A Few Things I Forgot… About Being A New Mother


My daughter, my eldest child, just had her first child– a baby boy. They live in Israel, and I flew over for his birth and to help afterwards. What was meant to be a two-week trip, became 4 and I became an integral part of a very important time in my first grand baby’s life, and in those first few weeks that my daughter became a mother. As I wrote this piece, my sweet grand baby slept against me, his little fingers feeling my dress, as he dreamt. He made little sounds and shifted, nestling closer– always seeking physical contact, and my entire being took him in and filled with love. During those three precious weeks he knew my voice; he loved when I held him- he sought the crook of my neck and nestled there. He brightened when I talked to him, and watched me intently as I sang to him. My voice, my touch soothed him, and we were enormously happy together. For twenty-one days– despite exhaustion and despite being far from my friends and the rest of my family, each day passed in a a perfect bubble, where my grandson, my daughter, her fiancé and I shared a delicate balance of adjustment, cooperation and love. Twenty-one incredible days with my first grandson; I feel very very fortunate!

But I have no illusions. I flew home to the US recently, and when I see him again- months from now (if I’m lucky) he will not remember me. I know this. He will be an entirely different baby then. First, let me tell you, he is a bit unusual for a newborn. Not because he’s my grandchild– not the usual bragging, but he is unusually alert and active. The pediatrician didn’t believe me when I told her that he “commando crawls already–” using his little legs to push himself away from the spots we leave him. Most newborns just lie there, startling themselves with the mostly involuntary movement of arms and legs. This little boy moves to the edge of his bassinet; he cannot be trusted on a changing table. “You have to watch him,” I warned. The doctor smiled, just a bit condescendingly, sure I was just being a grandmother… and then she shrieked, as he thrust his little legs and tried to move away from her. “This should not be happening yet!” She cried. I told you to watch him, I thought. I smiled. Duh. At barely three weeks, he can almost turn over. He stares at us and engages; he smiles a lot (gas?), and it is not uncommon for him to stay awake for up to 10 hours at time! This is not bragging; it is surprising to this grandmother, who thought she knew all about infants; it is exhausting to his new mommy, who would love for him to just lie there, or sleep.

He will be a different baby, and my daughter will be a different mommy when I see them again. Right now she is overwhelmed, exhausted and hormonal. Her breasts hurt from the hours and hours of feeding this little human. I warned her that it wouldn’t be easy. I was a lactation consultant briefly, many years ago, and I nursed three of my own children, each for just over a year. “Your nipples will hurt so much,” I told her, “they may even bleed.” These are not pleasant things, and I was not trying to scare her… but so many new mothers never hear these things, and expect it to all be so natural and easy. I did. I watched her dismiss me, as I said it, just before he was born. “It’s exhausting,” I added. “New babies wake up constantly! Just as you settle back to sleep, the cycle of feeding, burping, changing and settling back down repeats itself, and you may barely have slept before it starts again.” Again, she nodded dismissively. Just before she had her baby, my daughter had done lots of reading. She was sure that most of my advice was antiquated, and exaggerated. She didn’t come out and say it, but her eyes told me this each time I offered advice. This girl of mine has been flipping me off with those eyes since she was two. They are very expressive eyes. Now, her son has those same eyes.

19 years ago, exactly, when I was waiting for my third and final baby...

19 years ago, exactly, when I was waiting for my third and final baby…

What I didn’t realize was that remembering all of this, 25 years after it happened for me, is not the same as going through it for the first time. I remember labor; I remember nursing; I remember exhaustion and falling madly in love with my child and the blur of it all… but I forgot how it all really feels! In the quarter of a century that I’ve been raising three almost adults (the last just heading to college), time dulled my visceral memory. However, being with my girl for 48+ hours of hospital labor, and then three weeks with her tiny new baby, I’m wide awake again… except that I’m too exhausted to really appreciate it!

Labor, oh my. Wow, that really is an epic ride! I was blown away watching my daughter keep her cool and her focus, for two days, humming through each contraction! I think I swore and wailed. I did not keep my cool; that I’m sure of. Watching my own child go through it was transformative in ways I never expected. I was both awed by her strength and scared in ways I had never considered.

