In the early hours of yesterday morning, I came down to the kitchen with Max, for one of the dreaded night feeds, and discovered a mysterious black bag sitting in the middle of the floor.

Intrigued, I did a quick circle around the bag, and then, shifting the baby into one arm, I awkwardly bent down and opened it up with the other.

Inside was an odd collection of white, spherical objects, all roughly the same size, and huddled together at the very bottom of the bag. I’m sure you’ve already guessed what these objects were, but then, you probably have the advantage of a little more sleep than me right now, don’t you? My middle-of-the-night self, you see, does not fire on all cyclinders, so, when the penny didn’t instantly drop, I reached into that bag, picked up one of the white objects, and raised it up to eye level… at which point the stench hit me, and I realised that, yeah, that was a collection of dirty nappies, right there. GOD.

It took me a good couple of minutes to stop gagging, at which point I realised that Terry had, at some earlier – but equally hellish – time of the night/morning,  emptied the nappy bin in the nursery, only to realise that the outside bin was already full to overflowing (Probably with even MOAR dirty nappies, tbh…), and that a black bag in the kitchen was his only option.

Max at three weeksTo my 4am self, it felt a bit like a metaphor for my life right now: that feeling of thinking you’ve discovered some kind of potentially wonderful surprise, only to open it up and discover that it’s a literal bag of shit. And then you’re outside in the snow that won’t stop falling, trying to wrestle the lid of the bin open anyway, despite the thick covering of snow on top of it: you know there’s more to come, and that last week, when your husband tried to drive to the hospice to see his very sick mother, his car just slid sideways down the hill outside your house, and he had to turn around and come right back home. And now it’s three days later: the snow still hasn’t cleared, he still hasn’t made it into the hospice, and now his foot has started to hurt again – badly enough to need a second dose of prescription painkillers, or he won’t be able to walk – so here you are at 4am, desperately trying to calm down a screaming baby, and not wake up your sleeping partner. But the baby needs his nappy changed, and while you’re doing it, he spits up on his onesie, so you change that too, and at the exact moment – the EXACT moment – you finish pressing together the last stud on the thing, he spits up AGAIN, and you have to take that once-fresh-but-now-totally-soaked onesie back off again after approximately two minutes wear, and replace it with yet another one.

And then you rinse, repeat, and rinse again.

(It’s like raaaiiiiiiiiiin, on your wedding day…)

Terry and MaxMy 4am self is not my best self, needless to say. She’s not like my 11am self, who sometimes goes for 5 mile runs (Or who used to, anyway…) and feels like she’s winning at life, and she’s nothing like my pre-2016 self, who was always careful to get exactly the right amount of sleep. Nope, my current, middle-of-the-night, circa-2018, self is the same self who last week wondered why her freshly-changed baby’s back seemed damp, only to discover that, when she’d changed him, she’d somehow laid him down on top of a wet wipe, which had gotten stuck down the back of his sleepsuit. And, OK, it was only there for two minutes, if that, but STILL, people. STILL.

My 4am self is the one who realised that it’s not the exhaustion that gets you as a new parent, but the loneliness – and the way there’s no real difference between day and night any more, just a constantly-repeating 4-hour eat/sleep cycle, which pays absolutely no attention to circadian rhythms. My 11am self didn’t know this, because my 11am self is never lonely: none of my other selves are, really. But in the middle of the night, with the darkness pressing against the windows, and the low battery indicator lighting up my phone, it’s hard not to feel a little bit hopeless. So I take the baby into the living room, and I can’t face one more nursery rhyme (I mean, I know Humpty Dumpty had already had a great fall, but at this point I’d push the %^&%$# off that wall myself, seriously…) (Also, why did they get the king’s HORSES to try to put him together again? Horses are RUBBISH at that kind of thing, aren’t they? It’s the whole, ‘no opposable thumbs’ thing, surely? And now I feel a bit bad about ol’ Humpty, really. I mean, dude didn’t stand a chance with a bunch of horses in charge of operations, huh?), so I get Alexa to play him some R.E.M instead. Daysleeper. Find The River. Nightswimming. When that’s done, and he’s still only three-quarters of the way towards sleep, we move onto Counting Crows, and I sit there and think about how the lyrics of all of these songs apply to my new life just as much as they did back in the days when I used to listen to them on repeat on my way to school/work… and suddenly it’s my much younger self sitting there, sobbing because it’s raining in Baltimore, baby… but everything else is the same.

Me and MaxAnd now it’s 6:52am. The baby is finally sleeping, and A Long December is playing – that line about how it’s been a long December,  but there’s reason to believe, maybe this year will be better than the last / I can’t remember all the times I tried to tell myself / to hold on to these moments as they pass.

