Wow, so yeah, I had a baby almost a year ago. Time flies! I’m telling you, I tried really hard to find someone else to take care of Mr. Asher for those first two crazy difficult months, but my friends are all too smart. I think the first two months are the only two of your child’s life that actually don’t fly by. In fact, I think time slows down—the first two months might actually last about 3 years. Between the sleep deprivation, the constant feedings (whether you’re breast-feeding or not), the well-meaning advice (sleep when the baby sleeps! Ok, and when do the laundry/dish-washing/vacuuming fairies come?), and the nagging feeling that you’re going to mess this brand new little person up somehow—man, it’s rough. And then there are the hormones. Oh the hormones.
When I had my first baby, Esme, I was determined to do everything right. I also thought that since I was a pediatrician, I clearly should be able to handle everything on my own. I mean, I had trained for this for 7 years! So, you know, I made a ton of mistakes. I was ashamed to ask for help. I actually thought there was a “right way” to be a new mom. And I was horrifically critical of my own perceived inadequacies. When my breast milk didn’t come in right away, I blamed myself for Esme’s weight loss. When she got very jaundiced, I blamed myself for not checking the bilirubin level sooner. When she ended up being admitted (due to a lab error—she was fine), I cried hysterically on the pediatric floor in front of all the nurses—and I was terribly embarrassed by my complete inability to maintain my composure and my failure to take care of my newborn.
Looking back, I know I was suffering from a mild case of the baby blues and I wish I could have cut myself some slack. Now after working with brand new moms for ten years, I realize that we all do this to ourselves–Mom Guilt is universal! That’s why I always ask parents at the baby’s two-week visit if they are “surviving.” Because it’s really all about survival those first few weeks. And at the two-month visit I congratulate them on making it through the hardest part of parenting an infant…I haven’t experienced the teen years yet so I don’t want to make assumptions about the next 17 years!
So dear new moms and moms-to-be, here is yet another piece of advice from a well-meaning mom and pediatrician—be kind to yourself. Trust your instincts. Eat. Tell yourself that all the floods of emotions you are having are normal and will pass—and try to believe it. Ask for help. Even if it’s just to have someone hold your precious newbie for a couple of hours while you nap. When you are worried, call us at the office or send me an email—even if you think it’s a silly question. Order take-out for dinner a little more often than you normally would. Know that it’s okay if the dishes are piled in the sink and the carpet isn’t vacuumed and you’re down to your last clean bra—you are keeping a tiny, brand new, beautiful person alive. It’s the hardest and the most amazingcrazywonderful experience you will ever have.