Now that I’m (sort of) getting the hang of this whole motherhood thing, I've been thinking a lot about those first few weeks after my son was born. It seems like a blur, like a weird, hazy dream I dreamed so long ago, but my baby is only four months old. Not that much time has passed.
While he was a newborn I felt like my life was over. A mixture of postpartum hormones, baby blues which bordered postpartum depression, and a literally overnight change in responsibilities created a perfect storm of fear and anxiety. I can't say that I've completely made it out of the woods, but I do know that I've learned a lot in my son's short life, and more than anything I wish I could sit down with my newly postpartum self. This is what I'd say:
1. Things are going to be challenging.
Don't kid yourself, it's not meant to be easy. Your baby is unlike anyone else. He came out of your body and his needs are his own. No one can give you a manual.
2. No one knows your baby more than you.
No family member, no doctor, no book, no one. Trust your mama instinct.
3. Be selective about which websites you visit.
Most of the opinions on those mommy message boards are completely polarized. It will be just as anxiety producing to read, "If you (fill in the blank with pretty much anything) your baby will die of SIDS," as it will be to read, "OMG! I l just love being a mother. Today my four-day-old baby nursed for 20 minutes, sat quietly in her bouncer while my husband and I ate a home-cooked dinner that I made myself, then slept for seven hours straight!" When in doubt, refer to #2.
4. Don't download that app.
Yes, it sounds like a great idea to have a feeding reminder every three hours, and a place to track every diaper's content, color, and consistency, but don't do it. Instead, get to know your baby’s cues. If something's wrong, he'll tell you; if there isn’t, don’t worry.
5. Your baby is going to cry.
There will be times that you can identify the reason, but unfortunately, sometimes you won't be able to. That doesn't mean you're doing something wrong; he has no other way to communicate! Get used to that sound.
6. The smile is coming soon, and it’ll be a game changer.
At five weeks your child will look you in the face, lock eyes with you, and smile. Your heart will stop, you’ll forget the sleepless nights, and you’ll cling to that moment and every subsequent smile, because you've received the feedback you've been seeking: he loves you too.
7. Know that you're going to be sore ... for a while.
There will be places you didn't think could hurt that will hurt for weeks, if not months, and you know why? Because you carried, nourished, and nurtured another person, then after 13 hours of back labor and cluster contractions, found the strength to push that person out of your vagina. Yeah, your vagina. That is crazy!
8. Breast-feeding is painful, and then it isn't.
Whoever said that it wouldn’t hurt if your baby has a good latch was a total liar. Every nurse, doctor, and lactation consultant will tell you that your son has a perfect latch. It will hurt like mad, make you curl your toes under, and make you hoard nipple cream until week four. Then one morning you'll wake up and the pain will just disappear. You won't believe me now, but there will be a time where you love nursing and will cry at the thought that one day your child will no longer cling to your breast.
9. Choosing to supplement with formula will be the hardest, yet wisest decision you will make for your family.
He's latching perfectly, you're feeding often, but for whatever reason your body just can't make enough to sustain your son. This doesn’t make you a failure, and you're not a bad mom. Once you see your baby thriving, you'll stop your tears and be thankful that formula exists.
10. Try to savor even the most challenging moments and live in the present.
Because in a few months you’ll wish you had. You'll quickly forget how tiny he was, how lovely it was when he laid in your arms. You’ll wish you kept a diary to document the moments of triumph and the moments of fear. But Lindsay, don't worry, you and your baby will be fine. You are going to make it through, and sometimes wish you could return to week two or three, because although it doesn't seem this way now, this time is fleeting. This time is beautiful.