“Be ready to cry.. a lot… for no reason at all.”
That was the advice I got from a few friends as I was in the final countdown to give birth to Max. And to be honest as I am sitting here and writing this blog I am crying for who knows what reason.
I had done a lot of research on the 4th trimester, one that is hardly talked about but one that poses its own set of challenges (some say it could be the hardest trimester of all). It is considered the 12 week period after birth. During this time your baby is adjusting to being outside the womb while you adjust to life as a new mom. You are dealing with sleepless nights, intense feeding demands until the baby is back to his birth weight, and a rollercoaster of emotions as your hormones balance out again – hence try crying. Oh and on top of that the constant worrying, is my baby too hot or cold? Is that poo a normal colour? The google searches never end and they can take you down a very dark rabbit hole. It is so important to not just take care of your baby, but to take care of you as well because if you aren’t functioning – how can you be in the mindset to take care of the little one also.
When we first left the hospital Max wasn’t latching. I was so scared we were going to get home and I wasn’t going to be able to feed my child. Thankfully living in Squamish there is a large support system for new moms. The day after we brought Max home a midwife came over to help me with latching, but many new moms don’t have that support and so if you are struggling, there are resources out there like lactation consultants that can help.
On top of the fear of feeding the little man was the fear of well everything else. Even though he seemed to be a good sleeper I couldn’t sleep at all because I wanted to make sure he was breathing. I wasn’t sure if we should add a swaddle while he slept because he might be cold, but I didn’t want him to overheat. A day after leaving the hospital we were back because he got an eye infection. I spent moments just crying because I was worried I wasn’t doing the right things for him. But overall I would say my two weeks postpartum was pretty positive, mostly because of a little help from Max (figuring out breastfeeding pretty quickly) and the research that I did ahead of time. I wanted to share some of the steps I took that helped me stay relatively sane.
1. Set boundaries
A new baby is such an exciting time and of course all of your friends and family are going to want to meet the little one. My husband and I set some rules before he was even born, no one could hold or get too close to him unless they had the covid vaccine and flu shot. But once he is here we had to set other boundaries. We didn’t jam pack more than one visit per day, and it was limited to an hour so that we could have some time in-between feeds. I also wasn’t shy about letting friends know if we needed help. Asking for someone to take a change diaper turn or bring us some food or take our dog on a walk. I am usually the type of person who doesn’t like to ask for help – but you have a new baby and the small circle of friends that you are going to let see him in those first few days are the ones that want to lend a helping hand anyway
2. Find time for you still
Sleep when the baby sleeps – I am sure you have heard that before right? Well when you have a newborn and they have to feed every 2-3 hours that can be a tough task. Thankfully I have an extremely supportive partner who actually let me sleep while Max slept and he took care of cleaning, cooking, laundry etc. But now that his pat leave is over I am in charge of all poo explosions and temper tantrums. But one thing that the nurses told me before I left the hospital was if I don’t take care of myself (eat, sleep, stay on top of pain relief) then there is no way I will have the energy and mental capacity to take care of him. So as hard as it may sound – try and actually sleep when the baby sleeps – and again lean on friends if you need to. On top of that, keep taking those pain meds. I tried to stop mine early because I was feeling good but alas as soon as I tried to cut down and get moving again the pain started to creep back up and I was just in a constant state of discomfort, which made breastfeeding a challenge.
3. Don’t push it
I am a former professional athlete and during the pregnancy I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes and so I had to stay active. Well then you have the baby and all of a sudden I am told I am not allowed to go on more than 5-10 minute walks for the first two weeks. One day I figured I would cheat. I strapped Max on and went for a 30 min walk. Worst decision of my life. I was in pain for hours after that and my husband had to feed him. As hard as it was, I learned that my body truly is healing from one of the most intense experience and I need to respect that – also I have learned from others that if you don’t let your pelvic floor heal there could be life long consequences.
4. Lean on friends and find a good support system
When I was in the hospital a lot of the nurses told me about the baby blues and postpartum depression. While I was feeling really good in the first week and a half, a few things happened in the second week that left me feeling anxious. Thankfully I had the support of my husband and midwife to get me through. It is important to be able to recognize these things and feel like you have a support system or someone you trust that can help you get through.
5. Give yourself a pat on the back
For 10 months you carry and grow this human and then in a day they arrive and all of a sudden you are tasked to take care of him. I joked at the hospital that there should be a test before you are able to go home – the only test we got was that we knew how to use the care seat – the rest we had to figure out on our own and that is scary. Just take a moment each day to appreciate how hard you are working for your baby because even on the days when you feel like a complete failure – you are doing everything in your power to make sure your little one is happy.
You got this momma