I am going to start off by saying I LOVE being a mom. It is such a magical thing, however there are many changes that are instantly brought to your life. Everyone talks about that instant connection, and how much they love every part and I am here to be transparent with you because I felt like there is so much no one tells you until you are in the thick of it. I am sharing my personal thoughts, and the biggest thing to remember is if you are feeling overwhelmed or stressed, it is only a phase and it will pass.
Labor & Hospital
I had an honestly wonderful experience. Everything went super smoothly and the nurses and staff at Hoag are amazing. My contractions had started at 5 am Sunday morning. I waited until they were pretty strong to go in because my Dr. said to wait as long as possible (I was zero cm dilated at the last appointment). When we went in we realized my water had broken and we just waited it out in the beautiful hospital room. I don’t know if you’re familiar with that hospital but it overlooks the ocean so you could say the whole experience was very relaxing. I got an epidural when the pain got to a point where it was making me feel faint. This is a part I was honestly really worried about, and it was honestly nothing. The biggest thing is to make sure once you get it, you get rotated frequently to make sure it’s going in both sides of your body. I highly recommend it because once I got mine, I was so calm to the point where I took a nap until it was legitimately time. The labor experience was pretty quick, and super emotional, especially at the end. Once they put that baby on your chest it’s like a weird feeling of all the effort and time waiting was so worth it. I think I was especially emotional because I wished more than anything that my mom could have been there. My labor went pretty quick because by 7 pm girlfriend was here and the journey of motherhood had begun.
I highly recommend as much skin to skin as possible. After every time I breastfed, gf hung out on my chest. This I think was huge to how healthy she was and even had zero jaundice. I think it also really helps you connect. There are all these stats on how it helps calm, regulate temperature, heart rate and reduce infant crying. My husband and I had a system, because I was so sore he would grab her for me, I’d feed her and then he would swaddle her and we would nap for as long as possible. The nurses are amazing and do not feel like any of your questions are dumb they helped with EVERYTHING. Shout out to our nurse Ashely because she taught us everything we didn’t even know we needed to know. At first I thought I knew how to do everything and would get frustrated when the baby didn’t latch or was hungry 20 minutes later. I gave in and asked the nurse for help and it was a huge reason for all the success we had later on. Let them do their thing, do not be embarrassed.
I also want to say no matter how much it hurts, move around as much as you can. Every time I got up to go to the bathroom, I made a huge effort to walk around the room, pick up Lyla, grab water on my own. It helped so much because by about 5 days I was feeling lIke myself again. I will warn you. The first time you go to the bathroom with the nurse you think you’re dying. My nurse warned me, but no warning in the world would prepare me for how much blood you see. By the time you go home the second day, it's almost like having a period, so super minor. I recommend the Frida Mom boy short disposable underwear, witch hazel wipes, a strong pad and the numbing spray the hospital gives you. The hospital gives you everything you need, but I ended up having to buy a little more.
lastly, be in for a rude awakening when you get home. The babies tend to be more sleepy at the hospital because they went through a lot, as did you! When you get home that third day they are awake and ready to go! Also, you might want someone to watch your dog the first two nights because Ralph was a nightmare. When she cried, he cried and would try to lick her. He would paw at the bassinet and be so concerned. It was super sweet, but not what was needed when you’re trying to calm a baby. That first night felt like we had twins, no lie.
with that being said, there is no better feeling than holding that sweet baby, or having them fall asleep on you. I was lucky and felt that instant connection but don’t be sad if you feel like you don’t, it’s normal because they are a stranger and you have no idea who they are yet! It is also completely okay to feel overwhelmed. It’s so much new. Take things one day at a time and you’ll soon be a natural.
Breastfeeding Now we get to the not so pleasant part in my opinion. I am going to start out by saying don’t set high expectations for yourself. If you are stressed it’s not worth it and all that matters is that the baby is getting fed. If you have to switch to formula don’t feel like a failure. it’s sad but we need to normalize formula. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen “we use formula because...” you don’t need a reason and it should be no ones business. You are an incredible mom who is looking out for their own well-being and their baby. With that being said, I decided to stick it out, but let me tell you, it’s a journey.
