A day like any other. I prepared six bottles of milk, boiled water a thousand of time, attempted to put Mark to sleep four or five times and I was peed on twice.
Gosh, it’s only 9 p.m.
Keep in mind that all this is new to me. Just a little over six weeks ago, I was only boiling water when I was making tea for myself—not to sterilize bottles. If I wanted to sleep, I just had to avoid caffeine. And getting peed on wasn’t part of my daily routine either—I know I’m French but I don’t engage in fetish play, sorry.
Life with a newborn changes everything. Everyone had told me so, but experiencing it first hand is another matter—a matter of keeping your sanity actually.
Home is a battlefield: two exhausted parents vs. a newborn. And I’m afraid the lightweight is winning the battle.
But we are learning the “art of war”.
As new parents, you probably received a lot of advice from healthcare practitioners or family and friends—you may even have met the “baby police”.
But as we discovered, there is a huge gap between what is recommended and what you will actually end up doing. Because at one point, it is “whatever works”.
Case in point, the crib : Mark refuses to sleep in it. Oh, he did at first but only for the first couple of weeks. He’d rather sleep in the “guest bed” that we had left in his room. And he rarely if never falls asleep alone, one of us has to hold him to sleep.
I know a baby is not supposed to sleep in a big bed. We made sure he is okay: we delimited a “safe area” with pillows, we don’t cover him with blankets, the mattress is firm enough, he can’t fall, etc. Some people told us he would never sleep alone or in his bed again. You know what? At this stage, I don’t give a shit. He needs to sleep, we need to sleep.
Whatever works, like I said.
Sanity Hours Are Essential
I love Mark—we made that kid and we wanted him.
But I’m human and sometimes I just can’t take it anymore—yes, “it” being my son.
When Mark is fussy and can’t stop crying, when he is needy—like most babies, I know!—and starts wailing the minute I put him to bed to take a five-minute bathroom break, when he has been in my arms non-stop for hours and still doesn’t fall asleep… I’d be willing to sell him on Ebay.
Shipping would be too expensive, he is getting heavy.
More seriously, “sanity hours” are essential. Sometime, you just need to hand the bundle of joy over for a few minutes or a few hours and enjoy time alone, preferably doing non-baby-related stuff. You are a new parent but you are still a person!
Know Your Limits
Babies can be incredibly cute—and incredibly frustrating. The sound of a baby crying is the most stressful sound in the world. Spending hours trying to put a baby to sleep is draining, especially if you haven’t slept much yourself. The stupid pacifier that constantly falls off is another lost battle.
A few times, I had to put Mark in his crib and walk out for a few minutes to calm down. I cried out of tiredness and frustration more than once, and I cried while holding him a few times—which retrospectively wasn’t a good idea since I had to bath him after to wash away my tears, and that led to more frustration and crying. I screamed alone in the bathroom where he couldn’t hear me. And I took countless deep breaths to stay calm.
And believe it or not, I’m a pretty even and patient person. But like I said, babies can be frustrating and when you are exhausted, it’s sometime hard to think straight.
Know your limits. Hand the baby over for a bit or leave him where he is safe and calm down. It gets better. I actually miss Mark when he sleeps more than three hours in a row!
Some Days Are Great, Some Are Awful
Some days are great: Marks naps a few hours here and there, he smiles, he is funny, we hug and kiss and the sky is blue.
Some days are awful. When he doesn’t nap at all and refuses to stay alone in his bed even for a few minutes, when he cries non-stop because he is overtired, it’s tough—very tough.
But every time we have a bad day, I think of one of my friends’ mantra: “babies always eventually go to sleep; they always do.” And I remind myself that tomorrow is another day, and that it gets better with time.
Things Change Constantly
With babies, the day-to-day changes are amazing. Mark is not even two-months-old and he already looks like a baby, not a newborn.
Things change constantly. What works one day doesn’t work the other, but generally speaking, things get better and easier with time, with a few setbacks.
Keep Thing in Perspective and Keep a Sense of Humour
When I can’t take it anymore, I just take a deep breath and think of all the shitty times I went through—when traveling, when immigrating to Canada, when looking for a job. And most of the time, I remember the struggle but mostly the happy moments: the great places we discovered on the road, the day I finally became a Canadian citizen, finding my calling as a translator/editor/copywriter.
Good times erase bad days. When Mark smiles or is his cute self, I forget about the previous hellish hours.
Keeping a sense of humour also helps, and so does writing… as you may have guess reading the baby-related articles!