True Confession: I Loved Having a Newborn

September 10, 2009 at 10:17 am , by

IMG_0336Here’s what I want to know: Are happy new moms just lucky, or are we also a wee bit simpleminded?

These days, it seems like all the cool new parents complain—bitterly and hilariously—about having an infant. In memoirs, essays and blogs, they debunk the cruel myth of that blissful first few months with a cooing, snuggly bundle of joy. That’s Hallmark-card hogwash, they say to their relieved readers, who find their honesty refreshing. These writers adore their kids, but let’s get real, they write: A newborn means being in a 24/7 state of extreme worry and panic, plus crushing boredom, plus guaranteed post-partum depression and the most searing pain you can imagine when you attempt to breastfeed. Miracle, yes, but also…nightmare!

The latest book I read on this topic was American Parent, a memoir and cultural history by my neighbor Sam Apple. As Sam wrote wittily about the extreme terror and tedium of being a stay-at-home dad with a colicky kid, I laughed out loud. I also recently devoured the beautifully written parenting memoir Waiting for Birdy, by self-described “catastrophizer” and LHJ contributor Catherine Newman, laughing so hard at one point that the other people in my doctor’s waiting room started edging away.

I have a shelf full of other great books that smash the oppressive myth of maternal bliss, like Mothers Who Think, Mommies Who Drink, The Bitch in the House and Perfect Madness. Never mind the many excellent blogs—shout-out to my internet buddy Tertia Albertyn, author of the hysterical and heartbreaking infertility memoir So Close, who now writes lovingly but often crankily about her newborn and her 4-year-old twins on her popular blog.

There’s one problem. I enjoy this kind of writing. It’s funny. But I don’t quite relate to it. At the risk of becoming America’s Most Hated Mom, I have a confession to make: I actually loved having a newborn.

Sure, the kid woke me up every two hours. And he was a bit colicky until I quit eating dairy. But I expected that sort of thing. Perhaps because I helped raise younger siblings—and because I’m not Type A in the slightest—I wasn’t freaked out at the idea of taking care of him. Breastfeeding was easy and painless from day one, a possibility that wasn’t even presented in Parents magazine’s March article, “How Women Really Feel About Breastfeeding.” I didn’t experience the baby blues. I wasn’t bored at all—I was delighted to be hanging out with my son. I was super-weak from loss of blood during delivery so we mostly couch-surfed, but once I got my strength back I put him in a sling and took him everywhere. I didn’t care that I was behind in my housekeeping and failing to write the Great American Novel during maternity leave. I was just happy. Blissfully so, I’m afraid. It felt—dare I say it—pretty easy. (Now, his terrible twos were a different story.)

So—am I alone, here? I know I was extremely lucky to have a healthy, fairly easygoing baby instead of a screamer who couldn’t latch on. And, having chosen to have my son as a single mom at the advanced age of 42 (full story in my book), I was perhaps extra thrilled to be holding him in my arms. But the more myth-shattering parenting horror stories I read, the more I wonder if I was truly alone in my bliss. The myths have been shattered so successfully, it’s as if my enjoyable experience just isn’t in the menu of options anymore. Was I just too stupid to be bored, too clueless to be worried, too bovine to struggle with breastfeeding? Or is it more that a purely happy new mom doesn’t make a very interesting story?

Aren’t there any of you out there who had a relaxed, happy, easy time of it when you had your first baby?

29 Responses to “True Confession: I Loved Having a Newborn”

  1. I think some people just click better with different ages. I personally love 2, tantrums and all, but hated the newborn months. (Then again, we’re not done with 2 yet–I’m sure there’s worse to come.)

  2. Well, I blog about being a “mean mommy,” and I’ve written (in my most recent post, in fact, which is here: about how I wasn’t a blissful mom of my firstborn. For about six weeks. Then I fell completely in love. I certainly am a happy mom — and memoirs that glorify the struggles (the most recent one I read was Ayelet Waldman’s book) strike me as more about the MOMS than the BABIES. I’m trying to be a mom to my children, not the best or worst mom for the world at large to view, pass judgment on, like or dislike. I’m just trying to turn my two little guys into two good men, you know? I look forward to reading your blog, Louise!

  3. Thank you Thank you Thank you. I am in the midst of it right at this very moment. My son is 11-weeks-old, I too am an older single mom, and I have never been happier, more in sync with another living being & more blessed. People approach me all the time with rolling eyes and jokes about how it will get better ha ha and sarcastic You must be having fun. And it throws them completely off when I answer yes I am! I agree with Jeannie (above) that moms click with different ages/stages; My stage just happens to be the newborn/first year.

