A few weeks after our second baby was born, I reached out to a friend for support.
“Didn’t you once say your husband wasn’t that into the newborn phase?”
She explained how things worked in her family: she managed the endless expectations of the squalling baby while dad gravitated toward the older sibling. It was a relief to hear those words that mirrored my situation so well. While I constantly rocked, carried and nursed the new baby, my husband was devoted to play time and McDonald’s dates with our kindergartener. It was efficient, but I missed the early days of our firstborn when we were both invested in working together to keep our tiny little human alive.
“Fathers bond so much better when the kids can walk and talk,” she explained.
She was right, of course. As our new baby grows more communicative by the day and now lurches around in her improvised version of crawling, she's got the world wrapped around her tiny finger. Meanwhile, our older one is perfectly content knowing his position in our family is secure, even if Mom was a little distracted in the beginning.
Still, I wanted to know how common our early situation was, so I took my thoughts to a larger sample.
“I’m curious to know about parents who aren't into the newborn phase,” I wrote on a private Facebook group of working moms. I explained that in my situation, it was dad who inspired the question.
The stories poured in and they were shocking... but not for the reasons I was expecting. Instead of bringing up stories about partners, it turned out there were a lot of moms themselves who just aren't fans of newborns.
“In my opinion, the newborn stage sucks… I need sleep to function, and the massive sleep deprivation that came with both kids as infants made me nearly non-functional as a human being, not to mention pretty much constant mastitis and nursing issues.” Ramsey H.
“I never liked the newborn stage and felt guilty about it, but a friend reminded me that you know your children as adults for way longer than you know them as babies, so it shouldn't really matter.” – Teresa W.
No mother loves every single stage of her kids' lives
"I’m not a fan of the newborn phase. With my first, I spent the first few months just waiting for some sign that I was doing something, anything right. They're just lumps at that age and I had a really hard time connecting with her until she could start reacting to me." – Shana W.
"You know those women whose ovaries explode anytime they see a newborn? Or the ones who wait in line to hold a baby? That will never be me. My newborn philosophy is babywear, latch and forget." - Robin R.
"I’m not a newborn mom. With my first child, I didn't know what was wrong with me and had a lot of guilt over not enjoying those early days. With my second and third kids, I had to come to realize that no mother loves every single stage of her kids' lives from 0 to 18 years. It doesn't make you a bad mother if the newborn phase challenges your unique personality traits in ways that make you dislike it. But it took me a long time to get there, and is still tricky to admit to people sometimes." - Sarah B.
"My famous quote was 'Babies are takers. They don't have a lot to give.' It took me a long time to get over the shame of not actually liking my baby to understand that I didn't need to love babies to be a good mom. I feel like I didn't bond with her until she could talk, honestly. "– Emily P.
Right before my son was born, my sister told me, 'The first eight weeks are like boot camp. It's okay if you're not having fun.' It was the most useful thing anyone told me. - Karen W.
"My child had GERD and basically cried and projectile vomited constantly for the first six months. I think I also had postpartum depression. So, no, I was not enamored of her when she was a newborn, but I totally adore her now." – Fiona T.
Clearly, my question opened up a floodgate of women who had already embraced a hard truth: Newborns are freaking hard work. I was wasting a lot of emotional energy worrying that my husband preferred to hang out with the kid who could have a conversation, rather than the screechy little one who kept trying to suckle him. But these women's stories revealed to me that there;s truly no right or wrong way to feel about newborns—whether you're Dad, Mom or anyone else in the picture.