While I was pregnant, I spent much of my time reading articles on what the first month postpartum would be like in respect to my body and my baby, what items I should put on my registry, what labor is like, etc. The one problem I ran into was that I couldn’t find an article written by a new mom – and I don’t mean a mom of a one-year old who would technically be considered a new mom – but instead, one that is the first time mom of a month to three month old baby. I needed to read something written by a brand new mother who focuses on the first few month and goes into detail. Everything I read was vague and unoriginal. I am also only 20 years old with a semi-low income, so finding an article written by someone other than an older mom with lots of available time and money, was nearly impossible. That being said, I’m going to focus this article on labor and delivery and the first month and go into lots of detail. I am the mom of a two-month old and I had an unplanned c-section, so if you’re looking to read an article on the first year or vaginal births, this article isn’t for you – sorry!
Labor and Delivery
Never set expectations for labor and delivery. I was dead-set against getting an epidural and the possibility of a C-Section seemed absolutely impossible to me, so I never even considered it. I also thought that because I have a high pain tolerance that I would be able to handle contractions like a champ. A few days before my due date – at only 1 cm dilated and no signs of labor – I tried inducing myself by eating fresh pineapple, taking a long walk, and doing squats. Nothing happened. Luckily, my doctor planned to induce me 2 days after my due date, but until I had the Pitocin drip, I still had no signs of labor. Chances are, my stubborn little baby would have stayed in there until something or someone expedited her grand entrance.
1. Induction and Epidural
Five minutes after I was hooked up to the Pitocin drip, I had no warning or ease-in and immediately went into active labor. In Layman’s terms – my contractions went from 0 to 100… real quick. After 3 hours of contractions measuring in the 70s-80s, and 2-3 minutes apart, I was practically begging the L&D nurse for my epidural, and my original plan to
forgo the drugs was throw out the window. It was only after a text from my grandma that read “don’t be a hero and get the drugs” that I felt silly for putting myself through that pain for no reason. Just saying, you don’t get a reward for going drug-free, so let that sink in, lol. Although, I’ve heard that the epidural increases your chances of needing an episiotomy and tearing, but that didn’t apply to me. The process of getting the epidural wasn’t nearly as bad as people made it seem. You don’t see the needle and it feels like a little prick followed by hot and cold sensations. After that, I was completely at ease. I was so numb that I kept telling the nurse that there was something under me and I couldn’t move it… turns out it was my butt. Weirdest feeling ever.
2. The C-Section
Five hours and 3 dilation checks later, they realized that I had stopped dilating and my contractions were weakening. This is when I heard the words I thought I would never hear – “We’re probably going to do a c-section”. I just stared at her in disbelief. I didn’t need a c-section, she was crazy. I can’t even say that it ever sank in, I was panicking from that moment until I was in the recovery room and they could give me a benzodiazepine (that I cannot remember the name of). The metal table, the harsh lighting, the doctors running around preparing to cut you open, and talking about you like you weren’t even there – it was traumatizing. My anesthesiologist was cracking jokes the whole time.. I didn’t laugh once.
The only thing that helped were my boyfriends soothing words and the thought of my beautiful baby girl that I was minutes away from meeting. You feel like you’re getting stretched and tugged on the whole time, but no sharp pain – thank God. The worst part was the “elephant on your chest” sensation (as my doctor explained it) that you get from the suction of pulling the baby out.. it really felt like someone punched me in the chest with a hulk glove. Then I heard the sweet cry of my newborn baby and my OB say “she has hair!”, which was the one thing besides blue eyes that I wished she had, and she has those, too! The only contact you get with your baby afterwards is a cheek-to-cheek touch and a few kisses if you’re lucky. Then you get stitched up (which seems like it takes forever) and then you get sent off to recovery where you get to make the decision of whether or not you want your relatives to be able to see the baby while you recover. I was selfish and said no, but oh well, you deserve to be able to be the first one to hold your baby after going through all that. My advice for this section is to prepare yourself for the possibility of a c-section. I wish I had read about it beforehand or that I would have at least accepted that it could happen. Don’t worry though – after you calm down, you realize it wasn’t that bad.
