Thursday, August 18, 2011


In my mind, the story goes like this: I came home from the hospital and happily cuddled my burrito baby for the first six weeks. I was in my own little cocoon with her, and nothing from the outside could bother us. It was a precious, wonderful time. I wasn't sleeping, but I was happy. It wasn't until later that I had problems.

But, apparently, that's not how it happened.

My husband said to me the other day, "Don't you remember waking me up in the middle of the night in tears? That you said if you stayed up by yourself with the baby anymore you were afraid you'd hurt her?"

Umm, now I do.

(And in retrospect? That's probably not normal.)

I think (I think!) the days were okay. She slept most of the time. I cuddled her. I held her all day long, and only put her down for an occasional nap. I slept from 7 AM (when my husband left for work) until 10 AM every day. I pulled meals out of my freezer for dinner, I ate cheese and crackers over the babies head. It was quiet and peaceful and the snuggles, oh the snuggles.

In fact, at 6 weeks, I even had a PPD screening. The grad student on the phone told me it sounded like I was doing pretty okay, and asked if that sounded right. I said it did. (Because, well, maybe it wasn't great, but it was the first 6 weeks, right? It was supposed to be hard. It was supposed to get easier.)

But the nights, oh the nights. The nights were brutal. Baby Girl was awake from 10 PM until 5 AM most nights. I'd pace my bedroom floor with her, not daring to take her downstairs and watch some TV or turn on a light because if I did, it might never get better right? I was supposed to keep night time dark and quiet and boring. I follow rules.

And the crying. Oh did she cry. The only thing that made her stop crying was when I nursed her. So I nursed her ever half hour. For 7 hours. Yes, that's true. No, I'm not exaggerating.

Her growth? And my milk supply? Were awesome.

My frame of mind? Not so much.

Okay, and maybe the days weren't always so great either. I suddenly remember now a skype conversation where baby and I could only be onscreen for 10 seconds at a time because I was pacing the entire house the rest of the time. I remember evenings when I walked around in circles in my living room while "watching" TV (there are episodes of House that I watch now and realize I didn't hear *any* of the dialogue). I searched the Internet for ways to get her to stop crying, to sleep at night and be awake during the day. I did everything everyone told me. I felt like a failure when it didn't work.

Umm, okay, so why don't I remember it this way?

Momnesia is powerful, people. Very powerful.

I think it's a defense mechanism. Our minds need to protect themselves, to protect us. It's what allows us to continue to function. It's what allows us to eventually have more children. Which I'm relatively sure is a good thing. Right?

But my concern is that Momnesia can become an offensive weapon instead of a defensive one. When we are reminiscing, when we are trying to be helpful. How many people told me, how many places did I read, "Oh, enjoy this stage. It doesn't last"?

And if you're a new mom, I want to say that to you. I want you to enjoy it. It doesn't last. It is precious, as is every single stage.

But I also remember thinking, "Who could enjoy this?"

I remember thinking I was broken, that I was a terrible mother because I was simply not enjoying it. Because it was so freaking hard for me.

And maybe, maybe I was a little broken. Maybe there is a better. Maybe I was too depressed to enjoy something I should have enjoyed.

But maybe not. I didn't miss it. Every bit of her newborn-ness is still a part of me, a part of our relationship. And the bits I keep in my conscious mind are the good bits: the snuggles, the first giggle, the nights I broke the rules and snuck downstairs to play instead of pace.

And so, if you are a new mom, this is what I want to say to you. Love on your baby, love on yourself. Believe that this stage is something that is temporary. You're not doing anything wrong, I promise.

And if you're thinking you wish you could enjoy it? Don't worry. You will.


  1. Great, great post. The beginning is SO HARD. But you do forget about it eventually, just in time to have another one. I remember now sitting in the chair afraid to fall asleep cause I might smother him with my boob!

  2. Great post. The beginning weeks really are hard, and you're right, you do eventually forget about it. But I sure remember sitting in my rocking chair in the middle of the night just wishing that phase would end, hoping that I felt differently about that newborn stage.

  3. You know what? I didn't enjoy that newborn stage either. I like rules too, remember? And Donut broke all of them. She cried for hours too every afternoon and evening. I was in tears by the time my husband got home. Maybe every baby does cry a lot, I don't know. My friends could never remember. Or maybe they weren't as bothered by it. I just don't know.

  4. Oh, you poor thing...I'm so sorry you went through that. And I'm glad you're better.
    P.S. I'm a rule-breaker...a lot of the time. I think when it comes to raising kids, the only rules are what works for your own kids!

  5. Oh yeah. This all sounds very familiar. I've often thought back to those early days when he was awake so much and I wanted to scream. All this time later, I still don't know if it would have been better to go and watch TV in those situations. Maybe. I tried to do everything "right." Maybe I should have let it go.

    You're right about momnesia though. I have it and it's not until I read things like this that I remember.

  6. I'm not a mom yet, so this post is such a relief to read. Not because it is a happy tale, but because it is an honest one. I imagine this type of -nesia, whether it be mom or otherwise, happens quite a lot when people want you to be excited about a new stage in your life:
    -just getting married
    -buying a new home
    -perhaps even starting out in a new career,
    ...I'm sure this list can go on.
    It is as if we don't allow others into the truth circle until they discover bits of it themselves. While this is helpful in terms of experience being the best teacher, there are major pitfalls in the area of "broken" feelings. I'm one of those people who thinks first, " I must have done something wrong," before realizing, "maybe this is the way things really are."

    I am sorry you had to go through this with your baby burrito (love that term!), but thank you for being able to express it so clearly to all of us reading!

  7. Man, can I relate - the whole feeding every 30 minutes for the entire night. It was awful. But for better or for worse, I never got momnesia. Back then and to this day, when someone with a newborn asks how it was for me, it's all I can do to not say "IT WAS HORRIBLE, THE BABY WAS WRETCHED!!" But for every person who said that annoying "oh enjoy these wonderful times" I'd have another who said "it's gets better", which I so appreciated.

  8. Loved this post - I'm definitely a sufferer of momnesia! I think many moms whose children have grown up forget about the little challenges we face as new mommies (myself included). I had forgotten all the challenges and tough times until I had my second and was quickly reminded again. But I was also happily reminded of all the wonderful things that come with new babies and hope to embrace every moment while they last!

  9. I remember sobbing while feeding my 3 week old DoodleBug from the nipple pain and my mom saying "I just didn't have any trouble with you" and "you were a great sleeper, right from the start." At the time, I thought that was a sure sign I was a failure. Now I know she was full of shit. Not intentionally, of course. But after 30 years, who would remember the torture that is the 4th trimester?

    I LOVED this post and I will come back to it in January to remind myself that just because it's hard (and miserable), that the joy is still there.

  10. Ok, I think you just described me exactly, with the exception that B was a *decent* sleeper. I think back and it was all snuggles and rainbows in those first 6-10 weeks. Not so much, apparently.