You have been home for two weeks with your amazingly perfect tiny human being. You have survived, yes, survived, 14 days of motherhood. Your little person has been eating, crying, pooping, peeing, needing to be cuddled, swaddled, held or worn, and bathed for 336 of the 8760 hours of his or hers first year of life outside the womb. And oh, has life ever changed! You read every book you could get your hands on, took all the classes, heard all the advice, from the practical to the absurd, and Googled every possible topic you thought about, but still, you weren’t quite prepared for these changes a newborn will bring to your life.
You never appreciated an hour of uninterrupted sleep as much as you do now. You took for granted the luxurious long baths or showers you enjoyed during the pre-baby days, You’d take your time; exfoliating, shaving, shampooing, conditioning, applying lotion, and pampering yourself. Now you’re lucky to get through the week having at least three or four stolen moments in the shower to lather up, rinse, condition, and brush your teeth in 10 minutes flat. And speaking of shampooing, the thick hair you grew whilst pregnant, thanks to hormone levels rising, now seems to be shedding! Don’t worry, you won’t go bald and usually within a year or so, the rate of new growth and shedding will return to what it once was.
Blowing out your ‘do? Straightening it? Who has time for that? You never made a ponytail or messy bun look so haute “Mommy” couture. Your beauty routine consists of massaging your baby with lotion, realizing you have an excess left on your hands, and quickly slathering it on your face. Yoga pants, nursing bras, comfy t-shirts and camis, that allow easy access to two of your baby’s favorite soothers…your boobs, become your day time fashion. It has become apparent that it’s all about comfort these days.
Suddenly your menus of “organic, raw, clean foods only” go out the window. You appreciate the easy, cheesy goodness of the carb-laden lasagna your neighbor left in the fridge for you. Cold pizza, once a staple of your college days, becomes a perfectly acceptable breakfast once again. Your significant other is quite satisfied with a big bowl of Cheerios…for dinner.
The laundry sits in a pile on the floor and you occasionally peck through it to find a relatively clean shirt to throw on, the one with the least amount of leaked breast milk stains, when unexpected guests arrive. And what’s up with folks just popping by, unannounced? No call? No text? Don’t they understand you didn’t respond because either A) You were too busy being the diaper-changing, baby-wearing, cuddly food source for your little one, or B) You never got around to plugging in your phone to charge because your temporary case of “new mama” brain fog has set in? Entertaining guests was the last thing on your mind. Mostly because everyone wants to “help out” by holding the baby. You’ve got the holding part down pat; why don’t they ever offer to do the dishes piling up in the sink, fold the laundry sitting in the basket, or the awesome favor of changing the sheets on your bed? Oh well, maybe they brought a casserole or some other delicious treat.
You’re just so hungry and thirsty these days. Your body requires a healthy, varied diet and plenty of fluids to drink to help fuel your “milk factories” that seem to be on constant production mode. As a matter of fact, they are. But for the past day or two, your gloriously milk-heavy boobs just do not feel as full as they have been. What the heck? Your breasts have finally caught up to your hungry little one’s needs. Only now they feel softer and the baby seems to want to nurse… All. The. Time! Where did all your wonderful milk go? You start to panic. Have your boobs forgotten how to make milk? Your well-meaning aunt cautioned you that “sometimes the women in our family just cannot make enough milk to keep up with the needs of the new baby”. Could she be right?
Suddenly light breaks through your foggy brain and you remember something from the “Breastfeeding 101” class you attended. “Around two or three weeks postpartum, you’ll find you get into a comfortable rhythm and your breasts will “figure out” your baby’s needs and you will not feel as engorged or uncomfortably full.” Ah, that’s right! But what is this “wanting to nurse all the time” about?
You frantically call the Birthing Gently lactation counselor and tell her, in between hiccupping tears, what’s been happening. She calmly reminds you that breastfeeding is all about supply and demand. The more milk the baby removes, the more milk your breasts will produce. She also tells you that it is not unusual for new babies to “cluster feed”, nursing every hour for a while and then sleeping a stretch. “Your little one might be heading for a growth spurt and he will nurse more to increase your supply,” she explains. You feel instant relief when hearing her compassionate reminders. She encourages you to relax and enjoy these precious moments. You both can do this!
These past two weeks have been a time of learning for you and your darling baby as you’ve discovered one another. The greatest gift you can give your newborn is being open to living moment by moment together. Now is not the time for schedules, clock-watching, or limiting cuddle time. Parent from your heart. Go with your instincts, recognize and meet your newborn’s needs. Babies are impossible to spoil, so respond to your baby quickly, building up her trust in you. Your immediate response to him will encourage the confidence that you will always be there for him. This, in turn, will strengthen the lifetime bond between you and your baby…the bond that started growing outside the womb just a mere two weeks ago.
(Come back and visit us next month for part two of “2 Weeks – 14 Days – 336 Hours”)