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5 Things They Don’t Tell You About Being a New Momma

Greetings, my beloved inklings!

It’s been a while since you’ve heard from me here. I mean, yeah, I’ve been posting something every week or so, but those recent posts haven’t had a lot of meat to them. I know. What can I say? The reason for my silence is also the originator of this post’s subject matter. Here’s your bonus round before I even get to my five points:

Babies require many, many items.

Babies require much, much time.

So there ya have it.

Plus, I’ve been working on posts for writing advice site Unstressed Syllables, as well as mentoring Josh through his latest novel. (It’s a Weird Western: cowboys, Pinkertons, vengeful ghosts, and demons.) These are excellent endeavors for me to be involved in, but they have caused my own writing to suffer from neglect.

Balance: It’s difficult to achieve when you’re a new momma. And there’s another bonus point for you.

So! On to the “5 Things” I originally sat down to tell you about today. ; )

5 Things They Don’t Tell You About Being a New Momma

1.  It can really, really hurt.

Once upon a time when I was 8 or 9 years old, it was summertime and my parents and I were at the grandparents’ house for our annual visit. My cousins, Amanda and Jonathan, and I were jumping on Grandma’s unfolded sofa-bed, launching ourselves up and dropping down on our butts.

As it turns out, this was quite the poor choice on my part. I jumped up, dropped down, and landed tailbone first on the metal rod running beneath the mattress. Said mattress did not provide an adequate cushion for my posterior. All I remember after that is running through the house, screaming for my mother.

Three weeks after that, while visiting the other set of grandparents, I re-injured the aforementioned tailbone by falling off a horse.

Fast-forward 26 or 27 years, and I’m in the hospital, about to push something the size of a small watermelon out of something the diameter of a shooter marble. When my doctor tells me to, I give my first big push. And from somewhere in my nether regions, there comes a loud pop!

“Well,” says I, “that was fun.”

My doctor gives me a look, and I can see her thinking, You have no idea what just happened.

How babies are born. At least according to our childbirth class.

How babies are born. At least according to our childbirth class.

She was right. I had no idea. I thought that pop was simply the sound of my back popping, which is something it does from time to time.

But no. That pop was the sound of my tailbone fracturing.

I am thankful beyond words that I’d asked for that epidural not quite three hours before.

Nobody told me this could happen.

Apparently, fracturing one’s tailbone during childbirth is not terribly uncommon. It can happen if the baby is unusually big. At 6 lbs 12 oz, my baby was not unusually big.

Fracturing one’s tailbone during childbirth can also happen if there has been a prior injury to the tailbone. Sometimes, one has quite a bit of cause for regretting the foolishness of one’s youth.

I spent the first two months of my daughter’s life sitting on a Boppy and taking 600mg of ibuprofen every six hours. For the first month, someone had to be with me constantly, because I couldn’t sit down or stand up without using both hands to lower or raise myself. Someone else had to hold the baby while I maneuvered.

Also — and here’s some TMI for you, so read this part at your own risk — I was on Percocet for four days after delivery. Nobody told me that Percocet can cause severe constipation.

Percocet + (fractured tailbone) = bad

Really, really bad.

When my baby was four days old, I spent 4 hours at the emergency room getting an enema. Lemme tell ya, folks, you haven’t lived until you’ve had an attractive young nurse pump a tubeful of soapsuds up your rear.

Side note: This took place a day after my first postpartum ER visit. That one was for unusually severe swelling in my feet and legs. They did ultrasounds on my legs. Fortunately, I didn’t have bloodclots. I just couldn’t elevate my feet properly because of the tailbone pain*.

Nobody told me that could happen, either.

2. You have never known this level of tired. Not even in college.

I’m a lifelong nightowl. I knew that caring for a newborn would involve sleep deprivation. But I’ve pulled my share of all-nighters; I thought I could handle it.

Nuh-uh. Y’all, there is no handling this. United States Government, please don’t ever trust me with state secrets. ‘Cause if the terrorists get hold of me, all they’ll have to do is deprive me of sleep for a few days, and I’ll be singin’ like a drunk canary in a honky-tonk.

Seriously. The first three months, the longest I ever slept in one stretch was 4.5 hours. Most of the time, I averaged 2.5 hours between feedings. Itty Bitty is now 4 months 3 weeks old, and since she was born, I have gotten 8 hours of sleep exactly once. There have been times that I was so tired, I just sat loose-limbed in a chair and sobbed.

