Starting life as a new mom is no joke. I listened to so many people say “just wait” while I was pregnant, thinking they were just pessimistic or that I was stronger than that. But there are so many things in this time period that you just can’t control, and as an absolute control FREAK, it broke me down to the point where I didn’t know what to do. Today, I want to open up a little bit about what the last three months have been like for me outside of the perfect Instagram pictures and happy moments, because I think there are so many things us new moms DO NOT talk about that could change the game for so many.
You expect that the birth of your child and subsequent time home together to be the most special time you have for bonding and love. You’re so excited for this moment, but really, it is so overwhelming and can really tear you down as a person. You don’t really sleep much (I literally stayed awake the first 24 hours we were home from the hospital) and if you’re breast feeding, the struggle to get a screaming newborn to latch and understand is mentally exhausting. No matter how she was acting, I felt like I was never a good enough parent because she would get fussy and I wasn’t sure what to do, or I wouldn’t know how much to feed her or what was normal. All of these emotions really add up, and after two months, once the baby fell into a more normal schedule, I could tell those feelings were still hanging around and I felt lost. I didn’t feel like I could give my all to everyone like I used to, let alone give an ounce of attention to myself. The baby blues are TOTALLY normal, but if they go beyond you’re six or eight week check-up, make sure to talk to your doctor. Eventually, my doctor reassured me when I told her I thought I was losing my mind, and after some frank discussions, we came to the conclusion that I was battling postpartum anxiety. She gave me some great resources of people I could talk to and medical options to just help me get through this transition in my life. Talking to your specialists is one of the most important things you can do, whether you think it’s hormonal, emotional, or just you being crazy, because you’re not the first woman to go through this, and you won’t be the last.
This phrase runs through my head every day. When days are tough or something feels like it’s going wrong, this too will pass and all will be right. You just have to have patience and grace with yourself because each day won’t be perfect, and each week will be different, but soak in the good and survive the bad. Each action is a learning opportunity for you and baby, so take the time to really understand why something is happening and what you can do. When our daughter as just crying and crying some days, I couldn’t truly understand what was wrong. Eventually, with the insight from my mom and our pediatrician, her bottles and lack of burping were causing some excess gas to build up and she really just needed to toot more! Once we found bottles specifically designed to fight gas and burped her more often during feedings, we’ve seen a massive improvement in her fussiness and gas build up. You have to remember that knowing who your baby is doesn’t come instantly. It takes time to learn their preferences, bodily functions and routine. We’re officially three months in and it’s constantly changing, but now we know a little bit more about her to confidently say to whoever is babysitting her how often she naps, when she feeds, what she likes to do, etc.
I hate when people say “sleep when the baby sleeps” because that can be so unpredictable, and as a parent sitting at home, all you can look at and think about it the dirty dishes piling up, the laundry that needs folding, and the carpet that hasn’t been vacuumed in weeks. It’s OK to be productive when the baby doesn’t need your attention, like when they’re sleeping, but I had to learn to put myself first, because there’s nothing that urgent to take away from me looking after myself. I always tried to squeeze one nap in during the day or even just lay down when the baby was waking up multiple times per night. By week 7, the baby only woke up once per night, and was sleeping through the night by week 9, so I no longer needed to squeeze in a nap, but as the primary night time caretaker and the need to pump once during the night, it’s easy to lose track of how much sleep you do get and run yourself down.
When I was pregnant, I was so confident I was going to breastfeed for bonding and convenience (um, hello free food!), but not everyone is cut out for it. Our first week home, I didn’t produce enough milk to keep up with the baby’s demand, so supplementing with formula was our only option. Once my milk came in, the baby’s ‘hangry’ instinct kicked in and getting a screaming baby to latch at 3 a.m. was just an absolute nightmare for me physically and emotionally. It broke me down to tears several times. After a few days trying, I finally gave up, feeling like a failure after nurses worked so hard with me in the hospital to teach me how to get it right, so I just started pumping exclusively, keeping what felt like a secret from my doctors because they encouraged breastfeeding so much. Finally, when I told our pediatrician she was breastfeeding but from a bottle, she ensured me that it’s actually OK because breast milk is still breast milk no matter how they got it! As an exclusive pumper herself with her kids, she understands that it’s a convenient method for the working mom, and allows you to understand exactly how much your baby is taking in versus direct-to-breast. In addition, your significant other can have that special feeding and bonding time with them too. Even if your intentions are the breast feed, flexibility is key because life changes, babies are all different, and you have no idea what you may be going through during the learning curve of parenthood.