You’ve read every parenting book that ever made an appearance in your local Facebook moms group. You’ve subscribed to every parenting website’s email newsletter. You’ve spent more time reading about parenting than you did preparing for your final exams.
Now that the baby is due in a few weeks/days, you feel somehow prepared. You sometimes even get overly excited, thinking that nothing can surprise you after all the research you’ve done.
Hold it right there.
I hate myself for saying this as I know I felt awful when experienced moms shared this wisdom with me. Still, I feel obliged to share it with you. Take out your pen and write this down:
You know NOTHING.
Not that you haven’t already changed a diaper on a plastic doll at the parenting school. Or gave the same plastic baby a nice warm bath. Let me tell you, the real thing is waaay different. Especially after you come back from the hospital/birthing center where everybody around you knows what they are doing.
Once you get home with your newborn neatly wrapped in his special discharge clothes, things get ugly. First-time moms, be warned. It will be hard. You will cry uncontrollably. You will panic. You will sweat. But these first 24 hours with the baby at home will eventually pass. You will survive. I promise.
I just want you to be prepared. Nobody tells you these things but they happen to all of us. This is pretty much the whirlpool of emotions you will go through in the first 24 hours at home with your baby:
Once you enter the house with your newborn and his father and the door shuts behind you, you will feel an emerging wave of panic trying to stick in your throat and make breathing harder. It’s just you and the baby. Well, the father is also there but what does he know about babies?
Don’t worry. This is normal. You are not incompetent. You’re just inexperienced. And you’re freaking out. Take it one step at a time. Breathe in, then breathe out. Repeat until you feel relatively normal again.
Here’s what will go through your mind in the first few minutes at home with your baby, “So, what to do know? Where should I put the baby? Can I leave him with his daddy so I can get to the toilet? Is he hungry already? When should I change his diaper again? Why don’t I remember anything the nurses told me at the hospital?”
Relax! There’s no right or wrong answer to these questions. It’s even normal to have a feeling that somebody is filming you and judging every step you take. The way I dealt with this confusion was by repeating to myself that there’s nobody watching me (or judging me). Oh, and just a look at your pale spouse will immediately make you feel the competent adult in the room.
During the first days at the hospital/birthing center, you will feel an overdose of energy. That’s partly because your hormones are playing tricks with your exhausted body and partly because you are in an unfamiliar place and the whole situation is new and exciting.
Once you get home, though, the levels of happiness hormones significantly drop, freeing space for exhaustion and anxiety to step in. After you take a shower and put on your house clothes, you will suddenly realize that you haven’t slept more than a few hours in the past few days.
The bad news is that you won’t be able to catch up on sleep in the first few nights at home even if you have a unicorn baby who sleeps through the night from day one. Thank you, hormones. The good news is you will survive this. I survived the first few days home with the baby practically on 1-hour sleep per night. You will somehow survive as well.
The Ugly Cry
Oh, how I wish they told me about the ugly cry. They usually call it “baby blues” but that’s pure nonsense. I bet the person who came up with this phrase is either a guy or a woman who has never given birth (or never had “the baby blues”).
The ugly cry. That’s something you may believe you won’t experience. I thought only the spoiled princesses cry after they bring their newborn home. Boy, I was wrong. Let me warn you, no matter how tough and positive-thinking you are, it can happen to you. Big time.
I was blown away by the intensity of the feeling. You just burst into tears from thin air. You have no idea why these huge tears roll down your cheeks and you find it difficult to breathe. You feel like you are going to die and you feel so sorry for yourself, for your baby, and for everybody that you feel like you’re the leading female in a soap opera.
The worst thing is that your logic cannot find the reason why you sob like everybody has suddenly died. This is perfectly normal, especially for first-time moms but, if it goes on for longer than a few days, speak to your doctor. That’s not something you should feel ashamed of or worried that nobody will understand you.
The Breastfeeding Pain
Now, don’t get me wrong. As a breastfeeding mom who survived a year and a half with a baby attached to her boob, I must admit it was a pleasant experience for the most part. But it is painful at the beginning.
Note that I didn’t use the word discomfort. Because discomfort is when there’s a small pebble in your shoe and it makes your pinkie toe feel funny. Breastfeeding pain is when your nipples feel like they are burning in hell and your uterus contracts as if you’re in birth pain all over again. The good news is that it all normalizes in a few days and then you forget about it altogether.
Oh, and when the milk comes in? It’s like nothing you ever experienced or expected. A friend of mine once said it was like somebody cracked a whip on her back, resulting in the milk coming down. I wouldn’t say it hurt me so much but it was almost like 50 gallons of water trying to flow out of a needle’s hole all at the same time.
In conclusion, I want to let you know that you may experience all of these emotions or just some of them. Or it may be completely different for you. In any way, there are many faces of “normal” when it comes to the way you will feel in the first 24 hours at home with the baby. As a homework, let me give you a piece of advice I got from my wise midwife, “When things get rough and you are not sure if you can handle it, divide the day into 24 hours and survive one hour at a time”. Believe me, it works.