The Early Days with a Newborn

On my last post, "Lies Parents Told Me," reader CrazyBunnyLady asked me a few questions. Rather than answer them in the comments, I thought I’d answer them here, so you guys could give your input too.  After all, every family is different (especially when it comes to newborns), so different perspectives would be great!

How scary is it that first day when you know they are going to kick you out of the hospital and you’re going to have to take care of a little person on your own (with your H, but without docs or nurses)?

Y was apparently not nervous about this at all, and I think his confidence rubbed off on me – so my answer to this is probably atypical. We were asked to stay an extra day because Charlie was small and apparently having a hard time regulating her temperature (I still think the thermometer was broken, for the record). Although the hospital is full of a lot of very helpful people, it’s also full of a lot of interruptions. Y had nothing but an uncomfortable pull-out chair to sleep on, and we were both exhausted. When we were told that we had to stay the extra day, we were super irritated – we weren’t worried about learning to take care of her (after all, we had our parents’ help), and we thought home would be more relaxing.  So we weren’t really worried about getting kicked out of the hospital - I just kept thinking to myself, "if they can do it on 16 and Pregnant, you can do it too."  Perhaps I was in denial.

Do those first few weeks seem impossible, or do they fly by and then you don’t remember them?

I can’t remember them now, so I’m really thankful that we had our iPhones and took a ton of photos and videos – even of the crying, because her cry sounds much different now. I do remember having a hard time emotionally. I had some postpartum issues in the first two weeks or so; I remember having a lot of anxiety and some mild depression. I called my parents at 11pm once, crying because I had no idea why I was freaking out and Y wasn’t doing a good job calming me down. The moral of that story is to have a support system that extends beyond your partner, because s/he is also exhausted and stressed out.

That being said, the early weeks were nothing compared to colic. At about three weeks, Charlie started screaming her face off, and we couldn’t stop it. It was exhausting and horrible, and we felt pretty alone. I swear, it seems like no one mentions colic on their blog, and at the time I only knew one person who admitted to having a colicky baby. It’s as if people are ashamed that their baby is colicky, or they think it reflects badly on their baby (or maybe they worry it reflects badly on them as parents?). Charlie was colicky and it was awful. I’m going to write a post about this in the future, because Charlie’s problem was due in large part to food intolerances (through my breastmilk), and I think that problem is a LOT more common than people know.  But I digress.

The answer to your question, in short, is that they sometimes seem impossible, but they certainly do fly by. It was over before I knew it, and now I can’t believe my baby is over seven months. In general, time passes a lot faster now. It’s important to try to appreciate every moment (even the hard ones), because once they’re gone, they’re truly gone forever.

Do you recommend having a mom or sister or other family members over to help, or is it more a private time that may get too crowded?

I would recommend having only your partner in the delivery room with you, and maybe a doula if you choose. Labor & delivery can seem like a marathon, and it’s an amazing bonding experience – I think having other family members would be distracting and possibly stressful…but of course, that’s just me. I don’t want people talking about food or television while I’m pushing an entire human being from my loins. But, like I said, that’s just me.

However. After the baby is born and you’re back home, I say ASK FOR AND ACCEPT HELP AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE. The most helpful thing anyone did for us was my mother-in-law, who did our laundry for two and a half months. It was wonderful. We laundered the baby clothing (which doesn’t need to be folded), but she took our laundry home and brought it back folded. Thank god for her. My mom was also super helpful, coming over to make us healthy meals and put healthy snacks in the fridge in the early weeks. Cooking isn’t exactly a priority, and you’ll start to feel like crap pretty quickly if you’re surviving on take-out.  

That being said, don’t let people take your baby from you if you don’t want them to. Aside from having someone watch the baby while you take a shower or have a moment to yourself, you probably don’t need help with the baby as much as you need help with the house. My advice is to only invite people over who will do your laundry, bring you food, or clean your kitchen. This time is for you and your partner to bond with your newest addition, not watch as s/he is passed around to every member of the family but you.

