“Hang In There!” A Manifesto For Parents Of Newborns.

Newborn mom- we know.

Newborn dad- we’ve been there.

Crushed and wounded spirit, struggling under the weight of sleepless nights, and a job you still have to go to the next day (and be productive)- we’ve been there too. You’re not alone!

Photo courtesy of istockphoto.com

Photo courtesy of istockphoto.com

A quick story-

Eleven short years ago we welcomed our first child, Jaala, into our home. She was beautiful (still is!). Every time she peered up at us with those gorgeous dark eyes of hers, and our hearts melted. She would drift in and out of sleep in our arms, breathing gently, as peaceful as a spring downpour.

But in the middle of the night it was a different story. Most babies follow the same routine- “I’m awake, I realize I’ve got a dirty diaper, so I’ll whimper a little. Then, I remember I’m hungry, so I’ll start a gentle cry. After a few minutes of this I realize how truly uncomfortable I am in this diaper and that I’m now starving, and move into a full-blown cry.”

Not Jaala. She would wake up and start screaming instantly. She did this nearly ever time she woke up (which was usually every 2 hours) over her first 3 months of life. We never thought it was going to end. It was torture.

I remember one night, in particular, I was up with her around 2 or 3 in the morning. It was the 2nd or 3rd time I had done so in the course of 6 hours. As I stood over her crib, staring wearily at her screaming face, I begged her- “Please… please… please stop! Stop crying. Please.” There were even tears welling up in my eyes. I was so tired I couldn’t think strait. Lying before me was not the cute, cuddly little girl I had joyfully fed in the hospital for the first time, or gingerly placed in her carseat for her first drive home. The “Simba Moment” we had when we first showed her off to our family and friends was long, long gone. At 3 am, screaming in her crib beneath me, was Beelzebub in human flesh. This screeching demon was as evil as a badger on a 5-hour energy drink.

So, newborn parents, we understand. We know how painful the sleepless nights are. We know how over-emotional and guilty you feel right now. You’re human, like us. Your flesh fails you, just like ours did, and still does.

Before you lose all hope, please know and understand a few truths that are very hard to find when you’re in the midst of the chaos and sleep-deprivation of raising a newborn-

1. You’re not alone. 

Every single human being who has ever brought a baby into the world has experienced this to some degree. Those who say their child was a perfect baby and slept throughout the night from the get-go is lying and you should stay away from them because they speak heresy! (Okay, not really, but it isn’t entirely accurate). Every child spends the first 3 months of their lives crying and waking up every few hours. And every one of those parents have felt the way you do right now. You’re not alone.

2. This doesn’t last forever.

It feels like it though, doesn’t it? I remember thinking that Jaala would never sleep. But then something miraculous happened. Kristin and I woke up one morning and realized that we had been asleep for 6 or 7 hours straight. Not enough, but it was a start. It didn’t last forever for us, and it won’t for you either. I promise.

3. You’re not a bad parent for wanting your baby to stop screaming.

It’s in our human nature to want sleep. And, it’s in our nature to feel irrational when we are sleep deprived. As a fellow “sleep-lover” I admit- the most concrete truth I know becomes gray and shaky when I haven’t slept. The same is true for you and your newborn. You feel unloving and terrible for not liking your child very much when they are screaming their brains out at 3am. Heck, you’ve probably even uttered words you never thought you would utter to your baby. As a pastor, I’ve uttered non-pastoral remarks when I’ve been extremely tired, frustrated or angry with my children.

So, hang in there. I promise you will make it. I promise there is a light at the end of this long, dark tunnel. If not, there are always stiff drinks or heavy sedatives. But I don’t recommend these for the sake of your newborn baby. Maybe after they’re sleeping all night long though! 🙂

As Mumford & Sons said it so eloquently in Timshel-

But you are not alone in this.
And you are not alone in this.
As brothers we will stand and we’ll hold your hand.
Hold your hand.

Question: Have you been there before? What additional advice could you offer parents of newborns? 

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