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One Eye On The Calendar

When I was pregnant with Madeleine,
everyone told us, “The first two weeks are the hardest. If
you can survive the first two weeks, you can survive

Everyone lied.

I’m not sure where this myth got started – probably
some first-time, sleep-deprived parent who couldn’t imagine
it could get worse. But the truth is, the first two weeks are
relatively easy. Newborns are in this intense sleep/eat mode, an
almost hibernation, for the first couple of weeks, and are pretty
basic in their needs. Yes, there’s the “how do I change
a diaper” crisis, and yes, the whole
nursing-for-the-first-time thing is very traumatic and yes, as a
first-time parent, the sleep deprivation is a huge shock those
first two weeks. But you know what’s worse?

Week three. When baby becomes more alert and colic kicks in.

It’s a truth that all parents
discover, and I think no one passes this nugget of wisdom on to
other new parents because we all feel sorry for them and
don’t want to scare them TOO much. But once you read further
than the “Going Home” section of your New Parent book,
you find out that the whole first three months are pretty
horrendous. Most experts agree that “colic” sets in
somewhere around two or three weeks. And by colic, I mean either
the generic (and relatively –ha- easy) periodic fussiness for
a few hours a day, or an infant allergy to something in mom’s
breast milk, or infant reflux (both of which cause all-day
screaming and unhappiness).

So as baby becomes more alert, she becomes more fussy. More
demanding. Even more of a spit-up machine. And you long for those
hazy, quiet first few days again.

Consensus is that once this phase sets in, it gradually worsens,
peaking right around six weeks and slowly tapering off again, with
the lion’s share of this crabby baby thing going away after
three months. As my friend Matt once said, “It’s a
cruel trick of nature that baby’s colic is at his worst
– at six weeks – right as your sleep deprivation
reaches its height.”

Once I got through those first few weeks with Maddie and was let in
on the big secret by my trusty girlfriend Abby, I was staring at
the calendar, waiting for six weeks to hit. The big day arrived!
We’d summited Everest! Downhill from here! And the next day
was –

Exactly the same.

I’d clung to my calendar with desperation, moving forward
solely motivated by the promise that life would get better at a
certain point, and it didn’t. For the truth is, everything is
gradual with babies: you see every day exactly the same, then one
day you wake up and realize you’ve been getting two more
hours of sleep each night for a while now. Or you look back at
photos from a month before and are shocked at how much your
child’s changed. It’s only to us, the folks in the
trenches, that changes seem to happen at a snail’s pace. I
found the same thing to be true of the three-month benchmark
– nothing momentous, simply a gradual easing of life.

So as a second-time mom, I vowed to not get sucked into watching
the calendar and clinging to false hope. And the truth is,
Cora’s an easier baby than Maddie was – she has very
little reflux and her fussy time of the day seems easier to manage
than Madeleine’s. At the same time, I confess that I’m
intimately aware of the fact that Cora’s coming up on her
six-week birthday. On some level, there’s this voice inside
saying, “This isn’t so bad right now. And if you can
make it to six weeks, you’ll know it’s not going to get
worse. This is doable.” Even as I know that kids don’t
respond to our calendars, I cross my fingers as I cross the days
off the page.

Almost to the top of the mountain. I say cautiously.


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