It isn't always this pretty... Picasso at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art

It isn’t always this pretty… Picasso at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art

Talking about bloody nipples is ugly enough, but seeing them– watching my girl wince as her little guy learns to “latch on” is so different than telling her that we called her “the vampire,” because her latch was so painful and intense. Watching her pump, and feed and try to build up her milk– something that has not come easily, is very different than my own memories of those first weeks. I know I went through similar things, but thankfully, we actually do forget the sensation. As we get older, we tell these stories as if we truly remember, but only watching my own child go through it, was I reminded that it was a long time ago; a lot has happened in between (hello, raising teens!) and we thankfully forget how truly mind-numbingly hard it all is.

Because her milk supply has not been adequate, I have been helping with almost all feedings, to hold a small tube that provides formula as she nurses. Yes, I have waited up for teens these past many years. I have lost sleep to menopause and lots of other things, but nothing kicks you in the butt like waking every 2 hours for a newborn. “New babies wake up constantly! Just as you settle back to sleep, the cycle of feeding, burping, changing and settling back down repeats itself, and you may barely have slept before it starts again…” is biting me in the ass big time!

Diapers, diapers, and more diapers...

Diapers, diapers, and more diapers…

In fact, I forgot a few things. And again, I have memories. I knew this all would happen… but knowing and living through it again is an entirely different thing. I forgot that you might not shower for a while. I forgot how much work it is to just run to the store quickly to pick up a few things, let alone get to the mall to return things that have a limited return window. I forgot that babies really do wake up just as your food is on the table; they eat while you stare at a cold plate of food, always hungry yourself. I forgot what it was like to be peed on, pooped on and puked on– sometimes in one go. I didn’t remember just how many diapers need changing and how the environmental and conscientious decision to use cloth diapers, means changing more diapers and then washing those diapers and hanging them to dry… Constantly. Oh, right; I didn’t have to do that part; I had a dryer… and then a service. I forgot how scary it can be to drive in a car, knowing a tiny person is in that car, or how unsure your previously steady feet seem on stairs, when you’re carrying that baby. I forgot that when you do drift off, so tired you can barely move, you hear your child’s little sounds, even when they don’t make them. You jump up, afraid you missed something, or feel asleep. Even though, you need sleep so much! I forgot just how exhausting all of this is and just how little sleep you can survive on. Admittedly, at 52, that was much harder!

Minutes have become hours have become days... all a lovely blur of time

Minutes have become hours have become days… all a lovely blur of time

I forgot all of this. But more importantly, I forgot how utterly and madly in love you fall with the new human being who creates all of this havoc. How you loose yourself in their tiny sighs and the expressions they make as they dream, or poop, or listen to you sing. I forgot just how sweet they smell, when they are new and still smell of the world they’ve exited. That when they are nestled in your neck, that smell is intoxicating and you want to bottle it. I forgot how your whole world turns upside down, and you are never the same again.

I thought I remembered these things, and I did… through the lens of time and change, and the many other big phases that we go through as parents, each one dulling our visceral memories of the time before. Now I am watching my daughter become a mother, and I am experiencing it through her. It is miraculous and incredible in every way! I am remembering just how hard and amazing it is. I am becoming a grandmother, blessed to have this sacred time with my sweet grandson and his exhausted parents. I am blessed to be reminded of all the things I thought I remembered… but now get to re-experience, from a unique vantage point. We are blessed to share this together. And when I left, I got to sleep through the night and forget just how hard this is, all over again.

*I do not have permission to post photos of my grandson, but he is exquisite…You can take my word for it. That is me bragging.

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GIPYHelp Me Reach My Goals! I’d love to see the Tales From the Motherland Facebook page reach 800 likes in 2015. Have you stopped by to spread some fairy dust? Follow me on Twitter, LeBron James does! Most importantly, if you like a post I’ve written, hit Like and leave a comment. I love to hear what readers think. Honest, positive or constructive feedback is always welcome. Click Follow; you’ll get each new post delivered by email,  no spam.  ©2015  Please note, that all content and images on this site are copyrighted to Dawn Quyle Landau and Tales From the Motherland, unless specifically noted otherwise. If you want to share my work, please give proper credit. Plagiarism sucks.

