Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me About the First Week With a New Baby

If your pregnancy experience is anything like mine, I’m sure right now you’re a little overwhelmed by all the information coming your way — through your doctor, your childbirth class, your mother-in-law — about what’s going on during production and delivery.

In fact, you’ve probably learned so much about the stages of labor, pain management, birth positions and birth plans that you can deliver this baby yourself (my son!).

But what about minutes, hours and days after production and delivery? For some reason, many doctors and childbirth educators prepare for pregnancy, labor and delivery and do not devote equal time and attention to the time after the baby arrives. Weird, right?

If it seems like everyone goes silent on the radio every time you ask about the postpartum period, I’m here to tell you that the first week of a new baby doesn’t have to be a mystery. Here are some things I wish someone had told me about the first few days with a newborn.

1. The first car ride home from the hospital with your baby will feel like the longest drive of your life.

Maybe you’re obsessed with whether your precious newborn is wearing too many layers or too few. Maybe you’re worried about whether he’s strapped into the baby’s car seat correctly. You might be stressed because he doesn’t seem to like the car and he won’t stop crying. The point is: It’s not only normal to be anxious when you bring the baby home from the hospital, it’s inevitable. Relax, you’ve got it!

2. When you finally get home, ask to get back in the car.

The relief of arriving at your final destination is short-lived as new anxieties and uncertainties quickly set in. You’ve taken the little man around the house. Now what in the world are you supposed to do? Go with your instincts — they are your superpowers.

3. You will be hit with some severe postpartum symptoms.

Some of these postpartum symptoms are painful and some of them are unexpected. Bleeding, pain, perineal discomfort, constipation, fatigue, nipple discharge — can new moms catch a break? Just remember that your body is amazingly resilient, and most of these symptoms will improve within a few weeks.

4. Just when you think you’ve successfully handled a “first” — like baby’s first bath or changing a poopy diaper — another “first” is just around the corner.

(What do you mean I have to clip my newborn’s fingernails? Yikes!) The more “firsts” you experience, the more confident you will become as a parent.

5. The flood of emotions you will experience is overwhelming.

Happy, sad, prickly, sad again, bursting with joy, sadder, on edge — it’s no wonder you’re on an emotional rollercoaster, your body is going through some serious hormonal changes.

Estrogen and progesterone dip after birth, and prolactin rises as your body begins to make milk for your baby. Plus, you’re tired — not just from the delivery, but because you’re now caring for your child all the time.

Finally, you may even be sad as you mourn your once happy life. Hurry up yourself. Although the so-called “baby blues” are very common, experienced by an estimated 80 percent of new mothers, contact your practitioner if you think you have signs of postpartum depression, which can start at any time during of the first year.

6. Partners can be hit by emotions too.

After all, they also experience different emotions and probably feel stressed from being responsible for a small new baby and a tired postpartum mother. Keep an eye on your partner’s mood, and encourage them to talk to a practitioner if you think it’s taking a toll physically or mentally.

7. You learn to live on little sleep.

Seasoned parents like to torture new parents with horror stories of endless sleepless nights. But contrary to popular belief, you will eventually fall back asleep. Being sleep deprived is temporary.

8. You’ll wonder why you didn’t seem to be expecting your baby — and then feel guilty for thinking such a thing.

Instead of a dimpled, round, buttoned bundle, your baby resembles a wrinkled old man with a pointy head. Don’t worry: New babies often have some surprising and unexpected characteristics when they first arrive, and most of them go away in the first few weeks. (And about the guilt? That’s not going away. Welcome to parenthood!)

9. You don’t “bounce” — physically, mentally or otherwise.

You may be excited to return to the lifestyle you enjoyed before your baby came into your life. While I can’t speak for all parents, I can say that anticipation can be more realistic and satisfying than hindsight. Just because your family has a new normal — as opposed to returning to your old normal — doesn’t mean it’s no longer enjoyable.

10. Your baby is more resilient than you think.

Yes, newborns are small and weak and fragile and helpless. But they’re also stronger and smarter than we give them credit for – and so are you. So jump right in and have confidence that you know what you’re doing. No one knows your baby better than you.

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