Suriving_First_Weeks_Motherhood

Surviving the First Weeks of Motherhood

 

Suriving_First_Weeks_Motherhood

Hello! I’m back!

Lots of things happened recently. The holidays happened, then my web hosting provider informed me that I had exceeded my database limit for my website (whaaaaaat?), so I couldn’t log in, then I had a baby, and then I got a little busy.

A baby? Yes! I had a baby! My last post was about the agony of waiting around for a baby to be born. This post is about surviving the first weeks of motherhood after that baby finally arrives.

HOORAY! We finally get to meet him!

…Now what?

You’ll get lots of contradictory advice.

Even if you’ve read all the baby books, you’ll still be totally clueless when your first kid arrives. Why? Because no book in the world can tell you about YOUR child. Now it’s time to get to know him!

If you’re in a hospital setting, you’ll get lots of advice from nurses and doctors. Sometimes, that advice might even seem contradictory. Once you’re on the post-natal ward, the confusion starts.

Our morning nurse told us categorically to NEVER swaddle our baby, and to ONLY treat sore nipples with breast milk.

Our evening nurse, on the other hand, gave us a lesson in swaddling the Bug, and even set up a little nest for him in the bed next to me (which horrified the morning nurse when she came in the next day). She also recommended lanolin cream for sore nipples.

The afternoon nurse said Bug was latching on perfectly, while the morning nurse said he had a tongue-tie (turns out he does) and we should use a pacifier.

“Wake the baby up to feed him every two hours!”

“Never wake a sleeping baby!”

“Put mitts over his hands so he doesn’t scratch himself.”

“Don’t cover his hands with mitts or he won’t be able to comfort himself.”

It’s enough to make you go mad!

What is right and what is wrong?

While there can very definitely be a wrong when it comes to taking care of your baby (i.e. neglecting the poor thing), there is no one right way of doing things.

“Right” is going to depend on what works for you and your baby.

Take any advice you get into consideration (or totally disregard it, especially when it is unsolicited and obnoxious), and decide for yourself what works for you. You may have never thought of one technique that someone suggests, and it could prove helpful to try it out. Just try things on for size. You’ll soon learn what works and what doesn’t.

Also, take any categorial advice (the NEVERs and the ALWAYSs and the YOU MUSTs) with a grain of salt. Excepting, of course, the big ones like, “Never shake a baby,” and, “You must feed your baby.”

We were told, for instance, to always wait an hour after feeding before giving the Bug a bath. But just after his meal is when he’s most amenable to bathing! So to heck with that one hour wait. Our Bug eats and then bathes, and he loves it.

The first night home is terrifying.

Though the advice and instructions you get at the hospital can sometimes be confusing, at least you’re in the care of professionals, right?

Well, when you get home, it’s just you two and your baby. Holy. Crap. It’s scary.

Suddenly, you realize that you guys are on your own and that you’re responsible for this tiny little human being. And what’s more, you have NO IDEA WHAT TO DO.

Do what I did: Call a friend in tears and ask for advice.

This is when it’s super helpful/important to have friends or family who have been through this and can listen to you and comfort you.

If you don’t know someone who’s been in your situation you can call, look up a local mommy group. Chico and I took our Bug to a breastfeeding meet-up when he was just one week old. That really helped me, especially to encounter other mothers in the same boat as me.

And if you’re freaking out about anything, just remember:

There is no normal.

Well, let me rephrase: There is such a wide range of what makes a baby “normal” that nothing seems normal.

We were told to feed our Bug at least 8 to 12 times a day. Well, he usually eats 6 to 8 times a day (occasionally he’ll have a big day where he eats 9 times).

For three weeks, this fact stressed me out. I constantly checked the time to figure out how long it had been since his last feed, and I continued to wake him up to feed him.

That is, until we realized he was gaining almost 50g per day (they aim for a 20-30g/day average weight gain). Apparently, our Bug doesn’t eat very frequently, but when he does he gets the job done effectively!

Again, this is a question of figuring out what works for you. If your baby is having issues gaining weight, that’s another story. You should discuss with your pediatrician.

But if your baby is gaining weight, peeing, pooping and eating well, then relax. You’re doing just fine.

Breastfeeding is hard.

The videos they show you in the prenatal classes make it look sooooooo easy, right? Baby will obligingly open his mouth wide and latch on well and OM NOM NOM NOM NOM.

I hate to break it to you, but that doesn’t always happen.