About Dawn Quyle Landau

Mother, Writer, treasure hunter, aging red head, and sushi lover. This is my view on life, "Straight up, with a twist––" because life is too short to be subtle! Featured blogger for Huffington Post, and followed on Twitter by LeBron James– for reasons beyond my comprehension.
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54 Responses to A Few Things I Forgot… About Being A New Mother

  1. Cathy Ulrich says:

    I’m so glad for the richness of your experiences, Dawn, and for the power of the grandmother energy!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much Cathy! It’s been a very hard adjustment being home, away from them. :-/ However, I haven’t stopped to breathe since I arrived home 6 days ago… so, there’s that. You have been on my mind, daily. I’ll email you later with details. xo

      Like

  2. Kerri says:

    Dawn, thank you for this morning remembrance. As I read, I think I remember but as you say I’m sure it is a rose-colored. But thank you all the same for stirring it– what a wonderful way to wake up this morning! I am enjoying watching my oldest and only daughter growing into a new phase of her life and am experiencing pride, melancholy, and a smug sense of “I knew she could, would be this awesome” all at the same time. I hope there are a number of years between this phase of newly gained (earned) independence and the leap into that whole other dimension of change that your lovely daughter has just experienced, but I hope I am able to be such an integral part of the experience when it happens. This is a beautifully written piece, oozing with love.

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    • Thanks so much Kerri. I think the rose color comes only after years of doing so many other things, and watching so many transformations with our kids. Just yesterday, I said to my eldest son: “I’ve spent most of my adulthood being patient about things that might have annoyed me a long time ago. I’ve done it because I love each of you far more than any trivial thing… but, not as you all become adults, you could show the same patience with me sometimes.” It was, of course, a more complex conversation than that small quote… but I think we do forgot the exhaustion, the anxiety and adjustments of being a first time mother. By the time I had each of my other two kids, I was much more confident… being with my daughter, as she struggles through these early phases (she called me at nearly 1am last night, feeling so drained and unsure… my heart ached!), is a reminder to me that it WASN’T all lullabies and coos. It was exciting and wonderful, but so hard as well. The 3 weeks I spent with them as new parents was exhausting for me, but infinitely easier than being that new mom! And yes, I am still oozing love. 😉 Thanks for taking the time to read and comment and all the best as you travel with your daughter!

      Like

  3. Maybe it’s different with daughters, but I’m not allowed to give any advice to my dils. Enjoy and I know the pain of distance.. anticipating it in the next year or so. xox

    Like

  4. jgroeber says:

    Absolutely love this. I read it with my hand clenched over my heart, the memories of my own kids as newborns seem so distant, and yet still, so visceral (as my youngest heads to kindergarten next week.) What a lovely post. What a lovely time. And what an incredibly lovely grandson. We are counting right along with you the days until you next see him.
    Best wishes.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much Jen! It’s been SO hard being home, and missing them. I wake at strange hours, disoriented and thinking I hear him… wishing I did. My girl called in the middle of the night, last night, feeling exhausted and challenged by a very alert baby who had been awake for 10 hours (!!!) and I wanted to book the flight… ahh; this is a real challenge! Thanks for the long distance hug. xo

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  5. This is beautiful. Congratulations. Reading this brought back so many memories of brand new motherhood — the exhaustion, pain, joy, all of it. I hope one day I’ll have the opportunity to be a grandmother. I was incapable of relishing those precious moments as a new mother because of how overwhelming all of it felt.

    Like

    • Welcome to Tales From the Motherland, Grief Happens. I have to agree that those early days, weeks, months of motherhood are such an intense time, that it’s hard to fully appreciate them while we’re in them! I think we tend to view them through a rosy haze, once the initial buzz wears off. Being with my daughter for those first 21 days was a huge reminder of that! I really appreciate you taking the time to read and comment. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Carrie Rubin says:

    What a wonderful experience for you, and how fortunate she was to have you there during this time. Having two sons, I’m not sure I’ll get to experience the process like you. I suspect their wives’ mothers will have more of a role. Ah, the difference between having sons and daughters.

    It must be strange being back home. You probably feel like you’ve left an appendage behind! But thanks to technology and things like Skype and Facetime, you’re never all that far away.

    Liked by 1 person

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  8. Mike Lince says:

    Thanks for sharing these precious moments through a grandmother’s eyes. I missed out on a lot of that. My memories of baby times are mostly having to get up and go to work, mostly a lot more tired than usual. – Mike

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mike, I was “much more tired than usual” with my own, and with my grandson, but it felt much less taxing this second time around. I think we forget how overwhelming it all is, but man… being a grandparent is amazing! You did tell me it would be that way. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Dear Dawn,

    Such a beautiful piece. You have a way of writing from the heart and touching the hearts of others. Thank you for sharing yourself in such a way.