The first four days or so you produce what is called colostrum. This is a thicker, maple-like substance that is full of nutrients for the baby. The hard part? It comes out super slow and a few things happen. 1. Baby gets fussy because they are hungry and it’s not coming out fast enough for them. 2. Baby cluster feeds because of that same issue (so think constant feeding). 3. Baby’s tummies are super small in the beginning and can only eat so much so again they are hungry super quickly. 4. Latch is key. Literally have a nurse help you with this because it makes or breaks your sanity. 5. It is OKAY if you sit there and have to breastfeed for 45-60 mins. I had it in my head that 30 was the max number. It is when milk is flowing and things are great, but in the beginning, it is slow going, and try your hardest to give you and the baby grace. You are both learning and the baby will get better over time! Bring nipple butter with you to the hospital. My best advice is to stay ahead of the pain. Keep it moisturized, because there were times I would cry when feeding because it hurt so bad. (just the initial latch). Warm showers, disposable breast pads, and all the nipple butter. The painful period for me only lasted about three days. Once I got through that, and the milk was flowing it got much better. If breastfeeding is something you are strong footed on like me, just know you will make it to the other side and it really does become a wonderful bonding experience with your little one.
I also want to note that there are days/weeks that are wonderful, and there are days/weeks that are not. Randomly Lyla would throw a fit and not want to breastfeed and don't take it personally. I would feel so hurt like again I was doing something wrong. It ended up being that I drank too many La Corix and I am pretty sure was making her gassy. As soon as I stopped we were back to normal. Carbonated beverages, dairy, and certain vegetables can do this, so just use them in moderation. Babies can also undergo what is called breastfeeding strikes so again, don't take it personally (easier said than done).
I started pumping at four weeks and my husband gave her her first bottle. I recommend if you want to continue breastfeeding, have someone else give the first bottle and don’t even be in the same room so they don’t associate your smell with the bottle. Also, it’s a great experience for your husband. What we did is my husband would give the bottle at the early AM feeding so I could sleep in a little and then pump. Milk production is the best in the early AM so I could literally get 10 oz and really get a stockpile going.
Also, don't be afraid about the amount of spit up your little babe might do in the first few weeks of life. I legit thought something was wrong the first time she did it. Literally, her whole meal would come out and you feel so defeated. Just as long as they aren't spitting up like that with every meal, your baby is fine. What happens sometimes is there is a gas bubble and when it finally comes up all the food comes with it. That and babies don't have full control of that piece in their throat so it's super fun. My advice to you is to make sure you have plenty of crib sheets, swaddles, and burp cloths.
Late night feeds: find something you enjoy. I loved popping in an earbud and listening to a podcast.
For pumping advice follow Karrie Locher. She is the guru on Instagram and everything I learned, I learned from her.
Okay, here is yet another area that really shocked me. I was ready for the limited sleep but this is something that really drives a person crazy. Babies need to eat every 2-3 hours even at night until you get the okay from your pediatrician. Typically this will be at your two week check-up and has to do with when your baby gets back to their birth weight ( because babies lose a percentage in the hospital because they aren’t being pumped constantly with those nutrients while in your tummy). I STRONGLY recommend sleep when you can. Don’t stress about your house being a mess. Sleep. I freaked out that our house was a disaster and would clean when she napped. Huge no no because I paid the price later and eventually hit a wall. (And that wall looked like a huge crying mess). Sleep deprivation is a real thing and does crazy things to you. My husband and I started taking shifts and eventually, the non-sleep period will pass. I will say this: do what works for you and do not compare your baby to anyone else. I got in a huge pit because ”so and so’s baby was sleeping 8 hours by now.” It’s okay to ask friends for advice but don’t go down that path. Every baby is so different and needs different things.
Lyla was not a sleeper and would give us 3-4 hour periods. I finally got a better swaddle and that changed a lot for us. I bought every swaddle under the sun and the Ollie was the way to go because it can stay tight and is Velcro. I read moms on call which is a great book because it has everything from bathing a baby to skin conditions and has sample sleep schedules. In my opinion, babies really fall into a schedule when you get to about 8 weeks. I had very high expectations and would get upset when she didn’t meet them. 8 weeks is when I saw a turn and she really started doing those long stretches. Our baby loves movement so the SNOO and swing were game-changers. I think that’s the hardest part, in the beginning, is learning your baby and figuring out what they like.
what helped me:
+ Moms on Call book
+ Taking Cara Babies Newborn Class
+ Renting the SNOO
+ Ollie Swaddle
+ Baby Swing
Like I said, she loved movement and I will pay anything in order for the gift of sleep so in my opinion, the SNOO was well worth it.
