When humans travel to certain places, certain things inevitably happen. Folks who voyage to West Africa often return with a vibrant African print cloth shirt or dress. Travelers to Vietnam rarely leave without scarfing down Pho soup. And new parents who enter Newborn Baby world nearly always… disappear.
I witnessed this New-Parent-Vanishing numerous times over in the last decade, always from the outside. Coworkers who were models of excellent communication went utterly dark for months. Good friends with fresh babes suddenly stopped returning calls or emails. Family members with new kids grew distant.
But there was no way this would happen to ME after having a baby, right? After all, I’ve always been the master of multitasking, juggling dozens of commitments effortlessly. How could throwing a newborn into the mix change the pudding of life so much?
Well, now Colin and I are two weeks into New Baby world, and… me oh my. It’s unlike anything I could have imagined in terms of intensity and life upheaval. Before getting pregnant, I vowed that once I saw the situation for myself, I’d report back on exactly WHAT takes up so much new parent time. So here it is. Below are two graphic displays of exactly how Colin and I have spent our hours since Devi was born, thanks to a sweet smartphone app called BabyConnect that we are using to track feedings and diaper changes.
What this graphic reveals is that a baby needs to be fed and diaper changed every 1 to 3 hours, be it night or day, and feedings can take at least an hour. A stretch of four free hours is a shock and privilege to the parents of a new baby. Take the December 6 entry, for example. On that day, I did an exhausting cluster of feedings between 2am and 4:30am. Then you see a gap of six hours between 12pm and 6pm where there seems to be no feeding. Well, there were actually two feedings in there, but at that point I was in too much pain and too exhausted to enter it into the app! Further, “free” hours are often spent cuddling or bouncing the babe to keep him from fussing, or desperately trying to nap or do house chores. Caring for a new baby is all-consuming, and needs as big a support staff as possible! Now let’s focus on nursing for a moment.
As you can see from my chart above, nursing alone takes roughly 23 hours a week: the equivalent of a substantial part-time job. And keep in mind that these numbers are lower than reality, since sometimes I’ve been too tired to log a feed.
All travel to new areas has surprisingly challenging portions. People told me of the air pollution in China and India, but I didn’t realize how much it would impact my mood until I was coughing through the thick smog. Similarly, I heard vague rumors of how nursing can be difficult in Baby Country, but I had no idea how much I’d struggle with it, nor how painful it is when done wrong (as I did way too long and am now arduously trying to fix). Thank goodness that Colin and I have both our parents and brothers helping us out here, because simply focusing on mastering and carrying out nursing is keeping me totally occupied!
Anyway, this is all to say that I get why new parents disappear now, and I hope these graphics help illuminate it for you, too. Despite my best efforts, time and space have warped with our beautiful new baby‘s necessities. Colin and I are not interacting with the world the same way anymore…
…and, as shown in the picture to the right, it’s all worth it!