As the calendar turns to baby R celebrating 2 months Earth side, I can't help but reflect on what a different experience month one was like compared to the second month! Seriously, the first 30 days home with your newborn may very well be the hardest days; at least they have been for us. I didn't do anything to “prepare” for life with a newborn; no reading, no classes. I started taking care of babies when I was 13 years old, and at the end of the day, every baby is different, so there's only so much you can prepare for. I figured I'd be okay enough and knew more or less what to expect. It's also why I had so many fears about having my own kids, because I knew just how time consuming and exhausting it could be – and I got to go home in the past!
Anyway, this is the post I wish I read before bringing our baby home… Or even while blinking back tears during our breastfeeding struggles those early weeks (more on that to come!). Afterwards make sure to check out this post on tips for making the first month easier.
This post is in partnership with Hancock Regional Hospital as part of their empowering women and children site. All thoughts, experiences, and opinions are my own. Be sure to check out their site for additional resources and support.
What The First Month With A Newborn Is Really Like
There will be tears
Yes, newborns cry, that's expected. Granted, no tears fall those first few weeks, they kind of just make wailing noises while turning bright pink. But your tears… now your tears will likely be flowing. Whether it's that first day when you hold your baby in your arms, your postpartum hormone peak, pure exhaustion, or postpartum depression I can't imagine there is a woman who didn't cry that first month after giving birth. If you do suspect it may be postpartum depression, please talk to your healthcare provider. You can read more about the importance of talking about postpartum depression here.
For me, it started off as the hormonal peak. I cried and cried one morning about how much I love my daughter, love my dog, love my husband, and just love everything. That entire week I'd get weepy over commercials, whenever anyone did anything nice, and just looking at my baby. Then the next week I'd cry out of exhaustion, pain, and fear for our breastfeeding journey. Fast forward another week, and my tears were brought on by feelings of disconnection. Now my tears were mourning the woman I was, the career I had, the life I'd built to clear space for a new, and better version of all those things, and slowly they subsided.'My tears were mourning the woman I was, the career I had, the life I'd built to clear space for a new, and better version of all those thingsClick To Tweet
LOTS of diapers
You're warned about this, but what you're not prepared for are all the diaper choices! Seriously, decision fatigue as a new parent is so real! Do you want cloth or traditional? Wetness indicator or super organic and pure ingredients? Does price matter? Design? Subscription to your door or at your neighborhood wholesale warehouse? The list goes on and on…
The other thing I didn't prepare for, was buying newborn diapers! Yep, I don't know what I was thinking. I knew she felt smaller inside of me, even when I had an ultrasound at 41 weeks and the technicians said she was estimating 7 lb 11 oz, both my midwife and I were like “no way is that right.” So clearly, I thought I'd need newborn diapers (size 1 doesn't start until 8 lb). But for some reason I didn't pick them up? I guess I thought the baby would be like 7 lb (she was less) and I'd steal enough from the hospital until she reached 8 lb and would fit in her size 1 diapers I bought?
Anyway, there's my diaper stream of consciousness… which very well is yours too at this point or will become yours in the future! I had to send the hubs out twice the first week to pick up diapers, because shockingly ordering newborn sizes for 2 day delivery on-line is much harder than you'd think! Our baby was gaining weight fast (2 oz a day) but it still took almost the entire first month until she fit into her size 1 diapers!
You'll have to choose to love your newborn baby
I always had this hypothesis before having my own children: parents have to choose to love their children. After all, children are hardwired to innately love their parents. They depend on us for nourishment, safety, security, and all that good stuff. But truthfully, a parent can have a kid and leave them. I know that sounds harsh, but we see it happen on Animal Planet all the time.
Other mammals have children, and if there is a defect or issue, the parent mammal leaves the newborn mammal behind. I don't know why we think humans are any different. There isn't a magical switch that is guaranteed to go off that fills you with love for your child. If that happens, great! Celebrate it! But if that doesn't happen don't freak out. Just like you learned to love your partner or pet unconditionally and make that choice every day, you can develop the same relationship with your child.
In fact, it's truly the greatest gift of all in my opinion. Having children is truly the biggest opportunity for growth we can give ourselves. It's a testament to whether or not you can really love unconditionally. You may choose to give your everything to this sweet little soul that has entered Earth and there is no guarantee that this spirit will turn out any particular way. There is no guarantee they will stay in your life forever.
It's opening yourself up to the largest relationship you'll have next to yourself. Can you really stand by as this spirit teaches you who he or she is? Can you really put your biases and agendas aside to support this soul? Will you accept them through their discovery of themselves? Will you continue to be willing to re-learn who they are as they are doing the same about themselves in these formative years? Can you be the student as much as the teacher? And can you do all of this while choosing to love fully and unconditionally whether they are saying “I hate you” or asking you to evolve yourself? Parenthood… it's no joke!
The sleep deprivation is real
Now I've worked and had some very unusual schedules in my life. I'm talking having to be up at 2:30 am, then again at 3:30 am until about 1 pm where I'd get to sleep until 4:30 pm, then back down for some ZZZ's around 6:30 pm where I'd get to nap again until 8:30, then I'd get to nap until 10:30, where I'd finally get a stretch from about 11 pm until 2:30 am and then repeat it all over again. Are you exhausted just from reading that?! Because I sure am! Yep, it was the worst few months of my life during that time.