Somehow we’ll survive this: me, Terry, Max, Michael Stipe, Adam Duritiz, and hey! Surprise entry by Dire Straights, of all people! (Look, my baby likes Romeo & Juliet, OK?) We’ll survive it, and we’ll do our very best to hold on to these moments as they pass. Because they WILL pass.

Won’t they?

Max at three weeksMax at three weeksTerry and MaxSaveSave

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51 Comments
  1. One night during a feed I looked out the window and saw the moon. It looked weird, it was a funny shape. I puzzled over it. Two nights later I said to my husband, having spent every night feed perplexed, “there’s something strange about the moon”… he looked out of the window and replied “you’re looking at the side of the street light”. Sleep deprivation and loneliness – they do pass. Thinking of you all

  2. Hi Amber! I felt a similar way – luckily one of my friends told me that ‘things would be better at the 6 week mark’. I really held out until 6 weeks and noticed that hey, things really had improved as the baby slept more and more through the night. So, 6 weeks was my ‘magic number’.

  3. One time I woke up and was convinced that I was holding my daughter during a feeding and about to drop her. I was so tired and I cried for my husband to, “Please, come get her fast because my arms can’t hold her anymore and I’m going to pass out!” Imagine his confusion to hear me over the monitor when he was actually the one in her room feeding her. He had to comfort us both that night. And yes, middle of the night IS the loneliest time. You’ll make it back.

  4. You’ll get there, Amber. My little sister had a hard first six weeks too. Easy for me to say, but it does get easier apparently. In the meantime, I hope those gritters get out your way!

  5. Amazingly well-written post, and all the solidarity in the world! I hope things improve soon, and your baby is gorgeous!

  6. Please – promise me you will never change a nappy in the night again – you could hurt yourself or the baby.
    You have to feed the baby at night – remember how you used to go to night clubs and late night drinks with friends – just pretend you are doing that.
    Think positive – you might be lucky – your baby might be sleeping through the night by the time he is 6 months and u will never have to pretend to yourself u r in a nightclub again, except when he is teething, or upset or has a cold…
    Whizz forward 17 years, he might be in a night club – crumbs he might even be driving to nightclubs and you will not be able to sleep again…
    Sorry!
    x

    1. I can assure you that I would not ever do anything that would put my baby (or myself) at risk: neither he nor I are being harmed by my changing his nappy at night (And I’m pretty sure that if I let him lie there screaming in a dirty nappy all night, I’d be told THAT was wrong, too…), and although I may use self-deprecating humour in my writing, I’m totally capable of deciding whether or not it’s safe for me to change a nappy.

      (Also, not that it matters, but it was actually his clothes I mentioned changing in this post, and I did it because he’d spit up on himself, and was soaked: I’m not sure if that’s any less “dangerous”, but I’m afraid I’m not going to let him lie there for hours in soaking wet clothes. I DO change nappies at night too, though, if they’re dirty – he would literally scream all night if I didn’t.)

    2. Sorry but I just don’t get the connection between a baby’s night feed and pretending to go to a nightclub. It seems a rather extreme way to cope with a newborn. Also the whizzing forward 17 years comment was unnecessary too! Sorry!

      1. That is a pretty unrealistic thing to say, why would you leave your baby in their’s dirty nappy all night? Early days, they are almost all dirty too, not just wet. You change those nappies Amber, and I found it was between 6-8 weeks it got better. My second daughter, we passed the 6 weeks with no improvement and I thought I wouldn’t survive, but suddenly it was 8 weeks and so much better. Gorgeous photos too

  7. That’s when you understand why breastfeeding is said to be better than bottle feeding. Some mothers have been known to chuck a teabag in a baby bottle, replace milk by redbull… all noticed in time and no babies were harmed in the process, but gosh… ladies do check what’s in your mug when faced with a sleep deprived mum!
    All babies have a different “magic number” which seems to vary country to country, hope Max is on the early one, and may the snow melt fast and not be replaced with ice.

    1. And some mothers have been known to fall asleep while breastfeeding and harm their baby that way. But sure, let’s try to find yet another way to shame women who can’t/don’t breastfeed. 🙄

      1. Yeah, I’m kinda regretting posting this now. I just opened a bag and didn’t immediately realise it had dirty nappies in it, but now I’m apparently putting my baby at risk, and can’t be trusted to change his nappy 🙄 I’ve always noticed how judgemental people are about parenting – just didn’t expect it on this particular post!

      2. sorry, I was trying to be funny, I didn’t mean any attack on breastfeeding or bottle feeding mothers, I was just remembering some silly things I had done when sleep deprived. It did take me a few minutes staring at a tea bag in a baby bottle to realise what was wrong in that picture. (and the tea mixed with redbull tasted disgusting)

  8. How bizarre, are you supposed to leave a baby with a dirty nappy all night then? That sounds unwise especially with a newborn.