Your Hospital Stay
1. What To Pack
First of all, you don’t need to bring your whole damn wardrobe, all of your toiletries, or 50 things to keep you occupied. Bring a few loose outfits like sweat pants or stretchy dresses, hair ties, flip flops, chargers, shampoo & body wash, some cute newborn and 0-3 clothes, and your camera if you have one. I brought my makeup, but I didn’t care enough to even bother with it. I also just threw my hair on top of my head. I read so many blog posts on what to bring to the hospital, and have to laugh at them now. Listen to me now – you do NOT need your hair dryer or your own towels or a face mask (yes, someone seriously suggested this). You’re going to be there for 3 days MAX and they’re just extra baggage you have to carry all the way up to the labor floor, unpack, and pack again. Seriously, just keep it simple. If you’re allowing visitors and you have lots that live close to you, they will all be in and out of your room the whole day. You won’t have time to read a book and you probably won’t even have time to watch Netflix or whatever movie streaming app you may have. Just enjoy this time with your beautiful new baby because they grow so fast and you will never get that time back.
2. The Visitors
The one thing I wish I’d done while I was in the hospital (especially since I was there for 4 days and was breastfeeding) was to have asked the L&D receptionist to ask me before letting visitors in. In those first few postpartum days, you are going to be doing a lot of gross stuff, looking gross, feeling gross, basically everything but the baby is gross and demeaning. If you had an epidural, the nurse is going to have to help you stand afterwards and she’ll have to help you get into mesh panties. If you have a C-section, she’ll have to help you squirt a water bottle on your lady parts when you use the bathroom, too. You also have to tell them when you poop. The whole situation is awkward and weird; all modesty is forgotten. I was so uncomfortable breast feeding in front of anyone but my boyfriend and my mom. If someone came in when my daughter was hungry, I would wait until they left to feed her. I know it sounds awful, but no one really gave me a choice. You always, of course, have the option of not telling anyone you had the baby until you are home to avoid visitors in the first place.
Make sure you bring snacks. I was told not to eat anything after midnight, the night of May 16th, since I was being induced the following morning at 7 AM. I didn’t get to eat anything all day because I was in labor for 12 hours and, when I was out of surgery, the cafeteria was closed for the night. I was also only allowed to have liquids for the next few hours after that, and at that point I hadn’t eaten anything but ice chips for twenty-four hours… I gulped down two iced teas when I got back to my room, yeah, mmm, calories. Plus, you only get three meals a day, but let’s be real, we all get hungry in between them. Having some type of non-perishable snack is a must.
If you plan to breastfeed (skip this paragraph if you don’t), make sure you call the lactation consultant as often as you need to because she won’t be there when you go home. My daughter latched on perfectly when we were in the hospital, but I think she could sense my stress when we went home and breast feeding became very difficult (still doing it 2 months later, though). Warning: the LC will grab your boobs to help you, they will be aggressive and do things to your baby that you think is mean, but it’s really not, and they will use the word “nipple” 500 times in one sentence. The word “nipple” makes me very uncomfortable so it just added to the mortification I was already suffering through, lol. It’s only awkward the first time, though. After that, you don’t care who touches your boobs just as long as your baby doesn’t starve and she doesn’t tear your nipples up with a poor latch. One time I let my daughter nurse for one whole hour on one side and then an hour on the other the next time she was hungry.
