There are plenty of things no one tells you about having a baby. Some things moms and dads might assume you don’t want to know about (projectile poop) and some things maybe they don’t consider worth mentioning (baby acne). Then there are the big-ticket items that begin at birth and live on until your baby is 35 years old. I’m not sure why these are shrouded in secrecy because they certainly have the most impact on your daily life.
As I navigate the early weeks of motherhood, I’m already experiencing intense bouts of one of the big ones: guilt.
It seems a little early to fall prey to the big “G”, right? I’ve only had six weeks to do things “right or wrong,” and I’m happy to report I haven’t dropped my daughter, left her crying, or anything else major that might constitute feelings of guilt. Actually, that’s not entirely true. I dropped my cell phone on her forehead within the first few whirlwind days at home, blurred and cloudy with exhaustion, while attempting to log our breastfeeding session on my breastfeeding app. She was okay, but I wept for hours. I think that might have been the moment when the guilt set in. (Needless to say, I stopped using the breastfeeding tracker.)
One of the things parents do tell you about parenthood is that it is incredibly hard. They tell you a million times how hard it is. In fact, it’s their favorite thing to tell you about. You listen and nod and try to mentally absorb it, but secretly, you don’t want to become jaded before you meet your little one and you take it with a huge grain of salt. I’m talking margarita rim salt. I wanted to know everything about what it was like to have a baby and frequently asked for tips and advice from friends, but I did not really care to understand how hard it would really be. I’ve always been a girl who likes to find things out on her own, for better or worse. So when the guilt set in that day after accidentally assaulting my brand new, perfect child with an iPhone 6, I started to personally understand all the warnings.
The funny thing about the guilt I’ve experienced is that it’s not brought about by serious issues (although, I thought the cell phone incident was pretty serious – my mom told me to calm the hell down). Just today, I left to take a 20-minute walk with the baby, you know, because of vitamin D. She got upset about half way through, so I rushed home. She continued screaming and seemed hungry, even though I fed her right before we left for our walk, but my guilt surged as I left her crying in the bassinet for five minutes to use the bathroom and get some water. I felt guilty for going to the bathroom.
My guilt most appears at the following times:
- When I find myself stressed that I just fed her (see above,) and she wants to eat again within 45 minutes when I just had the sip of the wine I responsibly planned to enjoy once she finished feeding.
- When even though she just woke up from a nap, I have to put her in the swing just to get one or two things accomplished (choose from: teeth-brushing, switching a massive load of laundry, eating a sandwich. Pick ONE. Can’t have them all.)
- Continuing to consume the only edibles that give me life – coffee (1 cup/day) and chocolate (lost count), even after the pediatrician suggested they could be causing her gas pains.
- Leaving her with any other person for 30 minutes so I can nap or go to Walgreens.
- Forcing her to take a bottle of pumped milk, even though she hates it, because otherwise she will not eat when I return to work.
- Don’t get me started about returning to work.
Yes, the most basic elements of life are the things that cause me the most anxiety. When I share these feelings with other moms, including my own, they shake their heads and say, “Put the baby down!”
They assure me it’s okay to put that precious newborn down to freshen up the bathroom before a visitor arrives. It’s fine to do what you can to get the baby to fall asleep during the afternoon in hope of catching a simultaneous power nap. Most of all, it’s necessary to put the baby down when you’ve tried everything you can to get her to calm down and she won’t, and you wonder when it will get easier.
Put the baby down in a safe spot, and take a moment for yourself. I am learning you must take care of yourself the best you can in order to properly take care of that little human you’ve come to love more than anything in the entire world.
Six weeks in, I am still in awe of the miracle I was privileged to be a part of, and the resulting beautiful baby girl I get to call my own. What I want most (besides of course, her total good health and happiness) is to enjoy these days, even the hard ones. I know how fast they will fly by.
That means it’s okay to hold her longer than parenting books advise, normal to take hundreds of pictures and post them all over Instagram, and it is essential, even when guilt tries to rear its ugly head, to put the baby down. It’s a new mom lesson I am trying to embrace every day.
WRITTEN BY LINDSAY
Lindsay Hyatt is a proud Buffalonian, former teacher, current Technology Specialist, and a first-time mom to a newborn baby girl. She loves to travel, sing in her band, and write for her blogs, The Daily Sampler and Cliche Mom. Connect with Lindsay on Twitter @thedailysampler.