I learned quite a few things about motherhood and all that it comes with over the course of my maternity leave. I am sure I will leave things out. (I really should have jotted down all the things that came to mind as they occurred, but there were really times when I had no time to do even this).
Since a lot of these thoughts are all over the place, I will do my best to group them as best I can. The bottom line? You can prepare and plan as much as you want, but no matter how prepared and planned out you think you are…there are times and things when you’ll learn really quickly after having a baby that you were not.
It REALLY does “Takes a Village”
Before Ava, while I totally got this saying, I kind of used to roll my eyes whenever anyone used this in reference to being pregnant, post-pregnancy, and motherhood in general. It just sounded so trite. However, now that I’ve experienced life with a newborn, I am a complete advocate of this saying and couldn’t agree more.
While motherhood is a truly wonderful and beautiful phenomena, it can also be exhausting, frustrating, and isolating.
- Thank you to our friends and neighbors who cooked delicious meals (breakfast, lunch, and dinner) and desserts for Tommy and me for the first few weeks after Ava’s birth. We barely had time to shower and catch some shuteye during this time so you can imagine how amazing it was to know that we didn’t have to worry about what we were going to eat for days. All we had to do was open the fridge and/or freezer and zap something in the microwave or oven. This food was a godsend.
- Thank you to our friends and family who sent us care packages in the form of snacks (fruit, nuts, cheeses, and crackers), relaxation and stress remedies (teas and bath salts), and more goodies for Ava. The snack care packages can be lumped with the first bullet point – it was so wonderful and convenient to be able to spread out these goodies on our kitchen island and just grab ‘n’ go snacks as we needed to without even thinking about what we were doing. There were definitely some stressful moments for Tommy and me during this time and I found myself gravitating towards the relaxing and calming teas so I could at least try to relax and calm down. Finally, if all of the goodies that Ava has received and keeps receiving are any indication she is one loved little baby. Words can’t express how much all of this means to Tommy and me.
- Thank you to the family, friends and neighbors (near and far) who visited during this time period – whether they were for weekend trips, lunches during the week, drop-bys during the day and evenings or for weeks at a time (looking at you mom). Of course while the actual help with Ava (holding her while I went to the bathroom, helping feed her & put her to sleep) was invaluable so was the company itself. Like I mentioned above, being a new mother can be very isolating. Yes, this time is a very special time spent welcoming and bonding with your baby, but there are times when you feel so alone – because maybe you physically are alone (your spouse goes back to work), but also because you are in charge of this being and sometimes there are instances and incidents when you have no idea what to do, and you may feel like a bad mother because things aren’t coming naturally or because things you have tried are not working.
- Thank you to the friends and family who called regularly to check-in on me and Ava and to offer solicited advice on breastfeeding, pumping (more on this later), Ava’s sleep patterns, etc.
- Thank you to my neighbor Denise who came to my rescue so many times when dealing with breastfeeding and when Ava had her 3-week-clingy period. She brought over countless breastfeeding books for me to peruse, a baby scale to track Ava’s weight, and introduced me to the Moby. AMAZING. By the way the three- week- clingy period really is a thing. As soon as Ava turned 3 weeks old she would not let me put her down for anything. She would only fall asleep and stay asleep in my arms. I mentioned this in my Breastfeeding Group and everyone said this was a very common thing.
- I said this during delivery and I’ll keep saying this: I don’t know why none of the baby books mention that fact that you will regularly throw-up and shiver all through the labor process (from the moment you arrive to the moment after your baby has arrived). My doctors claimed this happens with every single delivery and couldn’t believe that no book mentioned either. So I’m mentioning it right now so it’s not a surprise.
- Note that all of the baby stuff that is under the bassinet the hospital provides your baby are yours. You can take all the diapers, wipes, swaddle blankets, etc, and anything else (maternity underwear, pads, napkins). I would highly recommend getting two nose suction bulbs. The ones from the hospital are the only ones that work.
Is so much harder than it looks and what you think it will be. And I’m saying this as my experience with Ava wasn’t even that bad, but it wasn’t a walk-in- the- park either. It definitely took she and I around 3 weeks to a month to both get the hang of it.
- Ask for advice – from friends, from books, from local breastfeeding groups. (I went to one of these weekly for about 2 months and the experience was invaluable). Honestly they all will help tremendously.
- The best remedy for sore nipples? Coconut oil. A LC (lactation consultant) told me this early-on and I wished I had found out this piece of nugget even sooner. It’s miracle oil plain and simple.
- Also for the first two months of being a milk slave, I lived by these babies.
- DO NOT roll your eyes at LCs or think they are an unnecessary resource. Pre-Ava Tommy certainly did when a neighbor told us she had a good one for us to call once Ava came on board. The one and only reason why I didn’t give up on breastfeeding entirely is because I talked to several LCs constantly. Tommy would agree at how invaluable these people are.
- Be prepared to feel like a milk slave. I think this statement was probably the hardest thing I had to get used to post Ava. For someone so independent, at times it was difficult for me to understand how something could be so dependent on me. I was literally nursing around the clock for the first three weeks (every 2 hours night and day. Sometimes a nursing session would last 1.5 hours and I would barely have time to go to the bathroom and eat something to refuel myself before it was time to feed Ava again). It was a hard time because I didn’t have anytime for myself and because I felt trapped inside my house since there was no time to take a walk outside or go run an errand to get some fresh air. This is why it helped to have people stop by and call frequently, otherwise I would have gone insane.
- I don’t know why we bothered messing with the regular swaddle blankets to swaddle Ava. The SwaddleMe blankets are the way to go. Way less of a headache to put on and it does the trick!
- Don’t turn your nose up at pacifiers so quickly. I will admit I was anti-pacifier up until the third week of Ava’s life. Since I hadn’t grown up on pacifiers (though my brother did), I didn’t think my kids should. I thought it would be bad for them to have a sucking “thing” going on and that most parents only used pacifiers to shut their babies up. Well it turns out, pacifiers can be very useful to babies because it teaches them to self-soothe. All babies are born with an innate urge to suck since this is what they do in the womb, so it makes sense that one of the ways to have a happy baby is to let them see if they like a pacifier before deciding it for them. Ava didn’t like the pacifier at first, but has grown to like it and uses it frequently (and not all the time).
- Read the book Happiest Baby on the Block. Seriously. I really wished I would have known about this book before I gave birth because it would have helped us out SO much in Ava’s early days. I probably started reading it when Ava was about a month old and still found it very helpful, but there were certain things I wished I had known coming home straight from the hospital.
- Once you have a rhythm and are comfortable doing so, do take some “you, alone time” for yourself, whether it’s grabbing brunch with a friend or getting a much needed and deserved massage.
- Lean on your spouse. Tommy was amazing during this period and still is. Through the exhaustion, frustration and tears of breastfeeding and a completely different life he was there, for both Ava and me.
Hopefully some of you found this helpful!