Don’t do this. Your nipples will look like purple grapes and they will feel as though you’ve just ground them on a cheese grater. In which case, I present to you… the nipple shield – a magical piece of flimsy rubber that you put over your nipple when you nurse and takes away the wincing pain of your baby’s latch. However, just like everything else in life, only use it in moderation. If you don’t, you’ll end up with clogged ducts, which will eventually lead to mastitis, inflammation of the breast, if left untreated, and you will now have two painful boulders on your chest in place of your boobs. Sounds awesome, right? Yeah, breastfeeding isn’t as beautiful as you thought. If this happens to you, you might be thinking why the hell you didn’t just go with formula. But, no. You’ve already gone this far (a whopping 24 hours), so why would you give up? Even after going through all this, I’ll still advocate and suggest breastfeeding to any expectant mother. The term “breast is best” is, and always will be, true. Last advice for this section: get a Boppy, it will be your best friend. Its uses in my home range from easy breastfeeding to a comfy pillow for my boyfriend. For those of you that haven’t heard of this amazing invention, it’s simply a C-shaped pillow that fits around you and takes all the weight of the baby off of your arms and back. When the baby gets a little older it makes for a great lounger, as well. Also, call your insurance company to see if they offer free breast pumps to expectant mothers. I got the Medela Pump In Style Advanced for free and I absolutely love it. Plus, Babies R Us and Walmart carry Medela accessories; it’s so convenient.
The First Month Home
I remember so clearly getting wheeled out of the hospital holding my baby so proudly like a trophy; it’s such a bittersweet moment. All of the extra help is mostly gone, and the thought of bringing such a needy, helpless, and fragile being home to take care of all by yourself is frightening, but amazing at the same time. When we finally got home (I say finally because new-daddy mode kicked in within my boyfriend and he was driving like 5 miles an hour) I sat on my bed and thought well, this is the beginning of my life as a mother and freedom no longer exists. Simultaneously, I couldn’t stop staring at my little bundle of happiness. Her smell, the way she smiled in her sleep, how she fell asleep on my chest to the sound of my heart beat that she was so used to… motherhood is so beautifully indescribable. This is a crazy new chapter in your life where you learn something new about your baby and yourself everyday.
1. Tips and Tricks
Your baby isn’t as fragile as you think she is – The first week or two, I was prettified of putting onesies over my baby’s head. I really thought I was hurting her if it seemed even a little tight. You’re going to be scared, but I promise you, you’re not going to hurt her by simply changing her clothes. Just be gentle!
You’re going to be more exhausted than you ever thought was possible – while I want to lessen your worries about new mommy-hood, I can’t sugar-coat it either. Here are some things you can do to minimize your middle-of-the-night stress from exhaustion:
- Co-sleep, at least for the first month, because running back and forth to the nursery, when you can barely keep your eyes open, is probably awful.
- If you’re co-sleeping, keep a few diapers and a pack of wipes next to your bed so you don’t always have to take your baby to her changing table when you have to change her diaper.
- If you’re not co-sleeping, get a changing table organizer (more about it in “2. What Ya Need and What Ya Don’t”).
- If you’re pumping, make sure you have clean flanges and bottles next to your pumping station so you don’t have to worry about washing them the next time you wake up to pump.
- If you’re formula feeding, have a bottle made and in the fridge for the next time your baby wakes up.
- Avoid sleepers with snaps! Unless you get them as gifts, of course. I can’t tell you how many times I buttoned the wrong button at the top and then, consequently, buttoned the rest wrong, just to do it all over again. I also broke a nail once trying to pinch one closed. Terrible night. Get the sleeper’s with zippers, nothing is easier than zipping.
- Have extra changing pad covers, or disposable covers, to just throw on if your baby poops or pees on the original one.
You can never take too much baby stuff with you – This doesn’t mean take every baby item you own with you when you travel or go out, but bring everything you think she might need. I always have 2 extra outfits, 6 diapers, wipes, travel sized hand-sanitizer, Aquaphor and Desitin (since you never know when baby will get a rash), and pacifiers. After running out of diapers, wipes, and an extra outfit on 3 separate occasions, I bring everything with me.
A clean house and a happy baby can coexist – If you think that baby wraps, carriers, and slings are pointless now, you’ll change your mind when your baby is inconsolable and only wants to be held. If you have s*** to do, these make it possible to do it without putting your baby down. Scrubbing the floors while holding your baby might not work, but you can wash the dishes, do the laundry, dust, make the bed – the options are endless, honestly.
