When I was pregnant, I prepared for my baby in all of the obvious ways (setting up the nursery, making sure we had appropriate baby supplies, reading baby books, etc.). I learned that newborns (as in, age 0-3 months) can be incredibly trying at times. Here’s a list of those ways I found that it can make newborn babies “difficult to love.”
1. They need to be fed every 2-4 hours, around the clock. This makes you exhausted, short-tempered, and moody.
2. They’re not as interactive as four-month-old infants are. Dr. Karp in “Happiest Baby on the Block” reminds us of the huge difference between a four-day-old and a four-month-old. Brand new babies don’t yet have the ability to turn their heads, smile back at you, or coo. Their eyes can’t see beyond a couple of feet in front them, so their eyes can’t yet follow you through a room.
This lack of feedback can make it seem as though your baby doesn’t love you back. Believe me, they do! They just haven’t developed enough to show you yet.
3. Newborns can be “ugly.” They still have the look of a fetus, not the round cheeked, soft glow of an infant. Dr. Harvey Karp calls this the “fourth trimester” in his book, The Happiest Baby on the Block (which I highly recommend). On page 9, he even refers to newborns as “creatures.” An added bonus: newborns often have acne, rashes, and peeling skin. As I learned of this, I mentally prepared to have an “ugly” baby with a face only a mama would love!
Now, please don’t get me wrong here. Babies are beautiful. But we have all seen commercials or TV shows with a gorgeous “newborn,” born with rosy cheeks and a big smile. Plus, we’ve seen those images of a beautiful mother in a perfect house holding her baby in her arms, peacefully feeding him or her a bottle, giving a knowing smile as her little drifts off to sleep. Sigh. Life is much more messy, frantic, and exhausting than this. And in turn more wonderful.
4. Some newborns cry A LOT. When I was pregnant, a friend of mine told me that her baby cried the entire first four months of her life. My friend said she tried everything to soothe her baby, and NOTHING worked. When she offered to give us a few baby items, I asked, “Are you sure you’re not going to have any more kids?”
“NO!” she answered. It was such a strong response that it stayed with me. At the time, it rattled me a bit. Now, I can look back on it with a half smile, because now I know.
5. Your relationship with your partner will probably shift to the back burner for a while. And this can make you feel isolated and angry.
Our baby is now four months old, and my husband and I are just beginning to talk about date nights again, and carving out time for ourselves as a couple.
As you can imagine, after learning all of this, I mentally prepared for the birth of my son. I steeled myself for the possibility that the first three or four months of my son’s life would be awful for us. I gave myself pep talks, and told my future self to just “hang in there, you’ll get through it.”
What I wasn’t prepared for, however, was just how much of a joy he was, even in those early months.
He loved to be held. He wanted to be near us all the time. Not only that, it was wonderful to see him grow and change each day. Each week, he looked so different from the week before. Seeing him smile (and not just sleep grins) for the first time was wonderful. Now, at four months old, he smiles at us every morning, and many times throughout the day also. My love for him has grown as I’ve gotten to know him.
In my tired haze, recovering from a c-section, I was able to still enjoy those early months with my son. It’s time with him that really goes by too quickly. I love him with all of my heart.