  4. Not with the first baby, and definitely not with the second. But by the third, I was blissful, content and euphoric over my newest addition, thinking maybe a dozen more might not be a bad thing. I don’t know. Maybe it’s all in the expectations of new mother’s. I felt insecure in my new role as mother in the beginning. Growing the family by one more added chaos that I didn’t expect with the second. But then, I also think the disposition of the baby helps. I’m convinced my last baby was the closest version of a near-perfect newborn. And by then, I knew the ropes and was able to really enjoy my son.

  5. Oh, I loved two, as well, Jeannie–it’s one of my favorite ages. It was just fricking HARD. There were many moments of bliss, but many others of…nightmare!!

  6. I completely agree with you. Though those blogs and essays make me laugh–and I’m certainly not above griping about my kids myself every now and then–I loved babies so much that I went ahead and had five of them. I do think that much of this “miserable mom” trend is a natural backlash against decades of soft-focus portrayals of motherhood, but I’m calling for a little happiness again. In fact, I blog about it at–my own answer to the “Do moms REALLY have to be miserable all the time?” question.

  7. Well, I *did* like being constipated! No. I’m kidding. What I really liked were the ginormous gazongas! Oh, and the baby. But it’s funny–when I was interviewing tons of neuroscientists for a mother-brain piece I was working on, it became clear that both responses are adaptive: the panicky anxiety (which keeps your baby from, you know, contracting smallpox and falling into a well) and the euphoric in-love one, which is from oxytocin, the parenting (and sex) hormone that keeps you caring for this wildly pooping, balding, and acne-ridden bundle of tearful dampness. Ah, nature.

  8. Whoops, sorry, I messed up the link. It’s .

  9. Clearly it’s not true that a purely happy new mom makes for an inherently uninteresting story because this is a very interesting post. And I don’t think you’re alone in your bliss. One of my friends loved the newborn stage just this passionately: Today, with her youngest in middle school, she’s so eager to get her hands on other people’s newborns that new moms tend to get a little nervous around her.

    I was somewhere in the middle, I think. In love with my baby but not at all in love with the unpleasant parts of parenting– and, frankly, in the beginning it was almost *all* unpleasant parts. I don’t like dirty laundry. I don’t like the catatonia of sleep deprivation. I don’t like eating Cheerios for meal after meal because I’m too tired to cook. I don’t like feeling fat and ugly, and I don’t like stinking of sour milk. And don’t even get me started on the blood. My God, the blood. The bloody nipples and the bloody umbilical stump and the bloody maxipads. Even my knuckles were constantly bleeding because my baby was born during a flu epidemic and I washed my hands raw.

    So, yeah, the BABY was great, but I was a mess. How can you really, truly be happy in such a state, no matter how much you love your baby?

  10. ROFL, Margaret. I didn’t have bloody nipples or knuckles, but did have the rest… I guess, um, I didn’t really mind being catatonic, dirty, fat, ugly and stinky. (I think I’ve revealed too much!!)

  11. I’m totally with you, and because I didn’t know anyone else who had a baby at the time (I was the first of my friends to reproduce) I told everyone who would listen how great it was, how easy and wonderful and yay, have a baby, I swear, once you do all your problems will disappear, and any existential angst about what you’re doing on the planet, what your PURPOSE is, will magically vanish as well!

    I’m incredibly lazy, so lying around in a pile of my own (or someone else’s) bodily fluids reading and nursing all day didn’t bother me in the slightest. I daresay I even relished it. Suddenly I had an airtight alibi for my filthy habits! My baby was totally unremarkable–good at nursing, excellent at screaming, not-so-great at sleeping, a real pro at public moving-of-the-bowels. I didn’t care. I rolled with his punches and life was great.

    So I sold everyone I knew on what a lark it was–and then they all went and had evil, colicky babies who wouldn’t nurse properly and never slept. (I blame their mothers. Kidding, kidding!) One by one, my friends called me in a rage, accusing me of tricking them. Sorry, guys. Sue me.

    The second time around, by the way, was even MORE peaceful and delightful. And Margaret, good grief, even I didn’t have Cheerios for every meal. Haven’t you ever heard of TOAST????

  12. Nothing like the inimitable Margaret Renkl’s hilariously descriptive trip down memory lane to accentuate the sweet sentimentality of your post, Louise. Though I never approached your level of new-mom erudition (does reading the breast pump directions count?), I too was once the blissful mother of a newborn. Not only did I love it, and him, but like you, I was blessed with a chill baby boy who was happy, healthy and flexible.