    Shalom,

    Rochelle

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Molly says:

    If love to hear more about your daughters husband – how he is feeling about being a new father, how he is balancing work with spending time with the baby and how he is able to help your daughter. About to have a baby soon and my fiancé works a full time job so would love to hear your perspective and experience on how it’s working out for them! I’m nervous about doing it all alone.

    Like

    • Molly, thanks for stopping by Tales From the Motherland; I appreciate you taking the time to read and share your thoughts. It’s hard for me to really talk about the relationship between my daughter and her fiancé; that part is more personal and not entirely my story to tell. However, I can tell you that it’s been really hard for both of them. He is overwhelmed with grad work and his full-time job.I think he’s felt very pulled, and often unable to help. That, of course, has left my daughter dealing with much of it on her own… or with the help of the “grands.” The first few months are just killer, no matter how much help you have. Easy baby or fussy baby, it’s a hard adjustment. Seek as much support and help as you can get! When is your baby due? All the best as you enter this very life-changing stage. 🙂

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  11. mamaheidi60 says:

    As others have said, your writing which always comes from the heart is extraordinary. Truly. You write about the ordinary, human part of your life, your observations and what you are drawn to. My own story is different, becoming grandma to 4 girls who were already young girls. I was already bonded at church to the youngest two, at 5 & 7 before their mama became my daughter’s partner. Who knew? Missed the diapers, etc. But fully experiencing the teen years! The youngest is now in 8th grade and the second oldest is traveling around Indonesia, by herself! making friends and off on her own for a year. I love being Grandmama and am so blessed to live in the same town, attend the same church and to know that they love to come spend the weekend. Or text me after school and ask if I want to go get ice-cream. Translation: Will you take us out for ice-cream? And of course I say yes and zip into town to meet them. Love the trust that my daughter-in-love has to pick up the phone and say, “I need you. Can you do xyz?” And to see my own daughter’s part in the girls’ lives, supporting their mother, supporting them. So, Dawn, you’ll skype and read stories to your grandson and he WILL remember and know you! I have seen this with a number of my preschoolers who have grandparents across the country. Amazing what technology will do to keep you in his presence. You won’t have the sweet smells, but you’ll hear his cooing and he’ll hear your voice and see you. It’s a good time to be a grandma miles and miles and hours and hours away! I know. I know. It’s not the same. BUT it is something. Hugs!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much Heidi for sharing these lovely and love-filled observations, and encouragement. It’s been SO hard to come home and be away from my daughter (as she continues to struggle with an extremely alert newborn) and to be away from the deliciously alert newborn! I miss them terribly! So, thank you for softening some of it and reminding me to be optimistic. You are such a wonderfully inspiring friend! oxxo

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  12. Valery says:

    Such a beautiful post, and a tribute to motherhood. So wonderful that they welcomed you into their lives for that special time. So many new grandparents are unable, unwilling and/or unwanted (right in my own family). You all have created an amazing family bond with strong roots for little Amitai. Just imagine, after all your skyping and visits, the first time he becomes the traveler and visits you in your home!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh my, Val, that seems a very long time away! But yes, we are certainly in for some very exciting and memorable years as grandparents and parents to our girl and her love. They are a lovely couple and we want to support them in every way we can. I am feeling very lucky right now, in so many way, and so very sad to be this far away from this boy I love so much, already! Thanks for reading my work and always supporting me, Val. You are so wonderful!

      Like

  13. So beautifully, heart achingly written. Takes me back to when my son was spending his first days in a NICU in Seattle and it tore my heart apart to have to leave him every single day. Trying to pump for him and not having enough milk left me feeling so inadequate. But truly, my strongest memory was when he was delivered (unexpected emergency c-section at 33 weeks), and I heard a little squeak. I thought, how odd to hear a mouse squeak, and then I realized it was the baby. As soon as I realized he was trying to breathe, the most amazing blanket of calm reassurance came over me and I knew he was going to be just fine. Yes, he was flown to Seattle so he could have the support he needed, but he reached each milestone and goal, and came home 4 weeks before his due date. Your daughter will be confident and rocking motherhood in no time.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much for sharing this very special memory, Susan. What a challenging time for you! But you and Little Man weathered it and have done so well. What a wonderful testament to your love and dedication… I really appreciate your incredibly kind words of support; they mean so much!

