Our little bundle finally arrived! As I am sure you can imagine, especially if you are a mom, the past 6 weeks have mostly been a blur of living in survival mode. This is the first time I have sat down to write anything since a few weeks before he was born. There is a time and a place for removing any tasks in our lives that are not essential for functioning, and having a baby is definitely one of them. The only priority I have had is our son and it has been amazing.
Having a baby forces you to live in the present moment. There is no predicting, scheduling or planning. Ever. Period. Our cute little bundle of joy has actually turned out to be fairly predictable, but in the beginning our lives were just getting through each day. Each hour. Sometimes, each minute. We never knew what tomorrow would bring. Actually, we still don’t! That is the beauty of life. This concept has been the most challenging for me as a mom. I no longer have any control. I have learned to get through the day with some intentions, but zero expectations.
Baby O. and I do our best. Every day. And tomorrow, we try to get better. And each day, our life together gets a bit more ironed out 🙂
What I did learn the past 6 weeks is that no one really tells you what to expect. To be honest, its probably an experience that can’t really be explained, or prepared for. Maybe you just have to be in it to really appreciate what other parents have preached. I don’t know. Maybe people told me these things and I chose not to hear them. Or, worse, I thought, “that’s not going to be me!”.
I promise. It IS going to be you. Maybe not everything. But there will be moments where everything you thought you knew gets turned upside down.
Having a C-Section is a painful and slow recovery.
- Somewhere along the line post-baby I forgot that I had SURGERY and my muscles and tissues had just been destroyed. I have never felt pain like I did those first few days. I couldn’t fully stand up, bawled while I took a shower and could barely move while holding my newborn. It was a whole new level of vulnerable.
- Getting back to normal activity has been a slow process. I was told not to lift anything heavier than our baby and not to walk farther than around the block for 6-weeks. While this restriction was a little hard for me to swallow, it was really good for me. The first few weeks I didn’t feel up for any activity anyway. And then after that, I was able to give myself some grace from working out every day because it was “doctor’s orders”.
- My advice: Listen to your body. Take it easy. Give yourself a break. You just had surgery AND a new baby. Let yourself heal. It will tell you when you’ve pushed yourself too far and you will be better off in the long-term if you take care of yourself now.
Breastfeeding is HARD and complex and also MAGICAL and BEAUTIFUL.
- When week 2 hit, I was about to give up breastfeeding. My husband was gathering the few small containers of formula we got “just in case” to feed our son. I was bawling every time Baby O. latched. I felt like a milk machine. I had mastitis twice with horrible body aches and joint pain for a week resulting in a lot of 4 AM hot showers to take the chill out of my body. All I did was feed Baby O., pump or take care of my newly milk-producing boobs. It felt emotionally draining and I felt a little resentful that I was giving up so much of myself while being 100% vulnerable in front of my family and my husband. It was a stressful time. Plus, I had no idea what I was doing.
- As the weeks have gone by, I have almost weaned off the pump, giving me more freedom.
**Protip: get a pumping bra that allows you to pump both sides at the same time! It’s hands free so I could read, check my to-do list, eat, etc. We also have a better latch and can breastfeed anywhere. Our breastfeeding relationship is beautiful and I am amazed everyday that my body is creating the sole nutrition source that is keeping our baby alive and thriving. It’s MAGICAL.
If you want to breastfeed, find a knowledgeable lactation consultant.
- I mentioned that Baby O. had a bad latch. As it turns out, being breech caused his jaw to be quite tight, not allowing him to open his mouth wide or stick his tongue out completely. As a result, he was chomping my nipples instead of properly sucking. In turn, my nipples got destroyed and I got mastitis twice. It took me 3 lactation consultants (All IBCLC certified) to figure out his latch. The third one was amazing and I would recommend her to anyone—drop a comment if you’re interested. In the midst of bawling with each latch, she helped me latch Baby O. properly and it didn’t hurt at all. #WIN. Latch and mastitis issue solved.
Sleep Deprivation is REAL:
- When people tell you to sleep when baby sleeps, do it whenever possible. I can say, that as a new first-time mom, this was very difficult for me. I constantly wondered if my son was breathing, comfortable, warm enough, cool enough, not gagging on his spit-up, etc. It was a very stressful first week. On top of these new-mom worries, this newborn baby truly wants to be close to you. He was inside of your belly for 9 months. He is now in the outside world. It’s a big and scary place. It makes sense that he wants to be held and snuggled a lot. It’s where he feels safe.
