When I was pregnant and had a new baby I loved, loved, loved reading birth and new motherhood stories from other people. It made me feel less scared and lonely to know another woman was going through the same stuff. So when I got this funny, reassuring guest post from Melissa I knew some of you would really appreciate it – it’s like free therapy!
“My name is Melissa and I just had a baby.”
The first step in any recovery is admission, right?
They say that becoming a mom is having your heart live outside of your body and I couldn’t agree more. You didn’t know that you could love something so much, so fast. My son Amory came into the world on the first gray day of a week long heatwave in San Francisco and changed my and my husband’s life forever. But those beautiful sentiments aside, mommy-hood is effing crazy. The first week of Amory’s life I went through a roller-coaster of emotions: joy, fear, sadness, and surprise- as in “SURPRISE! You now have to take care of this person!” Wait- what? Somehow this was the one thing I was completely unprepared for.
I quickly realized that all the advice I had been given ended at delivery.
Well that ends now. Ladies- this is EVERYTHING I learned in the first three months, so if you’re pregnant, thinking about getting pregnant, or just love reading about sleep training and poopy diapers, grab your drink of choice and pull up a chair. Things are about to get real intimate.
Let’s back up a tiny bit. LABOR.
If we’re going to talk new baby, we sort of have to cover how that new baby comes into the world. Labor is scary because no matter how much you read about it, or take classes, or talk to your mom friends, there is no way to prepare for it. Being someone who is super type A, who read all the books, downloaded all the apps, and took all the classes, I was still bowled over by the crazy surreal-ness of it all. But let me say this- it’s not as bad as you think. And they give you a baby at the end, so it’s obviously worth it. My specific labor story is pretty text book and my OBGYN told me if I were to tell other first time moms how quick things went they would probably smack me in the face, so I’m not going to do that. So just know this:
- I did get an epidural, which was life changing. Afterwards you just want to make out with your anesthesiologist and praise the good lord for modern medicine. (Sidenote: I recruit Anesthesiologists as part of my 9–5 job and somehow that came up while she was shoving a giant needle in my spine. After I had my son she came in the room to take out the catheter and say congrats and LITERALLY asked me if I had my business card on me. Ummm, you know, funny thing, I don’t…).
- I went to the hospital at 5.5 cm dilated and probably didn’t get the epidural until I was about 7 cm, so I did get to experience what is- crazy/weird/uncomfortable/pain, but I had been so conditioned to expect the absolute worst that it went better than I expected. I didn’t freak out, or break my husband’s hand, or start shouting obscenities at the nursing staff. It was painful, but doable. Pushing is one of the hardest workouts I’ve ever done and I’ve run three half marathons in my life, but again, not that bad. If you asked me if I wanted to do law school finals again or go into labor, I might pick labor. (Another sidenote: if you decide to have a c-section or get an epidural or narcotics or have a Doula or just do it au naturale at home in the tub, do what’s best for you and don’t let people be judgey about your decision. There is no right way to have a baby and no one lines up kids on the first day of school and asks them, “Did your mom have drugs or did she tough it out and have you naturally?” Do what’s best for you!).
You officially have a baby, now what?
In terms of your hospital stay (assuming you had the babe in the hospital and not at home or in the back of your Subaru), it’s kind of the worst, so just know that going in. You’re there only two days (four if you have a c-section), but it FEELS like a week. If you had said to me that I had been living in that hospital room for two days or two months, I would have believed either. TMI, but I wore that gown they put on me for the entire two days I was there and didn’t shower until I was discharged. Not to mention the thought of putting on clothes seemed impossible. Pants? I’m never wearing those again. It made me think, wow, I’m soooo glad I packed my hospital bag with clothes and toiletries because I’m pretty sure the only thing I took out of there in the first 24 hours was my iPhone charger. Those women who look amazingly beautiful holding their newborn with brushed hair and their Pretty Plum Sugar robes, who are they!? I am in awe of them, but that was definitely NOT me.
I remember my mother-in-law feeling bad that she had come to visit in those first 48 hours. She said to me, “We should be leaving you alone and letting you sleep.” Sleep?! Ha! There is NO rest that first 48 hours. Every three hours someone is coming into your room: the OBGYN to check your bleeding and make sure your uterus is contracting, the pediatrician to check your baby for jaundice, the nurses to check your blood pressure and the baby’s temperature, to ask you if you want Motrin (dumb question) and pushing stool softener on you (don’t worry lady, this will not be a problem for me), someone to do the newborn screening and hearing test, the lactation consultant to make sure you’re breast feeding well, the hospital cleaning staff to empty your trash, the person to get your newborn a birth certificate and SSN, the people delivering your food- it’s CRAZY. It’s around the clock how many people come in and out of your room. I’ve never felt so popular in my life.
