Long nights allow me to feel I’m falling

While the birth of Rowan was as easy as pie, I can’t say that these last three weeks at home with him have been quite as delightful. Sure, there have been plenty moments of pure saccharine, when I wake up in the morning after cobbling together five or six hours of sleep the night before, when the baby is lucidly alert after a nap/feeding/changing and he wants nothing more than to just gaze at the ceiling, light fixture, toy dangling from his bouncer, or on the rare occasion, into my eyes, and I think to myself, yes, I can do this. I can be a mom. I am his mom.

But then there are nights like last night, when the baby was so incredibly fussy for reasons we can only speculate (gas? growth spurt? hungry? OMGWHAT?) and not a wink of sleep was to be had by the baby, Roth or me (Sierra slept just fine, as she has the ability to tune out the shrill war cries of a three-week-old infant, apparently), and I feel as though I’ve been reduced down to nothing more than just a pair of chapped nipples. And I think, I can’t do this. I just … can’t.

I hate that I’m even writing about this, because it’s such a fucking cliché, to be complaining about sleep deprivation after having a baby. I mean, HELLO, right? Did I really expect that a perfect pregnancy plus a perfect labor and delivery would equate to a perfect baby who wants to sleep when it is dark outside? Well, yes, I did hope for that, and there have been a few precious amazing sleep-laden nights peppered throughout these last three weeks that have kept that pipe dream alive. But last night was our first truly horrific night where nothing – not nursing, pacifiers, pinky fingers, gentle rocking, gas drops, shhh-ing, swaddling, side-laying, bouncer chair vibration, magic tricks, tap dancing – would appease the baby.

Even though everyone says this is normal, and oh, it will get better, I still feel like a failure. And it’s not because I couldn’t physically comfort my baby. It’s because I thought and even said aloud some not-so-nice things while in the throes of utter frustration. I’m mad at myself that I let this teeny-tiny baby get the better of me, that I couldn’t just chalk last night up to one bad night in a sea of good ones surely to come.

No, instead I muttered horrible things while angrily tromping around the house with a baby uncomfortably squirming around in my arms. Poor Roth, who had to get up for work at 4:30, was laid out on our bed with a spasming lower back, no thanks to having to bend over our low-to-the-ground bed to change him, but even so, he would take the baby when clearly I needed to hand him off. Yes, last night was one to remember. Er, or rather, to forget and hope never, ever happens again.

I hate admitting this, but everyone was annoyingly right. A baby does change everything. Like, BIG TIME. I think I’m only now just realizing this at the three-week mark because just like the baby, I’ve been sort of dreamily sleepwalking through the so-called fourth trimester. The honeymoon period, as it were. While the baby is just starting to really wake up and become aware of his surroundings, I’m only now coming to terms with my new reality, now that my mom is no longer here to do the dishes and fold laundry and Roth is back to work full time. I AM a mom, oh my god. Clearly, the honeymoon is over.

While I’m still adjusting to this new life, I don’t want to waste one single day of my maternity leave dwelling on the negatives, and yet, this is what I did most of today, post hellacious night of no sleep. Somehow I have to find it in me to focus on the positives, that chapped nipples just mean I’m successfully nourishing my son. That for every bad night there will most certainly be two better nights. And that soon, this sweet face will look at me and smile, simply because I am his mama.

Rowan bed

That’ll be worth a thousand sleepless nights, right?



  1. Serror

    I am delurking to tell you that you should check out http://zestyenterprise.com/ if you aren’t already aware. You two have suprisingly similar posts today, your babies are just about the same age, you both have the same name and you live like 35 minutes apart.
    Ps. Rowan is beautiful!

  2. Jen,
    Yes, it’ll be worth it. The day he actually makes eye contact on purpose and smiles at you (give it a couple months) WILL make this worth a thousand sleepless nights. When he gets a sense of humor and sticks his little pointer finger into your nostril seeing your flinch your head back (as Claire learned yesterday) and chuckles the most delighted laugh you’ve ever heard in your entire life WILL make it worth it. There are massive ups and crushing lows, believe you me. But you WILL get through this stage – only to be confronted with another frustrating one – but each stage is also punctuated with the best highs you’ll ever legally feel. I mean it. If you need advice or an ear, you know my email.
    Hugs and wishes of sleep soon.

  3. Wow, I could have written this exact post after I had Piglet. I remember saying once, “You have to take him because I’m afraid I’m going to throw him!” How embarrassing. I just didn’t have the nerve to blog about it. Words that will sound like hogwash while you are in the throes: Things get better by 6 weeks, there’s a huge growth spurt at 3 weeks, another at 6 weeks, then you’re off the hook until 3 and 6 months, and finally since everything’s worth a try when you’re not sleeping at night: the one thing that finally worked on Piglet at that stage (Pigpen didn’t do all this nonsense, thank goodness, so don’t rule out future children) was to swaddle him tightly, hold him tightly to me on his side, take him in a dark bathroom, turn on the fan, and twist my body from side to side. Sounds like child abuse, no? It worked for him. I’m thinking of you! (And Gus of Sierra)

  4. From a non-mom:
    I don’t care how wonderful mommyhood is, how darling the baby is, or how good the baby is most days. Dude, if you are sleep deprived, it will make you feel KA-RAZY and you should not feel bad for it. Humans are not really meant to NOT sleep, you know? And when you’re doing all you can and the baby can’t tell you what’s wrong, well, that’s really frustrating. So you just vent away and know that someday you’ll miss those late nights. Because you’ve forgotten how awful they were because you lost those brain cells when you were underslept.
    Hang in there. It’s worth it. And you are completely capable of doing it.