- If you are anything like me and are scared to lay your newborn down to sleep, or he just won’t sleep outside of being held, here is my suggestion: Take shifts. My husband and I took 4-hour shifts overnight, staying awake to hold our son. He brought Baby O. to me when he needed to nurse, and then I dozed off again. When you have the energy and baby cooperates, try having him sleep small time periods in his desired sleeping location. Sleeping on the couch with baby in the bassinet for an hour was quite the norm at our house for awhile. But it got better. Over time, we got more confident and Baby got more comfortable. 7-weeks later, he sleeps the entire night in his bassinet right next to me. (waking to nurse, of course).
Lean on supportive friends and family as much as possible. Use them.
- I was hesitant to let anyone else care for our son the first couple of weeks. My sister was about the only person I trusted. But, with time and confidence I remembered that the people in our lives all have raised children and they have been exactly where we were. And they loved our son. So, when we could, we had family come over for an hour or two to snuggle our son while we napped. Napping is what we needed most.
- Family and friends can start a meal-train and save you the stress and hassle of getting groceries, finding time and energy to cook, etc.
- You can also consider prepping some meals and throwing them in the freezer if you’re pro-active. These meals got us through the couple of weeks after our meal-train ended and we still have some in the freezer for difficult nights.
- If people want to help and you trust them, let them. Ask them to run to the store before coming over. Have them do a chore or two. Ask them to prepare a meal or wash your bottles, pumping parts, etc. Remember, they may not do these tasks perfectly, but that is okay right now.
Every day WILL get easier.
- I remind myself of this all the time. In the first few weeks, my family kept saying this. I never believed them. I was emotional, stressed and worried about the future. But it is true. Every day is truly easier. Every day I feel more confident. Every day I get it together a little more. I’m not saying we don’t have hard days, but with time comes confidence and an improved relationship with your newborn. Navigating the harder days gets easier too.
Being an assertive new mom is hard. But you know what is best for your baby, so stay strong!
- This has been a huge challenge. The thing is, everyone has an opinion. I like to think the majority of the time, other mamas share these opinions because they are trying to be helpful. They want to help you through this stressful time. I am grateful for the support. At the same time, you also know what is best for your baby. Graciously declining to use the advice of other moms is okay. Just because your friend or co-worker or mom did things a certain way doesn’t mean you have to. Maybe you try all of their advice before figuring out what works best. Maybe you ignore it completely. What is most important is figuring out what works for you and your baby. Every baby is different. They are unique little humans with their own ideas and personalities. I think what is most effective is listening to them (really listening) and finding a mutual ground that you can both find success on.
- You don’t have to be mean, but you CAN be assertive. This is YOUR baby and it is YOUR job to protect him or her. Ask guests to wash their hands. Ask them not to kiss your baby. Tell them that your son doesn’t want to be held right now. Take them to another room to nurse if you and your babe need a break. OR nurse in your living room in front of all of your guests if you don’t. Whatever makes YOU comfortable. Too bad for everyone else. You have a newborn. Stay strong, mama!
Make friends with other mamas.
- This was incredibly important for me. Postpartum emotions are a real thing. I spent hours each day sobbing. I didn’t want to nurse in the middle of the night. I didn’t feel like a good mom. I felt resentful that all I did was breastfeed. I felt completely incapable when I had to nurse, pump, heal mastitis, etc. I wondered if I made the right choice to become a mom. I felt hopeless that my life wouldn’t return to what it was. I felt sad that I lost the life my husband and I had before our son arrived. All of these are completely normal reactions. But of course, I also then felt guilty about having any of these thoughts.
- A big part of what got me through this time was talking to other moms. New mamas made me feel like I was never alone. They knew exactly what I was going through and made me feel a little less crazy. The experienced mamas showed me that things truly do get better and being a parent is amazing, even though my life would never go back to what it was before. They also reminded me that I’m a strong, badass mama and I am capable of anything.
When you can, spend a little time and energy taking care of yourself.
- This was difficult the first few weeks when life was all-consumed by our son and we were in survival mode. Even looking back now, I don’t think I could have done anything differently the first two weeks. But when you can, start small and start taking a little time each day for yourself.
- We started with getting outside every morning. We’d wake up and go outside to nurse. Just this little time of sunshine made a huge difference in my emotional well-being. I also ensured a shower every day. It was 5 minutes of solace I had to myself.
- Soon after, I started taking a very short walk in the evening and added stretching to our morning routine. It doesn’t always happen at the same time each day, but it still happens. As Baby O. started napping more regularly, I got to add in writing and evening yoga. I go back to school next week, so things will change again and I will have to revisit our routine. For now, I am enjoying every minute our son is awake and taking some time for myself while he sleeps.
Being a mom is a journey. Albeit, the most challenging and selfless journey I have ever been on. And its been an amazing ride so far.
You got this, mama bear!