Emma Ferneyhough Colner

New Motherhood

Our baby Miles was born July 6, less than 48 hours after my water broke, and 20 days prior to his due date. He was 6 pounds 1 ounce and 18.5 inches long.


Photo by Liza Ferneyhough

The thing about new motherhood is that you’re basically reliving the same 2-3 hours with your newborn. You change their diaper, you feed them, you burp them, you rock them to sleep, and you try to figure out what you’re going to do for the next 30-60 minutes. It’s a lot like Groundhog Day. The ticking timebomb that is your baby keeps resetting and you have to decide what’s most important in the small amount of time you have (if you’re lucky and the baby doesn’t cry for hours). Sleep? Eat? Poop? Shower? Any of the million other things that would normally take your attention such as laundry, household administrative stuff, grocery shopping, cleaning, playing with your cat who all of a sudden hates you?

Because my thoughts have been so disjointed and unfocused due to lack of sleep, the following are a few nuggets that I’ve managed to scrounge up from the recesses of my foggy brain from weeks 3-7 of Miles’ life.


Miles does this thing when he’s finished nursing that I find hilarious (and painful). He’ll finish sucking, half asleep with eyes closed, then he’ll arch his back with his head angling backwards away from me, with my nipple still in his mouth! My nipple will be stretched to the limit as it eventually slips out of his mouth with a pop, and he’ll smack his lips in a very satisfied way. (It looks like he’s slurping up a giant noodle.) His eyes will be closed and he sighs happily. Then, to finish the moment, he’ll let out a huge poo fart signalling to me that his diaper needs to be changed.

3 weeks of getting sleep in 1 to 2 hour increments over the course of the day has caused me to be somewhat braindead. At home it’s not very noticeable. I deal well enough with caring for Miles and, most of the time, for myself. But in public, engaging in conversation with strangers has proved difficult. I struggled to calculate a tip for a mani-pedi I got today (my first in probably a year). I could barely speak when the young man at the pet store asked for my zip code as I was checking out. I was slow to realize the cashier was speaking to me while I bought my first postpartum latte at the coffee shop. Perhaps I should just stay inside until Miles lets me sleep more.

It still hasn’t completely sunk in that I am going to be a mom to Miles for the rest of my life. I will no longer be able to do anything without first thinking of my child. We won’t be able to go anywhere without planning and packing a hefty diaper bag. How will I leave him to go to work?

New motherhood is more boring than I expected. My days blend into each other with no clear demarcation of one day turning into the next. I just nurse, burp, change diapers, and rock baby to sleep. I then try to sleep a little myself. It’s just this pattern repeated over and over again. Any time I try to start a new task to get something done, Miles wakes up and I need to tend to him. My thoughts scatter and 2 hours later when I can come back to the task again it’s hard to refocus. This is my new reality.

As time goes on, Miles spends more of the day time awake. All the guides say this is the time to talk to him, interact with and sing to him. But I don’t know what to say. I tend to repeat “Hi Baby Miles”, “You’re so cute”, “Mommy loves you”, “You have beautiful eyes”, “You’re so sweet”, “I love you” etc. I worry I should be having longer one-sided conversations… Also I’m supposed to start reading books to him, but how do I hold open a book at the same time as holding up his floppy head?

Miles is a good baby. “Good” in the sense that he doesn’t cry as much as I expected him to (although I know this can change as he gets older). He mainly cries when he has gas pains, when he’s cold, when he’s wet, or when his diaper needs changing. If he’s fussy, it’s because he’s either in pain, cold or wet. Otherwise he’s asleep or is happy to look around the world for the most part.

3 weeks postpartum and my pee-hole still hurts, my baby-hole still hurts, and my poo-hole still hurts.

Boobs. Tingling. Breastmilk. Leaking. Everywhere.

Baby likes to rake his razor sharp nails along my boob as he nurses. :(

The best thing (so far) of wearing baby in a Moby wrap is that I can pee without having to put him down in his crib and listening to him cry.

Breastfeeding is still painful 4 weeks in.

I’ve ventured out a few times with Miles in the stroller, going on short walks around the neighborhood or to run some errands nearby. I’ve become hyperaware of all the threats in the environment. The old man who looks like he hasn’t showered in days walking erratically could all of a sudden go apeshit and take my baby away from me. Or, that car isn’t going to stop at the crosswalk and will just plow us over. Or, the weather will all of a sudden turn and my baby will freeze.

It’s frustrating being locked down on the couch or wherever in order to nurse and comfort a baby. The simplest tasks take all day to perform because you never know when your baby needs you.

It’s hard to ask for help if you’re not used to it.

Miles makes noises like a velociraptor. It’s a little disconcerting when my nipple is in his mouth.

Speaking of nipples in mouths, sometimes he acts like a complete wild animal on my boobs and it’s so painful and a little horrifying.

I totally understand why people give up on breastfeeding. It is all-consuming, of your time, body and mind. The pros of formula that I can see: Babies can drink more formula in a shorter amount of time, anyone can do the feeding, not just mom. Formula-fed babies can go 4 hours between feeding instead of 2. They gain weight faster. Breastfeeding affects your hormone levels so your libido is non-existant and your vagina is dried up so anything that goes in there causes burning pain. Your breasts stop being engorged and painful. You don’t have to avoid caffeine or alcohol or otherwise worry about your own eating habits affecting the milk. The cons of formula are: it’s something you have to constantly buy, and it’s not cheap. There are always bottles to wash. You don’t get the same benefits for baby’s immune system.

Breastfeeding is still painful 6 weeks in.

I’ve started taking Miles to Baby and Mom support groups and Baby and Mom yoga classes. The most traumatic part is when he cries in the car and I can’t do anything about it.

I’m totally a mom now. I have an SUV. I drive to the suburbs to go grocery shopping and pick up Chipotle to eat at home.

It’s such a wonderful feeling to know my baby is gaining weight. He’s 6 weeks old and 8 pounds.

I’ve been waking in the middle of the night in a panic, wondering where Miles is. I clutch at the blankets thinking I can feel his body and that I’ve suffocated him. As I become more awake I realize he’s in his bassinet and I look over to make sure he’s there and he’s breathing.

When I take naps now, anything over 30 minutes feels like a really long time. So after an hour, or if I’m lucky, 2 hours, I’ll wake up in a panic thinking that my baby has been starving for half the day and I have to feed him NOW. In reality he’s fine cuz I haven’t been sleeping long.

I keep hearing phantom baby crying if Miles is sleeping in another room. I go to check on him and he’s not crying.


I hope to have something closer to a narrative as I become more adept at parenting. Even now I have to stop every couple minutes to pat Miles’ bum so he’ll stay asleep. :D