  5. I’m (obviously) not a mom but I have many friends who are and they’ve all been through what you’re going through and they ALL SAY that of course it’s worth it. But sleep deprivation is serious business. It can make you think in ways you never have before. I remember my sister being totally overwhelmed and not asking for help. Ask for help, okay? Everyone will benefit if you do.
    If you need someone to do your dishes, I honestly enjoy it and would happily come over if you needed a hand!

  6. Yes…the smile makes it all go away. So worth it…and just when you think it can’t get any worse that smile will melt your heart and make it all better…a babies smile is like a band aid for the mothers soul.
    Good luck…Rowan is precious!

  7. I’m due with my first in just a few short weeks (!!) and I love coming here and reading these honest accounts. And … oh my … your son is breathtakingly beautiful. I hope for you a nap squeezed in there somewhere.

  8. Jen,
    It will be totally worth it when he starts waving at you (like Ben did today) or picks up a puffy cereal thingy and puts it in his mouth or says mama. I had those same moments as you and they are hard but it makes you love that little bundle even more.
    Hang in there!

  9. Love.your.mom

    Please try to stay as calm as you can. When you get frustrated, Rowan feels it and gets frustrated and it snowballs. It will get better and will be worth it, I promise.

  10. Laurie

    Soon. Very soon. And it will make everything so much better, because you know you must be doing something right, even for a couple seconds, if the baby is smiling.
    One of my favorite/most horrifying memories of M’s early growth spurt hellaciousness was her laying on Andrew’s lap howling and him looking at me and doing a “throw the baby” motion with his hands. We certainly weren’t our best selves there for a while.

  11. Nothing like a screaming newborn refusing to sleep in the middle of the night to bring out the worst in you.
    Motherhood is great, but it is freaking hard, and most of us think/say things we aren’t proud of. If you have the chance to nap take it. If you think you can get out of the house, do it. Doesn’t matter if you’ve showered or are still in your pj. Good for baby and good for you.
    There is a great group called First Weeks that is run by Anne Kepler, who is one of the authors of Pregnancy, Childbirth and the Newborn. Meets a few times a week. All new moms (and some dads), all with their little guys, no need to get gussied up or anything. A lot of good advice, and nice to connect with other people going through the same things as you.
    Things will look better soon.
    And your son is adorable.

  12. What most people tell you is how awesome it is….but we aren’t good at sharing how hard it is too…I vividly remember those first sleep-deprived few weeks. I know I’m repeating…but it does get better, right around 6 weeks….I don’t know how…or why…but about 10 ppl told me this…and it’s totally true.
    Also, at about 3 weeks, I picked up a copy of the Baby Whisperer by Tracy Hogg….it is FILLED with good tips about getting your baby to realize its night and beginning to set up a routine so that he knows what is going on as well as you! Alot of what is in it is common sense..but then again, when you are sleep deprived and slightly crazy…sometimes it bears repeating.

  13. Hi Jen,
    Wow. God bless the internets, no? I loved your post, and like serror and your mom said, I feel like I could have written it. This is so incredibly hard!
    We had a bad night last night again. No sleeping at al. Well, that’s not true, he DOES sleep, for like 2 minutes, then cries again, just as your drifting off, painfully yanking you back from the edge of sweet oblivion.
    Of course, it is beautiful, too. I am off to whip up some positive sounding post to reassure my sweet readers that I am not in fact as close to death as my posts are making it sound. ;)
    You have a new follower!

  14. Love.your.mom

    A friend of mine told me today that when her baby daughter was home from the hospital after three nights of no sleep and days of her sleeping amongst the normal sounds of the house, she started putting her baby to bed to nap in quiet area during the day so she would learn to sleep when it’s quiet..like at night… And it worked. It couldn’t hurt. Maybe the boppy isn’t for daytime naps. Or maybe Rowan could sleep in his nursery crib during day to get used to the quiet.

  15. Oh Jen! I found your blog link in a comment on my friend Jenny’s blog. Rowan is adorable and you are amazing. Hang in there, it is so hard. The beauty of it all, more than makes up for the pain of it in the end.

  16. I’m right there with you… and between the sleep deprivation and drop in hormones, I am crying at least 5x a day. But it does get better – I remember from Zoe that this will pass. Hugs.

  17. Angel

    I just wanted to say thank you for being honest. I am not yet a Mom, but I do want to be someday. I’m sure that all Moms have days/nights like this and you’re just being open and honest about sharing them. When I get to be a Mom and have tough times, I’m sure I will think of this post and tell myself that I am normal.

  18. It is so so so hard. Hang in there, Jen. And you better learn to forgive yourself for the things you say and think in the trenches. Because there will likely be more instances. The key is you didn’t act on any urges. And sometimes it’s better to just put him down somewhere safe and walk away for a few minutes to gather yourself.
    Oh, and swaddle, swaddle, swaddle.

  19. Hang in there Jen! Yes, you are a mom. The reason he is frustrating you so, is because you love him so much and want him to be happy. These first weeks (after the honeymoon) can be totally hellish. Good for you to admit it. I remember reading that the fussys peak at 6 weeks and then get better by 2-4 months, adn thinking “I will not make it that long.” But you know what, we did. And you will too. And it will go fast.
    Also, my friends in Seattle rave about the PEPS program that connects you to other parents with babies the same age and location. Sign-up today!
    (Friend of Shannon’s down in Bend. Formerly of Seattle.)

  20. oh sweetie, you are doing your best, that’s all you can ask yourself. i’ve never been a mom, but having such younger siblings i know there is nothing romantic about a small baby–so much noise and stress! you are a strong person and you’ll find a way through it. rowan loves you and you love him. i’m thinking good thoughts for you all.

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