See these two photos? Believe it or not, they show the same parents, baby, and dog and were shot in the same location. The first is from our staged newborn photo shoot with professional hair and makeup, carefully selected outfits, perfect lighting, a talented professional photographer, and surely some Lightroom edits. The second is a real life moment captured by my mom just ten days later, on her first visit to meet her grandson.
She snapped the photo and proclaimed, “Here’s your first family Christmas card!” I looked at it and just had to laugh. This picture is a perfect reflection of where we were at that moment. Let’s take John first, and zoom straight into his hands. Yup, those are purple nitrile gloves. You see, John was so exhausted by our third week with a newborn that he developed shingles. Apparently, it’s not just for 80 year olds! We were so paranoid about Alden contracting chicken pox that those gloves became John’s 24/7 purple accessories. (When we told the pediatrician a few days later, she smirked and told us we were going a little overkill.)
Then there’s me. There I am passed out on the couch in front of the breast pump, my own new accessory. From day one I was struggling to produce enough breast milk, and being the perfectionist I am, I was committed to giving it 100%. The hospital lactation consultant left me with this advice: nurse every three hours or whenever your baby shows hunger cues, follow up with formula, then pump immediately after for at least twenty minutes. I followed this cycle religiously: nurse, bottle, pump, nap, nurse, bottle, pump- to no avail. All I had gained was sleeplessness and hopelessness. By the time this photo was taken, I had developed mastitis and a fever to match, as well as a new regimen: antibiotics twice per day and pain relievers every four to six hours.
I’m sharing this with you because I know we’re not the only parents who struggled through this newborn phase, which is often presented on social media through a rose-colored lens. Here we have two photos from the same stage of life. Both are real life moments, but one is the kind we share online every day, and the other is one we keep to ourselves. The trouble is, I’ve spent way too much time looking at images like the first, and it’s put blinders on my perspective and a damper on my happiness. At first it made it harder for me to see the beauty in these honest reflections of our first days with our newborn. But now it’s clear. There’s something very special about this rite of passage we went through as new parents and how much we’ve grown since.