Growing a human person from scratch and then raising them is wonderfully rewarding, but it’s also unrelenting and exhausting work. Once, long before I had children, I heard a dad say he had been tired for eight years, and thought he was probably exaggerating. Five years in, I understand what he was talking about. Now I’m just hoping there is a light at the end of the tunnel in the next three years or so. If you’re a mom, you’re probably tired. But depending on where you are in the parenthood journey, you are tired in different ways.
Here are the five types of new mom fatigue:
First Trimester fatigue
This is not simply being tired. This is not “oh, I stayed up too late pinning nursery ideas last night.” First trimester fatigue is a knock out, drag down exhaustion. Everyone associates those first few months with morning sickness, but for me the real trouble in those early weeks was existing from 8 am to 8 pm without falling asleep while standing up. You don’t feel worn out. You feel drugged. It is a soul-crushing, did-I-drink-NyQuil- instead-of-coffee, I-should-not-be-behind-the-wheel type of fatigue.
Second Trimester fatigue
This is not a thing. This is the only time in your motherhood journey you will have energy. Use it wisely.
Third Trimester fatigue
You might not feel as if you are under the influence of heavy sedatives anymore, but that energy you had a few weeks ago is gone. It now takes a colossal amount of effort to move from sitting to standing. Once you reach standing you can usually stay in motion for a while, but eventually the effort of carrying someone else’s house around will get to you. At this point you will collapse into an uncomfortable heap that requires several different pillows to support.
If you ever want to torture someone, wake them up every twenty minutes every night for a week straight. Think you would never do such a thing? Guess what, you did it to some poor soul when you are baby and now your payback has arrived in eight pounds of bundled joy. Hallucination is not unheard of at this point. This is a can’t see straight, can’t remember if you are wearing skin tired.
Six months in fatigue
At this point, everyone assumes you’ve recovered from having a newborn and have it somewhat together. But you don’t, because your baby woke up 37 times last night and the baby honeymoon is over so now you have to deal with regular person stuff like working and making meals. If you tell your childless friends how said baby woke up 37 times, they will start doubling up on birth control. If you tell your child-full friends the same story, they will ask, “Have you tried singing a lullaby and gently patting baby’s back? That’s all it ever took for mine.” You briefly will consider assault but are too tired to go through with it. Then you will wonder if you would get more sleep in jail.
Baby sleeping through the night fatigue
Finally, it happens. Your baby (or, in my case, toddler) starts sleeping through the night. And yet, you are still exhausted. Why? Probably because you woke up at 4am last night wondering why the baby wasn’t awake yet to nurse and if you should check on her and if you should just pump because your boobs are killing you and did you lock the doors and maybe I should make my own baby food and did I just hear the baby she’ll probably be up soon anyway will just waking her up mess up sleep training she’s going to go to college and leave me one day isn’t she? Eventually, you will learn how to sleep through the night (or most of it) too. But taking care of a child during the day is exhausting anyway, so you’re still pretty wiped out.
It’s possible that I will never feel fully rested again. But it’s true that you learn to function on much less sleep. And baby love is a pretty good substitute. Chubby baby knees and sticky kisses might not make you feel any more awake, but they will definitely keep you going.