Another good thing to know – take home EVERYTHING that you can from the hospital and don’t be shy asking for more. Diapers, wipes, blankets, bulb syringe, peri bottle (you’ll use this to pee for the first few weeks since you can’t wipe), witch hazel wipes, pads, mesh underwear (the pads you have to wear postpartum are GIGANTIC so normal underwear isn’t going to fit. The mesh underwear is awesome, feels amazing, disposable, and they give you a pack of 20 so I just wore those every day for two weeks, including on my 30th birthday. Nothing makes you feel more like a grown up then wearing underwear you can throw away at the end of the day, right?), etc.
Leaving the Hospital.
Then you’re ready to leave, and for me, I had wanted to accomplish two main things: take a shower and go to the bathroom. My biggest fears around labor were bathroom related (why?) so this was a huge accomplishment for me. Then you have to get your baby dressed and put him or her in the carseat. The newborn clothes you brought will be GIGANTIC and your baby will look SO SMALL, but don’t worry, babies do eventually grow into them (and out of them! tears!). Then you load your baby into the backseat of the car and you sidle up next to him or her and think:
OMG how will I ever sit in the front seat again?! You will. You’ll enter your house and be panicking, “They let me go home with this baby?! I don’t know what I’m doing!” You will. You’ll put your baby to bed that night and think – “OMG every night I’m going to watch him or her sleep to make sure he or she is breathing, will I ever sleep again?!” You will.
Trust me, it gets easier.
The First 7 Days.
In terms of life with baby, the first week is a crazy, emotional, roller-coaster. Once the placenta comes out (which has all the oxytocin and everything making you feel happy and excited) you are WEEPY. I never cry and I cried every day that first week. Multiple times a day. Multiple times an hour. You’re so happy to have this baby, but you’re exhausted and scared and sad for your old life and just feeling all the feels. I would just look at my husband and start crying. For literally no reason at all. Remember that sleep deprivation is a form of torture so on top of being an emotional wreck you’ll also be living in a weird, sleepless, fog so PLEASE be OK asking for help! If there is ever a time to be needy, it’s that first week. Recruit your mom, your mother in law, your best friend, your favorite barista, whoever – but do it! Also know it’s just a week and then it gets easier. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still hard after that, but it does get easier.
That first week is also rough because it is chock-full of appointments. I mean I get it. You have no idea what you’re doing so the pediatrician wants to see you every few days to make sure you’re keeping your baby alive. Babies lose anywhere from 2–10% of their birth weight right after delivery so your doctor wants to make sure that the baby is gaining that weight back by, you guessed it, breastfeeding. And surprise surprise, breastfeeding is something you have zero experience in, so you’ll probably also meet with a lactation consultant (I had three appointments with two different consultants). For better or for worse there is so much pressure around breastfeeding and I felt pretty stressed that week (as if I needed ANOTHER thing to be worried about). I don’t want to have La Leche League showing up at my doorstep with pitchforks and torches, but if I could offer any advice around this it would be to please not stress. I know so many amazing moms that couldn’t breastfeed or choose not to breastfeed and their babies are just fine. I wasn’t breastfed and look at me: I went to college, I planned a wedding in San Francisco for less than $20K, I always make sure my son wears a hat outside, and I know how to use an oxford comma. Obviously amazing (and humble).
Things I needed right away that I wish I knew about:
- Nursing pads. It was one of the first things I had my mom go out and buy for me when I got home from the hospital because your nipples are just leaking all over the place
- Menstrual pads. Apparently everything that COULD be leaking out of you IS. The hospital will give you a ton, but make sure to have some smaller/lighter pads on hand too if you don’t heavily bleed.
- Swaddling is impossible and babies are mini-Houdini’s, get these.
- Hopefully your baby will want to sleep on a mattress right away, but most don’t, so the Rock and Play was a godsend. We borrowed one from friends.
- And the solly wrap (you’ll want some sort of carrier, especially when your baby decides it ONLY will sleep when it’s on you, and at one point you’ll want to use your hands again or go to the bathroom or shove a cookie in your mouth).
One to Three Months.
YOU ARE OUT OF THE NEWBORN STAGE- halle-fucking-lujah. Or at least that’s how I felt. Newborn babies (in my opinion) are so tough. They are really tiny, super needy, and everything is constant. As a new mom you just feel so overwhelmed with trying to do everything right: Is he eating enough? Is he sleeping well? Is he breathing? Should we be giving him a bath every day? Is it OK that he has hiccups non-stop? Is he breathing? Should you put that blanket so close to his face? IS HE BREATHING?! Just constant worry and doubting yourself.
You go from being someone who can present to a room of eight men and a CEO to feeling like a complete and utter failure because you can’t get a damn onesie on your child without breaking a sweat.
But then at six weeks THEY SMILE. And life gets better.
What is awesome at this age? I mean come on, obviously the smiling. I easily have 1200 photos on my phone and most of them are just of Amory smiling. I never thought I’d become that mom that has HUNDREDS of photos of her baby, but I totally am. All baby pics with some Instagram-ready fancy lattes thrown in for good measure. That’s the life of a new mom, right? Cute baby pics and ALL of the coffee. What else is awesome? Just the overall level of engagement. They can just do a TON more. Grabbing for things, holding things, looking at you, looking at the world around them. It’s adorable.
