’t care about any of that yet – and I don’t know what else to do with myself. I miss some aspects of my old life. Does this make me a terrible mother?
Week 5: Barely getting by
I vowed that I would keep it together. I’d wake up, shower, put makeup on – still look like myself. I promised I would keep my house clean, I’d cook and I’d do all of the things I used to do. I’ve failed. Baby boy gives me just enough time to shower in the morning.
Forget makeup. Forget jewelry. Forget cute clothes. Why bother looking cute when you’re just going to get puked or peed on? I don’t have the time – as weird as that seems – to cook or clean, so I watch as the housework piles up, and I’m just surrendering to the fact that I can’t do it all and I certainly can’t look good doing any of it.
Week 6: Say ‘hello’ to my little friends …
The doc gave me the green light to get it on, so I figured it’s a good time to check out the state of my vagina before I let my husband get a closer look. I squatted over a mirror in the bathroom one night and much to my surprise, it’s not as bad as I thought! But what the hell is going on with my a**hole?
I knew I’d get hemorrhoids during pregnancy (and the amount of pushing during delivery is enough to inflame that area), but these are no joke. It’s no wonder I’ve been feeling like I’m pooping knives – when I’m actually able to have a bowel movement, which isn’t as often as I’m used to. Now I understand why the nurses give you stool softeners in the hospital. I’m traumatized every time I poop and even more traumatized by the look of that area.
Ah well, my husband didn’t comment on either of these altered areas, so that’s a win for me! I’m also surprised the baby slept long enough for mama and daddy to actually have some husband and wife time. I promised to keep my marriage a priority after the baby arrived – and unlike housework and makeup, this is one promise I plan to keep.
Week 7: Reflux, what?
So much baby spit-up – on the couch, on the floor, down my bra, down my back – everywhere. I didn’t realize that much puke could come out of such a tiny human. It has been non-stop for weeks. Why didn’t anyone prepare me for this? I can tell the poor dude is uncomfortable. He balls up and cries after every feeding, and that alone is breaking my heart.
I didn’t expect it to be so hard to find the right formula. I missed the “gross things about pregnancy no one tells you” memo that so many kids have reflux issues and as a result might need to switch formulas a few times – or might end up on Zantac three times per day. Hoping this latest organic one does the trick because Nicholas is miserable and so am I.
Week 8: The forgotten nipple
Baby and I are on the go. Diapers and wipes: check. Extra clothes: check. Bibs: check. Burp cloths: check. Bottle with purified water: check. Formula: check. Nipple for bottle: oops. I forgot the nipple to go with Nicholas’ Dr. Brown bottle – and realized it right as it was time for him to eat.
Thankfully, my sister-in-law is great with little ones and lives close enough to Target that I was able to leave the baby with her and run there to purchase another bottle. Lesson learned: Check, double check and triple check the diaper bag before you leave the house.
Week 9: Getting it together
Maybe it’s the new formula or maybe it’s part of his overall development, but something wonderful has happened: Nicholas is sleeping longer stretches at night. Four to six hours, to be exact. While he’s more of a night owl – falling to sleep around 11 p.m. – he’s staying asleep longer, which means more rest for us. I’m still struggling to sleep, but I’m hoping that figures itself out soon.
For now, I’m just enjoying the fact that we’re finally getting into a routine – and I can actually tell what he needs when he needs it. Deciphering his cries has become much easier, and I finally feel like I’m getting the hang of this mom thing.
The best part of our routine? After his diaper change around 7:30 a.m., we have a mini napfest on the couch for about an hour. Nicholas sleeps in the crook of my left arm, and sometimes I fall asleep too. Other times I just watch him rest and enjoy the quiet before he starts screaming again.
Week 10: Sweet discoveries
New faces, different places and objects – Nicholas is intrigued by all of them, and I love all of my baby’s expressions. It’s incredible to witness his curiosity about the world and be there as he discovers new things, like the feel of the wind against his face and his reflection in the mirror. Things we barely pay attention to are so new and interesting to him.
His eyes widen more at the site of new things. He smiles at the familiar faces in his life and even giggles when I’m changing his outfits on his changing table. The watercolor lion that hangs above his changing table was the recipient of his first smile weeks ago, but now the rest of us get to witness that sweet smile several times a day.
Week 11: Hitting a wall
The sleep deprivation has hit an all-time high. I’m not sure why, to be honest. He’s sleeping a bit better, but for some reason I can’t get to sleep right away when my head hits the pillow – and I struggle to stay asleep. Sometimes I think I hear him cry. Other times I have too much on my mind to truly rest. I’ve simply hit a wall – and I’m not sure how to help myself. So, I rely on several cups of coffee each day and hope that it just works itself out.
But as I’m preparing to go back to work soon, I’m worried that I won’t be able to function as well as I used to. Will I still be good at my job when I’m so exhausted all the time?
Week 12: The final week
Our final week of uninterrupted time together is here. It’s back to work on Monday, and I’m not yet ready for the transition from working woman to working mom. If you’d asked me weeks ago if I wanted to go back to work, I would have said “yes.” The fatigue, the stress and adjustment to parenthood would have prompted that response. But now, I feel a sense of sadness about not being home with him all day. I was here for his first smile, his first giggle and all those sweet snuggles – and I can’t imagine not being home for all his other firsts. Will I miss the first time he crawls or walks? His first word? The thought of that kills me.
I spent weeks thinking I had changed, but deep down I knew I still had a strong desire to stay home with my son. And now that the final week is here, I’m feeling that pull even more. But staying home isn’t reality and in many ways, it’s not the right choice for someone like me, an extrovert who truly does need adult interaction.
Still, I’ll miss our morning snuggles, our outings to see my parents, siblings and friends, and all those little moments in between. These last three months have been the most beautiful and exhausting days of my life – and I’ll cherish them always.
For now, it’s back to work and a new normal for our family. I hope I can do it.
This post was originally published in 2017 and is updated regularly.