"Aren't you just loving it?" my friend asked me, cradling my newborn son in her arms.
I was deep in the fog of sleep deprivation, unsure of the last time I had showered. My mind took me back to the night before when my son wouldn't stop crying. I rocked him and attempted to soothe him, but nothing seemed to work. The screams bounced off the walls, piercing any shred of confidence I may have had, and making me wonder what I had gotten myself into.
Loving it didn't seem to describe it. Surviving it felt more like it. Still I nodded and smiled, unable to admit to myself or anyone else that this was all way harder than I thought it would be.
I found refuge in online mom groups, but when other moms told me to hang in there, that it gets better, I wanted to scream. The "better" they alluded to seemed so far away and out of reach, but then my son smiled at me. He started sleeping longer stretches at night. He cooed and giggled, then learned to grab toys and sit up. He could entertain himself for longer stretches of time, and he showed us his quirky personality. As we both grew, each new phase brought more joy and the newborn days felt more and more distant.
Sometimes I miss how tiny he used to be, but I wouldn't go back. The newborn phase is full of both physical and mental challenges — from interrupted sleep while your body is recovering from birth to pouring yourself into a being who doesn't yet interact with you, bringing home a new baby turns your world upside down overnight. It can all be a bit shocking.
Not only was I overwhelmed caring for a tiny human who completely depended on me, but suddenly I had this new identity, a new role in the world, and it felt foreign and unfitting. I had always wanted to be a mom, so why didn't I feel like a mom? Eventually I learned that getting to know my baby takes time, and finding my groove as a parent is a continual journey. After trying out many different "methods" of parenting and finding none of them really worked for me, I started to tune into myself. My son taught me to trust him, and to trust myself, and together we'll find our way.
As a first-time mom, I couldn't see the other side. I couldn't see a world in which my son slept through the night or talked to me with actual words. I didn't know when I would ever have the time again to nourish my hobbies, see my friends, or focus on my career. But as my son grew, I learned two things: 1) Children depend on their parents in many ways for many years, but the newborn phase is truly the most all-consuming time. They do gain independence little by little, and they teach you how to let go. 2) Everything is a phase. Now that my son is 3 years old, I find myself wondering if the tantrums will ever end, but I have the wisdom now to recognize that it won't be this way for long.
So if you're a new mom, wondering if you'll ever sleep again, or go on dates with your partner, or feel confident in your parenting, I'm here to tell you I've been there. What I'm about to say might make you want to scream, but I hope it gives you some hope as well. Hang in there. It gets better.