It can be for any number of reasons. Our Bug has a posterior tongue tie that makes his latch less than optimal. That’s made for some pretty sore nipples on my part, and a fair number of tearful feedings. (We’ve decided to cut his tongue tie on Monday. I will probably weep.)

But even if your baby doesn’t have a specific problem making breastfeeding tricky, it’s still a skill that both mother and baby need to learn, and it takes practice.

My only advice is this:

Be patient. Both with yourself, and with your baby.

If you really want to breastfeed, seek help from a lactation consultant, or a breastfeeding “godmother.” They’ll be able to give you advice and techniques to help you succeed.

If it doesn’t work, though, don’t think of it as a failure. Give it a go for as long as you can stand, but if you and your baby aren’t bonding over feeding time, then it’s time to consider a new option.

I’m still working on this one, so I’ll keep you posted as things progress.

That’s all for now.

I’ve touched on a lot of stuff in this post, and I think I’ll write more on each individual topic in other articles (especially the breastfeeding).

I thought it might help other new parents to know that tears, frustration and fears are perfectly normal. But so are joy, delight, and an almost overwhelming love for this new little person.

Our Bug is the light of our lives, and though we’ve had ups and downs, we wouldn’t go back or change anything for the world.

Despite all his little imperfections, he is absolutely perfect.

Pregnancy Is A Waiting Game

Hooray! I’m 37 weeks pregnant! For those who don’t count pregnancy in weeks, that means I’m 8 and a half months pregnant, or 2.5 weeks away from my due date. As of 37 weeks, this baby is officially full-term, meaning he could come ANY MINUTE.

Any minute.

Any minute now…

Has it been a minute?

WHY ISN’T MY WATER BREAKING OMG??!!

First and Second Trimesters: A Breeze!

thebraininjane.com 34 weeks pregnant
Believe it or not, at this point things weren’t too hard.

When you’ve had a pregnancy as easy as mine (I swear, I was BUILT FOR THIS), trimesters one and two are a breeze.

If it hadn’t been for my getting slowly fatter (and knocking over wine glasses with my belly), I could have forgotten I was pregnant. It wasn’t until I started feeling the baby’s movements that I could really believe it.

Even at the start of the third trimester, things weren’t that hard. Yeah, I’d get winded quickly, and I was starting to feel quite a bit bulkier. But nothing compares to the past week or so.

Third Trimester: The Waiting Game

Suddenly, I feel like I have BALLOONED. Standing for long periods of time is uncomfortable, but so is sitting because all my vital organs have been shoved up into my ribcage, making my lungs feel a bit crowded.

pregnancy is a waiting game
I may be smiling but I’m struggling to breathe.

Normally an active person, getting out of the house has been difficult. The weather doesn’t help (thank you, Montreal), and the fear of slipping on the sheets of ice that cover the sidewalks makes my ventures tentative and short.

So what to do? Low on energy, feeling huge and lumbering, I spend a lot of my days indoors, knitting, reading, sewing, finishing off the last things on my to-do list.

But mostly, I feel like I’m just waiting. Yup, pregnancy is a waiting game.

The Worst Is Not Knowing When

People wait for their delayed flights at LaGuardia Airport in New York
This is what the last weeks of pregnancy feel like.

I’m an organized person. I like to plan things out and get my logistics in order. I’m not obsessive or anything, but I am not the best at improvising (unless, of course, I have planned to improvise…).

Waiting for this baby to come is like waiting on a delayed flight. You know your flight will be leaving at some point–it’s inevitable–, but you don’t know when. You don’t want to wander too far from the waiting area at the gate in case they make an announcement, but the all-knowing voice over the loudspeaker isn’t giving you any information. It seems that only God knows when your plane will start boarding.

At this point, only God knows when this baby will decide to get the party started. Braxton-Hicks contractions are like the movements of the airline personnel up at the gate desk: you think something is getting started, but then it’s always a false alarm.

And so I wait.

What to Do? Be Ready.

The only thing that I can do is try as best as possible to get on with life, and be ready. My organized self has prepared as much as possible. Here’s a helpful list of what you can do to be ready:

  • Have your hospital bag packed. You can find some useful lists of stuff here and here.
  • Get hubby to pack a bag! Several friends have pointed out that they completely forgot to prepare PJs or anything for Dad.
  • You need a hospital bag for baby, too!
  • Cook up some food and freeze it. I hear you’ll be glad you did this when you get home from the hospital.
  • Keep your phone charged and have your charger with you ALWAYS.
  • Carry around a maxi pad. Okay, this may sound weird, but what if you’re out and your water breaks? It can happen in a gush, but it can also happen in a trickle, so have a maxi pad ready on hand, just in case.
  • Download a new ebook, some podcasts or episodes on your phone or tablet, for distraction purposes during long hours of labor.
  • Have all your documents, birth plan, ID, etc., ready to go.

