I remember the day like it was yesterday: we were stationed in Italy, my husband was working another 16-hour day, and I was running on empty. Again.
My first baby (around 2 months old at the time) just finished another 10 minute nap, which consisted of me standing, rocking, and holding her the entire time. It was time for her to eat—again—which lasted a good hour because of low supply and nursing issues.
After I ripped the SNS or supplemental nursing system off of me, swearing I’d never use it again (only to use it again the next time because I was determined to make it work), I sighed loudly to nobody but my daughter and decided to skip my next pumping session.
It was just too much, and I needed a break.
And then she pooped.
But this wasn’t just any poop; it was the blowout of all blow outs. My husband recalls coming home, walking into her room, and seeing me on the floor with poop on me, my clothes, in my hair, on the changing table, and even on the walls. After all was said and done, the poop landed everywhere but in her diaper.
It’s one of his favorite stories to tell, and we* can laugh about it now, but at the time I literally felt like life as I knew it was over, and I’d be stuck in this stinky-poop-filled routine forever.
*Yes, it’s taken eight years, but I can finally find the humor in it.
But back then…when I was in the thick of it? I couldn’t see past the newborn days and the endless sleepless nights.
Forget not being able to take a shower; some days I literally forgot to brush my teeth. It was all just too much, and I thought it would never end.
Well, here I am: eight years and two more kids later, and I’ve reached the light at the end of the never-ending tunnel.
The end of that really hard stage does, eventually, come.
They will sleep through the night. They will start wiping their own butts. They will play on their own and not need you every single second of every single day. They will make their own breakfast and help you make dinner. You will be able to leave them in day care without hearing them wail as you walk away.
You will take a shower again, relax in a bath, and read a real grown-up book. Believe it or not, you’ll be able to poop in peace without little hands banging on the door for you.
Also, one day those plump, life-giving boobs that are making you feel like an actual, literal cow? Sooner rather than later, they’ll dry up and be flopsy and saggy, making you wonder why you ever wished for that day to come.
To the mom in the thick of it: I SEE YOU.
I was you. I know exactly what you’re going through. I know you wish you could blink and just be in my current shoes already.
I know how isolated you feel, and how defeated your tiny baby makes you feel even though you love him/her/them so freaking much.
I know the time, effort, and bravery it took as you packed up everything to go on your first trip out of the house alone. Even if it took until she was three months old, and even if the only place you went was to the store.
I totally get how you want to throw in the towel when it comes to breastfeeding, because it’s hard! Toss in any type of nursing “issue,” and your perseverance is astounding. Wipe that tear, and whip out your boob. They won’t nurse forever, I promise.
And if you’re giving formula, GOOD. FOR. YOU! Oh yes, I’m screaming, because sometimes that’s the only way you’ll hear me over the noise of what they say you “should” be doing. Finding the right formula, putting it together for every feeding, finding the extra money to pay for that, and then dealing with the stigma that formula still has is enough to make any mom feel bad. But guess what: You’re feeding your baby, and that is literally the only thing that matters. Great job, Mama!
To the mom missing sleep desperately, listen up: when your baby finally closes their eyes, it’s time for YOU to take a nap. Skip the laundry, order takeout for dinner, and leave the dishes in the sink. Even if you just rest, you need it. Taking care of a baby is exhausting, mentally and physically. Rest up, mama.
And if you have older kids at home, you still need to stop and rest. Let Disney or Nick Jr. babysit for 30 minutes while you do what you need to do. Bribery is my friend during nap time. I wasn’t above giving my older two a treat for staying put and watching TV so I could reset.
To the mom in the thick of it: easier days are coming your way. I won’t give you that cliche “just wait…” speech because you are waiting. You’re literally in the stinky poop trenches and can’t see over to the other side right now.
I also won’t tell you to cherish the days you’re in right now, except for maybe the boobs; cherish the heck out of them! My last baby got on the bus yesterday and headed to his first day of school, and while my days are long, quiet, and boring now (can you imagine?), I don’t miss a single minute of having poop anywhere but in the diapers, the sleepless days and nights, or any of the hard parts of early motherhood.