Did you just have your baby? Aren’t you so relieved? The hardest part is over, right? Well, at least that’s what you thought.
But…then you arrive home and are totally terrified to realize that somehow the midwife let you be on your own, just you and your husband, with this new baby. WHAT???!! How? Who decided you were qualified? Are you feeling confused and scared just reading this? I know I am!!!!
If the answer to those questions was yes, then you are not alone. I think most parents, whether quickly or slowly, come to a point, usually at the beginning of their parenting career, where they are utterly shocked at the absurdity of the fact that they were allowed to be left alone with this tiny person, no instruction manual, no help, and very little energy to boot.
Before I scare the sh*t out of you, let me tell you that there IS HOPE! I promise – and NOT the kind of help that comes from googling everything. Let me tell you right now that you will be able to find every possible answer, evidence and disease out there on Google, so please DO NOT rely on Google for your emotional support when you just had your baby.
But here are some tips I DO thing will really help you survive those first days home with your newborn:
Learn beforehand what to expect. The what to expect book is great, but most people just read through the pregnancy and miss out on the postpartum part. Once you have your baby, labor and delivery will be behind you, but you have only just touched the tip of the iceberg in terms of things you’ll need to learn to manage and decide about in your parenting journey. If you are pregnant still, start reading up on some common Newborn 101 Guides to better prepare yourself for what’s to come.
Your baby is NOT as fragile as you may think. Yes, you need to support their neck all the time and not let it go all floppy and hang down, but it’s OKAY to move the baby enough to get into a comfortable position when you’re sitting or lying down in bed next to them. You can push their legs out of the way while changing their diaper and wiping poop off their ass. Its OKAY! And also, I like to recommend holding them under their shoulders while they face you in the space between your thumbs and your other fingers, so you can then support their neck with the tops of your fingers from behind.
Babies cry – a lot – and it sucks. There, I said it. I always hated when my babies cried. It was like a knife in the heart. But you have to keep in mind, that’s the ONLY way they are able to communicate at first. Sometimes they are letting off steam, sometimes they are tired, sometimes they are hungry and sometimes they are dirty or gassy. It’s confusing and loud and annoying and it’s OKAY to be overwhelmed at first. Just know – the first few months postpartum are spent learning your baby’s noises and sounds and by the time your baby is 5-6 months old you will have a much better idea of what those cries and sounds mean.
Sometimes their sounds don’t mean anything. This definitely contradicts what I said above, but it’s true. Not every whimper or sound means something bad is happening, AND, sometimes it’s okay to let them whimper or fuss for a little if it means you can go to the bathroom, or that you can eat your lunch, or maybe you spend a minute observing them to try and understand or figure out what they need.
Babies are capable of very little in the beginning. They get tired FAST, like in 30 minutes they are ready for another nap. And another feed and another poop. I think this is one of the things we are least prepared for when we first give birth because even when we know it’s coming, our bodies are used to sleeping and functioning in larger blocks of time, and getting on baby’s 24 hour schedule feels really awful at first. It doesn’t last forever, but it’s really hard and this is the time to call in the reserves, which leads me to my next point.
Postpartum recovery doesn’t have to last forever, but the immediate time after giving birth is the MOST IMPORTANT TIME TO GET SUPPORT!!! Do not wait until the baby is a few weeks old. Don’t just get a meal train. If friends or family offer to help, have them come over and MAKE you food at your house, and serve it to you. Have them do some vacuuming, clean off your sinks, wash dishes, and empty the trash! Have them come hold the baby in a different room so you can lay down for some uninterrupted sleep (even when baby naps, our sleep sucks because we anticipate being woken up so this can be really helpful to know the baby is completely accounted for without us!)
Know that you are doing great! If your baby is still pooping, fussing and having some awake time by day 7, I’m sure you’re doing a great job! Mom guilt is REAL and basically starts the minute you see that plus sign on your pregnancy test, so start telling yourself as early as possible, that you are the perfect mom for this baby and you are doing exactly what you’re supposed to be doing right now.
Taking care of your baby while recovering from childbirth is hard work and can feel isolating. Let me remind you that ALL new moms feel a strong mix of emotions: remorse, pain, excitement, peace, anger, sadness, guilt, frustration, confusion. All of it is okay and doesn’t make you a bad or weird mom. The most important voice you need to listen to over even the baby’s is YOURS.
Do NOT try to catch up on anything. No laundry, dishes, phone calls, emails, forms, school work for at least 2 weeks and for 6-8 weeks if possible. Your body just went through an enormously traumatic and intense experience. No matter how your birth experience was (and especially if it wasn’t a great one), you need to really lean into the idea that you are ‘infirmed’ and not available right now. This time after your birth is sacred to you and baby and the more we realize this, the more we can then advocate for ourselves to get the help we need and push away any expectations that are being pushed on us from outside (or within).
ASK FOR HELP AND LET YOURSELF RECEIVE THE HELP! AKA – Don’t let yourself comment and micromanage the help. The end 🙂
I’d love to hear if any of these ideas resonated with you. I felt such a strong need to do things my own way with my firstborn but then felt so lost with all the information I was getting from various sources that just ended up feeling overwhelmed and like a failure.
You aren’t alone and feel free to share these ideas with other friends who may be in the same space as you!! I am also happy to answer any more questions or support you as a postpartum doula if you are getting ready to welcome your new baby soon!