Other than that, the only thing you can do is distract yourself. I’ve decided to do so by hosting a dinner party. Because, what could go wrong, right?

What It’s All About

Honestly, what it all boils down to is this: I’m really excited to meet this kid. I’m impatient to see his face, to hear his voice and to get to know him with my Chico.

That’s what makes this waiting game so difficult. Delicious anticipation.

The Guilt of a Stay-at-Home (Expectant) Mom

Mom_guiltYou’ve heard it before: working moms feel guilty they’re not spending enough time with their kids. But did you know that stay at home moms share that guilt? And what about stay at home EXPECTANT moms? Yeah. The guilt of a stay at home mom is pervasive.

I finished a contract position, went on holiday, and came back pregnant. Parental leave in Canada can last for up to a year. By the time I was showing, I knew that no would-be employer would be willing to hire me only to have to find a replacement for me six months later.

And you know what? I was okay with that.

I was alright with taking some time to figure things out, do a little training on my own at home, some freelance work, and get ready to welcome this little person into our lives.

It sounds wonderful, doesn’t it?

That’s when guilt strikes.

It’s like being a woman is a black and white thing. You’re a mother or you’re not. You’re working or you’re not. You’re staying at home with the kids or you’re not.

No matter what decision we make, we’re judged for it. We’re judged by society, by other women, and, most devastatingly, by ourselves.

“I should be at work. I should be contributing. I should be saving money. I should be a productive member of society. I shouldn’t leach off my Chico…”

“I have a master’s degree. I should be using it.”

Those are the kinds of thoughts that enter my head some days. The days when my to-do list seems too long. Somehow I manage to spend hours doing something else entirely, and I ask myself how on earth I managed to get anything done while I was working.

Then I remember the money my parents paid for my university education, and the money I invested in my master’s degree. Has that all been wasted? Why did I take an MA if it wasn’t to use it in a profession? What am I doing with my mind, my talents, and my time?

So what am I doing? Am I just lazy?

No. I’m not lying around all day eating bonbons (though, I have to confess, I have been baking a bit more since being unemployed…).

SAHMHow to get out of the funk

When I’m on the verge of tears because I’m feeling like a total waste of space, it’s time to sit down and think about what I AM doing, rather than what I’m NOT doing.

I am: Learning new skills like knitting and sewing.

I am: Reading incredible books in three different languages.

I am: Keeping up-to-date on current events, news in my industry, and listening, watching and reading news analysis from various media sources.

I am: Making an effort to keep writing, no matter how sporadically, and keep that creative muscle in shape.

It may not sound like much, and if I’m honest I’m still judging myself pretty harshly for being so seemingly idle (and for still hiring a cleaning lady).

You gotta let go of the guilt.

If I don’t let go of it now, it will eat me up when this baby arrives. Because if I feel unproductive now, just wait until all I have time to do is change diapers, feed, and devote all my attention to a tiny little person. You can bet we’ll be caught without any milk in the fridge on a regular basis when that happens.

This image isn't entirely relevant, but I loved it.
This image isn’t entirely relevant, but I loved it.

No matter what decision you make when it comes to raising your children (or, in my case, making your children), the important thing is to make it freely and with understanding. Read about other women’s experiences and ask yourself how you would feel in their situations.

Understand what you’re getting into, and then take steps to make sure that you continue to push yourself in ways, no matter how small, that will keep your body and your mind open and in shape.

And when people raise their eyebrows after you’ve answered the “What do you do?” question? Well, what can I say? Haters gonna hate. Own it. And tell yourself that in some, small way, they’re probably jealous of you.

Give yourself an intellectual challenge.

The pitfall about staying at home is the lethargy and inactivity you can slip into (unless, of course, you are an exceptionally motivated person). Keep yourself engaged. Keep writing, keep reading, keep listening and searching. Go out and meet people, or learn something new.

Whatever it is, do it to ward off the guilt. Because our children, especially our daughters, need to grow up free from the unreasonable expectations of perfection that society puts on us that cause this guilt.

And most of all because all any of us can really do is our best.