Dear Brand, Brand new Mama,
Hi. It’s me. Slightly less brand new Mama. As in Baby Dominic is almost a week old already. Before the memories fade, here are some things you should remember about the first week of a Baby. Especially some encouragements in this time that’s full of both Joy and Pain.
1. Baby will cry a lot the first night. You might even cry too, and the night will seem unending. You might say some mean words to your husband, because he just can’t calm the baby. Even though he’s pro with your other kids, this one won’t. stop. crying. It’s ok. Cry if you need to, but just hold that baby. Hold him skin to skin. Fall asleep holding that baby. And feed that baby. Feed him all the time. Those first days in the hospital, he should be sleeping or eating. And so should you. You both just experienced some serious craziness… trauma, even.
2. Breastfeeding hurts. The lactation consultant will say “If he’s latching properly it shouldn’t hurt” and that will be the truth…eventually. This first week, it’s going to hurt. Every. Single. Time. A nurse put it best, “That nipple has to stretch to 3 times it’s normal length, it should hurt!”. They’ll get raw, blister, maybe bleed. Use nipple butter. Lots of it. By day 7 postpartum they’ll have mostly toughened up, it’ll only hurt when he first latches. Then you will be able to enjoy feeding your little one. And you will feel that sleepy, happy, bond-inducing oxytocin.
3. Breast feeding uterine contractions are the worst. Breathe. Cry. Breathe some more, and do your best to relax. They’re good for you. You want that uterus to clamp down, stop bleeding, and that’s gonna hurt. They’ll be gone by day 5.
4. That umbilical stump is gonna stink by day 7. It’s ok as long as it’s not infected, but prepare for a little smelly belly till it falls off.
5. You’re going to bleed for a long time. Probably 4-6 weeks. However, you won’t wear that giant diaper-pad forever. After a couple days at home you can wear normal pads. And that magic squirter bottle thing will be your best friend. Especially if you’ve got stitches again. Seriously. Best friend. Use it. And it’s worth running the water for a second so it can be warm. So worth it.
6. However terrifying as it may sound right now, you will poop again. Take the Colace your doc prescribes, and you’ll be just fine.
7. Love on your husband. Encourage him. Remind him that some day he will be able to comfort baby to sleep. Probably by day 3. He was pretty powerless during this whole delivery process, and that’s hard. Remind him that he’s an amazing support and is a fantastic daddy. He’s going to want to help in other ways, getting ALL THE THINGS done, so persuade him to take a break or two just to lay down with the Little Guy.
8. You’re going to feel a little crazy. You probably won’t sleep for about 48 hours. You’ll be high as a kite on delivery hormones and adrenaline and so overwhelmed by the fact that you guys are now 2 people instead of 1. Seriously, whoa. Then you’ll crash, and really, really need to sleep just in time to go home and try to adjust to being 2 people there. You’ll rally and feel good again, until you don’t. At which time your moods will swing from baby-induced-euphoria to snappy-angry-tearful, and back again. So, snap. Cry. Laugh. Yell. It’s ok. Your loved ones will forgive you.
9. You may feel some disappointment about your delivery. It’ll probably be something little like, you wish you had felt more in control, or delivered in a different position, or said something more profound postpartum than “thank goodness that’s done”. If you deliver unmedicated, you’ll probably think something along the lines of, “I never want to do that again” and “Wow, that was really, really hard, and hurt a lot.” Feel it. Claim those feelings. Write them down, even. You can be happy it’s over. You can be both proud and disappointed. Both those feelings are allowed. And it’s the proud you’ll remember 6 months from now.
10. You’re going to discover new aches and pains every day. During delivery, you flexed every muscle you could and all the muscles you didn’t even know you had (scalp, neck, forehead…). Your butt will go numb from sitting in the hospital bed. Get up, move around. Other weird pains: uterine massage via the nurses, IV site and where they take the tape off, anything you gripped hard during delivery… Then a couple days later, your pelvis and tailbone will start to ache from being moved around. Take the ibuprofen. It’s ok. You’re not weak for needing some pain relief! This will all seem distant a week from now.
11. Take those new baby photos in the first 7 days, when baby sleeps all the time. And don’t worry, that baby acne covering his face will go away soon (day 5ish).
12. You are loved. So loved. Accept the help and food and love from everyone. Soak it in. Soak in it.
13. And last, but not least: nap. Seriously. Nap. It will make you a much more pleasant person. And a better Mama.
Motherhood is very often not flattering. Especially brand spanking new Motherhood. There’s a lot of crying, and body fluids and awkwardness.
Here’s a picture of me immediately postpartum. At first I hated it. Puffy face, mid-exhale is not flattering. But Andy took one look and said, “I love that photo. It’s honest. It’s triumphant. It’s real.”
New Mama, you are real, and honest, and triumphant.
Now go take a nap.