Leaving Sharp Mary Birch Hospital with baby Alessandra.
First of all, I want to say that I feel incredibly blessed to be Alessandra’s mom. She is a doll, a good baby, and I love her so much! I am still amazed by her and probably always will be! I am grateful to God and life for giving me the privilege of being a mom, her mom. Having said this, motherhood can be tough & comes with its challenges. The first two weeks were the toughest for me. As a first time mom, I didn’t know firsthand how hard it would be. The first night at home (after being with the baby in the hospital four nights), the baby was very fussy and crying. I had breastfed her, she had a clean diaper, fresh pajamas, and was swaddled, so we couldn’t figure out why she wouldn’t go to sleep.
Even though Alessandra latched on to my breasts right away and breastfeeding seemed to be going well, she lost weight during the first few days after labor, as many babies do. This was making me worry, but I was determined to breastfeed our baby. Even though I felt pressure from some of the hospital staff to supplement with formula, after meeting with a lactation nurse, we agreed I could pump and hand express to try to supplement with my own breastmilk (colostrum during the first days). We had been trying to do this for a few days and pumping had started to become painful. It was also stressful because it seemed not enough colostrum was coming out, but the nurse calmed my nerves by telling me it was fine and to continue trying. She assured me every drop counted and would benefit our baby. I recall that night after breastfeeding, my husband and I fed the few drops of colostrum I was able to pump to Alessandra with a tiny tube they gave us at the hospital. We were exhausted after a few days of lack of sleep and I looked over at him and said, “I don’t know if I can do this, maybe we should just supplement with formula.” I had just fed the baby, pumped and only a few ounces came out. It was frustrating, but mostly I worried about our baby’s health and wanted to make sure we were feeding her enough. I was exhausted, emotional, and my hormones after delivery were probably not helping the situation. That night my mom helped us put the baby to sleep and all was calm after that….at least for a few hours until I woke the baby up for her next feeding and we started the process all over again. After a few days of exclusive breastfeeding and the support of our Sharp pediatrician, Dr. Eric Reed, Alessandra regained her birth weight and I became more confident in my breastfeeding capability.
The first weeks were exhausting due to lack of sleep. It was also the initial stage of adaptation. This was our first baby and a huge change for us. I also made the mistake of not napping when the baby would nap. I was getting up several times throughout the night to feed the baby, which included changing her diaper first, then burping her and trying to get her back to sleep. This process could take from forty-five minutes to three hours sometimes, if it was hard to get the baby back to sleep. I was sleeping in periods of two to three hours, sometimes only one hour. When morning came, I would be tired. After the baby’s morning feeding, I would get up and start to do things around the house. I think the pain killers I was taking due to the c-section surgery, made me feel better, so I would get up and do things. Silly things, which could have probably waited or I could have asked my mom or husband to do. I would do laundry, organize things for the baby, unpack my hospital bag, take out the trash from the diaper Genie, feed the cats, check my e-mails, even vacuum (with the lightweight Dyson vacuum) the loft because it drives me crazy to see the tiny plastic cat litter granules the kitties leave from the Cat Genie machine.
I had read that new moms should nap when the baby naps, but I am not a big napper, or I should say I wasn’t one, until now. One of my close friends said, “You need to sleep because the sleepless nights will catch up to you…soon!” Well, they sure did! Within about two weeks, I was feeling exhausted. It was then that I decided to slow down a bit. I am very independent and it was hard to ask others to help me. But, I had to. I started to ask my mom and husband for help. I also accepted my sisters help when she would come over to visit and help with the baby. In addition to this, I made some changes to our schedule. I started to tell guests that they were welcome to visit us, but after noon. I stopped accepting guests at 9:00am or on days when I knew I would be busy with a doctor’s appointment or an outing. I stopped booking multiple guests on one day and instead spread them out. I stopped making doctor appointments in the early morning and instead made them for afternoon hours. I started to do one thing at a time. I decided the mornings hours were for baby and me. I would stay in our room with the baby, and after her morning feeding, would try to get her back to sleep. After laying her to sleep in her bassinet co-sleeper, I would also try to go back to sleep. I would make an effort to turn everything off, lay down and close my eyes. I would try to meditate, relax, take deep breaths, and go to sleep. I would try to turn off the to-do list in my head and focus on going to sleep. It started to work! Baby and I were getting into a routine, which included sleeping about two hours in the morning. Around 9:00am or 10:00am, we would wake up and I would breastfeed her again. After the second morning feeding, this would be what I considered our start to the day. I no longer considered the 5:00am or 6:00am feeding the start to our day. Those two extra hours of sleep made a huge difference!
I have a need to feel productive, to feel I am accomplishing something everyday. I had to have what I call “a conversation with myself” and stop my endless need to feel productive. I had to tell myself that taking care of our baby was being productive. Caring for our baby was and is my main priority, and it is an important job. And, in order to take care of our baby, I had to take care of myself and this included getting enough sleep.
What I missed the most during the first month of motherhood was sleeping for eight hours straight at night. When I was pregnant, everyone would tell me, “sleep, get lots of sleep, you will never sleep the same again, get some rest.” I knew moms sleep less, but it was a surprise how exhausted I actually felt the first weeks. I remember nodding off a few times during the middle of the night feedings. It was only for a few seconds because I would wake up when I felt my head drop. I am terrible about sleeping sitting up for this reason. I can’t seem to keep my head back and wake up as soon as my head drops.
Even though we have gotten into a routine now and our baby sleeps longer at night, I still haven’t gotten eight straight hours of sleep. I am getting between seven to eight hours of sleep, but divided into segments, which is ok now. I never thought I could adapt to sleeping less, but I have. I still get up in the middle of the night to feed Alessandra, but it is less often now. I also check her when she is asleep to make sure she is safe, comfortable, swaddled correctly, and breathing. A common thing parents of newborns do, check the baby to make sure he/she is breathing since they sleep so soundly sometimes. I know I will never sleep the same again, moms just don’t, but that is ok. I know I will always worry about our daughter and her well-being, and that is ok too. I have started to get dark circles (and bags) under my eyes and now need to use concealer on bad days, but this is also ok. It is worth it, to feel the love and blessing that it is to be a mom. With one little smile, our baby can make me forget how tired I feel and how exhausting motherhood can be at times!
What did you miss the most during your first month of motherhood?
Alessandra bundled up in her swaddle blanket just before I woke her up for a morning feeding.