I have three boys, all about two years apart. Today, they’re 7, 5, and 3 years old. Before I had my oldest, I’d never been around a baby before, and I had no idea what to expect. I knew he’d nurse approximately every two hours. I knew he’d poop and pee a lot. Other than that, I figured that he’d sleep. They say newborns sleep a lot … right? I thought I’d end up just plopping him down in a swing and going about my life. Maybe I’d even have time to do some Pilates workouts to “get my body back.”
This is not what happened.
I wake up to the baby whimpering in the crook of my arm. I’ve fallen asleep nursing again. This is no big deal, because we knew we’d co-sleep and made sure we had a safe co-sleeping environment. Baby Blaise is ticked off my left boob has run out of milk. I yank out my right boob, flip him over to that side, and latch him on. He begins sucking contentedly. We both go back to sleep.
The same thing happens again! Except Blaise mostly just squirms and I never put my breast back in my shirt. Neither of us really fully wakes up. We’ve been doing this for most of the night. I thought babies weren’t supposed to sleep, but this boob-sleeping thing has us both getting a solid nine hours.
Now he’s awake. I nurse him again on the right to see if I can wrangle another few minutes of sleep out of him, but he needs his diaper changed. I stick both boobs back in my shirt and cart him to the changing table. This hurts my stitches down there. The poop is copious, sticky, and far more than I thought such a tiny person could produce. I use too many wipes because no freaking way am I getting human poo on my hand.
Blaise is awake, but he doesn’t want to be put down. I swathe myself in the Moby Wrap and stick him inside, where he sits contentedly as I snarf breakfast, trying not to spill any cereal on his head. I fail. It’s cold. He’s bald. He wails. So now I’m on my feet, bouncing and shushing. This is not how I am used to eating my Cheerios.
The shushing and bouncing is wildly ineffective. I have to take him out of the Moby Wrap, de-swathe myself, fetch the Boppy pillow, get the TV remote, and finally latch the baby on. His wailing stops immediately. He nurses on one breast, then the other. I watch an entire episode of “The X-Files.” He falls asleep. This is far more awesome than I thought it would be.
It’s diaper time again. This is much less awesome than I thought. And didn’t I just change his freaking diaper? I am not used to being this beholden to someone else’s poop. He sleeps through the diaper change. He could sleep through an atomic bomb if he were in the right mood.
I put him back in the Moby Wrap and try to get some housework done. He wakes up briefly, then passes back out again. Some clothes are folded. A bathroom is wiped down. I should not be doing any of this because I am less than a week postpartum. But, you know, visitors.
Blaise wakes up in the Moby and begins to squall just as I’m sitting down to scarf some baby-gifted cookies for lunch. No one brought useful food, like lasagna. It was all cookies and cake. WTF, people? I abandon the cookies to change the baby, again, and get out the Boppy, again, and sit on the couch, again, so I can nurse the baby on both breasts. Again. I thought I’d need those clippy-things you fasten to your bra to remind you what breast you started on last. Nope. The boob I’m supposed to use is swollen up like a circus balloon. The other is semi-deflated. I worry I will look like this for the duration of my nursing experience.
I attempt to shower, because he’s awake and happy. I end up sprinting out of the warm water, shampoo bubbles flying, to comfort a raging infant. I rock him naked on the bathroom floor, rinse my hair, rock him naked on the bathroom floor, condition, and let him scream while I rinse it out. I feel like I’ve shed a layer of very dirty skin.
The baby is very angry. I scoop him up and sprint to the bedroom, where I sprawl on the bed and nurse him. I do not bother with a towel. I don’t know why, but I’d always assumed that motherhood would involve towels.
I’m still nursing. We both need a nap after the shower trauma. I drift off, even though I know I’ll have a hair disaster on my hands when I wake up. I fully realize that no one cares anymore. And to think I’d fantasized about applying makeup today.
My husband, Bear, comes home from teaching. He scoops up the baby and makes a face, because Blaise clearly pooped. And after a full day, this one is his.
I am ravenous, so Bear makes me real food while I stand in the kitchen (with Blaise in the Moby Wrap) and talk to him about a day full of people whose poop he does not bear responsibility for.
He holds Blaise while I shovel down real food. It involves food groups and requires utensils to eat. I am not holding a baby. Bliss.
Blaise cluster-nurses. I sit on the couch and read while he switches interminably from one boob to the other. This is probably for the best, because my girl parts are on fire. This is the time that Bear and I usually went out to dinner. I remember that, and I start to cry. “Is this what it’ll be like now?” I demand. “Am I going to be tied to the couch for hours and hours and hours every single night?” Just then, he stops and drifts off to sleep.
We gingerly change his diaper. He stays asleep. We put him in his swing and crank it up to high. This will buy us at least two hours of adult time. We use it to sit on the couch. We’re parents for one week, and we’re already lame.
In the two weeks after giving birth to my first, I was constantly exhausted. I didn’t get enough to eat. I felt like I had to clean for visitors. With my next two babies, I was sure to get more help — or at least to make my husband take more paternity leave. I stayed in bed, where I belonged, and tried to do nothing but nurse the baby. I highly recommend any postpartum mother do the exact same thing.
Elizabeth cohabitates with three small boys, three large dogs, and a very patient husband. A staff writer for Scary Mommy, she has written for numerous parenting venues, including TIME, in addition to being discussed on CNN and NPR. You can connect with her on Facebook or Twitter.