Confessions of a newly minted mom: What Those First 12 weeks with a newborn are really like
Hola fellow reader! Wow, those are literally the first 3 words I’ve typed on the blog since my new job post as a momma earlier this year! Following a 2 month hiatus, man does it feel good to be able to write again!
Before I dive into this non-catholic booth style, super public confession that will live on the internet FOREVER, let me tell you how very much I’ve missed blogging, traveling, cooking and writing about traveling & cooking. And having adult conversations. You know, about things other than infant poo/pee frequency and texture. Yes, I once rhapsodized over the texture & smell of Nutella. Now I wax & wane over the color, texture and smell of poo. Umm, at least they’re both brown?!? Sorta? (actually baby poo can be green too, but maybe you didn’t need to know that? TMI much?) :P
Well, no better way to be baptized into Motherhood!
FindMyMoJyo will still very much be a food & travel blog, with occasional articles on newfound parenthood and sharing what’s helping me find Mommy Mojo. Because people, the whole point of Mojo is, it can’t be contained! I do feel deeply grateful & fortunate (and overwhelmed & exhausted) with the wonderful responsibility of birthing & now getting to raise a little human. Also, glad to work hard to ensure I don’t raise a grade-A A-hole :)
Yea terrible boss dude from Office Space, hope my kid doesn’t grow up to be you.
Here’s what those first 6–12 weeks of being at home with a newborn are REALLY like, and what I know now.
1. You will have a birth story, entirely unique, unforgettable & filled with lows & highs.
You’ll have a story about when & how you went into labor, whether it was early or late. Whether the classes/books you read came in handy. Whether you were steely determined to deliver natural; your plan for pain management & THOSE LABOR CONTRACTIONS. Unexpected hiccups along the way; planned or unplanned c-sections — everybody will have a story. It’s a moment that will play in your mind, weeks after giving birth, you’ll be telling your aaalll your friends.
What I know now: To let the disappointment/ guilt go, if your delivery didn’t go as you planned or hoped for. To in fact, go in with as minimum expectations as possible. Giving birth is a chaotic, beautiful mess. Embrace it & know you are producing a human being, that in itself is pretty extraordinary.
2. C-sections take time to recover
I don’t just mean the physical recovery, but the psychological recovery too. We were mentally prepared for an unexpected c-section…. or so I thought. I wasn’t prepared for it to hurt every time I sneezed, hiccuped or even held the baby. Or how slow (& guilty) I felt in getting out of bed to respond to a crying newborn. But hey, having your belly cut open will do that and you have to give it time.
What I know now: Everything in life, literally everything, including recovery & pain are temporary. I’m slowly but surely inching my way back to fitness, whenever time & energy permit between the kid’s feeds.
3. Sleep truly becomes a premium
Newborns feed every 2 hours, 24/7; feeds are counted from the start of a session to the next. But guess what? Each feed can take up to 1.5 hours, because newbie humans fall asleep while eating. Also, diaper changes take time, and babies love to explode all over walls & have diaper blowouts. You’ve also got to burp the baby to avoid choking and spit up. Add time to express/pump milk if you’re doing that. Additionally, when infants have frequent growth spurts, they will “cluster feed” — aka feed every half hour to hour, even if you just fed them. Before you know it, you only have 15 minutes to spare and it starts all over again. Did I mention this is round the clock? The feeding vortex struggle is real.
What I know now: My friends and the internet swears that by 3 months, the baby will spread out their feeds by a couple of hours. I’m already starting to see signs of this. Yes to getting personal hygiene back on track! No more stinky me = a happier, non stinky me.
4. Energy becomes an even bigger premium
Sleep deprivation + an intense routine + not being able to socialize/step out like you used to is a real energy suck. Also, if you’re breastfeeding, there’s nothing easy about it. The anxiety, stress of worrying about your newborn’s eat/poo/sleep cycle add up.
What I know now: It helps to sneak in naps. Also between feeds and for a few hours I’m getting childcare help, so I can focus on me — doing things like going for a run, running errands, heading out for date night. I’m learning that taking time to do things for me doesn’t make me a bad parent, but a well rested and better one.
