If your pregnancy experience is anything like mine was, I bet that right about now you’re feeling a little overwhelmed by all the information coming your way — via your doctor, your childbirth class, your mother-in-law — about what happens during labor and delivery. In fact, you’ve probably learned so much about the stages of labor, pain management, labor positions, and birth plans and interventions that you could deliver this baby yourself (I kid!).
But what about the minutes, hours, and days after labor and delivery? For some reason, many doctors and childbirth instructors hone in on pregnancy, labor, and delivery and don’t devote equal time and attention to the time after baby comes. Strange, right?
If it seems like everyone goes radio silent whenever you ask a question about the postpartum period, I’m here to tell you that the first week with a new baby doesn’t have to be such a mystery. Here are some things I wish someone had told me about those early days with a newborn.
1. That first car ride home from the hospital with your baby will seem like the longest trip of your life.
Maybe you’ll be obsessing over whether your precious newborn is wearing too many layers or too few. Maybe you’ll be worried about whether he or she is strapped into the infant car seat correctly. Maybe you’ll be stressing because he or she seems to hate the car and won’t stop crying. The point is: It’s not only normal to be anxious when you’re bringing baby home from the hospital, it’s inevitable. Relax, Mom, you’ve got this!
2. Once you’re finally home, you’ll wish you were back in the car.
The relief at arriving at your final destination is short-lived as new anxieties and insecurities quickly set in. You’ve already given the tiny human a tour of the house. Now what in the world are you supposed to do? Go with your instincts — they’re your mom superpowers.
3. You’ll be hit with some intense postpartum symptoms — some of them are painful and some of them are just weird.
Bleeding, soreness, perennial discomfort, constipation, fatigue, leaky breasts — can new moms get a break already? Just remember that your body is amazingly resilient, and most of these symptoms will be gone within a few weeks.
4. Just when you think you’ve successfully tackled one “first” — like baby’s first bath or baby’s first poopy diaper change — another "first" will be right around the corner.
(What do you mean I have to clip my newborn’s fingernails? Yikes!) The more "firsts" you meet head-on, the more confident you’ll feel as a parent.
5. The flood of emotions you’ll experience is staggering.
Happy, sad, prickly, sad again, bursting with joy, even more sad, on edge — it’s no wonder you’re on an emotional roller coaster, your body is going through some serious hormonal changes. Estrogen and progesterone dip after birth, and prolactin soars as your body starts to produce milk for your baby. Plus, you’re exhausted — not just from delivering your baby but because you’re now providing him or her with care around the clock. Finally, you maybe even be a little down as you mourn your previously carefree life. Go easy on yourself and if you get too sad for too long, talk to your partner and your doctor — it could be a sign of postpartum depression.
6. Partners may get hit hard by emotions, too.
After all, they’re also experiencing a range of emotions and likely stressed from being responsible for a tiny new baby and an exhausted postpartum mom. Keep an eye on your partner’s mood, and encourage him or her to talk to a practitioner if you think it’s taking a physical or mental toll.
7. You learn to live on less sleep.
Seasoned parents like to torture new parents with horrifying stories of endless sleepless nights. But contrary to popular belief, you will eventually sleep again. Being sleep-deprived is temporary — and even has some perks!
8. You’ll wonder why your baby doesn’t look like you expected — and then you’ll feel guilty for even thinking such a thing.
Instead of a dimpled, round, button-nosed bundle, your baby resembles a wrinkly old man with a pointy head. Don’t worry: Brand new babies often have some startling and unexpected characteristics when they first arrive, and most of them disappear in the first few weeks. (And as for the guilt? That never disappears. Welcome to motherhood!)
9. You don’t “bounce back” — physically, mentally or otherwise.
You may be anxious to get your pre-baby body back or to return to the lifestyle you and your partner enjoyed before your baby came into your life. Though I can’t speak for all parents, I can say that looking forward may be more realistic and fulfilling than looking back. Just because your family has a new normal — versus returning to your former normal — doesn’t mean it’s any less enjoyable. In fact, more parents would agree it’s far better being three instead of two.
10. Your baby is more resilient than you think.
Yes, newborns are tiny and vulnerable and fragile and helpless. But they’re also much 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 else knows your baby better than you do.