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Amy Reese says:

    Lovely post, Dawn. I still remember my days as a new mom, but it seems like lifetimes ago. I remember it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. My first child didn’t sleep at all…he had reflux. Luckily, a lot of the agonizing memories have faded. It’s a tough time. It’s one of those things you don’t understand until you’ve done it! But so many wonderful things take over, too, which is why I think we forget about the no sleep, no showers, etc. Your daughter is so lucky to have you. My mom stayed with me a week. It was so good of her to be there for me. I know your daughter appreciates you. You will see that little guy in no time. I hope they can send you some video! What a precious time for you. Congrats again!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve asked my daughter to send me a photo a day, if she can, and she’s been trying. I love seeing my grandbaby in all his various moods and daily happenings. My girl is exhausted and overwhelmed at times, but I keep reminding her that this is just what it’s like to be a new mother… she is doing her best and that’s just what she needs to be doing. Luckily, it’s true: we forget so much of the hardest parts. Thanks for the kind wishes and warm thoughts, Amy!

      Like

  15. What a lovely story, thank you for sharing it with us. It is a little bit bittersweet for me, because I know my mom would be my biggest supporter. It is a special bond strengthened by the experience of motherhood and I am so glad your daughter and you can share it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Loré, I can only imagine how hard that might be. Do you have children already? It is not something I felt particularly close with my mother about, though she loved her grandchildren and was a wonderful grammy. I’ve had an especially close relationship with my daughter… this really drew us together. Thanks for your lovely feedback.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. hbksloss says:

    What a gift for you, your daughter and your grandson to be there at the dawn of his life and her relationship with her set first born. It brings back such memories: sweet newborn smells, leaking breasts, bone aching exhaustion and hearts over flowing with love. I invited my mother to be with me when I gave birth 25 years ago this summer overseas in Vienna, Austria. She blew it big time by arriving in time but then touring around the city while I gave birth. And less then 48 hours later she went off to Prague. I knew what I missed in not having here there, but reading your post reminded me of what she missed out on as well. If I am ever lucky enough to be included in my daughter or DIL giving birth I will be there in whatever way they ask. What you describe sounds delicious! Good for you for being there for your girl and her boy!

    Like

    • I’m sure you’d be an amazing support and grandmother, Heidi! I hope you get the opportunity. I found it all so incredibly rich and amazing… it is very challenging, but important to do what the new mother needs… not what we think is needed. It’s not always easy, but a great learning experience.

      I’m so sorry you missed that opportunity with your own mother; it sounds very disappointing. Is your mother still alive? Have you ever told her what that meant to you? I’m just curious. That’s really sad, for both of you. Thanks for sharing your story!

      Like

  17. Your reflections are pure love, Dawn. Simply beautiful. Mazel tov, over and over.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. I remember those things, Dawn. My son used to kick in the hospital bassinet and bang his head on the inside top of it. I watched him and alerted the nurses. He’d cry, and I think he thought someone was banging him on his little head. I didn’t know he wasn’t supposed to be able to do that as a newborn. My daughter had really strong jaws and used to clamp like a vise. I had insufficient milk also and had to supplement nursing with a bottle. I think now that I didn’t drink enough water. I found out how different two siblings can be. I really enjoyed reading this piece. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Nissa says:

    Ack! Is this what I have to look forward to? My youngest is not even 2, and I’m already forgetting what feels like everything. My sister just had a baby, and watching her with the baby makes me realize how much I’ve put having an infant in the past. So glad you got to share this experience with her! You’ll probably be using Skype a lot in upcoming years. I never use it, but my kids and mom get lots of mileage out of it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Nissa, you are hardly past this phase… even if it feels like it! I think that early, infant time does fly by, but your gorgeous boys are still so little too… Especially Izzy! He is just yummy! Thanks for taking the time to read and comment; it is always appreciated. xox

      Like

  20. Dawn, what a beautiful account of watching your daughter become a mother, and your own pleasure in becoming a grandmother. The photo of you holding your grandson is priceless – the look on your face says it all. 🙂 Wishing you and your family all the best, Terri

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much Terri! It was such a remarkable time, and so hard to be away from them now. If you want to see some really lovely shots of my grandson, without his face blurred… visit the Tales From the Motherland Facebook page, where I was able to slide some in. 😉

      Like

  21. Katalina4 says:

    Wow, LOOK at all you have going on in your world…. Mazel tov!
    Thanks so much for this writing.
    xxx K

    Like

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  24. etomczyk says:

    Dawn, I was catching up on your blog and realized I had missed the birth of your grandson. Mazel Tov! How thrilling! Hope both baby and mother are continuing to do well. Your tribute to both of them is lovely. All the best!

    Liked by 1 person

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