Thoughts? Anyone have personal experiences to add?

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12 Responses to The Early Days with a Newborn

  1. Anne says:

    I was a colicky baby, and it sucked a lot (for my parents—I’m sure I was miserable at the time, but I have no memory of it). My dad used to drive me around in the middle of the night because it was the only thing that would get me to stop crying.

    I’m really enjoying this series of posts, by the way. I’m what you might call “baby-curious,” in that I haven’t decided if I want to have kids, and because of that indecision am very curious about what it’s like. These posts are really helpful!

  2. Two things I want to say:

    1.) My husband and I actually LIKED our hospital stay, if you can believe it. Our hospital only has private rooms in the maternity ward, and ours was HUGE with a balcony. They even brought in an extra cot where my husband could sleep. All the nurses were super-helpful and I felt like I probably annoyed them more than they interrupted us (because I kept buzzing them to ask stupid first-time-mom questions). We were actually sad and scared when they discharged us.

    2.) My baby had horrible colic for 3-4 weeks of her life and I thought I would gouge my eyes out. Sometimes I would just cry WITH her because nothing would soothe her. And yes, I totally agree that no one else seems to talk about having a colicky baby (and when I talk about how hard being a mother is some people make me feel like I’m ungrateful, or am being selfish.)

  3. kelly ballou says:

    RE:having people in the delivery room. With Winter I had: My husband, my mother, a doula (she’s also a friend) AND a friend there to photograph. As with most labors, mine was super intense and I think that they all knew that this was not the time to be chatting about reality shows or anything. I think the important thing is to choose people to be with you who will ADD to your experience and who will respect your wishes. My dad would be incapable of not chatting up the nurses, so someone like him I would never invite to a birth.

    Also, as a birth photographer, I do my best to not speak unless spoken to and to blend into the back ground. Again, I want to add to my clients experience, not distract from it.

  4. Lisa says:

    Definitely get help. And I agree, the help should be around the house, not with the baby. People to cook for you, clean house, do laundry. Oh, and rub your feet and wash your hair:).

  5. My best friend’s first daughter was colicky for months. For at least three months of her life, she barely slept and cried ALL the time. I thought my friend was going to lose her mind! Funny to read Geek in Heels’ comment and think back. My friend hardly complained, or if she did, she apologized. I’m sorry, dealing with a perpetually screaming baby deserves sympathy not censure!

    P/S I’m “baby curious” like Anne. I love these posts and have been sending them on to my almost new parent friends. Thank you!

  6. Thanks so much for answering my questions! I’m in the “baby curious” camp as well. You guys have been super helpful and insightful, and I love it. Two thumbs up!

  7. Great advice!

    Our first few weeks weren’t too terrible, except we had really, REALLY hard time getting breastfeeding going. This led to lots of crying – both by Haiden and myself.

    I can’t agree more that having help with the house chores is amazing. My mom cooked us meals to freeze, stayed at our house and pretty much did whatever needed to be done for a few days when we got home, and we had some great friends come to visit and bring along meals as well.

    Haiden went through a fussy phase about 3-4 weeks in and I thought we were going to have a colicky baby, but for some reason he stopped after about a week (thank God, because that is SO so hard).

    In the end, for us, it seemed pretty easy, but I think only because everyone had scared us into thinking we would never sleep again and that the baby was going to be the hardest thing in the world. It’s just an adjustment.

    Oh, and that would be my only piece to add. For us, our marriage needed a major adjustment. Bringing in baby caused more arguments than I really thought it would. It takes time, patience and lots of open communication. It seems like no one ever blogs about that either, and I find it highly unlikely that we are the only married couple who has had a rough time when bringing home baby!

    As someone told me, “this too shall pass!”

  8. Danielle says:

    The first few weeks I didn’t think were too bad, or maybe I don’t completely remember. I was up a lot at night, but my daughter would eat and go back to sleep pretty quickly, though mostly on me. I’m so thankful we had a comfy chair set up for me and the baby, we practically lived in it the first month.