During her first month, I had hallucinations. Hallucinations, people.

Nobody told me that could happen.

3. Projectile poop is the new black. (Everybody’s wearing it.)

I read about projectile vomiting. I read about poopy diaper explosions. I read about getting peed on while changing a diaper. (Yes, even little girls can sometimes produce a “fountain.”)

But nobody told me that when you lift up the baby’s legs to wipe her and she turns red in the face and pushes, green liquid can squirt out her butt and up over your shoulder and land on the white carpet three feet behind you. And, if you don’t learn your lesson, she’ll do it again several days later. But this time, it will splatter you from chin to knees.

wubbanubduck

4. Your baby might not, in fact, take a pacifier.

Our Itty Bitty will take a pacifier. In fact, as far as she’s concerned, the pacifier is one of her best friends. The problem is that most of the time, she can’t hold it in her mouth by herself.

I don’t know why this is. Something about developmental stage or sucking method or the alignment of the planets. Whatever it is, most of the time she ain’t got it. And if we want her to stay asleep after we’ve put her to bed, one of us usually has to hang out with her for about half an hour, holding the pacifier in her mouth until she falls deeply enough asleep not to notice when it plops out of her mouth.

“One does not simply hold the pacifier.”

– the Baby

We’ve even tried this cute thing called a “Wubbanub”: a little stuffed toy that is supposed to help baby grasp a pacifier and keep it in her mouth. It’s a great idea and looks really cute and doesn’t work with our baby at all. She just uses the ducky to pull the pacifier out of her mouth again. So we play the now-infamous Pacifier Game with her and hope that Mars, Jupiter, and Uranus line up properly so that we’re not still doing this when she’s 18.

Nobody told me this could happen.

5. The first three months are really, really hard.

Nobody told me this.

And if they had, I probably wouldn’t have listened.

But I still wish they had.

Instead, all I heard was how wonderful and rewarding motherhood is and how cute and cuddly the babies are.

Well, I’m gonna tell it to you straight. Yes, motherhood is wonderful and rewarding. Yes, the baby is cuddly and cute. In fact o’bidness, as Grandpa would say, I think she’s pretty much the most beautiful person on the face of this planet. I wouldn’t trade being her mother for anything.

But.

And please forgive my language, but this is how strong this truth is.

Motherhood during the first 3-4 months is damn hard.

All of those women who portray it as rainbows-glitter-sunshine-unicorns-blue-skies? I’m not saying they’re lying. I’m not even saying they’re misremembering.

But I am suspicious.

This is hard, y’all. And I’m not going to pretend that it isn’t. I still sometimes sob because I’m so desperate for sleep. Especially during the past week, when my baby has had her second ear infection and needed my constant attention, I’ve longed to fast-forward to when she can talk and tell me where it hurts, never mind that I’d be missing all the supermurgitroid developments in between. The husband and I are still trying to figure out how to be parents and how to be a married couple at the same time. I used to have a relatively organized house, but now it looks like I’m running a daycare that has never once seen a vacuum or the folding of laundry. I still can’t shower regularly. “Alone time” happens only if I give up sleep to get it. (I’m doing this right now.)

I haven’t even talked about the feeling of inadequacy. My daughter deserves a rested, put-together, patient, on-top-of-things, well-relating mother. I’m not so unrealistic as to feel guilty that I’m not Supermom. But feeling inadequate definitely happens a lot.

Month 4 is definitely easier than Months 1-3. But rough patches still happen. And though I know life will continue to get more manageable, if not easier, I also know that rough patches will continue to happen.

________________

If I were a Pez dispenser and you were a momma-to-be or wanting to be a momma-to-be, I’d give you some advice. But I’m not a dispenser. All I have to offer are these truths that nobody told me. They are my truths. Whether or not they apply to you, I don’t know. But there they are for you to do with what you will.

In the meantime, pray for my sanity. ; )

This. : ) (2 weeks old)

She is cramazing. : ) (2 weeks old)

*By the way, I’ve been in physical therapy for the fractured tailbone for two months. My recovery is progressing nicely. The pain level has dropped from 8-10 to a comfortable 0-2 range. The therapy itself is called “osteopathic therapy,” and as far as I’m concerned, it’s brilliant.

