I used to find it silly how people referred to the first 12 weeks in the postpartum period as “the fourth trimester” in baby’s development. Now I think its quite relevant seeing as no matter what you experienced during your pregnancy it all (mostly) pales in comparison to adjusting to life with a newborn.
Regardless of how you delivered your baby, chances are, your body endured some level of trauma. And that means you’re going to hurt after – quite a bit, actually. I had a fairly textbook birth and I was still shocked by the level of pain I experienced afterwards. You basically feel like your entire body has been through a shredder and your lady bits are swollen 10x their size. Probably because they are. And even now, 3 months later, I’m still dealing with the odd pang in my back, uterus, and pelvic floor. You might also bleed for several weeks after and wear Depends pretty much 24/7. They’re actually not that bad, I promise. Oh and your hopes of comfortably going #1 and #2 go down the toilet for a while (see what I did there).
Then there’s the sad realization that even several weeks after delivery you still don’t recognize your body. In fact, even a full TWO WEEKS after giving birth, I had only lost 6lbs of my 50lb weight gain (and I delivered a nearly 9lb baby – riddle me that one).
We all know someone who wore their pre-pregnancy jeans from the hospital, dropped all the weight by their 6-week appointment, and/or walked away unscathed without any stretch marks. Welp that’s amazing for them but I’m here to tell you they’re likely the exception to the rule. It doesn’t matter how much I slather on Bio Oil or run on the treadmill I still have stretch marks and about 15lbs to lose. And (I think) that’s totally normal and acceptable. Not that those lucky women AREN’T normal but most of us shouldn’t have such unrealistic expectations. Our main priority should be to take care of our bodies, provide it with the nourishment it needs to recover from the insane trauma it just experienced, and look after our precious little bundles of joy (which is a f***ing full-time job by the way). Focus on the days where you love your body for the little miracle it created and how much it has snapped back since the giant belly days!
I couldn’t believe that only four hours after I gave birth I was cleared to go home with my newborn. But after labouring for 24 hours, all I wanted was own my shower and own my bed so I was happy to oblige. Taking the baby home was a surreal experience and truthfully one that I don’t remember very much. Probably because I was still in shock from my delivery. Luckily, newborns are very sleepy at first which actually allowed me to get some rest. I should have enjoyed it more while it lasted.
My first major struggle was breastfeeding as it was the source of a lot of pain, frustration, sleepless nights, and never-ending feeding sessions. My second major struggle has been sleep. Or lackthereof. More on that soon.
The witching hour and purple crying were terms I had never heard before but quickly became very familiar with. I’m also now an expert on leaps, regressions and growth spurts because WOW do they ever affect your baby’s sleep, mood and appetite.
The best advice I have for new parents when it comes to their baby is not to compare them to everyone else’s. I spent WEEKS thinking something was wrong with my baby because he wasn’t sleeping super long stretches at night (like seemingly lots of other babies his age) and after reading countless articles and books I realized he was still totally within the normal range*. Just on the lower end of the scale. And I hear of moms doing this ALL the time for things like weight, feeding schedules, motor skills development, language development, potty training- the list goes on and on. If you’re in tune with your baby and meeting its basic needs for love, food, sleep, comfort, attention, etc. and your doctor doesn’t have any concerns, trust that you’re doing an amazing job and they will eventually fall in line with other kids their age.
Aside from all that (lol) it has been amazing to watch my baby grow and change every day. Take ALL the photos and videos you can and soak up every moment because the milestones come and go so quickly. And get ready for the waterworks when your baby cracks that first real smile!
Speaking of waterworks, you will cry A LOT in those first few months. You’ll cry because you love your baby so much. Because you’re exhausted. Because your partner looks adorable holding your baby. Because you’re overwhelmed. Because breastfeeding hurts. Because you raised your voice at your baby. Because you feel like your relationships and friendships are falling apart. Because you think you’re failing at the mommy thing. Because you watched that damn Pampers Pure commercial for the 50th time. You’re a MILLION times more emotional than ever before and you look at things in a completely different way now that you’re a parent.
I have to admit there were some DARK days in the early months. And I’m not sure if I had a lot of new mommy adrenaline to carry me through the first month but I found months two and three to be much more challenging, perhaps because all sleep went out the window. Exhaustion does CRAZY things to you. I thought I was tired after I partied for four nights straight in Vegas or when I would stay up all night on MSN when I was 13. But no. Multiply little sleep by several months (or even years – gasp!) and you’re an irrational walking zombie that is seriously afraid to fall asleep at the wheel IN BROAD DAYLIGHT.
Luckily, I’m starting to get used to the lack of sleep, the emotional episodes, and the outbursts during nap time that really test my patience, so I’ve been able to get through my days a little easier knowing what to expect. But I encourage every momma to know the symptoms of postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety as they are quite common and there are many different coping options out there. I can’t imagine facing these things on top of having a newborn so getting help quickly is key!
And make sure to lean on your village. Whether it’s bringing over food, watching the baby for a couple of hours, or being there to answer questions through texts, people are surprisingly happy to help you. Mostly because a lot of them understand how hard it is and know that you’ll be paying it forward in no time. There are also several local resources like free breastfeeding clinics, sleep seminars, and social activities to help new moms out there so be sure to do a little research beforehand.
Oh and no matter how daunting it seems at first – you will eventually leave the house!
*Pro tip: If you’re having trouble getting your baby to sleep during the day or at night, a few things have helped us big time: total darkness, swaddles/sleep sacks, white noise, having a consistent sleep routine for both nap time and bed time, side settling techniques that keep baby in the crib, and this chart on baby’s wake times so you know what the maximum amount of times are that baby should be awake for their age (I usually start my nap routine 15-30 minutes before the maximum wake times). With Ollie we also find that he needs 2-3 minutes to cry and blow off some steam before we can successfully settle him to sleep.