Monday, October 20, 2014

No, Seriously...What You REALLY Need to Know About Having A Newborn

There are about 10 bajillion posts and articles that talk about what "they" don't tell you about having a newborn. And they all kinda say the same thing, but it's not really anything that you couldn't have already predicted...



"you will be tired"
"your lady parts will hurt"
"you won't have time to shower for days"
"you won't feel like yourself"

Duhhhhhh.

So I'm going to share what I've learned so far that has been shocking to me. Or at least things that I didn't think about.

Pregnancy was dreamland for me. I had a fabulous pregnancy and up until the last week before she was born (she was born at 40 weeks and 1 day), I wasn't too uncomfortable. I was so happy to finally be pregnant and I loved to sit and fantasize about our upcoming life with our little Ava.

And then the little bundle of joy arrived!!

But...where was the joy?!




1. It is not uncommon to not instantly "be in love" with your child. Now this is not to say that you don't love your child at all, but you have just gone through a very traumatic thing and you need time to recover, regardless of what type of delivery it was. I don't care who you are - delivery is a straight up MIRACLE and I still look at my body in amazement that it can grow and then "expel" a human child. And then go back to the way it was before. Sorta. ;)

And then your hormones are all a-whack and annoyingly don't normalize for months! You are distracted by your poor healing body that is so deservingly tired, and your mind tells you to be in love with your baby, but sometimes the hormones just aren't quite there yet.

Anyway, I did feel the initial love for my child. It was once we got home for a week or two and that feeling kinda faded. It was hard to connect with her because I simply didn't know her yet. We didn't know her sleeping preferences. Or her nursing habits. Or what her cries meant. We weren't sure what stationary equipment she'd like (swing, bouncy seat, rock and play). I had no idea what I was doing, even though I knew in general how to take care of a baby. There were no instructions or "babysitter's notes" to follow. Which leads me into my next topic...

2. Your baby has no idea what she's doing yet, either! Your baby has suddenly entered a world that is very different, and honestly it is quite scary for them. That's why they need you so much! You are the only thing that is familiar to them. I read a lot about the "fourth trimester" so I was prepared for this. Basically you need to do your best to recreate the womb experience for them. Loud (but not sudden) noises are soothing, so a sound machine is important. We had the tv on for background noise for like 2 weeks straight. 2 weeks, people!! I hated tv so much after that. But it helped Ava adjust! They need to be held close and swaddled. They don't know what it feels like to have their limbs flailing about and that is scary to them. And hunger...they don't know what that feels like, either! They are used to a steady stream of nourishment via the umbilical cord. Taking some time to research  the biology of a newborn can help you understand what a crazy thing she is going through and will help you to know how important your comforting is to her. She's learning all about this outside world, and she can't do it without you! 

I promise, in a few weeks she will have learned some new things, and so will you. It won't stay this confusing forever!

3. Not all newborns are great sleepers! I dumbly assumed that Ava would be able to just put herself to sleep when she was tired. As in, she would just pass out in my arms.

And sometimes she did.

Everyone talks about how sleepy newborns are, and while some babies do fall asleep anywhere, anytime, in any way, a lot of babies do not fall asleep this easily.

Ava is one of those babies.

I think that is the one thing I was the most surprised about. You have no idea what personality your baby will have, so don't assume anything! Seriously. Do some research before baby arrives about general feeding and sleeping issues and BOOKMARK or PIN the crap outta those websites...it is nice to have some resources on hand!

4. Buy blackout curtains. No, they are not the prettiest nor the most exciting curtain you can find, but they are essential. Basically, assume your baby will need all the help they can get sleeping. I read that sleeping for a baby is equally (if not more) important than eating! Babies NEED to sleep. Just like you...so forget the curtains that match the nursery. I had some that I had a feeling weren't going to block out enough light, and I was right. Ava's window faces east, so she gets the blaring morning sun. So I bought pink blackout curtains. 

But the light still came through the fabric!

So I bought a black set and put those behind the pink ones. 
(this can be done if you buy curtains with grommets)

And then I nailed the sides of the curtain to the wall.

And then I rolled up a towel to block the light on the top of the window.

So I have purchased 3 sets now. But it is helping! Once baby's vision improves, basically any light is stimulation! I had to unplug the nightlight in Ava's room. Then I had to turn the digital clock face-down. Then I had to get crazy with the window and get out the hammer and nails. Trust me...you will no longer care how things look as long as baby sleeps!

5. And can stores add mini refrigerators to baby registry options?! There were so many nights when I thought about this, and if Ava was fed bottles I would have seriously contemplated buying one for her room. I was the mommy who wanted my baby to be a crib sleeper and use her room to change her diaper and rock her in her chair. We are living room dwellers, so a walk to the refrigerator in the kitchen wasn't far, but I wanted her room to be a familiar, cozy place for her from the beginning. She was sleeping in her crib at night at about 2-3 weeks old and was in there for most of her naps a week or two later. So I was up in her room a lot! 