26 Responses to 5 Things They Don’t Tell You About Being a New Momma

  1. Val says:

    Aw, sorry. I know, it can really suck. There is no way to fully explain to someone who hasn’t been there what it’s like. All I can say by way of encouragement is that it gets better. Never perfect, but better. The memory of these months will become dimmer and you’ll find a new normal. (Full disclosure: usually you find a new normal and then your kid hits a new developmental phase and it feels impossibly hard again for a while but then you work it out again.)

    Here’s the thing that keeps me going: I’ve discovered that the miracle of life isn’t just “making a baby”. No, the miracle of life is “making a person”. You will get to watch as this little helpless babe learns to walk and talk, be a friend, run and play, sing, reason, talk you down when your upset and so on. It’s amazing. Every month there are new marvels. And then there are the hugs and kisses and giggles and “you’re the best mommy ever”s. Oh yes, it gets so much better.

    Praying for you!

    • Excellent point, you are making a person, not just a baby. I struggle daily with making my kids good “people”

    • Thanks, Val. I appreciate those prayers. : ) Yes, I’ve already discovered that any given “new normal” will only last a few days at this point — and then we take a step backward as she reaches yet another milestone. Which is all to the good, of course! Just hard to get through until we arrive at the next (ever-so-brief) plateau.

      Sometime recently, it hit me that we’re not just trying to keep a baby healthy and growing, we’re also teaching her how to be a human. And not just any human, but one of integrity in all aspects of her self. I knew going into this that it would be the greatest challenge we’ve ever faced…but now that she’s here, the magnitude of it just keeps growing!

      I can’t let myself think about it too much, though, or I’ll just feel guilty on those days when I can call it a great accomplishment that she’s alive and well and I haven’t pulled out all my hair. ; )
      Courtney Cantrell recently posted..Schadenfreude Unicorns and Dropping AcidMy Profile

  2. Andrea says:

    I totally told you about projectile pooping!!!

  3. Jill Barneche says:

    You know, I’ve actually read several blog posts/articles recently about how the first few months or so of having a baby can be a bit of a nightmare, particularly as concerns sleep deprivation. Maybe it’s finally becoming less of a taboo to admit that motherhood is not always easy and magical. Probably a good thing if it makes it okay for people to ask for help or for more people to realize they should be offering help.

    • I agree, Jill. It’s definitely easier to ask for help when you know — instead of merely suspecting — that you’re not the only one going through such difficult times. I hope that taboo is disappearing. I’m not good at pretending to be June Cleaver!

      And yeah, the sleep deprivation has been…ugh. The hallucinations were a big surprise. What’s really weird is that I knew when they were happening, but I couldn’t make them stop. Just bizarre.
      Courtney Cantrell recently posted..The TruthMy Profile

  4. Welcome to the club Courtney. It does start to get better though, and then you have another one. I have had plenty of sleep deprived hallucinations and thoughts that are just, well, too far out there to be shared without someone coming over with a white coat and a net to take me to the loony bin. It does get better. Lean on your husband, he is trying to help as much as he can. Your Daughter is beautiful though, and she will only be this age once. The house can wait, a little bit of clutter lets you know that you are a good parent, because your daughter is taken care of. That is what’s important.
    Keep your chin up, it does get better. Before you know it she will be going to her first 6th grade dance and looking into junior high schools….a new nightmare is beginning for me.
    -Justin
    Justin Matthews recently posted..The Return of Poetry Tuesday: All Pales to YouMy Profile

    • Justin, there have been several moments when I *wished* someone would come along with a white coat and take me to a loony bin! It would’ve been so restful! I’m sure I’ll wish that again plenty of times in the coming years. ; )

      Ed is definitely doing all that he can. Just last night, he stayed home with her so that I could go to dinner and a movie with a girlfriend…even though he has a sprained ankle. And he gets up with her during the night so that I can stay in bed, even if I’m not sleeping. I definitely couldn’t do any of this without him!