So, to say I was afraid of having kids and having to go through something similar again was an understatement. And while having a newborn hasn't been quite as insane of a schedule (thankfully!), I think that schedule gives you an idea of how exhausting it can be for some parents. Even if you have a good sleeper (which we consider R to be), by the time you get the baby down and yourself settled, it's basically time to get up and do it all over again in the first couple of weeks.
Plus your baby may not sleep as much as you think
They say newborns sleep about 16-18 hours a day… and while that may be true for most newborns, it wasn't true for our daughter. We were lucky in the sense that she slept great at night, but during the day (where we both work from home), she'd be up for hours and get herself over tired and unable to nap. She was barely breaking 13 hours a day that first month. With time we learned little tricks to get her to sleep more and after the first month we were getting 14 and 16 hour days consistently.
The worst advice when you're sleep deprived:
And for those who say, “Sleep when the baby sleeps,” clearly never had kids. I'd love to have that magical on/off sleep switch that'll knock me out as soon as the baby sleeps. Most of our daughter's naps that first month were only 20 minutes, so how was I going to nap then too?? At our roughest period, baby would go down for her middle of the night feeding, but I'd be up for two just thinking I'd hear her crying (she wasn't) or getting frustrated with myself that I couldn't fall back asleep or running through the laundry list of things I needed to do. That was around when we introduced the bottle at three weeks. I'd do her 3 am feeding, and my husband would give her a bottle for her 6 am feeding so I could actually get some sleep for a little.
Anxiety levels will increase
Even if you don't experience postpartum anxiety, your anxiety levels are bound to creep up. The sleep factor alone will cause them to raise. You'll think your baby is crying when you're in the shower. She'll let out one cry in the middle of the night and you'll think, “this is it! she's getting up to feed!” only to look at her and she's sleep peacefully, then repeat that for the next hour causing you to never really fall back asleep for fear of being jostled out of your deep sleep again.
An intimate relationship with Google
With all that lack of sleep and delirium, you'll find yourself Googling everything and anything under the sun. “Are baby hiccups normal?” “Why doesn't my newborn sleep?” “Nipple pain during breastfeeding” “what are these dots on my newborns perfect skin?” are just a few you'll likely go down the rabbit hole with. As much as you can, try to stay off your phone during those 40 minute middle of the night feeds. I'm convinced the blue light messes with your bodies melatonin production and chances are you're adding to the anxiety I just mentioned.
Breastfeeding will be nothing like you've experienced
I don't want to go into too much detail on this because every single persons journey is different. Even from baby to baby for the same mom. I'll share more about our personal journey in another post, but what I will say is this: if you want to breastfeed, stick with it if you can. You can find tips for nursing your newborn here and here from Hancock Regional Hospital.
Supplement and do whatever you need to do to get to a point where you can reach your breastfeeding goals. I'm SO happy I stuck with it through the tears and everything. Yes, it's a great way to bond with your baby, but honestly it's just easier once you get through the rough patches. I don't have to worry about packing things when we go out or spend time cleaning stuff at home.
I thought pumping and a bottle would save me time since my husband could give the bottle and that first month she was doing 40+ minute feeding sessions, but by the time we introduced a bottle at three weeks, that time was slowly going down, so by the end of the first 30 days, it wasn't really saving me time. By month two, my boobs have healed and breastfeeding has become much easier for us. And it is a significant time saver versus pumping and giving the bottle.
The gifts will roll in…
This was most surprising to me. We didn't have a baby shower, but our family requested we put together a registry for their friends. Well it was due date time and no one had gotten us anything off the registry. So I ordered all the essentials (which was basically all our registry was) to prepare for baby girl's arrival. Only once she arrived, everyone started sending us gifts!
Which we were super appreciative of, but with nothing really on our registry we ended up with a lot of random useless junk. Which is a big hassle to deal with alone when you have a newborn, but then add in the fact we were moving at the end of that month there was literally no time for returns and trips to the donation center. So make sure you update your registry when it starts to dwindle! We also asked people to send money for diapers (because that's all you really need at this stage) and for those not comfortable with a diaper fund, I updated our registry with a bunch of books people could choose from to hopefully divert them from their rogue baby clothing purchases, #theworst.
Time will fly
I know they always warn you about this, but it moves even faster than you can imagine. Your baby is going to change so much that first week alone! I wish we would've taken more time to do photos and make videos. Depending on your hospital, they offer newborn sessions, like Hancock Regional's in-house photographer. Instead, I was so anxious about her getting enough sleep those weeks that I prioritized it above everything else. I wish I would've just remembered that every baby is different and documented those days that are a blur instead of trying to get her to take enough naps during the day.
Granted everything happens for a reason, so I don't regret anything, but now that things have calmed down this second month, I try to take a video of her at least every other day and take a photo of her almost every day. And I'm just soaking it all in because it really does move faster than you can even imagine. Through all the tears and sleepless nights, this month will be a rollercoaster. But a rollercoaster I cherished more than words can express. Take as many of these moments as possible and lean into the joy and frustration of it all.