You meet your first born child for the first time and you’re dumbfounded by his/her perfection. The hellish birth experience is in the rear-view mirror and you can focus on the adorable miracle child bestowed to you. You’ll be amazed by the ridiculous comments that fly out of your mouth “Oh honey! Even his cry is adorable!” (I literally said this to my husband right after our son was born; I want to slap myself in the face just thinking about it.) You’re infamous to family and friends. There’s a mad rush to meet the beautiful new addition and smother you with salutations. This stage is short-lived, usually lasting between 24-72 hours, with a hard cut-off upon your arrival home when the realization strikes you’ve lost the hospital staff.
This isn’t really your child. Your state of perpetual exhaustion lends you to the conclusion it’s all a bizarre dream (and not a blissful one). You’re still RSVPing yes to your friend’s Kentucky Derby Drinkathon next weekend because you still haven’t grasped the fact that you’re an actual parent; this isn’t an electronic doll from a 9th grade sex ed class. You run around the house in an alert/REM fusion state changing diapers/feeding, completely dissociated from previously enjoyed life experiences such as showering or enjoying a meal. The current level of disruption is unfathomable and something any sane person would be unwilling to accept.
The “WTF was I thinking” stage begins. Life was good; why did I have to crap all over it?!? People choosing to have multiple children are either certifiably insane or possess a level of tolerance far beyond my reach. Profanities shower the household during unremitting newborn crying fits. You’ll unleash fury on innocent household items, anything you can get your hands on, during a fit of rage resulting from auditory overstimulation and sleep deprivation. You fantasize about taking a road trip, alone, and not returning. Anger transitions into bargaining as feelings of desperation emerge. “I promise I’ll send you to whatever college regardless of the financial implications if you’ll just shut the f*** up for 10 minutes!!!” or “I’ll let you choose you’re own bedtime, for life, if you sleep for more than 20 minutes tonight!!!”
There’s a competition within the household for biggest cry baby and your newborn is losing. You may find comfort by curling up in a ball on the bathroom floor while your newborn screams it out from his crib in the other room. You grieve life as you knew it, reminiscing over past luxuries like silence or a solitary trip to the bathroom. You absolve yourself from any guilt you previously felt for evading responsibility in the past, like faking a sick day at work or choosing keg stands over advocacy groups in college. Thank god I took the opportunities while I had them to do whatever I wanted. If an action doesn’t involve keeping your child alive you have absolutely zero energy or motivation to complete it. You’ll schedule an appointment with a shrink to rule out PPD since it’s well beyond the preposterous two week “baby blues” mark.*
Once you acquire more than three hours of sleep in a single stretch circumstances seem far more reasonable. Perhaps by this time you’ve been blessed with a decrease in horrific screaming episodes. Possessing the ability to raise your child seems like an attainable goal rather than a pipe dream. The sight of your spouse elicits feelings of adoration rather than culpability. Your spouse returns home from work to a pleasant greeting rather than having a Boppy pillow launched at his head to compliment your tirade about his son’s abhorrent behavior. Emotional stability is some-what restored. A DVR malfunction is no longer enough to trigger a psychotic meltdown. You begin to enjoy watching your baby grow up and become thankful you’ve emerged, relatively unscathed, from the black hole of new parenting during those first couple months.
You will re-encounter these stages again at later points in your child’s life (sleep training, sickness, teething, toddlerhood, the entirety of middle school/high school).
*Note: Turns out I didn’t actually have PPD, it was just a really rough adjustment those first few months. You don’t need a diagnosis because it took you more than a couple weeks to cope with motherhood. I wrote this post as a self-reminder in case I have another child; this is all temporary! There’s no need to feel guilty or inhumane if your initial reaction to parenthood (or having child #2,3,4) is panic and horror. If this reaches other people and makes them feel less alone or abnormal for how they transitioned to parenthood, even better!