Her hair wasn’t washed; makeup hadn’t crossed her face in days. It was noon and she was still in her pajamas. I had come to drop off dinner, as you often do for the ones you love when they have just given birth.
My sister-in-law was sitting on the couch, maybe even sitting on an icepack quelling swollen bits. Dirty burp cloths were strewn about. Spit-up crusted her sleeves. One baby, swaddled, slept peacefully next to her leg while its twin lay sleeping across her chest. She yawned a hello as her bloodshot eyes struggled to fully open. She appeared exactly how a new mother should. I was overcome with jealousy.
With a 10-month old at home it wasn’t like I was far removed from this newborn scene. Not that long ago I had been struggling to stay awake at noon. Honestly, with three children under the age of 5 I am always covered in muck and makeup rarely crosses my face. It wasn’t that she was snuggling newborn babies that I was lusting over.
I was jealous because postpartum life with your first newborn is like no other time. While there is no way to sugarcoat the realities of the first weeks of motherhood in hindsight that time is actually incredibly awesome. A time you will never, ever have again.
No matter if you have twins, if you’re one and done, or if you go on to have ten children, you only get to truly immerse yourself in the first eight-weeks one time in your life. After those first weeks life will change forever. There is nothing like your first experience postpartum and not all of it is bad. Before your first child arrives everyone is quick to tell you how hard life becomes with a newborn. Even though it is an emotional and truthfully draining time those first weeks with your first child are some of the best.
1/ Free Food.
Wait, clarification: free, already prepared food. Friends, family and neighbors really do rally for a new mom. Being on the receiving end of prepared meals is both a Godsend and a necessity. Know when the last time someone cooked a meal for me and all I had to do was sit down and eat it? That would be five years ago after my first child was born. While future children will yield more meals on wheels, free food the first time around is simply the best. Your neighbor may drop off a pot of chili when your second child is born but guess who won’t eat chili? That toddler screaming for dinner. So alas you’re making meals anyway.
2/ Parking it on the couch all.day.long.
Perhaps that was why I was immediately hit with jealousy when I saw my sister-in-law snuggling on the couch with her babies. A few months from now those babies, like mine now, won’t allow for hours of couch snuggles. Besides that, first born children by far get the most snuggle time. Mom can spend hours staring at her newborn, counting little newborn toes. After 8 weeks you and your baby will be ready to see the world, never to see endless hours together on the couch again. Second born babies don’t get nearly as much toe counting time. There’s no time to count toes when big brother is demanding a snack.
3/ Your husband is at your beck and call.
The two of you are lost in your new little bundle and you are learning how to function together for the sake of this new baby. As your bambino sleeps soundly on your chest you can do things like whisper to your husband to bring you a glass of water and the remote control. After all, you don’t want to wake the baby. Two months from now when the baby is asleep in her crib your hubby will be over the “anything you need” routine. Second baby comes along and he is off entertaining the big sister as you shimmy yourself and your sleeping baby off the couch to get your own glass of water.
4/ You have all the time in the world.
Postpartum is such a glorious time to hold your baby and get lost in the world of being a mother. Baby massage, rocking the baby to sleep, singing 99 verses of every nursery rhyme. There are just some things you have time to do the first weeks with your first child that are rarely repeated. A baby delighting in massage will soon be replaced by a wiggle-worm that won’t even allow for a diaper change. Second born children will get a slather of whatever lotion is left on your hands from your own application. Third born children have to apply their own lotion.
5/ Ignorance is bliss.
No matter what anyone tells you, no matter what you read, you are never fully prepared for what a baby does to your life. Until your baby arrives you are free to live in “it will be different for me and my baby” world. Embrace your inexperience because you’ll never get to live in that land again. Before your second child arrives you no longer can live in oblivion. You know the reality that you will soon face and as hard as it was being a first time parent, nothing is scarier than having to do it again but this time with a toddler.
For all you new mamas reading this during a sleepless night I want to be perfectly clear: you may not be able to appreciate this list today. It may feel like nothing on this list matters and you’d gladly give up baby massage for an extra hour of sleep. Just as ignorance is bliss, hindsight is 20/20. Some things can only be appreciated looking back. Don’t feel bad if you’re in it and can’t appreciate it. One day you will.