      6th grade dance and junior high…I DO NOT ENVY YOU. I hope that’s a nightmare with a pleasant waking-up!
      Courtney Cantrell recently posted..Your New Writing CoachesMy Profile

  5. Heather says:

    Oh, Court. I am so, so sorry! You really have had a rough go of it. I have to admit that I giggled at the title of No. 3 (and yes, I think everyone with babies is wearing it, or has worn it!). Hang in there; it does get better! And as long as you are keeping the baby alive and giving her love, she is not going to care (or even notice) if the house looked nice or what she wore or if you cried during the third nighttime feeding or even if you forgot to take a single picture in a six-month span (sorry, Thomas age 6-months to 1!). It really does get easier after 3-4 months, and once that sleep thing works itself out, you will feel much more like you! :) Glad your PT is going well and I hope Charlise begins sleeping beautifully!!

    • Thanks, Heather! : ) No worries about “admitting” to the giggles. I hope I can get others to laugh along with me as I try to laugh at these things myself. It’s better than crying about them all the time!

      I can totally relate to what you’re saying about taking pictures. I had the great intention of taking a picture of Charlise every weekly milestone. Week 1, Week 2, etc. At this point, I can’t even tell you if I took one at Week 2. Oh well! At least I’m collecting things for her scrapbook. I have a whole boxful. I’m guessing I’ll have them in the scrapbook by the time she gets married. Maybe. ; )

      She is starting to sleep better. It’s not consistent, but she sleeps 8-10 hours probably four nights out of seven, usually with one feeding in-between. So I’m slowly but surely regaining my sleep-related sanity. ; )
      Courtney Cantrell recently posted..Schadenfreude Unicorns and Dropping AcidMy Profile

  6. Tiffany says:

    I too think back on the first three months with a kind of terrified awe. Freakishly hard doesn’t begin to describe it! You finally get to sleep, your perfect angel in a basket by your bed, and then- the sound of a freight train- a funny sounding breath brings you back with a jolt as you listen… yes… he’s breathing. Sigh. Back to sleep. Then there’s hoping that the milk-to-baby scene all goes swimmingly. Yikes. When I think back on the first three months, from the time of birth until we moved back to the states (if you ever have a choice, never never never move out of a country on the day your child turns three months old), I wish that we’d been able to enjoy it more. But I know that it is so stinkin’ hard, that we should just be relieved that we got through it! So I’m going to go sit next to my 22 month old, and let my heart melt as he tells me, “we friend mama.” And I’m definitely completely candid with the soon-to-be-mommies who really want to know. Because they need to know!!!

    • Tiffany, amen to that. ; ) And I am sooooooooo looking forward to the talking stage! Yes, I will appreciate all the stages in between…but I’m excited for the day that she can look into my eyes and tell me what she’s thinking about. That’s going to be so amazing I can’t stand it. : )

      And I don’t envy you the international move with a three-month-old. My parents did that with a three-*year*-old more than 30 years ago, and I’ve always thought that didn’t sound like fun. You guys have them beat!
      Courtney Cantrell recently posted..One Does Not Simply Explain a MemeMy Profile

  7. Allison says:

    I 100% sympathize with you! The first sleep deprived months are the WORST, DAMN HARD is exactly right! The problem is that those months blend into the blurry background as the kids get older and when your friends have babies and you are equipped with only pictures to remind you of those first months of your own kids you can only remember how cuuuuute they were when they were brand new. And how much you don’t have good memories of those days! (100% because of the sleep deprivation) :)

    Hang in there, friend, and never ever feel bad about taking care of yourself and focusing solely on your family. And hey, it’s good practice for the rest of motherhood to ignore the “pressure” and shoulds we tend to feel by just being alive (aka “shame”…and any practice to let that go is of course a step to a freer life, which you well know I’m sure!)

    Love to you <3

    • Allison, I do know…but it’s hard to remember sometimes! Living with intention is an awfully hard struggle when I can’t even think of that the next step is in putting on my socks, much less think deeply enough to clarify the focus of my life!

      I will admit, some aspects of those first few months are already starting to blur. But that’s why I’ve been keeping a file of written communication (limited though it was) during that time. I don’t want to forget, not even the “bad” parts — because they were part of my reality then. I might love fantasy, but when it comes to my life, I’ll take reality every time. : )
      Courtney Cantrell recently posted..The TruthMy Profile

  8. Dustin Dopps says:

    Been there, done that. Don’t plan on doing it again. But I empathize.

