4 newborns. 4 trips through the maze that is postpartum. The past few weeks I've been reflecting on how different this particular time is from all of my others, especially the first time. When we first brought Sam home (and stood in the middle of the apartment looking around for several minutes, having no clue what to do next) there was a lot of fear. A lot of fear and so much anxiety. Was he sleeping enough? Sleeping too much? Nursing okay? Was this noise normal? Was that face normal? Was that poop a weird color? A weird consistency? Is he pooping to much? He hasn't pooped in a few hours, what's wrong? Will we ever sleep again? Will he ever sleep anywhere but on top of me? Do they make bigger swings because he's going to sleep in this thing until high school. How about swaddles? How big do those get? He'll never sleep without one. We enjoyed him. We enjoyed him and soaked him in. We really did! But the enjoying and the soaking wasn't without plenty of worry, plenty of questioning.
4 babies later, there's still some questioning. I think everybody with a newborn questions and second guesses themselves every now and then. But the enjoying and the soaking in is so much easier. If Anna suddenly wants to nurse every hour, instead of panicking that I'm not making enough milk, or that this is going to go on forever and I'll never sleep or have my body to myself, I refill my water bottle, grab a handful of pretzels, and feel grateful for an excuse to park it on the couch and turn on the tv.
Obviously, first time mom Sarah knew, realistically, that newborn Sam wouldn't be so tiny forever. She knew that newborn Sam wouldn't go off to college still needing to sleep on her chest. But first time mom Sarah's body wasn't yet used to functioning on so little sleep. First time mom Sarah didn't always think realistically. First time mom Sarah didn't know what to expect in the future, with an older baby, which made it hard to see farther than the next couple days. And the next couple days looked like a lot of center of her chest naps, cluster feeding, and many, many diapers.
But now. Now Anna falls asleep on my chest and in my mind's eye she's 2 and we're moving her out of her crib into a 'big girl bed'. I change her diaper for the 15th time that day, but I know that tomorrow (basically) I'll be folding her underwear and making sure she takes a potty break before we leave the house. She cluster feeds through the evening and I can hear her asking for a snack 50 times while I'm making dinner.
Things that used to make me anxious are now my favorite parts of having a newborn. All the things that I used to worry I'd never be able to 'fix', I now wish would last just a little longer. I look forward to watching Anna hit all of the fun milestones that come in the first year. I can't wait to see her smile, hear her laugh, watch her learn to crawl, help her learn to walk... but I'm already feeling nostalgic about the huge chunks of the day I've been spending with her curled up, seemingly just as she was in my belly, sleeping on my chest. I can feel them already slipping by so quickly. I was just holding Henry this way. And now I'm watching him run back and forth in the playroom, kicking a soccer ball and yelling, "Look at me kicking mama! Look at me!" He still falls asleep on my lap, but he's spilling out of it now, long legs dangling over the side of the chair.
Newborns are hard. They're really really hard. Having a newborn is exhausting, draining (in every sense of the word), and, at times, frustrating. That doesn't change, no matter how many times you do it. But what does change, or, at least what has changed for me, is the way I feel. There's such a great sense of calm and peacefulness that wasn't there when we brought home our first squished up little person, or even our second. Somehow, in the course of bringing home 4 very different babies, the hard, exhausting, draining, frustrating newborn phase has become one of my most favorite phases. Spit up stained nursing tanks, meals eaten one handed, fussy, gassy babies and all.