I’ll say it. I don’t care anymore. The first year of my child’s life sucked royal dick.
Those first twelve months? Hell.
Don’t get me wrong. I loved that little boy with everything inside of me. And. I hated that first damn year. I often brooded, “What the hell have I done?” Because no one told me I would hate the entirety of that year. No one told me how much I would resent everything about it (except the little boy, I promise I really did love him).
No one told me I wouldn’t enjoy this part. I kind of figured I would just instantly love motherhood and everything that came along with it because, I dunno, sacrifice? I feel like I was fed this line about how everything that is hard and frustrating becomes okay because you’re a mom. As though all the negative things in life kind of wash away because of the great glory that is motherhood. I bought it, hook line and sinker and I SUNK. Holy shit did I sink.
And I’m not just talking about my post-partum depression. That was certainly part of it. But if I look back on my son’s first year rationally, three things stick out that objectively made everything about it just the Worst. With a capital W.
#1: Sleep deprivation.
There is no way to overstate the exhaustion of motherhood. Like, parents try to explain it before you birth those little babies, but… There’s just no way.
When you have a baby, if you are breastfeeding, you have to feed that child at least every three hours. Every. Three. Hours. And every three hours from the moment he starts to suck, not the moment he finishes. So if you have a slow feeder (mine took 45 minutes to an hour) that means that you get two hours, then an hour of feeding, two hours, then an hour of feeding, two hours, then an hour of feeding. And in that two hours you have to do all the following: change the baby, bathe the baby, feed and clothe and bathe yourself, plus whatever household/work responsibilities you have. Oh. And sleep. Literally sleeping in two hour increments.
And then. He gets a little older. And his feeding shortens, but he still eats all the damn time, so now you have two AND A HALF hours. Which is a big bonus, trust me.
And then you get four hours and it feels like HEAVEN ON EARTH. Seriously. I never thought four hours of sleep could feel so good.
But that was basically my maximum for twelve months.
So I spent twelve months of my life extremely sleep-deprived. Extremely. And, to be honest, sleep is number one of my list of priorities before I had children. I’m a nine-hour-a-night sleeper, minimum. So this four-hour thing? Absolute. Hell.
Sleep deprivation fucks with you. It messes with your emotional capability, your processing ability, your socializing skills. I regularly experienced sleep deprivation so real, it mimicked intoxication. Like, no. All the no. Just no.
My son did not sleep through the night until he was fifteen months old. I swear, motherhood got so much better when I could sleep a whole night. Before that? It was damn hard.
#2 Everything is in transition.
Think back on the last big transition of your life. Moving? Job or career change? Relationship shift?
Nobody really likes change. We all struggle with the transition, finding our “new normal.” Motherhood is the single biggest transition I have ever gone through. All my normal was turned on its head. And because babies grow incredibly fast, once you master one skill, they hurl another thing at you. And babies require a million skills of you for basic survival. A LOT of skills.
Like, diapering and cream and bathing and feeding (bottle or boob, it’s a giant pain) and daycare and sickness and different cries and sleep training and OH MY GOD STOP. Full disclosure: I babysat constantly through my teens, including little babies. It was helpful, yes, but it NEVER taught me the full range of skills my child required.
Remember the way you fumbled through your first “big girl” job? My entire first year of teaching felt like a big clumsy series of missteps and anxiety and frustration. Motherhood is no different except 1.) you’re sleep deprived and less able to handle your shit correctly, and 2.) there is a tiny human literally dependent on you for survival, and 3.) you never get to clock out. Pressure’s on, bitch.
Plus, your relationships turn upside down. All of them. Suddenly you don’t have time for friends the way you used to, and sleep deprivation makes it difficult to form a complete sentence, and all you can talk about is diaper cream brands anyway. Not to mention the relationship with your spouse. Want to know what kind of hell that goes through? Husband and I needed rehab and counseling just to begin to work through that shit.
#3 Babies are boring.
In perhaps the most ironic twist of it all, babies are boring as shit.
Let me repeat: I love my son. I enjoyed going through all the milestones. I enjoyed watching him grow. I enjoyed all the snuggles and bonding.
Let’s get real, though. Babies don’t do anything. Especially at first. They literally cry and eat and shit and piss and sleep. They don’t smile. They don’t hug. They don’t say thank you. They barely raise their arm. IT’S DULL.
And yeah, as they get bigger they interact more. But. Is laying on a mat and smiling really interacting? I didn’t know what to do with my son. I felt like I was “supposed” to stimulate him or teach him or… something. Leaving him just to sit and stare at the wall? That seemed so barbaric. Insensitive? Cruel? I don’t know. But I didn’t have a clue how to interact with him.
Eventually I decided to just talk at him, which probably proves my own minimal degree of sanity and predicts his, but whatever. It was still boring. And sleep-deprived boring? Fucking torture.
When my son turned one, it was like the clouds parted and sunshine bathed the land.
While he did not sleep through the night until 15 months, by 12 months he was only waking once a night. I could handle that. I didn’t like it, but I could handle it. The clutter of my sleep deprivation cleared and I started to think and feel clearer.
At about a year, the transition settled (mostly) and I felt far more secure in the world of “Mom.” It wasn’t always easy, but I had a clear idea of my expectations. I felt like MOST (not all) of the literal and figurative shit he threw at me I could handle. Or. I at least knew which Mom-Friends to call and ask for advice.
And the best part? The very best part?
My son is now the most interesting human in the world . He has a personality that totally sweeps me off my feet and restores my faith in humanity. He is gentle and snugly and determined. He loves our little dog and giggles uncontrollably when he gets to pet her. He likes to say “Bye!” to everyone anytime we change location (including, yes, strangers). He loves to blow kisses and give hugs and name things. All of those things are SO EXCITING and I love seeing the world through his fascinated and happy eyes. None of these wonderful aspects of him existed, at least not obviously, in that first year.
Hang in there, you first year mamas. It gets better, I promise.