    I coped with night feeds and nappy changing fine and I’ve never been to a night club

    1. Yeah, my baby wouldn’t let me leave him all night like that – if it was just wet, maybe, but if his nappy is dirty he will scream until it’s changed: I had no idea changing him was considered dangerous!

      1. Even if he would let you I think it would be cruel. I’ve never heard of any parent not changing nappies at night, it’s just one of those things you have to do (for the first few months).

  9. I think it’s a lovely post, meant tongue-in-cheek. It’s full of exactly the kinds of things all new parents experience and we all do get through those experiences safely, if a little blurrily. And about the breast/bottle feeding thing, I honestly really feel it’s such a shame that people even mention it. As the first child, I was bottle fed, my younger brother was breast fed. Yet he was the sickly one, always at the doctors, suffering from chest infections, having minor ops, being skinny as a skinny thing. I, on the other hand always enjoyed rude health (as they used to say). As far as I’m concerned there is no truth whatsoever behind the theory that breast is best. Little Max is gorgeous, I love his little smile. (It’s definitely not wind!)

    1. all I meant was that you couldn’t give the wrong drink to a baby when breast feeding, unlike a baby bottle fed by a silly mum like me. It was supposed to be a joke. . I am so terribly very sorry my post came across the wrong way and open a debate that has no place here.

    2. Thanks, Marilyn – it was supposed to be relatable and hopefully humorous: I really didn’t intend to imply that I’m so out of it that I’m a risk to my baby, and I’m quite upset that some people have apparently read it that way 🙁 Lalie was actually joking with her comment, but I totally agree that fed is best: I think we all just do the best we can with feeding, and as long as the baby’s happy, everyone else should be too!

  10. Night feeds are exhausting, but hopefully you will soon find Max is missing that 2am feed and you’ll get an eight hour space of time (well 7 if you count the feeding, changing and babygro change time). And there’s the crying time, every new mother cries – it comes with the territory of feeling you don’t know what you’re doing (I was amazed when the hospital staff let me take my baby home).
    Use the changing mat in the nursery, then you won’t need to come downstairs to change Max at night. Empty the nappy bucket in the morning (at a more awake time).
    You’re doing a great job, and Max is thriving. I hope Terry feels better soon and that he is able to get in to see his mum.

    1. I do change him in the nursery – the nursery is downstairs from the bedroom. There isn’t an issue with when Terry emptied the bin, the issue was that the outside bin was full at the time, so he had to leave it in the kitchen instead: that would have been the case whatever time he’d emptied it.

  11. OMG, what’s up with the comments section? If this is what it’s been like for you your whole pregnancy with the uncalled for advice, I feel for you! Just came here to say that although the post is a bit gloomy, you write as beautifully as you always have. Fingers crossed Max starts sleeping through the night like tomorrow!

  12. Yes, I don’t think you were asking for advice……. Mine is 16 months and still has a 2am feed (I don’t need to do nappies overnight now though) so hope you are luckier than me. But either way it’s worth it and we make it work.

  13. I changed all three of mine at night, and we’re all still alive. I’m curious to know what I should have done instead? Why is it safe to feed a baby at night (as long as you pretend you’re in a nightclub), but not safe to change him?

  14. I thought this post was truthful, amusing, sympathy-inducing and beautifully written. The comments are bizarre, but I’m sure most people would agree that what you’re going through is pretty normal (expect for the awful non-baby circumstances of course) but even if they don’t agree, it’s none of their business! It’s your blog, your life and your baby! You’re doing amazingly, and the reason I read your blog is for the honesty and humour that your write with <3

  15. My baby was born a week after Max by emergency C-section and I totally understand how you’re feeling (well, except that I don’t have the added pressure of snow and a mother in law coming to the end of her life). I’m struggling with the feeding issues especially…trying to breastfeed but giving bottles at night and just feeling terribly guilty about everything, no matter how hard I try not to put pressure on myself. I hope everyone is right and it will get easier for both of us! You look like you are doing a great job and I love to read your posts because it makes me feel like I’m not alone and reassures me that we are all just doing our best. Keep you chin up! 🙂 Lisa x

    1. Please don’t feel guilty about giving bottles. A feed baby is best and having a happy healthy Mammy is the best thing for baby.

      Remember you also had unplanned major surgery that under any other circumstances would probably result in you being on bed rest for a number of weeks but because it’s child birth you’re expected to get on with it and feed and mind this tiny little person who you are still getting to know as well.

