Thursday, December 22, 2011

Thoughts on motherhood - the first three months

I haven't shared much about pregnancy and parenthood on the blog, and since that's pretty much been my all consuming focus this past year it's made for some light posting. My little baby is now three and a half months old. He laughs, coos, holds his head up and generally acts like a real boy. It's shocking how much he's grown since the day he arrived. I've been feeling like I need to take a moment and write about these first few months before everything that comes next wipes my memory clean.

In some ways coming out of the first few months feels like surviving some sort of catastrophic event, like an earthquake or a civil war. Maybe that's a li-ttle melodramatic, but it really is amazing the havoc one little baby can bring to a previously peaceful existence. And it's not like I wasn't warned. Everyone says 'oh the first three months are so hard'. But the thing is, you don't believe it. I mean, first of all, three months seems like an eternity. It can't possibly take that long to settle into your new life, right? I expected we'd be in sync within a week or two and as long as we had a swing for soothing, we'd be set. But managing expectations, I've found, is the key to happiness as a new parent. So for the sake of future Alyssa, here's what I've learned from early days with baby.

Your Baby Will Cry
Yeah, yeah, yeah. They give you the DVD at the hospital, but then you come home and the baby is lovely and sleeps all the time and you figure, 'oh, I've got this. Then they wake up. And they are not happy about it. I fought against using the term 'colic' for a long time. I kept thinking that I didn't want to complain, my baby was just fussy and didn't always cry. But for a stretch of 3-4 weeks from 8 to 11 pm he needed constant soothing. Colic. James and I would take turns rocking, bouncing, shushing, swaddling. Right when we were about to lose it the other would take over and you'd go sit with ear phones on to drowned out the cries. Then, at 11 pm, like magic, it would end and the babe would fall asleep. Of course by then I would be so tired that I would give in an go to sleep myself.

Your Baby Might Not Like the Things You Thought They Would
We have a swing, a bouncy seat, soothers. I figured with all these tools we'd be able to sooth our baby. Nope. H would only be happy when you were holding him, standing and bouncing. As he's gotten older he's come around to some things, but sadly I've learned there is really no surefire way to sooth a baby. Shoot.

Breastfeeding is Hard and Then Gets Awesome
I consider myself to have had a pretty easy go of breastfeeding. H was good at latching from the start, I had no bleeding or toe curling pain. I never worried that I didn't have enough milk. And still, I have had moments where I felt like throwing in the towel. I had mastitis early on and spent the next couple months getting up to pump in the middle of the night. I had pain or rather irritation that lasted a long time and spent months living in fear of thrush. And H decided he didn't want milk anywhere but from the source and so throws a huge fit if you try to give him a bottle, meaning at most I can be away from him for an hour or two.

I was told that by six weeks breastfeeding becomes great. It didn't. But somewhere during the past few weeks things finally started to click. And I've started to appreciate the many ways it is awesome, not the least of which is the rush of feel good hormones it gives to mom. I've found myself lying awake some nights when I can't sleep looking forward to H waking up for his night time feed because I know after I'd be super relaxed and drift right off.

Little by Little Things Return To (a New) Normal
Three months ago I never would have imagined that we would have returned to any semblance of normal life by Christmas. And yet, here we are. Most nights we get a couple of hours to ourselves after the babe goes to bed. Some days I manage to have dinner made by the time James walks in the door. We go out to restaurants (even to a fancy one for a celebration), and to friend's. I even started knitting again. Amazing.

Three Months is SO Short
When people tell you right after the baby is born 'by three months this or that' it seems like an eternity. I remember almost crying when someone told me I could expect the babe to be happier by three months. But it's actually a very short amount of time and passes in the blink of an eye. I guess that's why some people call it the longest shortest time.

Of course if you'd asked me two months ago I would have said I was enjoying parenthood. And I really was. In between all the hard moments there are moments of pure joy and also moments of pure hilarity (like the time I found myself shushing the baby in response to the beeping alarm clock). But it just has been getting so much better lately. And one thing is for sure, having a baby has a way of making your old life seem extremely dull!