    And yes, I know I wasn’t technically the Momma, but I was still there. :-)

  9. Kathrin says:

    I could have told you but I didn´t want to spoil the rest of the pregnancy for you in those short happy moments we could spend together this summer. Especially point 2 was hard with my first baby (Cedric), probably one gets used to not sleeping enough when they have baby no.2 or + as I can´t remember being soooo tired after the birth of Vanessa. She slept well though. After one week or so I had all the 5 hours from feeding to feeding… I do remember ear inflammations and hard times when all I could do to calm the baby down was to push him round the room on a big plastic truck all night thru. Vanessa didn´t have such times. She wasn´t ill very often. So wait till you have the second one and then relax!!!

    • Ha! Kathrin, I don’t even want to think about a second one yet! Let’s just keep the first one healthy and happy and then go from there. ; ) I’m glad you didn’t tell me any of the gory details when I was still pregnant. I think women need to be warned of such things *before* they get pregnant. Hearing them just a few weeks before delivery would definitely be a bit depressing! ; )
      Courtney Cantrell recently posted..Schadenfreude Unicorns and Dropping AcidMy Profile

  10. amanda says:

    thanks for the honest blog : )

    about 2 weeks after i had my 1st, I called my mom (who hadn’t been able to visit yet – she was really sick) crying, “I didn’t know it was going to be so hard.”
    it’s hard but it’s worth it – wishing you some sleep!
    amanda recently posted..More Belly ShotsMy Profile

  11. Courtney,

    You nailed it with this post. Sweet with a healthy dose of gritty realism. If you ever want to look on the bright side (haha, say when your little girl is 30 or so), I can tell you that those post-birth moments are the ones you will end up treasuring. I say that because in 1968, I was in the hospital a week (complications from a C-section gone wrong) and another week home when I have no memory of caring for my daughter. (Her grandma traveled across the state to take care of her while I slept.) I read so much these days about the importance of imprinting and bonding that goes on in those first couple of weeks and I feel like I missed out! Sniff.

    It’s very special what you have written here. I shared it with another new momma friend of mine on Facebook.
    Judy Lee Dunn recently posted..‘To Thine Own Self Be True’: What’s Your ‘Heartsong’?My Profile

    • Judy, as always, thanks for your encouragement and your openness! You and your words are a treasure, and I’m sorry I’ve taken a whole month before saying it! The last few weeks have been rough, but I shouldn’t let that stop me from acknowledging friends when they share such kindness and beauty with me. : )

      I can well relate to feeling like you missed out! My missing-out feelings revolve around something a bit more shallow: photographs. I see other mommas’ pics of their tiny newborns in adorable outfits and melt-your-heart sleep poses, and I feel sad and jealous. When my baby was that size, I was too miserable even to think about dressing her up or doing photo shoots. I even said no to the hospital photographer who wanted to come in and take a few pics. I was too exhausted and in too much pain to think that I might want those photos just a few months later. It breaks my heart that I let an opportunity to capture those moments slip away.

      But I’m trying to look on the bright side and learn from all of this. I’m coming to an understanding of just how priceless these moments are. I bask in them and I do little things to record them. And I celebrate her every milestone. She’s a joy that outweighs any sorrow or regret. : )
      Courtney Cantrell recently posted..The one where I’m Sigourney Weaver. No, really.My Profile

  12. #6 Diapers are like those perverse skinny jeans that let your underwear hang out except the skinny jeans are diapers and the underwear is poop… projectile poop.
    For the first 3 months of my baby’s life, her poop never stayed in her diaper. We tried cloth, we tried paper – every brand that you could buy at the store. She could wear it for a minute or an hour and it would still blow out. I think I threw out most of her clothes during those months – most of that stuff wouldn’t come out or I was too tired to even try.
    The volume of poo was unbelievable.
    Mary from Sweet Roots recently posted..Inspiration FoundMy Profile

    • Mary, my comment notification emails haven’t been working right, so I’m just now seeing your comment! I’m sorry!

      OH MY WORD THE POO VOLUME. AND THE POO COLORS. Every shade of green and yellow in the rainbow. They told me that’s what would happen, but there’s nothing quite like seeing it for yourself.

      We’ve been fortunate in that with all the diapers she’s had on her tiny bottom so far, there have only been 3 or 4 blowouts. I can’t imagine dealing with what you had to deal with! I don’t blame you for throwing away the clothes. Sticky newborn poo is like the Blob.

      Maybe a flamethrower would’ve been a good investment.
      Courtney Cantrell recently posted..Blog MaintenanceMy Profile

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