So there's a bit of a baby invasion going on, which is very exciting, because it means that lots of new little friends are entering the world. Listening to/reading about my friends' birthing experiences has made me recall my own, as well as my post-partum experience, and the first month of pure hell (what I can remember), and so on. So I've decided to post some advice, or at least some things I wish I had done better...things that kind of make me want a re-do in some ways, which is a little ridiculous considering how great Penny is, and how much more confident I am now about motherhood in general. I guess that's why some people have more than one baby? So they can do things better the second time around? But in a way, I wouldn't change my experience, because it has ultimately shaped our relationships; mine and Penny's, mine and Britt's, Britt's and Penny's.
Anyway, here's my little list (with pictures!), please feel free to add your own advice:
Penny, One Week Old.
1. The first piece of advice is from my dad. Before I gave birth to Penny, he told me that everyone has their own birthing experience. (This is for the future moms-to-be out there.) You will have your own unique birthing experience. Only YOU know how YOU will feel at the time, and what YOU think YOU can handle. Just because an epidural worked for me, doesn't mean it's for everyone. And just because some of my friends were able to birth their babies naturally (which I have said is like running a marathon with your vagina), doesn't mean that's for everyone. Getting an epidural isn't a cop-out and needing a C-section is not akin to failure.
Penny, One Month Old.
2. There is no spoon. By this I mean that TIME DOES NOT EXIST when you have a newborn. I remember feeling very resentful about being awakened at 3 a.m. and I had to tell myself that 3:00 was just a random number that no longer meant anything. Penny didn't know that waking people up at an ungodly hour was rude and inconsiderate, she just needed to eat, and feeding her was my job. I had to retrain my brain to accept the feed-sleep-feed-sleep cycle that became our new schedule, and the sun was just a random occurrence. Sometimes it was up, and sometimes it was dark outside. But time did not exist.
Penny, 1.5 Months Old.
3. Don't be afraid to ask for help. I wish I had been more aggressive in the hospital and INSISTED that a lactation specialist help me with my breastfeeding. I wish they hadn't released me without making absolutely sure that Penny had a good latch. This stems from some resentment I still have about all of the conflicting advice I received from each nurse who was on duty. And in some ways, they must have thought we would be ok, otherwise they wouldn't have released us?
But even after we were home, I wish I hadn't been too proud to ask for help, or to put it another way, been so SURE that things would naturally just turn out without any effort. I felt so confident when my milk came in, I had no idea that Penny wasn't eating enough or that I wasn't being stimulated enough or producing enough and around and around in that vicious little cycle. But in retrospect, Penny was crying a lot. And she was crying because she was hungry, I know that now. If I have another baby, I will just feed her (or him?) anytime she cries. One peep and that baby will be suckling! And that's another thing. I pay a lot of attention to Penny's swallowing pattern while she eats, even now. The swallowing is key.
Penny, 2 Months Old.
4. Breastfeeding is hard. It's harder than I thought it would be. I had heard other women say it was hard, but I didn't believe them and I didn't think it would be hard for me. I was wrong.
Penny, 3 Months Old.
5. Don't forget to take care of yourself! I was so caught up in taking care of Penny that I would forget to feed myself. I know that sounds crazy. But that first month was so hard. If it hadn't been for friends bringing us food every day, we all might have starved. Also, people would say, "sleep when Penny sleeps," and usually I heeded their advice. But sometimes, that would be the ideal time to contact the outside world, or blend up a protein shake, or furiously read the baby BOOKS, which leads me to point number 6.
Penny, 4 Months Old.
6. Sometimes knowledge can be a bad thing. I think Whitney warned me about this after my bellybutton post. The BOOKS can be helpful as guidelines, but they shouldn't replace parental instincts. You might not think you have any instincts, but you do.
Penny, 5 Months Old.
7. It gets better! I think if I hadn't heard that over and over again, I might have remained in a post-partum funk longer than I did. Being pregnant was so fun and the idea of the actual baby was so abstract. But then all of the sudden, you have this cute little helpless creature who needs you 24-7 and it's exhausting. Even now, if I stopped to think about how much Penny depends on me, my head might explode. And she is ALWAYS going to need me. That's kind of a lot of pressure. And there is a lot of worrying. I will never not worry about her in some way. Even when she's 30, I will be thinking about her and hoping she's ok. But that's the heart of parenting, isn't it?
Queen Penny, age 6 Months, and her Chief Advisor, Chupa.
What am I forgetting?