“Sleep when she sleeps” – This is BS. If you’re care and stress-free enough to have the same sleep schedule as a newborn knowing you have a sink full of dishes than I applaud you. I went crazy if I knew I had stuff to do when I was trying to take a nap. You’ll get sleep eventually, don’t worry.
Make sure baby is fed and changed right before you leave the house – This is probably self-explanatory, but in order to maximize your time to get things done uninterrupted, you need to feed and change baby first.
There is a big difference between the baby blues, postpartum depression, and postpartum psychosis – It’s completely normal to cry randomly and frequently right after birth; those hormones are real pains in the arse. However, if this persists for longer than a week, the baby blues may have developed into postpartum depression and you should seek professional help. Any feelings of harming yourself or the baby are signs of postpartum psychosis and need to also be treated immediately. Never underestimate the power of motherly instinct, if you think there’s a problem, reach out to a doctor or loved one as soon as possible. For the first two weeks, I’d cry every time my baby cried because I thought she hated me… yeah, really.
Get on a schedule – Wait, what the f*** is a schedule? I leave without brushing my hair or teeth sometimes because the baby pooped last second and I was supposed to use that 5 minutes to freshen up. It. Happens. A schedule might sound like a foreign and far-fetched subject, but you will regain punctuality and organization soon enough. Getting such a small human ready to leave the house is an abnormally difficult task.
2. What Ya Need and What Ya Don’t
- Somewhere for baby to sleep –
This might seem obvious, but some people choose to co-sleep while others put their baby in their own crib right away. In which case, you might want a bassinet and a crib. Our baby sleeps in her Fischer Price Rock ‘n Play and loves it! It vibrates, it has mesh sides for safety, it rocks, it’s inclined, and it folds up easily for traveling and storage. It’s an all around great product.
Changing table – at first, I thought this was an unnecessary expense and a space-taker. When my boyfriend’s grandma bought us one and we set it up, I immediately realized how great it was. Not only is it convenient by allowing you to stand while changing the baby, but all you need for the diaper change is readily available. There’s so much storage on the one that I have that I have room for a basket full of all of her grooming/health items, a basket full of her bath supplies, and her dirty laundry basket. It’s not a must, but it is definitely good to have. I bought a separate changing pad to put on it – Summer Infant brand on Amazon. I also recommend extra changing pad covers; I have 4 and I feel like I’m always replacing them because of how often my baby poops or pees on them, lol. The changing table I have is the Delta changing table in Espresso Cherry on Amazon.
- Stroller and Car Seat –
I put these two together because it is more economical to buy them together as a travel system. You cannot leave the hospital without having the car seat properly installed and you can’t drive anywhere with the baby without one, so this is obviously a must. You can get away without a stroller if you need to, but I use mine pretty frequently. I have the Graco Snugride 30 Click Connect from Amazon and absolutely love it.
- Bouncer/Swing – I’ll start off by saying that you do not need one of these if you have a tight budget. I rarely use my bouncer, but it is nice when I want to put her down when I’m trying to do something on my laptop or clean. I love the one that I have because it vibrates, plays music, and makes nature sounds to relax the baby. I have this adorable, pink and grey Fisher Price bouncer.
- Changing table organizer –Not necessary, but very useful. This little apparatus goes on the changing table or on something next to it that is within arms reach, and has a space for diapers, wipes, diaper rash cream, q-tips, diaper trash bags, and anything else you’d like to have available during a diaper change. Before you have a baby, this will seem arbitrary, but when your baby poops all over everything (including you) and it seems like you need to have 8 arms to complete the job, this will come in handy. The one I have is Munchkin brand off of Amazon.
- Infant Bath –There are so many baths available to buy, but I chose the Blooming Bath. Its both functional and adorable. It just sits in the sink and you lay your baby in it to bathe her. Simple, easy, and cute. Ring it out and throw it in the dryer when you’re done
- Play mat – Play mats are great to keep your baby occupied while she’s awake. You can either lay her on her back to look at all the dangling toys or a mirror (that most come with) because newborns love their own reflection, or you can lay them on their bellies for tummy time. I have the Fischer Price Kick ‘n Play from Babies R Us. I love this one because my baby loves to kick her feet, so she just makes her own music by kicking the piano keys.