    Of course, that was before having baby No. 2 six months ago — and becoming the poorly groomed hag whose dinner time these days generally consists of Hoovering cold, congealed mac and cheese from my 2-year-old’s plate while standing over the sink.

    I could live without the orange food-like substance, but I’m unendingly grateful for both newborn experiences. Thanks for reminding me.

  13. Dirty, stinky, ugly, fat… Yeah, I think that about covers it, Louise! I felt all of that at one time or another as a new mom. But the moments of snuggling and baby love blew that stuff away, for the most part.

    I just blogged about your post, and I’m so happy to share it with my readers. Can’t wait to see what else you do here!

  14. Oh, I’m hoping so hard for an experience like yours!

    We chatted briefly at a NYC Choice Moms event last October. I was snuggling someone else’ baby and wondering if I’d ever get so lucky. Well, here I am in my mid 40s and 27 weeks (today!) with my donor embie miracle. I think you may be on to something about the type A thing. I’m definitely not a type A. Not really a worrier by nature. I really admire what JK Rowling once said when asked how she managed to write her first book while unemployed with a newborn. She basically said the housework suffered. The baby was fed and clean, and she wrote. Other things could wait.

    I hope I have an easy baby, but considering the non-stop dance party she’s having in my uterus, I’m not counting on in. Planning to roll with it. :-)

  15. I’m 39. Single. Successful. And more than a little career-focused. I gave up thinking about having babies long ago. So when this little one was announced I was more than a little surprised.

    And now I’m right there with you. Even though I tend toward Type A, all my OCD-Type-A-ness went by the wayside when I brought that little bundle home. Actually, I think it happened in the hospital.

    I had all these visions of a maternity leave filled with teleconferences, emails, meetings, etc. I was returning calls and emailing until my contractions were 5 minutes apart. And then in a flash, it all changed. I ignored my cell phone. I put down my blackberry. Left my computer in sleep mode. And turned on daytime television! (Who knew Bonnie Hunt was so cool?)

    And like Louise Sloan, I loved (and continue to love) every minute of my daughter’s life … even when she had trouble latching on, when my nipples were bleeding (it only lasted a few weeks), when she was colicky because I’m a cheese lover and puked all over me, my chocolate lab and the floor. Every poop, puke, smile, giggle, laugh … If I didn’t have to go back to work, I would have stayed home every day and loved those moments more.

  16. I also LOVED having a newborn. I felt so lucky because everyone around me and every article I read shared the opposite story. Previously described as type A, I was able to let ‘things’ go and really put all my efforts into my daughter. And I LOVED it. Truly.

    I prepared myself for breastfeeding problems. I read horror stories before. It was a breeze – thank goodness. Natural and painless from day one. Sure my days were filled with worries about if she’s eating enough, why is she crying, etc. but I loved finding the ways to comfort her and care for her. I got up every 2 hours to nurse. Loved it. At six months I went back to work part-time and sure she still got up a few times a night but again in a weird way LOVED that experience.

    Many of my friends say there is no way they could stay home with their kids. Too hard, loud, boring, etc. I always feel in the minority when I admit that if I could stay home with her, I would. And I would be fulfilled. Imagine that.
    I know many people don’t share this bliss, so I do feel lucky.

  17. I think my joy is directly related being older (41 now) and grateful to (finally) be pregnant. My five-month-old son is the result of my second IVF cycle, and I’ve adored every second since I got out of the first trimester of pregnancy, with the exception of the last five minutes of pushing during delivery. THAT part was awful. I don’t complain about the interrupted sleep or lack of erudite conversation; my son was the reason that I spent $30K and injected myself with hormones. I already miss that my son isn’t the teeny baby that he was, and find myself saying, “When he was little . . .” lol So, for me, the last ten months have been bliss.

  18. with my first i was so young and confused, an only child with no family support….my second turned out to be twins, so again..huge shock to the system…my 4th and final was the baby dream…sleep,eat,cuddle,repeat…but as scary as the first was, and and numerous as the second were, and as pleasant as number 4 was…i am thankful for each experience, we have made eachother who we are and we have made a family, and that is the best thing ever.

  19. I absolutely LOVED!!!! the newborn stage. I have 4 kids aged 27, 23, 21 & 12 and wish I could do it again! I nursed all 4 til they were a year old (except the last who weaned himself at 11 months.) I really loved the snuggling, cuddling and nursing, even at night.