    I really enjoyed having visitors during the first weeks. It was nice to have some interaction with other adults since I was at home with the baby all day. I especially liked visitors who brought food. If you don’t have kids and want to help a friend who just had a baby, bring dinner. I have started taking dinners over sometimes when mom goes back to work too. I think that time can be just A’s hard.

  9. @anne – I’m glad that your parents survived your colic (haha) and that you are enjoying the posts! It really is an indescribable experience. Hopefully I’m touching on the surface at least a little!

    @Geek in Heels – I can definitely understand enjoying your hospital stay! I can’t imagine how people with non-private rooms must feel. And RE: the way people look at you when you say motherhood is hard…that sucks. I have been lucky to have a couple of good new mom friends who are both very open about how hard it is for them too. The three of us have had more difficulties than most!

    @Kelly – that is so, so true!!

    @Lisa – OMG I STILL want someone to wash my hair. Wouldn’t that be awesome?!

    @Blue Muse – you rock! Thank you so much!

    @Crazy Bunny Lady – OF COURSE!! Let me know if you have any more burning questions!! ;)

    @Danielle – I think that I was more tired at three months than I was at 3 weeks. Maybe it was the accumulation of sleepless nights. I remember thinking in the beginning, “this isn’t NEARLY as bad as I thought.” I probably would have kept that opinion if she hadn’t gotten colicky at that point!!

    @Stephanie Michelle – OMG, you are NOT alone AT ALL. We also went through a major adjustment. Our relationship is SO MUCH BETTER now. I didn’t know that we needed such a major adjustment, but we totally did. I cried to my parents about it, and my mom said, “I think parenthood is hard on any marriage.” But you’re right, people don’t talk about that either!

  10. Reichel says:

    Would love to read more about your colic experience…I’m thinking Arden might be colicky too. She basically only has three states: sleeping, feeding or crying…She’s never awake and not crying. Since she’s our first we didn’t realize that’s not normal…. :)

  11. @Reichel – I have been working on it (it’s long, haha). Coming right up! I’m not sure if it’s normal or not, to be honest. I think it depends on how much crying there is!

  12. alex says:

    1. I was done with the hospital about 6 hours after my son was born, and dying to go home. Since he was born at 2am, we had to stay a full 24 hours which turned into 36 since they won’t discharge at 2am. I was miserable, go absolutely no sleep with constant interruptions, and the air conditioning was making my cough & cold much worse than it was when I went into labor.

    I wasn’t at all worried about taking care of my baby once we got home, I was so tired, I was relying entirely on my instincts. The doubt and fear didn’t creep in until 3 weeks or so when he started showing signs of food sensitivities.

    2. The first three weeks were very difficult for us. At 10 days old my son had to spend 3 nights in the NICU for severe jaundice, and we were still struggling to get a proper latch with breastfeeding at that point. His latch was excruciating for me and I was sick of hearing, “if it hurts, then something is wrong.” I wanted to scream, “I KNOW! So fix it!!!”  I wrote about my breastfeeding musing, if you’d like to read: http://alextebow.xanga.com/738659176/my-musings-on-breastfeeding/ Writing about it was wonderful therapy. :-D

    3. I only wanted my husband and my birth photographer in the room with us at the hospital. My sister ended up staying too because no one asked her to leave, and I’m glad she was there, even if it was to just hold one of my legs when I was pushing. She shares a special bond with my son because she was there when he was born. :-) Now that I’ve been through it once, I plan to ask my mom and MIL if they’d like to be there for baby #2. There will be ground rules, like no talking. But I know I would be able to do it all over again and not be distracted by them. I was so focused on my body and the touch of my husband’s hands on my back, that I couldn’t tell you who else was in the room when my son was born. :-)

    Once we were home, your description of asking for help is spot on! Someone who wants to come over and hold the baby while you do laundry or cook is absolutely NO help. My mom cooked and cleaned for us for the first week. Friends brought over meals and my sister did our laundry. Those were the most helpful!

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