With my first pregnancy, I had everything planned, from the number of diapers he would need in the early weeks, down to the exact blanket we would wrap him in, at any given time. All of those plans exploded in my face, because just a month after giving birth, I suffered from tremendous postpartum anxiety, and spent one week in the psych ward of the hospital to get back to myself.
Here is what I wish I knew, and what I did when I had my second son to survive the newborn stage:
- Tag-team feedings. Make sure you tag-team feedings, meaning, if you have a partner in the newborn madness, make sure one of you sleeps while the other takes care of the baby. Hubby and I made that mistake with our first baby, with the both of us waking up every two hours around the clock, to feed our new baby. The lack of sleep was too much for the both of us, so when our second baby was born, we made sure to give one another big stretches of sleep, while the other took care of the baby.
- Brace for the postpartum hormones. You know how if you know your period is coming, and you plan for PMS, it’s not so bad and doesn’t feel so unyielding? That’s the same for postpartum hormones and how your body responds after giving birth. It helped for me to know that the first week after giving birth, I would be struggling with the post-baby blues, and that I’d have to endure all of these fun bodily issues: night sweats (literally soaking through the sheets), a lot of pain down there as my body healed, painful engorgement (this video was a lifesaver!) as my milk came in, and more issues as my body adjusted.
- Proper swaddle. Hubby is a master swaddler, me, not so much. And when you’ve got a newborn, you can’t risk a loose swaddle for many reasons, the most critical being the baby’s safety. When we had our second son, hubby and I literally tested a half dozen swaddles and we came out with a resounding winner! These.are.simply.amazing. Not only do they keep babies snuggled for long stretches of sleep, they are safe!
- Friends! Soon after I gave birth to my first son, I went to the movies with my friends. It truly felt out of body, and I was thinking about my baby incessantly, but it was important for me to remember who I was, and to lean on my support system when necessary.
- Get help. For both my babies, I spent 2 ½ months at my mom’s house, where both of my parents took care of me, supported my postpartum healing, and helped me with the baby. Hubby was there for a good chunk of time, to ensure he bonded with the baby too. Staying at your mama’s shortly after giving birth is a custom in India that I wish all new mothers had access to. It enabled me to get more sleep, heal, and my parents got to spend some quality time with their grandbabies. My mom made me delicious nourishing food and helped me manage the hysteria that comes with taking care of a wee little one. I also encourage new mamas to reach out to lactation professionals, and any other resources you may need, including medication if you need it to manage anxiety and other stresses.
A rested, happy mama is integral for this journey of mommyhood!