And I was always so dang thirsty in those first few weeks! And as a breastfeeding mommy, that is normal. It's important to hydrate and to eat. I sometimes wished I had a snack in her room, too. And then I was thinking, man, if she was formula fed, how would I do this? Go all the way downstairs to make her a bottle? Seriously...I would probably just have bottles made in the mini fridge and have a bottle warmer up there, too!

Am I the only person who has thought about this?! It would be SO handy! Snacks for me, snacks for baby...even teething rings could go in there!

You should consider it. Whatever makes your life easier with a newborn is what you should do!

6. It's going to appear that every other mother of a newborn has "it all together", making you feel like you are missing something. Trust me, just because you see a mother happily perusing the aisles at Target with her sleeping baby does not mean that is how her whole day is. That is simply a snippet of life with a newborn. It probably is the ONE time of day she can successfully get out of the house with a happy baby.

In public, you will appear to look good, seem rested, and be happy.

Notice I said "appear".

This is only because you want to act like you have it all together, because that's what you're supposed to do, right? Look awesome and know what to do all the time like your life hasn't changed at all??

NO, your life HAS CHANGED. Don't let it get you down if other mommies talk or act like their life is awesome every second. I promise you it's not! Having a newborn is not easy. And that is a fact. Behind closed doors, every mother struggles with her baby, her body, and her emotions. DON'T LET ANYONE MAKE YOU FEEL LIKE YOU ARE NOT SUPPOSED TO FEEL THAT WAY! It's completely normal to feel like a hot mess and wonder what in the world you have gotten yourself into.

And even if you have a "good" baby (rarely fusses and sleeps awesome) keep in mind that there are other babies who do not...so don't brag too much to other new mommies! It will only make them feel like they are doing something wrong with their own baby.

I feel like this topic is a bit taboo. Everyone talks about your sweet bundle of joy and how lucky you are (and you ARE lucky, even if you don't feel like it at the moment) and then when everyone leaves and you are alone with your sleeping (or screaming) sweetie, you wonder if you are really cut out for motherhood after all.

It's okay. The majority of us have been there!

7. Have a small stash of various infant medications before baby arrives.* Let me tell you, this was SO helpful for us because out of nowhere, our little tiny Ava was screaming in pain from the beginning stages of teething (did you know that their teeth move up and down in their gums before they cut through?! I didn't!) After some waiting it out and discussions between myself and my husband, we were able to give her some Tylenol to soothe her. And after her shots we gave her some too. It was nice to have some on hand to save us from having to run out to the store in the middle of the night. You won't be expecting it the first time baby needs medicine! It will help you to not feel so stressed out. I got my stash from one of my baby showers - I got baby Tylenol, Motrin, (only for after they are 6 months) gas drops, and a fast-read infant thermometer (for those dreaded rectal temperature-taking occasions!). I might also recommend getting a water-based lubricant to make rectal temperature taking more comfortable for baby! Vaseline will insulate the thermometer and give you a false reading, so it is not recommended.

*As always, consult your doctor before dispensing any medications to your newborn.

8. There is never, ever an easy answer to any parenting issue. Since no two babies are alike, you can google until your eyeballs fall out and you still won't have all the answers. Your baby will test your patience like you never imagined. But in such a cute, sweet, screaming way! 

Take a deep breath, and remember...they are helpless. They need you. And you are doing a FABULOUS job, even when you don't feel like it. All you can do is do your best. And your baby loves you for it.

I have experienced so many strangers see me out with Ava, and they smile and coo at her, and then their eyes meet mine and they say almost with a hint of sadness, "Enjoy her - she won't stay little forever!"

A lot of them have been middle-aged men. You can almost see the regret in their eyes, like they didn't enjoy that age enough or wish their kids could be in this "cuddling" age again.

So that's what keeps me grounded. In those moments, when I am on the verge of tears (or heck, I'm already crying) and I have a million thoughts in my head but not one idea works, I just try my best to remember to be grateful for this time I have with her at this age, and that she won't stay little forever. 

I can feel the time slipping between my fingers with her. So whatever this sleep regression craziness is that she's working on now, I just have to constantly remind myself that she won't be in this phase forever. It will be over soon.

Such a double-edged sword!

So, be prepared to love your sweet little baby, in the most selfless way you can imagine. And just know that whatever you are going through, it is verrrrrrrrry normal! And if deep down, you feel it's not normal, don't be afraid to speak up - talk to someone or talk to your doctor. There's no reason to be ashamed!

2 comments:

  1. Two best newborn advice items I have heard 1. Babies don't keep (so enjoy every moment) and 2. The days are long but the years are short. It goes by very fast.

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    Replies
    1. I like that second one! I heard that for the first time the other day. It makes so much sense to me! :) Thanks for reading!

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