Your little cherub has just arrived and you are completely elated. However, once you go home from the hospital or your doula and the rest of your cheerleaders go home, don’t be alarmed if you find yourself feeling doubtful, nervous and just plain old scared. I will never forget our first day home when my family left our house, leaving us with our firstborn son. The door closed and my husband and I just looked at each other and I said, “Now what?”
I had this image in my head of what it would be like when we first brought our baby home. I thought we would immediately get on a schedule, that naps would be taken and that we would all just fall naturally into our roles. Boy, was I wrong! As soon as that door closed and we were alone with our baby in our own home, it actually set in that we are 100% responsible for this tiny little human and I was so afraid that I was going to mess it up. Well, we survived that first week and now that little newborn is now a 5-year-old, very confident, intelligent, kind and spirited kindergartener – where does time go?
I remember thinking back then how I wish someone had actually told me what that first week with a newborn was going to be like. Nobody clued me in on what to really expect. That being said, having gone through the newborn experience two times now, I wanted to take a moment to share with all of you expectant mothers out there what you can and should actually expect during that first week home with your newborn – and it isn’t anything like movies and television shows would have you believe. Don’t be scared; it is going to be a wonderful time in your life and will be over before you know it – it just takes some getting used to.
So, without further ado, here’s a look at what you can really expect that first week home with your little bundle of joy:
1. You’ll be Unsure of Yourself
Even if you have read every book on parenting and babies that has ever been printed, are a regular visitor of parenting and baby websites, blogs and forums and you think that you are going to be completely prepared, don’t be surprised if you find yourself feeling unsure. It’s completely natural.
Your baby is new to the world and you’re new to parenting. You both need to adjust and learn from each other, and that takes time. If you feel unsure, that doesn’t mean you are the worst parent in the world; it means that you are a human being who is adjusting to a brand new and life-changing event. Every baby has different needs, and you may not be able to find the answers to all of your baby’s needs in a book or on a website. Before you know it, your confidence will grow and you’ll feel like a parenting pro!
Give Yourself a Confidence Boost
When you’re feeling like you aren’t too sure of yourself, take a step back from everything and just look into your baby’s eyes. Remember that you created this perfect little being and that as long as you have her best interest at heart, everything will be just fine.
2. Nursing may be Tough
Are you picturing cuddling up with your little one and sharing tender moments while you nurse her? While that may happen right off the bat, for many new moms, nursing is difficult. You may find that your baby is having a difficult time latching on, or that you don’t know how to hold your baby in a comfortable position. You may not be producing enough milk, or it may hurt.
If nursing is difficult for you and your newborn, you may feel upset, and that’s perfectly normal. Don’t let your struggles deter you; ask for help! Talk to a lactation consultant. These specialists can offer you tips, advice, and insight that can help get you and your newborn on the right track.
Formula Feeding is Fine
If you find that nursing isn’t going to work out, it’s not the worst thing in the world; formula fed babies turn out just fine (both of my children received both breast milk and formula and they are flourishing physically and mentally.)
Sleep Deprivation: The Struggle is REAL
Yeah, yeah; I know that everyone you know – and even those that you don’t know – has told you to enjoy your sleep before the baby comes. I also know that you are probably tired of hearing it (I sure was!); however, let me tell you that you have no idea what sleep deprivation is like until after that first week with your newborn. I honestly mean that. You have NO idea.
Sure, you’ve probably pulled all-nighters before and you’ve definitely been exhausted before, but you have never been as tired as you are going to be once your newborn arrives. Newborns don’t know the difference between night and day. They also don’t sleep for long stretches of time. Your baby is going to want to eat every 3 to 4 hours or so, and he is going to let you know when he wants to eat; and he’s definitely not going to care if you just feel asleep or if your longest stretch of sleep has only been 20 minutes in the past 24 hours. And, not only are you exhausted, but you also have to actually take care of someone; you can’t just lay there and stare at the TV like you did when you were exhausted pre-child.
The sleep deprivation will be a shock to your system, but before you know it, you’ll figure out that you can survive on a few hours of sleep and an IV of coffee.
Call in the Reinforcements
When you really can’t keep your eyes open and the sleep deprivation has gotten to be too much, call in the reinforcements. Ask one of the grandparents, one of the aunts or uncles or a trusted friend if they would be willing to sit with baby while you get a little shut-eye.
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
The lack of sleep, your raging hormones, trying to adjust to life as a parent and everything else that comes with having a newborn can make you feel like you have gone a little, well, crazy.
Don’t be surprised if you find yourself crying one minute and laughing hysterically the next, or if you and your spouse start arguing, or if you really feel like telling your mother-in-law to shove it where the sun doesn’t shine. Feeling a little crazy is totally normal. When you do feel like you’ve reached your breaking point, however, do try to take a deep breath or ask for help. You aren’t going to do your baby or yourself any good if you start lashing out.
Could it be Post Partum?
It is important to note that if you feel very angry, you feel very down-in-the-dumps, you are harboring ill feelings toward your baby or you are having any other emotions that you are unsure of, you should talk to your doctor. You may suffer from postpartum depression (which is totally normal) and your doctor will be able to help you.