WOW! I think I am finally coming up for air as my baby is now almost 9 months old. I look back at the last months and truly laugh thinking how unprepared I truly was for the biggest change in our life. I thought I had it together: took the hospital classes, read all the books, the room was ready but when we walked into the house with our baby boy, all bets were off. We had no idea what the hell we were doing! Max did not cry once in those first 2 days in the hospital and as we were wheeling out of the hospital room, all hell broke loose. Max was hysterical and I think could sense our collective fear of coming home. My husband tried to bribe a nurse to come with us but it didn’t work. HA! The newborn phase here we come!
Newborn Phase (0-3 months):
I’m going to skip over the mastitis and heavy bleeding that I experienced the first week of being at home as I’m trying to forget it. But if you’ve experienced either, I feel your pain! You can read my birth story if you want to learn more about my actual delivery.
There were so many highs and lows during those precious newborn days, weeks and months. The baby is solely dependent on you to survive especially if you are exclusively breastfeeding. The days and nights are upside down but you also have this adrenaline that keeps you functioning (at least for the short term). Max was attached to my breast the majority of the time, especially in those first few days as he was cluster feeding and my milk supply was coming in. We had issues with him latching and he would get extremely frustrated. We were lucky to work with an amazing lactation consultant who came over MANY times in those first few months to help us. If you want to read more of my interview with my lactation consultant, Leah, click here.
Max had colic which was awful and exhausting for all three of us. We didn’t know how to help him and it seemed to be all stomach related. He had horrible gas pains and we were living off of gripe water and Mylicon. We saw his pediatrician a number of times and found he was sensitive to eggs and soy which meant even more dietary restrictions for me. At the end of the day, he told us what we didn’t want to hear: “we may not figure out exactly what is bothering him but he will feel better eventually.” This is what happened with Max. He grew out of his stomach discomfort and shortly thereafter became a happy baby. As new parents, it was upsetting to feel helpless but we did whatever we could to help him feel more comfortable. I would love to hear if other parents face similar challenges and share what worked and didn’t for them.
Let’s talk all things maternity leave. Let me paint the picture: I gave birth to Max on June 3rd in Houston, Texas which meant HEAT and HUMIDITY all summer long. I managed to go on a few walks with Max but it was too hot to be outside for more than a few minutes without wanting to jump straight into the shower. Plus, let’s be honest finding the time to take a shower was hard enough. My emotional well being is typically dependent on some sort of body movement and not being able to go on walks as I had hoped was tough for me. I also wasn’t comfortable getting out of the house with Max as he would scream bloody murder in the car. Even though I didn’t leave the house much during those three months, I was never bored. I want to meet a mom who says she was bored during maternity leave and ask her for tips on becoming bored. LOL But seriously, there was zero downtime and if there was, I was maybe trying to take a nap. I had this preconceived notion that I would be strolling through the mall with my baby asleep in the stroller during my maternity leave. YA right! I was leaving the house for mandatory pediatrician appointments with him and that was pretty much it.
If you live anywhere else besides the United States, you probably have a much better maternity policy than we currently have. Mine was fine and I was able to take 3 months off which I am grateful for but I still wasn’t ready to come back. Coming back to reality where you are expected to pick up where you left off was almost comedic. I had changed more so in those 3 months than I ever have in my entire life. My priorities had shifted overnight and work no longer seemed as stressful.
Even though those first few months were extremely challenging there was something special about having my baby fall asleep on me throughout the day. There was a real bond that formed during that time, especially when it was just the two of us when my husband was at work.
It is crazy how quickly Max transformed from this newborn phase to a full-fledged baby! His personality started coming through more and he wasn’t just sleeping, eating or crying. I also think the shock of having a baby was starting to wear off and we were all getting more comfortable with each other. Having the interaction become two-sided was a game-changer for us.
I really wanted to make sure I touched on this point while discussing the first six months. I was hyper-aware of the possibility of postpartum anxiety and depression as I deal with my own anxiety and panic. I had early conversations with my husband to be on the lookout for signs from the very beginning. I thought I got past it once I got through the fourth trimester but it actually hit me later on. Once I went back to work and had the added pressure of figuring out how to work, pump, be a mom, wife, coworker, etc, it just hit me. It felt like overwhelming and anxiety inducing and I was more sensitive and emotional than I had been. I also wasn’t sleeping more than a few hours (if that) at a time which didn’t help. I went back to therapy, exercise, and really just being open and honest with what I was going through. It slowly got easier but really what helped was SLEEP! Not sleeping months at a time can really affect your mental health. Thank goodness my husband reached out to the Baby Sleep Maven and was able to get us some much-needed help (and sleep)!
What did I learn?
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Help comes in all forms: using the services of a lactation consultant, night nurse, nanny, postpartum doula, family, friends, house cleaning, whatever it is. Just ASK! People want to help but sometimes they don’t always know how to. Put them to work!
- Find a pediatrician that you love and takes the time to address your concerns. As new parents, we have no idea what we are doing and feeling comfortable with your doctor is so important.
- It’s all about that swaddle game when it comes to sleep. We found after trying MANY different brands that these swaddles worked wonders for Max.
- “Nap when your baby naps” is great advice but it’s hard to actually do. The fear of closing your eyes and your baby suddenly screaming is enough to keep your eyes open. Anyone else there with me?! Instead, try to lay down and breathe. For me, that was unwinding with an episode on Bravo or Netflix.
- Guess what? Your baby has no idea that you don’t know what you’re doing. Fake it until you make it!
I would love to hear from you on what helped you survive that first year!