      Please be kind to yourself, you are doing your best right now and when you can do things differently (not always better, sometimes just differently) you will.

  16. A woman I worked with (she was like my work Mammy!) told me when I was about to fall over with sleep deprivation that the only way she got through having an 18 month old and new born twins was by singing “This will pass” to herself.

    We’ve all been there, you will get through this, the snow will thaw, Terry will get out to see his Mam, you will find your new routine and while everything won’t be perfect, it will be easier (I can’t guarantee you won’t find random wet wipes stuck to your child again though, I regularly find they have sat on them and have wet patches on their bums………)

  17. Just occurred to me I wonder if Alison Gibb wasn’t meaning that babies shouldn’t be changed during the night, rather that *you* shouldn’t be changing them (ie that your husband, mother, nanny, etc should).

    (I still don’t agree – couples decide for themselves how to share things and not everyone has a partner or other support).

    She’s on twitter, it would be interesting if she could clarify.

  18. “I can’t really understand why I’d be likely to harm myself/the baby, but someone else would be OK, though? Or duties, though – it just so happened to be my turn to get up with him on that particular night!”

    Well if you had a night nanny they would be sleeping in the day time and thus fresh at night (I’m not suggesting this is what normal people do! But may be normal to some.). There is also this perception that new mothers should rest and be waited on rather than getting on with life – not a view I subscribe to but it isn’t uncommon (eg from health visitors).

    With us it was just whoever woke first who changed the nappy – usually me but I didn’t mind (and always me once my partner’s paternity leave had ended) – not a big deal.

  19. Some people also seem to think fathers should do all night nappy changes (especially if mother is breastfeeding and thus doing all the feeds) – again I don’t think this is fair. I cope with sleep deprivation much better than my daughter’s father!

  20. Your post vividly brought back memories of those 4 am lonelies with my own babies! I remember sitting on the floor, with my arm through the slats of the crib, patting my daughter’s bum robotically while sobbing and pleading with her to “just go to sleep, already” 😂😂 The first time I got a solid five hours sleep at one go, I felt like a new woman – wishing you some solid sleep soon! Hoping Terry’s foot is better and that he has made it to hospice to see his mum.

  21. Oh Amber this is a very realistic post about life with a newborn. I’m 3 months off having my second and it brought back all the memories of those things I’m going to do again (like nursing my pillow gently in the middle of the night and wondering why the baby won’t stop crying!)

    Keep writing one day you will love having (some of) these memories to look back on.

  22. It will pass. It is very hard. When my baby was born in May I remember being slumped over the kitchen table pumping milk (he had a severe tongue tie and had to be fed via a syringe for the first few days). I had to do this every 3 hours for an hour each time. It felt like it would never end! It was a really tough time actually despite the joy of my baby. It feels like you’re the only one up at that time, but you’re not. I still am as my baby is a rubbish sleeper!! (But don’t worry, he seems to be the exception compared to all my friend’s babies!) I’ve stood over his cot sobbing PLEASE. GO. TO. SLEEP. many times.

    Don’t listen to any criticism, everyone has an opinion but do what you feel is best for you and your baby.

    P.s. It will get better xxxx

  23. On a different note, would it be possible to hire a 4×4, e.g. Land Rover, for a week so that Terry can get out safely? Or put out an appeal e.g. on FB for a lift to the hospice? If I lived local, I’d give him a lift in a shot.

    And on another different note, I’m a little in awe at the quality of your recent writing, especially when you have so much on your plate.

  24. I strongly remember the day blurring into night so there was no delineation. The loneliest time of my life, really. It certainly will pass! I was able to read books here and there while rocking my son etc. One time I couldn’t take it anymore. I was also housebound due to winter/C-section recovery but I just couldn’t take it and told my husband I was going for a walk around the block by myself. No baby. I did ..walked for about two blocks straight..then forgot the way home and started to cry and had to sit on a curb in the snow until I could think straight. It all passes and is funny in retrospect and I miss so so much of it, but not that days-blurring. That was truly hard. I feel for you.

  25. Beautifully written. My 18 month still wakes at night but I vividly remember the exhaustion of caring for a newborn and it’s next level. I remember on more than one occasion being convinced I had two babies and I had fed one but still needed to feed the other 😳 NB I do NOT have 2 babies – sleep deprivation does funny things to you! You are doing brilliantly in very tricky circumstances and it will get easier x

  26. I’m from Baltimore, so this title made me laugh. It gets better, and I’m not even going into the “soak it all in, he’ll only be little once” because I don’t have a baby and even if I did I wouldn’t be preciously holding onto these tender moments of poop, vomit, and no sleep. It’s OK not to think every little second of it is fun 😉 But yes, it does pass.

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