New Motherhood Is Harder (and Better) Than I Ever Imagined

Somehow I thought it would all feel easy. Fast forward to life with a newborn/infant, and I was so wrong.
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Closeup of small hands of a newborn baby separating the little fingers.Baby is held in the mother's arms.
Closeup of small hands of a newborn baby separating the little fingers.Baby is held in the mother's arms.

Before I got pregnant, I had this idea of motherhood in my head. I assumed because I had spent most of my adult life working with and caring for children, that I would find motherhood to be a breeze. Sure, I knew there would be some hard moments, but I thought they would be few and far between. Somehow I thought it would all feel easy. Fast forward to life with a newborn/infant, and I was so wrong. It is so much harder than I thought, but even better than I imagined.

People warn you about lack of sleep. Yet, nothing can truly prepare you for the sheer exhaustion. Even pregnancy insomnia can't compare. Most nights I just plead with the kid for at least a two-hour stretch. Despite the lack of sleep, there is nothing like a sleeping baby all snuggled and warm snoozing on your chest (when you're wide awake, that is). The lack of sleep isn't so bad when you're cuddling with a snoozing babe. If I can't sleep, I'm glad to stare and wonder at this tiny human instead.

Breastfeeding is something I knew would be tough, but I never realized how truly tough it actually would be. The first few days just getting him to latch were beyond difficult. Then he would get frustrated and cry. Which made me get frustrated and start crying, too. Once we got the hang of it, it got easier, but there are still days when it is tiresome and hard. When he's going through a growth spurt and continually cluster feeds. Those days feel like my body just has to give and give and give with no end in sight. Yet, despite that, there are moments in the middle of the night when it's just him and me and it becomes a sweet, silent camaraderie. This special bond that only we can share. I'm providing him with the most basic of needs, but I'm also providing comfort, security, endless love. It feels like he knows that as he cuddles close. Or as he grasps my finger in his sleep. He's acknowledging that special bond. That makes all the giving feel worth it.

I knew babies make a mess. That they are an endless stream of pee and poop and spit-up. But, it wasn't until it was my own that I realized how many diapers you go through. Or how many loads of laundry you will do in a week. I didn't realize that literally every surface of your home is likely to get covered with a bodily fluid at some point. Or every single family member. Despite the whirlwind mess one tiny human can make, it also provides us with laughter amidst the chaos. It gives memories we can share with him when he's older, like the time he peed all over himself, his dad, and the entire surrounding area. Even if it feels like madness in the moment, it's quickly something we can laugh about afterwards.

There are days when he cries and cries. When nothing seems to soothe him, despite my best efforts. I feel helpless and like I should know what to do, even if he's just exercising his lungs for a few minutes. Just to see what they're like. Sometimes there is no answer for what they want, because they don't even know. Yet, even when those times happen, I know they won't always occur. They are broken up by moments of happiness. His first social smile happened recently and it made my heart feel like it was bursting out of my chest. His eyes focused enough to see me and give me this grin that felt like all was right in the world. There are also moments of curiosity as he takes in the world around him. Moments of triumph as he figures out new things he can do. Even just his little coos in his sleep make my heart leap with joy. Those moments make up for the crying. They make up for the helpless feelings. They assure me something is going right.

More than anything, I didn't realize how much I would question myself. Am I doing enough? Am I doing this right? Is he OK? One tiny human who can't tell you what he wants and needs makes you question a lot. This parenting gig, it's hard. It's nonstop and ever-changing. Just when I think I've got it down, he throws me for a loop. It is exhausting, confusing, frustrating, hard work. It's by far one of the hardest things I've ever done (second only to actually giving birth). It is chaotic and loud. Yet, it is full of love, laughter, learning. It is so much better than I thought it could be. My love for this kid knows no bounds. My days are filled with wonder as I discover the world all over again, right along with him. My heart is full as I interact with him. As I watch my husband interact with him. It feels like a piece of me I never knew was missing finally found its way back to me. Yes, it's harder than I could have ever imagined, but I'll take the hard parts. They're worth it for all the amazing moments I know await us. As I look over at his sweet face, I know that every moment, good or bad, is worth it. And that makes me glad it's so different from what I imagined.