No one, and I mean no one really prepares you for postpartum depression. It’s a real thing and do not have the expectation that it won’t happen to you. I have a very positive and happy vibe and those two weeks post-baby were a roller coaster of emotions. You have to remember, your body’s spent 40 weeks pumping your body with hormones, and then it all comes crashing down in just a few weeks. This sounds so weird but you constantly feel like you’re doing everything wrong. Baby wasn’t sleeping, baby was always hungry, baby wasn’t pooping and I automatically thought I did something wrong. I found myself getting so stressed when the baby wouldn’t sleep when I wanted, or wouldn't stop crying. I am so so lucky that I have such an amazing partner because he constantly was calming me down, taking the baby, having me go for a walk on my own, and just rocking Lyla so I could get a few more zzzs. I personally think it was extra hard on me because every time I struggled with something, I just kept thinking I know my mom would be an amazing person to ask. I personally felt like I didn’t have that person to talk to in order to give those little tips, not be judged, and just complain to without needing an answer.
What helped me was going for walks and just doing things that gave me joy pre-baby. Doodling on my iPad, making TPT products and listening to podcasts. After talking to so many moms now, it seems like 6 weeks seems to be the time period when you “come out of the fog” so to speak. You start feeling like yourself again, and feel much more confident in taking care of your little one.
One thing that bothers me is how everyone always tries to pretend like it’s all sunshine and rainbows. This paints a false narrative because it is not and it doesn’t mean you don’t love your baby any less. In my opinion, the newborn stage really stinks and isn’t my favorite. Does that make me a bad mom? No, I just think the stage we are in now is so enjoyable because she smiles, laughs, and her wake times are a fun time. It is okay to not love every moment. It is okay to ask for help. Looking back the moments I was the most stressed was when I was trying to do everything. You feel embarrassed and incompetent and not a good mom which is horrible. know that in your moments of unpleasant times, it will only last for so long. When you’re waking up every couple of hours, remember there will be a time when you don’t get to cuddle that little squish anymore (because they don’t want to). They grow sooooo quickly so try to find the positive in the moments you find irritating, and it does help.
I want to make it clear that it is also okay to miss your life pre baby. The independence, date nights, group hangs, changing plans on a whim, pre baby body, and not being tied down to the clock. Those are normal feelings and know that you can think about those times, but also get excited for your little family especially as they get older. Sounds weird, but there will be a time when you miss those baby snuggles or even late night feeds.
One of the biggest things I struggled with was the fact that my life changed dramatically and my husband's was the same. Let me explain. In the very beginning, everything really relies on you, unless you start off with a bottle. You are the one with the food, so you are the one waking up every couple of hours. Even once things get better, your life is still changed. For example, if my husband watches her so I can grab lunch with my girlfriends, I have to make sure I am there no longer than three hours otherwise I have to either pump at some point or sit there in pain. You have to still be careful with how much coffee you drink, and have to perfectly time things out if you actually want to have a glass of wine. I am not complaining by any means, because I love Lyla so so much, but it was a feeling I wasn't ready for. I was actually jealous of my husband and the fact he could still do whatever he wanted. So if you are feeling that, girl you are not alone. It obviously passes, so it is not forever, but in the beginning that green monster of jealousy was real, especially when he got to leave the house and go to work and I was living each day like it was Groundhog's Day.
Lastly, find a mom group because that made me feel a million times better. I know this time is weird, but I joined a Facebook group of mamas and it’s refreshing to ask for advice, help others, and just know you’re not alone. I joined one of my favorite bloggers Everyday Pursuits Mom page and it is amazing. You can look for local ones or join the same one! Just keep going until you find one that has a vibe you need.
All in all, this was really a post to share my experience, how I thought every part was like, and shed light on the areas no one likes to discuss. It is okay to feel all the things listed above and it is, in fact, the norm not the exception. Know that it will pass and things get better even when you're deep in it and think there's no way out. I have mad respect for single moms and they are in my opinion superheroes because I don't know how I would be without my husband. And just know, you DON'T have to be a superhero, know when to ask for help, no one is judging you for doing so. As long as you are giving your baby what they need, that's really all that matters. (Oh and you, because you can't take care of something if you are not well taken care of).