5. You’ll wonder how the hell to get back semblance of the good parts and routine of your old life.
Given 24/7 unpredictable feeding, baby fussiness, newborn guesswork, managing a house, there is barely any time you get for yourself. On top of this, “feeding the baby on demand” and ever evolving baby behavior means there is no semblance of a routine. Once you think there’s a set routine, the baby will change yet again, forcing you to start over with a new plan.
What I know now: Frankly, I know nothing. This is the part I’m struggling with the most. No two feeds are alike. No two sleep sessions are alike. Living feed to feed is insanely frustrating & stressful, worse yet to have your entire mood be dictated by how many ounces a kid feeds. I’m learning, trying hard to take advantage of the help I have to squeeze in a few minutes to blog, workout or sleep. I read somewhere that if all of life, 80–100 years were to be a pie, the first few months with a newborn would be a very thin slice. At some point, the kid will wean off night & breast feedings, sleep longer. But that also means she also won’t fit in my arms any longer, curl her tiny fingers around my thumb or regard me with complete innocence and burst into a babble. I’m telling myself a new rhythm, one that combines the best of my old & new routines is on its way.
6. Breastfeeding is not exactly “natural” or easy.
There’s a lot pressure to breastfeed, cuz “breast is best”. Yes, there are tons of benefits, but breastfeeding is a lot of work! For moms who experience latching & production issues, there’s bound to be tears and frustration on both the mom & babies’ side. Also, breastfed babies nurse very frequently — this is because breast milk digests super fast unlike formula. All this is great, but I’ve felt like a walking, talking human cow. Actual footage of me below:
What I know now: There are a ton of feeding options: you can breastfeed, use formula; supplement with formula or even exclusively pump milk. Figuring the right combination is an art and takes time. It took a lactation consultant, a breastfeeding support group, talking to my friends & plenty of time for things to get on track for me. Also at week 6, the kid got better at breastfeeding, all on her own. I still struggle & obsess with the kid’s feed to be honest.
7. It really does take a village to raise a child
From pediatricians to nurses to lactation consultants to grandparents, aunts & uncles, friends and nannies, teachers — it takes a lot of help & guidance to bring up a kid. A lot of times the advice you receive (which is plenty) is contradictory. Use a pacifier, don’t use a pacifier. Hold the baby, they need the comfort or don’t hold them so much, you’ll spoil them. Don’t wake a sleeping baby vs. you have to wake them to have them on a schedule. Who do you believe?
What I know now: Being fiercely independent, I learned how hard it actually can be, to take the help. Balancing the parts of advice you want to consider vs. the parts that are unsolicited and don’t make sense is yet another art. The hardest exercise in my experience is finding my mom voice & point of view as a parent. With time, I’m hopeful I’ll get there eventually.
8. Your newborn will worry and delight you in equal parts
Every little sound the kid makes is adorable, followed by thoughts of, “wait, is that normal?”. I spent the entire first week checking to see if my kid was breathing. I was equally thrilled and terrified to hold something so tiny, fragile and the size of 2 palms put together.
What I know now: I’m learning that both worry & delight go hand in hand as part of parenting.
So, with all the above, is it really hard to believe any sane human being who had a semblance of a life wouldn’t get baby blues?? Post partum depression & anxiety affects many moms, in varying levels of intensity. But good grief, hard to imagine how anyone would come out of such an intense period shooting rainbows & sparkles like some kind of newbie human birthing cheerleader.
I will say though, mommyhood was a very conscious and a hard earned privilege for me. I also know when the kid wraps her tiny fingers around mine while nursing and stares at me, sighs in reassurance when I pull her close, I melt. I miss her when she’s asleep. Kid’s a chatterbox like mama, and when that kid squeals in delight, I feel content. Even though I wake to feed her overnight, I treasure that time, when it’s just her & I. I know I can’t wait for her to get older, to discover her and become her best friend. But till then, maybe I’ll hang on to these moments, as maddening as they might seem, for they are precious. And my baby will not be a baby forever.
So I will hang on to the best you inspire, my sweet daughter. And contend that a new routine, with you, is on its way despite all semblance of insanity. I can’t wait to share all these things that help me find my Mojo, and discover them through your eyes. Love just might come with equal parts of insanity, and for you, dear daughter, I embrace it, with the hope for a different life, better because it’ll have you in it.
Here’s to finding newer shades of Mojo!
Originally published at Find My MoJyo.