In all honesty I barely remember what happened that first week that we brought baby boy home! In the moment when I was right there in the trenches of taking care of this tiny newborn it seemed so vibrant, so real…but then as a few weeks go by and I looked back and realized what a hazy mess of hormones, physical exhaustion and sleep deprivation I was. Don’t take it the wrong way, that first week is an amazing time of bonding both with baby and hubby (seeing your husband as a daddy is the sweetest thing in the world)! However, when you get down to it…it can be a scary, difficult time…all of the sudden your thrown into this role of motherhood without really too much of an idea of what you are doing. You can read all the books and blog posts (which do help) but it’s one of those areas of life where you don’t truly learn until you are there in the moment actually doing it. The great thing is…motherhood is ingrained in us as women! Although you might question every little decision, that maternal instinct does kick in and there is a surprising realization that you are not actually surviving this motherhood thing, but rocking it!
Here are a few takeaways from my first week of being a mom:
Write things down: And I mean everything! Whether it’s with a good old-fashioned pen and paper (my personal favorite) or an app on your phone write down everything. This can be questions that pop into your mind at 2am that you want to ask your pediatrician, diaper changes, feedings, milestones, etc. With the sleep deprivation going on something will pop into mind and two seconds later there will be nothing but a vague recollection that you were needing to do/ask something. Also, you are having to keep track of so many things…diaper changes, sleep times, feedings, pumping, medication doses (if necessary)…make it easy on your poor tired brain and write down those times. Invest in a special notebook or app beforehand that you can use for these purposes. You will be so thankful you did.
Accept all the help you are offered: Something I struggled with was wanting to be the mom that did it all. I didn’t want others thinking that I couldn’t take care of my baby, myself, or my home…but one can’t do it all…one shouldn’t do it all. Take your doctors advice and rest! It really does take a village when it comes to raising a baby. I was blessed to be living in an in-law apartment so my husband and I would just pop up to the in-laws and enjoy a warm meal. My mom also came down to stay a few days and it truly allowed me to get some much needed sleep. There will be friends and family who offer to make a meal, do the laundry, hold the baby while you sleep…don’t say no! Not only does it help to relieve some of the physical tiredness it will lift you heart knowing that so many care for you and your baby!
Include your husband/let him know how he can help: When we got home from the hospital and I was breastfeeding I know Jose felt a bit at a loss as to how to help. It was also difficult because baby always needed me to feed him and sometimes hubby can begin to feel a little left out. Let you husband know ways that he can help you and baby so he can be a part of this journey. This can be bringing you a cold glass of water or rubbing your tired shoulders while breastfeeding. One thing we began to do pretty quickly was pumping (due to various reasons)…this allowed Jose time to hold Caleb and feed him a bottle and helped them to bond that way. I know it is something that he truly enjoyed. So if you are breastfeeding, consider pumping even just once a day to give daddy a chance for some bonding time with baby (this might even allow you to sneak in a nice hot shower!).
You aren’t a bad mom (or dad): Pretty quickly there will be a point where you doubt your abilities as a parent. This came for us one night when Caleb had a three hour period of inconsolable crying…we just couldn’t figure out what was wrong and that turned into thinking we were doing something wrong. We figured out later (Google research and then verifying with our pediatrician) that he was suffering from reflux. It wasn’t anything we had done, or didn’t do…we weren’t bad parents and neither are you! Of course you as a parent want what is best for your baby and when everything is so new it can be hard to figure out what that is…and that’s ok! The fact that you are doing your best and love your baby is what makes you a wonderful parent, even if you don’t know what you’re doing!
Breastfeeding is hard: You might even cry…several times. That is completely normal…there is nothing wrong with you, mama! Use the resources you have to help make breastfeeding a more enjoyable experience for the two of you. Many areas will have a breastfeeding center or lactation consultants that can help you correct latch issues, check for tongue ties or any other reasons you might be experiencing pain. Also, if you find that breastfeeding is just to painful because of physical issues don’t let it get you down. Pumping is always a great alternative to get baby some mama’s milk. It is time consuming, but worth it! Finally, if you can’t breastfeed or pump…there is absolutely nothing wrong with that! Feeding your baby formula does not make you any less a mom. Unfortunately I lost most of my milk supply due to mastitis and then could just not build it back up. Heading back to work caused it to drop even further to the point where it has been necessary to use strictly formula. You know what…it’s okay! As far as giving your baby nourishment, fed is best and don’t let anyone tell you different whether you are a breastfeeding, pumping, or formula mom!
Love your body: It’s changed…it’s puffy, lumpy, jiggly…and will be for a while! You’re body nourished and grew a human life for nine months. It’s going to take time to get back to the physical shape you were in before baby. Don’t worry about trying to get in shape right away. Your body needs to heal and rest. Sleep when baby sleeps and take it easy (don’t be ashamed of being a couch potato right now!) in a blink of an eye your baby will be a toddler and you’ll long for a moments rest! We are strong, beautiful women who brought a life into this world and we should be proud of those stripes and jiggles we earned carrying our little ones. They are our mom badges of honor!
Find what works for you: THIS! Probably one of the biggest pieces of advice I have for new moms is find what works for you. Every single person will have a different tip/trick, style of parenting and it can get overwhelming to say the least. One person will say to wake your baby every 2-3 hours to eat and another will say let a sleeping baby sleep. You’ll find out what works for you and baby. Don’t feel bad to lovingly accept a piece of advice, but then put it away on a shelf if you don’t believe it is your best option. It can be overwhelming all those tidbits and personal views…just remember it always comes from a place of love and care for you and your little one. So yes, even though I am writing what I think will be helpful from my experience it’s okay if you don’t follow what I’m writing here. Find what works best for your family and stick to it!
Every baby is different: This goes hand and hand with the previous point. Each and every baby is different and that is a wonderful thing! Don’t get discouraged if your best friend tells you that her baby slept through the night the first week. Your baby will get there. Some newborns get more hungry then others and want to eat every two hours while others go 3 hours between feedings. Every baby is a unique individual and once again your mother instincts will kick in and you can follow them and do what is right for you and your little one!
All in all…everything will be all right! If they are fussing and you need to take a moment it’s okay! Set them down in there bouncer or crib, breathe and remember that this is a journey and you are a great mom! Motherhood is going to be one of the most difficult tasks you ever face, but also one of the greatest blessings you’ll ever have the honor to enjoy!