Nothing ever prepares you for children, especially newborns. There is no manual you are handed when you leave the hospital. It’s an entirely new world full of joy, exhaustion, frustration, worry, and pure amazement. Sure, you can read a few books, peruse a few online resources, and attend classes, but you won’t ever be ready. There are things they don’t tell you about bringing home baby and what happens to your postpartum body. You may have an idea, but let me tell you, it’s hard.
What I’ve Learned about Newborns:
Fortunately, my daughter was a very easy baby, so I didn’t have to deal with colic or the dreaded “witching hour”. She was, however, a very sleepy baby, which meant I’d often have to set an alarm to ensure she was fed. She would sleep 4-5 hours at a time! Normally it wouldn’t be a huge deal (never wake a sleeping baby, right?), but because she was only six pounds when she was born and slow to grow, doctors wanted her to eat every 2 hours. Having to set an alarm in the wee hours of the morning was brutal. I slept with her by my side in a co-sleeper, mainly because it made feeding her easier and I was scared of the unknown: what if she stopped breathing, suffocated, got too hot or too cold, cried and I didn’t hear her, etc. I spent hours just staring at her to make sure she was OK. I was a mom zombie.
I also chose to breastfeed. When my milk came in on the third day, my boobs went from softball-sized to mini watermelon-sized and they hurt. I laid in the warm shower, put a wash cloth on my chest, and took Tylenol to relieve me of the initial engorgement. On top of the pain, I had to get her to attach to my nipple correctly and then adjust the Boppy pillow so I could maneuver her into the right position. First off, let me tell you about nipple pain…holy moly, it HURTS! Even when she latched correctly, the first few sucks were excruciating. It took all I had not to squeeze her little head as she suckled. I wouldn’t have made it without my trusty lanolin by my bedside. It took about three weeks for the pain to subside.
At first I cherished every midnight feeding because I knew how to soothe her — I was her comfort and provider. But, little did I know that I would feel so lonely. Sitting there in the dark, head bobbing and eyes half closed trying to get her to attach, it made for a very trying couple of weeks. I just wanted to sleep. An extra few hours of sleep would make me more aware, more patient, and an overall better mom because I could give her all of me, but sadly, that wasn’t an option. My husband, who offered to help where he could, couldn’t do the one thing I truly needed help with, which was to feed her. I was told not to pump for the first two weeks so my supply could regulate, so I was the only one who could take this on. Not to say mothers who bottle feed don’t share my pain, but being the only one who can feed her is truly exhausting. I felt like just a pair of boobs for first two weeks.
Then there was the bleeding, cramps, lack of bladder control, and floppy stomach. Sporting a mesh diaper and using a peri bottle to wipe was not what I envisioned about motherhood. I’m embarrassed to say I also peed the bed shortly after giving birth. Boy oh boy, they weren’t joking when they said to do Kegels during pregnancy! I bled for four weeks and took stool softeners and Tylenol like it was going out of style. This wasn’t the body or condition I was expecting to be in after childbirth. I thought I’d snap back fast; all this cramping was cramping my style. I was sore and felt blah for about a week, then I started to regain my strength, self-confidence, and ability to hold my pee. I wish I could tell my one-week postpartum self that it gets easier – you won’t need mom diapers forever, you’ll look about 3-4 months pregnant for awhile, you’ll likely still be in maternity clothes, and pooping isn’t as scary as it sounds.
Keeping up with the house
And that whole “sleep when the baby sleeps” thing didn’t work for me. I’m so Type A and needed to keep up on the cleaning, organizing, and taking care of our dog. I know I was supposed to take it easy (and I did for the most part), but I could NOT for the life of me lay down and sleep when she did. I based my self-worth on how productive I was. I’d mosey into the kitchen to eat, catch up on my Netflix shows, play with the dog, organize her clothes, do laundry, write thank yous, and schedule time for visitors. I figured I’d take this time to get things done ahead of time, before she’d be even more demanding of me in the coming months. I know now that I shouldn’t have tried to be Super Mom during the first two weeks; I should have just napped.
One thing that I am so thankful for is meal prepping. Trust me on this one, you will need food prepared and ready for a moment’s notice. The last thing you want to do is have to cook carrying around an infant, or worse, not eat at all. Making ten freezer meals the month before I delivered was the most brilliant idea I’ve ever had – exhausting, but brilliant. Everything from burritos, pasta, and stir fry to lasagna, soups, and casseroles. Plus, I had neighbors and friends bring over MORE food. I don’t think we even touched a pot or pan until the second month of her being home. Oh, and I also recommend getting paper plates, plastic silverware, and disposable cups, because who wants to do the dishes or empty and load a dishwasher constantly?
Listen to your heart
And the biggest lesson I learned and advice I can give is to do what makes you and baby happy. Not everything is going to work for every baby, and you have to be OK with that. You’re not a failure because breastfeeding didn’t work, baby doesn’t like to be swaddled, or baby prefers dad over you. Use the books/websites/unsolicited advice as a reference, but always go with your gut. And know that you don’t need a room full of expensive toys, clothing, brand name bedding, and fancy décor. Besides food, warmth, comfort, and a few thousand diapers, babies don’t really need much. So what if you don’t have the trendiest, biggest and best thing or your nursery is a disaster? Your baby won’t care – all s/he wants is you!
All that baby gear
Stella is now four months old and has only played in her nursery a handful of times. She’s also not sleeping in her crib that holds her organic mattress and $160 matching bedding set, and she hasn’t even used her trendy Aiden & Anais swaddle blankets. She has clothing she hasn’t worn, toys she has no interest in playing with (yet), and a high-tech Snuza sleep system that hasn’t even been activated yet. As bummed as I am, it is what it is. She has far more things than she’ll ever need, and for that I’m blessed. I wish I went with my gut and didn’t listen to all the advice or peruse the ‘must-have’ baby product lists. Next baby, I’m going to be a minimalist. You live and learn!
I always thought of myself as a maternal person, but it instantly clicked when I had Stella. I knew that no matter how tired, sick, hungry, or bored I was, things had to be done. It is part of accepting motherhood – your needs become second. And although trying and tiring, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Motherhood has taught me so much already. Not only am I a caregiver, but I’m also a chef, engineer, artist, teacher, nurse, comedian, event planner, and so much more – essentially I’m CEO of Stella Inc. As they grow, you appreciate the time you spend with them more every day. And the best part? You don’t mind that you haven’t showered in days, the dishes are stacked up, the Diaper Genie is overflowing, or poop-stained clothing sits in the laundry basket for a week. It becomes your new normal. Baby comes first without a second thought. It’ll come naturally; don’t worry. Being a mom is the best thing that ever happened to me. Buckle up, new moms – you’re in for a bumpy, but rewarding ride.
What did you learn from the first two weeks of having baby home?
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