Tuesday, January 15, 2013

It gets better...

What a difference a few months can make. Or four, to be exact.

For those of you who've never heard mention of the fourth trimester, it is a reference to the first few months of a baby's life when they aren't quite ready to engage with this noisy, disruptive world. So they cry and scream and generally make it known that they liked their comfy, cozy womb very much, thank you, and they aren't happy about being separated from it and thrust into the strange unknown.

Some babies acclimate more readily to their new environment and others rail against it, crying for hours on end (often referred to as colic). I'd say Ruby fell somewhere in the middle. She didn't have daily hours-long crying jags but she was, shall we say, testy quite often. She'd make her displeasure known by grumping often and occasionally screaming to punctuate her point. Mostly, she seemed frustrated. It was like she was just waiting, albeit rather impatiently, for us to get a clue. Sometimes, Eric and I would look at each other and ask, "Why is our baby so angry!?!" I never doubted that I loved her but there were moments when I certainly didn't like her so much.

We were often told that if we could just survive the fourth trimester, everything would get so much better. Well, Ruby took a little longer than the usual twelve weeks to come around. Somewhere around her fifteenth week of life, though, she forgave our bumbling ineptitude and decided to put up with us. Coincidentally, it was right around the time that we started to figure out her rhythms and to read her cues.

Now, Ruby is the smiling, giggly bundle of joy I dreamt of all those months I carried her in my belly. She even looks like I imagined she would, with her father's dark hair and my blue eyes. Not that it's all sunshine and moonbeams 24/7. She still has occasional hissy fits, particularly when tired or overstimulated. Most of the time, though, she's a happy little munchkin.

It's hard to talk about how difficult adapting to motherhood can be. Maybe because if you're lucky enough to safely deliver a healthy baby, it seems selfish to complain. That, and the whole baby industrial complex is predicated on the birth of a child being the most miraculous, amazing thing ever, if you don't spontaneously combust from happiness at the first sight of your newborn, you're set up to feel like a failure.

Thank god for my mama girlfriends who coached me to hang in there and commiserated with me and shared their own memories of newborn woes. I don't know what I would have done without them. It was such a lifeline for me to be able to whine and complain to sympathetic ears and not feel judged. As a new mom, I needed to hear that motherhood can be hard work and that it's normal to feel overwhelmed at times. I needed to know these feelings weren't a reflection on me and that I'm not alone in feeling this way. And I needed to be reassured that it does get better.

And last but not least, winter has finally arrived in Austin and with the cold weather, I got a craving for chicken pot pie. When I saw this recipe from the Kitchn in my twitter feed, it prodded me to action. The version above is inspired by it but it isn't a faithful recreation. While the biscuit crust in the recipe sounded tantalizing, I went with a good, old fashioned pie crust.


  1. I love your honesty-not enough moms express it without feeling guilty. I'm so glad you are embracing ALL of the moments and giving yourself pats on the back and acceptance along the way. Ruby is as her name says, a precious jewel and you and Eric are doing an amazing job raising her. Oh and that chicken pot pie looks pretty darn delicious.

  2. I can't wait to see you tomorrow. I'm proud of you for handling this with grace and being honest about your experience. I imagine there is comfort when other new moms stumble on your entry.

  3. Yeah - it got better!! And she is so freaking adorable. Sometimes Brian talks about a third and all I can think is I can NOT survive another fourth trimester. But I still don't know how you can whip up something so delicious with a baby around.

  4. Love this honest,heart-felt post. You made it through the first 4 weeks & it only gets better from now on. Babies usually transform magically around this time and I just love this new phase - just as you begin to think motherhood is a bit of a thankless job you are rewarded by real smiles, coos and the delightful two-way communication begins as the baby begins to Really wake up to the world Around her ... And most of the
    Tiredness of the past 4 months is washed away .

    She's just gorgeous. It just gets better and better.

  5. Look at her sweet, little face! I hadn't heard of the fourth trimester before, but it makes sense. I'm so glad she decided to put up with you two! ;) It must be great to feel like everything is getting a little easier. And, that pot pie is perfect for today. I want that for dinner tonight.

  6. Been there, done that. Having a newborn sucks. And yet, people have more than one kid, so memory fades pretty quickly. ;) Congrats on making it through the hazing phase of parenthood.

    It gets better and better from here on out... with a few hiccups every now and then, of course. Every stage comes with its own challenges, but even on the most challenging of our "Terrible Twos" days, I wouldn't go back to the newborn stage for a million bucks.

  7. Shelley, Ruby is adorable...and I am so happy that you are enjoying every moment with her.
    Nice chicken pie, it is sure perfect for the cold weather.
    Have a great week!

  8. Hope things get easier! It is very demanding what this industry and society do to new moms. One of my friends said the exact same thing" I know I am supposed to be bursting with joy or whatever but I am not. And I feel so guilty about it". Wish we could take the guilt part out of everything and just feel what we feel. Going through emotions are hard enough, why make it harder on new moms?
    Enjoy every minute and all the pot pies you can get. :)

  9. Ruby is such a cutie-pie! That hair! I'm glad things are getting better Shelley. Thanks for writing such an honest post :)

  10. Awww...what an adorable photo of Ruby. I am so happy that you are getting the hang of motherhood, Shelley. It is definitely a transition period. Your pot pie looks like the perfect antidote to cold weather.

  11. She's gorgeous! I love her name too. Ruby is on our short-list of names we've been squirreling away for years. Congrats on surviving the fourth trimester. I've heard it can be a real trial. Here's hoping 2013 will bring lots of baby giggles and restful nights. P.S. That pie looks yummmmmy.