- Diaper Pail – Unless you want your house to smell like a dirty diaper or you want to continuously have to take a bag of diapers out to the outside trash can, then you need one of these. We have the Diaper Genie and it’s a real time and nose saver. It was a little confusing to set up, but once you get it done it’s easy as pie and super convenient. (You can see it in the picture of the changing table above all the way to the left).
- Nursing Pillow – If you’re breastfeeding, this is a must. (discussed in the breastfeeding section above).
- Bottles – Even if you’re breastfeeding, you’re going to need bottles. Not everyone is able to breastfeed all the time, some can’t breastfeed at all, and some just realize after they started that it’s not for them. In any case, you’d want to have bottles readily available so you’re not rushing to the store with a screaming baby. This is also why you should consider buying a pump. I alternate pumping and breastfeeding and I have a lot of bottles. I use Dr. Brown’s, Munchkin Latch, MAM, and Tommee Tippee. Munchkin Latch and MAM are designed for easy transitioning between breast and bottle feeding, Dr. Brown’s is great for anti-colic (my daughter gets the hiccups every time she eats except when I use these), and Tommee Tippee is good for both.
- Diaper Bag –
These are a must. You can’t go out without diapers, wipes, pacifiers, extra outfits, etc, so you might as well have a bag designated to baby. All diaper bags are pretty pricey. Since I love, love, love Vera Bradley, I got my diaper bag off of their clearance section and it is AMAZING. Seriously, they reduce the cost by 60% just because the pattern is “out of season”. Craziness. It’s lined with plastic for any spills and this brand is so unbelievably durable, you’ll never need a new one.
I won’t bore you with the obvious clothing, blankets, diapers, and items that the baby won’t use until she is older. You’ll get tons of receiving blankets and clothes at your shower, and if you won’t be having a shower, you don’t need that many. I received so many blankets at my shower that 75% of them haven’t been used (if you do get too many at your shower, like me, you can turn them into one, giant quilt). Any advice I give on the amount of clothing you need in a specific size may not be applicable to everyone because all babies are different. My daughter was in newborn size clothing for a month and a half, while some babies are born too big to wear it at all. That same concept is true for diapers, as well (as a side note, we love Pampers Swaddlers because of the indicator line that turns blue when it is wet; I opened a gifted box of Pampers Baby Dry and I’m not liking them so far. Swaddlers all the way, lol). Despite what the hanger says, i.e, 0-3 months, babies are different shapes and sizes at a certain age. My daughter is now in 3 month clothing at only 2 months old. Because of this, it’s best to have one or two outfits in NB and in 0-3 to bring to the hospital for baby. The only two things I don’t recommend buying is a wipe warmer, which I’m sure you’ve heard before, and a bottle sterilizer. Unless you take the warmer with you everywhere you go, your baby will hate the feeling of a cold/room temperature wipe on her booty. As for the sterilizer, you can boil everything. Even the cheapest sterilizer, the one that goes in the microwave, is around 30 bucks. Babies aren’t cheap, so cut your costs wherever you can.
From One Mom to Another
Being a new mom is like being thrown out into a basketball game, with everyone expecting you to win, when you’ve never even picked up the ball. You can’t think that just because your mom said you were an easy baby, that your baby won’t have colic and scream every time she’s awake. Never, ever compare yourself to other moms or expect your situation to be identical to theirs. If you do this, any time you stray from this “norm” you will wonder what you’re doing wrong, when, in reality, you’re doing everything right. I am in no way, shape, or form a perfect, or even an experienced, mom. I am still learning. Instead of envying the mom’s who seem like they have it all together, I view them as hope for the future. Motherhood isn’t always the beautiful experience everyone thought it would be; it’s stressful and it pushes you to your limits some days. Just remember that no matter how crazy your day was, always be thankful for the ability to be able to carry, give birth to, and raise your baby boy or girl because some woman never get to experience it.