    I was a stay at home mom with all of them, in faact I quit a good-paying job when I had the last one. I would not exchange one minute of that time now!

    I had 4 c-sections so I must have enjoyed something about it. Although some people might say crazy! I am just waiting for my kids to make me a grandmother so I can cuddle some more!

  20. So…I did love having my first newborn. Life was good. I hated having to go back to work when she turned 7 months old (the opportunity was too good to pass up, and it got us out of my mother in law’s house!) even though she was able to come with me. “Our Time” was whittled away by cramming in all the mundane things that life throws your way when you’re a working mom.

    This time around, I’m having a lot more trouble. My daughter is 2 now, and I just had our son two weeks ago. I live for naptime. I can’t wait to go back to work. Granted, this time around I have a headstrong toddler and a c-section incision that refuses to heal, so things are a lot tougher, I can’t just hang out with him all day uninterrupted. I am lucky if I get to contemplate his little chubby face for a few minutes before I pass out from exhaustion. And I’m going through post-partum depression this time on top of it, so no, I guess I’m not a newborn person.

    Then again, you’ve only had one. Each child/pregnancy/post-partum/newborn is different. I think it comes down to each situation.

  21. You are not alone. Granted, my baby is very easy-going, but I loved the newborn stage. Breastfeeding was easy from the beginning, I’m not as tired as other moms lead me to believe I’d be, no anxiety or baby blues….it’s been a breeze.

    Whew! Thank you for providing a place to say this, I usually keep that to myself so I don’t upset a mother who is having a hard time.

  22. GREAT post Louise! I’m particularly drawn to ways you say about the books that we read. I wonder if it’s human nature to be drawn to conflict?

    That’s a great point you make about readers swallowing up books “that smash the oppressive myth of maternal bliss.”

    I get it. When I’ve written about my dating anxieties/conflicts as a single mom on my blog, my readers offer a lot of insight in their comments. But when I blog about being happy with the new boyfriend? Blah, blah… most of the readers wave those posts off. Fascinating!

  23. I think we’re out there, it’s just less fun to read about how easy someone thinks it is to have a newborn. I had an easy baby, thankfully, but still had struggles with breastfeeding and the c-section. I was really tired, but I still was able to shower, eat (poorly), and sleep. People were shocked to see how laid back I was with my son, and how easy the newborn thing felt to me. I was in the middle of a divorce, and my father had a stroke a week after delivery and I just didn’t have time to stress out about things. It’s just different for everyone, and had my baby been ‘difficult’ I think I’d have a different story to tell today.

    Now, I’d seriously take the newborn exhausted over the exhausted I feel with my preschooler! You can’t have power struggles with a newborn. I think I do better physically tired over mentally tired any day.

  24. I am so glad that I saw this. My son is 19 months old and although I loved him to death, I hated the newborn stage. I was nervous and my husband more nervous which made me on edge. Then the unsuccessful breast feeding, sleeplessness, and the loneliness although I was never alone (Ha Ha). My SIL, on the other hand, just had a baby and says that she thinks it is easy. It makes me so mad because she is the least maternal person I know and has a great husband who is willing to help. Also, she did not even attempt to breast feed. I am fuming because she makes me feel like I couldn’t handle it.

  25. i am having as baby in January and i refuse to give into the mind set that having a newborn is going to be so super hard i am sure it will be an adjustment but come on i will have nothing else to do for three months nothing!!! no work are you kidding me i think i can handle a new born…i am 33 and i do have a wonderful husband and a lot of support but come on moms stop complaining and cherish the life you created! and yes i will check back in January and continue to defend this mindset!

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  28. No sorry. I was an extremely-inexperienced mom who knew nothing about babies….not even that they feed every 2 hours. It was all a shock and since I worked full-time until my son was born and there was no internet back then…I really had no frame of reference. It wasn’t that I was expecting anything in particular so no myths were busted, but I just didn’t know ANYTHING. His dad was in the military and gone through most of the pregnancy and missed the birth by a week so I was on my own until he returned. Did I enjoy the newborn time? Nope. Did I have more kids? Yep. 5 total including twins; all boys. Did I enjoy their newborn time? Nope. Do I care? Nope. It was what it was and I did my best and my boys are now adults with their own kids so it turned out fine and that’s good enough for me.

  29. I am right there with you! Thank you for writing this. Sometimes I feel like the only mom who is home enjoying it! He is 6 months old now and I am still home with him. I left a career to be home with him and people often ask if I miss it. I feel guilty saying no- but it really is true. : )