My little Eggs has now been on this planet for six weeks! Hooray! It’s hard to remember how much different my life was before Christmas, but I don’t want to go back. I had forgotten how much I missed the new baby stage. Though I am really glad that the first six weeks are done. I found them very difficult with Monkey and it was the same with Eggs. For those soon-to-be-new moms, here’s a run down of what those first six weeks looked like for me:
Once we took either of our babies home, things got very busy. We had a deluge of visitors, which was both a blessing and a curse. I loved the excuse to see family and friends and to show them the new little person I just made, but I was so so so tired. And sore. With both boys, I was awake late into the night either with labour or with the post-labour check ups so I’d had very little chance to sleep. And when I did sleep, it wasn’t very deep because I still had an IV and I was sleeping in a hospital bed where I could hear the nurses doing their rounds and the other babies on the floor. Plus my brain wouldn’t turn off because I just had a new baby!
So I was now at home and feeling a bit like I had to play hostess. No one forced that role on me, in fact, I was constantly encouraged to sit down, but I’ve watched my mother and grandmother long enough to know that no matter how you feel, you gotta host the party. I know I took it easy in the hostess role (my mom graciously took most of it from me by having visitors to her house), but I tried.
I am very lucky in that all of the people who wanted to see the new baby knew what they were doing. They didn’t come if they were sick, they played with both kids (Monkey loved the attention lavished on him), and they brought FOOD! Serious blessings on people who took the time and effort to cook stuff for me. When I’m living off what is in my freezer (which was soon down to old ice cream sandwiches and cream puffs), a home cooked meal is a life saver. We got bread and muffins and soups and lasagna and cookies…yum!
There are cons to all the visitors, for sure, but the positives definitely outweigh them. I loved showing off my peanut and getting to have all of those adult conversations (when the visitors taper off, you’ll sure miss those). I loved connecting with old friends, sometimes even unexpected people from your past who also have kids and are looking for new parent friends. Meeting with all of these people also helps postpartum depression (more on that later) because these people can talk with you through your feelings or help you see the positives of your new baby.
You will feel like crap. There are no two ways about it. You’ll need to feed your baby every 2-3 hours, even though you’ll be sorely tempted to let your sleeping baby lie. You will be whatever is worse than exhaustion. I know there were nights I spent crying with Monkey, but the night that comes to mind easiest for me happened the first night we brought Eggs home. You see, I had gotten up Christmas morning at 5 am (Monkey’s natural wake-up time. Gross, I know), spent the day enjoying the festivities, and had a baby just before midnight. By all rights, I was tired. But you don’t get to sleep after that. I was taken out of the delivery room around 3 am and was checked up on every half hour after that. They took a break to let me sleep between 6 and 7 am so there was the first hour I’d slept in over 24 hours. Then I was up the entire next day. I was excited to go to bed that night, but I couldn’t get Eggs to sleep. He wasn’t crying, but he was wide awake. At 3 am, I finally woke up Brian, sobbed that I hadn’t slept yet and passed the baby off. So in 46 hours, I’d slept 1. Two hours later, Monkey was up for his regular day.
Lack of sleep is bad enough, but your body feels like it’s gone through a war. I can’t speak for people who get c-sections and I bet they feel significantly worse, but I definitely struggled with how sore my body was. If you’re like me, you’re stitched from bow to stern and sitting pulls on those stitches so you’d rather stand or lie down. But you’ve got a newborn to feed! So most of the time, you’re sitting on those painful stitches.
Speaking of feeding, if you’re nursing, you get cramps every time you nurse. Apparently it’s a good thing, but it does not feel that way. Add that to your sore boobs… Ugh. They’re swollen and cracked and blistered due to the intense workout your newborn is giving them. “Oh they’ll callus up,” they say. Yeah, cause that sounds attractive. Sigh.
There are a host of other fun bodily pains that come from giving birth. You’re now going to be on the longest period of your life. It’s making up for all those missed months. You’re going to dread going to the bathroom. If you have any placenta left in your uterus, it’s going to feel like you are back in the end stages of labour before you pass it. Your joints are going to ache as they tighten up.
The positive? It gets better each day. I promise. Every day is easier than the last. And while the baby is drowsy in the first couple weeks, take time in one of his or her naps to take a hot, sea-salted bath. Add bubbles. Bring a book. Take time for yourself and help your body heal a little bit. It will help. Oh, and for the love of God, don’t take a mirror down there to see the damage. Not worth it.
We don’t talk about this enough. I went into labour with Monkey expecting a beautiful, loving bond with my newborn as soon as he was born. That was not the case.
No, when Monkey was born, all I felt was relief. The 24 hours of pain were over. They took him away and I didn’t get to see him for, let’s say, 20 minutes and all I really wanted was to sleep. And something to eat. They finally brought him over to me and he just screamed and screamed and screamed while I held him. I was terrified. It was nothing like how I’d imagined it would go.
The next few weeks was difficult. Monkey had jaundice because he was ABO incompatible with me so we had to go back to the hospital for a night. I also wasn’t able to nurse him, which made me feel like a complete failure. I had no idea what I was doing with this little breakable alien that had commandeered my life. The bond between mother and baby that I was supposed to have wasn’t showing up. There was clearly something wrong with me.
I cried a lot in those months. But I didn’t do anything about it. I was embarrassed about how I was feeling. Every time I went in for a check up, I was asked how I was feeling, but I couldn’t say. How could I tell them that every time I took the car out for a drive, I hoped someone would hit me? How could I tell them that I was so angry with this helpless newborn because I just wanted sleep? How could I tell them that I had so utterly failed at this motherhood thing and the kid wasn’t even six months old?
With encouragement from Brian, I did finally mention something to the nurse at my next appointment and they set me up with a counselor to talk to. And that was really all I needed. I needed someone to talk to that was unbiased, that I could trust to tell me the truth and that I could talk to without fear that they would tell someone else. Soon, the slump ended. Monkey started sleeping through the night and I started to get an idea of what I was doing. The stresses in my life started to get more manageable. And it was about 3 months before I actually felt that mother-baby bond.
Turns out lots of women feel this way, but no one talks about it because of this notion that we should just be “grateful” that we have healthy, happy kids. We should just be happy, glowing pictures of femininity. It’s unhealthy. So if you do end up feeling really down after your baby is born (and you know when you’re going into a dark place), there is no shame in getting help. Here are some resources to get you started. You haven’t failed.
And if it helps, when Eggs was born, I felt that bond right away. I don’t know if it’s because he was placed on my chest as soon as he was born, even before he was cleaned up, but I’m sure it helped. I knew that I wasn’t going to have to worry about PPD when he was on my chest content to just lie there. I held him for about an hour before they took him away to clean him up and weigh him. I don’t know why the rush of emotions was there for my second baby, but I’m glad it was.
When It’s Over
Once the first six weeks are over, trust me, you feel like a superstar. You’ve done it. You’ve passed the hardest part of having a baby (unless the baby has colic. That’s a whole different ballgame). You should be very proud. I know that I’m unreasonably proud of myself. I know things start to really change at this point, especially since six weeks marks the beginning of the first major growth spurt. It doesn’t matter though. My body is all healed up, Monkey is used to being a big brother, and Eggs has slept through the night twice already. The second time around was definitely easier than the first, so take heart my dear first time moms! It gets easier. I promise. Until then, invite me over to see your new baby and I will bring some sort of delicious food!
Now it’s your turn! Did you find the first six weeks as difficult as I did? What were your experiences? If you haven’t had kids, does this make you want to run for the nearest hospital to ask to be sterilized (oh boy, I hope not)?