From the first 24 hours with my son, he screamed. Like a banshee. In the hospital, I firmly said no to visitors (apart from my immediate family, Mum would have killed me!) as he was inconsolable for the most part. “At least we know his lungs work.” The night nurse would joke. Trying to lighten the mood. I remember my husband and I were petrified to actually exit the hospital with him. Too afraid he’d scream down the halls, setting off every baby in a 20km radius. So we timed our departure. We waited until just after he’d been fed, burped, changed and was almost asleep, and we made a dash for it. Without a scream.
Once we got home it was all a blur – the cluster feeding, the no sleep, the muesli bars for lunch, and the shrill cries. I couldn’t help but to question: Where was the sleepy newborn that I had heard and read so much about? Where was that beautiful first night, where as a new mother, I wouldn’t be able to sleep because I’d be too busy peering into the bassinet in wonder? I loved him. With all my heart. But my love was primal. I kept waiting for that gushy love to come flooding in, but it took much longer than I thought it would.
For me, the beginning of motherhood was the hardest part. (I’ve since been through many painful sleep regressions, tantrums and teething, but nothing compares to those early days.) I had this breathtakingly beautiful baby boy that screamed for hours upon hours. I felt ripped off. I’d ordered the top tier, euphoric newborn experience, and I got what felt like the budget special.
“In six weeks things will settle.” Nope. “Once he hits 3 months he will be like a different baby.” Wrong again. “Four months and you won’t know yourself.” I felt guilty. Guilty that I was not enjoying the experience and feeling every bit sorry for myself, my husband and my baby. I was sick of hearing things would get better. What I desperately wanted someone to tell me was, when. When do things get better?
Expectation is an awful thing and I think William Shakespeare said it best, “Expectation is the root of all heartache.” Each 24 hours rolled into one and I felt lonely, trapped and helpless. My son had reflux (a diagnosis, what a relief!) and a dairy and soy allergy, which meant his inconsolable screaming and fussy feeding was a sign of the severe pain he was in. And not a result of my mothering, which I so often told myself.
After five long months, we finally had Freddie’s reflux under control with the help of a fantastic paediatrician, an even more fantastic medication and a prescription formula – we finally began to enjoy our son. After six months, we saw more smiles than tears, heard more laughter than screams, and we could actually leave the house. Freddie and I would walk to our favourite cafe, grab a coffee and sit in the park by the ocean. Finally, I had my boy. The one I had dreamt of. And it was on an ordinary day like that, that I realised this is what everyone was banging on about. That mushy, adoring, rosè-coloured glasses love that I was craving was here.
If you are not loving the newborn phase or the first few months of your child’s life, then you are not alone. If you Google the term “newborn phase” you’ll see a range of prompts that go from “I love the newborn phase” to “I hate the newborn phase” and “how to survive the newborn phase”. Survive. That’s what you do. You somehow make it though, and if you can have an honest conversation with friends, then I’m sure, more than a few will confess, they too didn’t enjoy this phase as much as they thought they would.
Motherhood has made me the happiest I’ve ever been, and also the saddest. But now, over 12 months in, the golden days outweigh the torturous ones. By far. All it takes is one cheeky smile, a “mama” or a chubby little hand resting on my thigh, for me to feel like I am home. So if you are just holding on by a thread of tiny Instagrammable moments, keep going – I can’t tell you when, but I can tell you it will come and when it does, it will knock your fluffy slippers off.
Jade Fox is the proud mother of Freddie Wilde, and the founder and editor of Dear Dilate. A platform dedicated to the highs and lows of motherhood. Dear Dilate is built on connection through storytelling — offering beautifully curated essays, intelligent interviews, open discussions and product recommendations straight from the mouths of mothers. Its purpose is simple. To let mothers share their stories. Judgement-free.