As every parent knows, the first weeks after your first child is born are some of the most difficult in your parenting journey. Full disclosure, I've only been a parent for 14 weeks to date, so I say this without much hindsight.
But even just a mere three months into our time as parents, and I can already say that the challenges of the first 6(ish) weeks already seem like a distant memory.
When you're in the throes of first-time parenthood in those first few weeks, boy oh boy is your world rocked. You have not one clue what you're doing. You don't know how to feed your child. You may have changed a diaper, but perhaps you had a little boy and have never changed a baby with such an unpredictable apparatus. You don't know how to hold your baby. You don't know how to get him to sleep. You don't know if you should wake him up. You don't know why he's crying, or how to make him stop. You don't know if it's too hot in the house, too cold to take him outside, or too dangerous to bring him into public. You just don't know.
On top of feeling like you have no idea what you're doing and you're doing everything wrong and you have no business being a parent, you don't get any sleep. New parents quickly realize: there is a reason no sleep is used as a form of torture. No sleep makes everything seem worse.
And then on top of THOSE feelings, there's the completely overwhelming, all-consuming LOVE you have for this little person. You know the feeling - the one where you cry just looking at your baby's angelic face because YOU made this. The one where it physically pains you to think about all of the possible ways he might be hurt or damaged in his life, and it equally excites you to know that you'll be able to help him discover the world.
Or maybe you haven't felt that overwhelming sense of love or connection with your baby, and for that, you feel guilty. Perhaps you've begun to resent your spouse because he gets to leave the house every day while you stay home with a baby attached to you. Or you resent him because he gets to sleep at night, simply because he doesn't have breasts. Maybe you're tired of assuring Dad that the baby is not screaming at him because he hates him.
The first weeks of being a new parent are a mish-mash of more feelings than I knew were possible, and much of the time, I found myself circling back to one key question: Is this normal?
It was crazy making to wonder if I was the only mom who felt guilty for not "enjoying every second." I didn't know if it was "OK" that I cried every single day when my husband returned from work, sometimes because I was relieved to not carry the responsibility alone anymore, sometimes because I just needed a break, but most of the time, for no reason at all. Was I bad mom because I silently cursed at my helpless three-week-old baby to please just go the __ to sleep? Was I a horrible person for feeling like I wanted to give up breastfeeding simply because it was HARD and EXHAUSTING and I felt like a cow and/or human pacifier?
One day, when my mom was there to help us in the first few weeks, I broke down in tears for what felt like the millionth time. "Oh, honey," she said, her voice thick with understanding and compassion. "This too shall pass."
That phrase has since become my mantra. For every hard moment when I question my knowledge, my instincts and my sanity, I remind myself, "This too shall pass." Sure enough, it does. Fourteen weeks in, and guess what? Our baby doesn't wake up wanting to eat every hour anymore. He doesn't sleep terribly - in fact, he's almost sleeping through the night. I don't feel scared to go somewhere alone with him, and my husband and I feel comfortable taking him out in public if we want to grab dinner or a drink. We even took him on an airplane!
I returned to work this past week, and when my mom asked me how I was doing, I responded that I was terrible, that I missed my son more than anything and I hated being away from him and I hated working. "This too shall pass," she said, and I knew she didn't mean that someday, I would NOT hate being away from him or missing him - just that someday, it would get easier.
Even for every amazing moment or first milestone, I like to remind myself "this too shall pass," because it reminds me to drink in the moment, and to remember that nothing, no matter how terrible or amazing, lasts forever.