What is awesome for parents? More consistent sleep for longer stretches. It’s a game changer. For those parents whose babies get up every hour and a half, God help them. He had a few days like that and I became a ragey, zombie, murderer straight out of the Walking Dead. And it was only a few days. Not sleeping is the worst. (Speaking of murder- you also start thinking…what would I do to get a few more hours of sleep? Anything…..). I’m totally kidding….
The challenging things at this age: Figuring out a feeding schedule and a sleeping schedule. These are two crucial things to making your life better. There are so many thoughts and methods around this: Ferber, Attachment, Cry-it-out, Hug-it-out, Dance-it-out, have your dog sleep train your baby, etc. OK, some of those aren’t real, but you get the point. There are a LOT! What they don’t tell you about sleep training is that it’s so much harder on YOU than it is the baby. I’ll update you all on when our son sleeps through the night (15 years from now).
Things I do that I never imagined doing:
- Going out in public in pajamas, with spit-up in my hair, with spit-up in my bra, with spit-up on my sweatshirt. YOLO.
- Changing a diaper on the floor of the dressing room.
- Pumping in the Nordstrom family lounge.
- Tip toeing around my own house.
- Keeping a log of poop- what color, how much, and how many per day.
- Wanting to go to bed at 8:00 pm.
- Becoming IRATE at every firetruck/police car/car alarm. WHY?!
- Singing “The Wheels on the Bus” and “Old McDonald” errrrryday.
- Wondering what other animals I can put on that damn farm. They have lions on farms, right? What sound does a koala make?
- Spending money. OK this sounds weird, but I am super frugal and I hate spending money- on anything. But time is now my most precious commodity, not money. Hiring a house cleaner? Yep. Ordering Munchery because I’m starving and can’t put Amory down long enough to eat? Yep. Spending $80 on a Justin Bieber dance class because I. NEED. A. BREAK. Yep, yep.
- Getting really frustrated with anyone who doesn’t have a baby. This I need to halt in its tracks because it’s turning me into…how do I say this nicely? A bitch. I see people rolling into work at 9:00 am and in my head (hopefully just in my head) I’m shouting: “I’ve been up since 5:30 am and have had a WHOLE ENTIRE DAY before I even came to work. I even showered!! I’m wearing Dry Clean Only clothes for Christ’s sake!” I get annoyed with people who cut me off while driving – don’t they know I’m trying to get my kid to his nanny share on time? People who are passively-aggressively annoyed that I’m late to things: “But I was leaving my house at the time I was supposed to, but then Amory spit up all over himself, in the car seat, which normally I’d leave, but it’s now the third time he’s done it so then I had to change him, then strap him back in, and then he effing did it again…it’s not my fault.”
Other stats from 0–3 months:
- How many times I’ve worked out? Twice. Need. To find. The time.
- Number of times I’ve worn the same shirt/pair of pants/underwear because really what’s the point? More than I care to admit.
- How many times a day I think about sleeping? A bajillion.
- How many times I’ve had sex? Hahahahahaha.
Things I worry about/feel like I’m failing at:
- Is the temperature in his room OK?
- How long is my hair going to fall out for?
- Am I using my breast pump correctly?
- Is this the right flow nipple for the bottle?
- How will I ever do my job again?
- He’s not doing enough tummy time so he’s never going to crawl so he’s going to have a flat head so something must be wrong with him…
- How long am I going to keep breast feeding for?
- Why hasn’t he pooped?
- Why doesn’t he sleep through the night?
- Are my husband and I doing OK?
Things I want a freaking Gold Medal for:
- Still attending all of my social/personal engagements: Book club, Lean In meetings, birthday parties, holiday parties, friend dates, etc.
- Sending out Christmas cards, before Christmas, with a cute photo of us (see left).
- Surviving the holidays with a newborn (whoever said, “It will be so fun to have your maternity leave over the holidays!” has not actually had a newborn over the holidays).
- Taking a newborn on a plane.
- Taking a newborn on a 6+ hour car trip each way.
- Getting out of the house every morning.
- Brushing my hair.
Phew! I think that’s everything! Nervous? Don’t be! You’re going to be fine! I didn’t know any of these things and according to my pediatrician and the cashier at Target, Amory is doing awesome. I mean, yes, it would have been nice to have had a heads up on the hospital stay, to stock up on nursing pads, and get the correct swaddle. I probably would have fared a bit better in the beginning and been a little less nervous. But if I’ve learned anything the only thing I “needed” was to love this baby unconditionally and I’ve got that in spades.
I’m not going to lie to you, there have been some TOUGH days. Days when he cried non-stop. Days where he spit up on beautifully dressed strangers. Days when I had a 24 hour stomach virus and spent the whole day in the bathroom, but still had to nurse him because NEWS FLASH! Mom’s don’t get sick days. But then some days he’ll cuddle you or smile or start giggling (!) and you’re like holy moly how did I make this adorable tiny human?! Women are truly amazing.
So ladies, if I’ve learned anything it’s this: you’re going to do just fine.