These two images were taken in the hospital 3 days after Henry was born 6 years ago. He was 4 weeks early, born by emergency c-section due to a super rare fetal heart condition called atrial flutter. His otherwise healthy heart spontaneously started to beat dangerously fast at 400+ beats a minute. It was a complete miracle they caught it so fast and that he survived. Immediately after his birth they were able to correct his heart condition by threading electrical chords down his esophagus, stop and and then re-starting his heart back into normal speed. Jared watched the whole thing while I was in another room recovering. He survived and hasn’t had any heart problems since but he still stayed in the hospital a couple days longer than me. Luckily we lived close and I would come and try to nurse him in a little dinky supply room multiple times a day. Except he had no interest in nursing and had to be fed intravenously for a while. He wouldn’t even open up his eyes for several days. I didn’t blame him. I kind of wanted to close my eyes and just wait for the nightmare to be over too.
Needless to say, it was rough. Really rough. Even with a traumatic birth I thought I’d be flooded with feelings of love and happiness when Henry was born, but those didn’t come right away. What did come were sleepless nights, lots of tears over nothing- it seemed, panic every time we took his heart rate (with every diaper change), frustration over his refusal to nurse, and feelings of inadequacy over my new job as a mother that was supposed to be natural and wonderful.
Looking back I think I was dealing with some mild postpartum depression after a traumatic birth, and a lot of sleep deprivation. I remember after a few sleepless nights someone told me that most babies start to sleep long stretches by 8 weeks. They were trying to cheer me up but all I remember was feeling complete desperation, “There is no way I’m going to make it to 8 weeks. I won’t survive”….
Fast forward to baby #2 who is now 3 1/2 months old! Worlds different birth experience. Edie has been a lot easier in so many ways (there is no way I would have been down for a family photoshoot just a week after Henry was born). The biggest thing for me is that she has been sleeping long stretches (4 + hrs) at night, from day one. Also, I was lucky enough to be able to have a relatively quick and easy v-bac delivery (vaginal birth after a c-section) which was worlds easier for a million reasons. Jared was also able to take off a couple months from work to help out as well as my mother staying with us, Edie had a good latch for nursing, and we finally finally! were able to bring another baby into our family after years of dealing with secondary infertility. It’s been happy and joyful, certainly!
But, with everything going along as happily and seamless as possible, things were still hard. Fussiness and colic set in at 4 weeks (right when my mother left, of course) and I was feeling overwhelmed again. I found myself crying at night, having a hard time getting myself out of bed some mornings but then by the end of the day found myself being too active for postpartum. I was ordered by my Dr. to stay in bed and snuggle with my baby. I became frustrated with nursing problems like a painful latch, clogged ducts, mastitis, oversupply, undersupply. Feeling guilty for not spending as much time with Henry and general feelings of inadequacy as a mother.
“I’m just not good with babies”, I’ve heard myself say over and over. I found that I really need and rely on the support of other woman during this time. I have friends I call for emotional advice (“Henry told me he thinks I like the baby more than him”), friends I term ‘baby whisperers’ for nursing and colic advice (“She knows how to get her food. That’s her one job”, my sister Celeste whose a midwife always tells me), and friends to watch a cheesy movie and get an ice cream cone with at 10 pm when I’m feeling cooped up. Postpartum is a time I’ve needed to reach out and connect with other women more than any other season in my life.
So in the spirit of connecting, I thought it might be fun to collect some advice from other moms of newborns and hear what words of wisdom they have for surviving those first three months:
I’d love to hear your advice too!
The first few months with your baby are so hard and exhausting, and yet when I look back on them, even just a few months later, I have almost a reverence for all those sleepless nights and moments of desperation that come with a newborn. There is something so powerful and overwhelming about somebody needing you so wholly, but is it also so BEAUTIFUL. I feel like to survive those first few months you need to safeguard yourself from people (including virtual people), places, and things (for me that thing was my EMAIL!) that add any undue stress, so that you can heal and learn how to enjoy a tiny person needing you so much. Babies don’t keep, everything else does. –Alison of The Alison Show
I took my doctor to heart when he said ‘You can’t spoil a newborn’. I would let him nap on my chest and hold him whenever I could. They grow up too fast to not cherish the first few months. Now that Knox is 4 months old, we have him on a schedule and he prefers his baby bed to anything else. I miss those afternoon naps together. (Which reminds me, try to sleep when they sleep!) –Caroline of House of Harper
I have four pieces of advice for new moms. The first is something an experienced mother told me when my first son was just a few weeks old – be kind to yourself. This seems simple but is extremely difficult. To me this means not to judge yourself, ask your partner for help, and know your best is enough. Second, seek out other new mothers. The shared comradery and commiseration is priceless. Third, before giving birth treat yourself to a few special postpartum clothing items. I was so sick of my maternity clothes and trying to fit into my regular things was uncomfortable and depressing. Cute pajamas, a mens flannel shirt, and spanx leggings are my favorites. Lastly, have a friend set up a meal train so you have nutritious meals during your time of healing and adjustment. –Sarah of Two Blue Lemons
My sister gave me great advice before I had my baby, “Stay calm and be patient with yourself”. I’ve found this to be my motto, especially during those first few weeks of breastfeeding. As soon as I got frustrated and tense so did my baby (they feed off of your energy I swear!). I’d have to remind myself to stay calm, take a deep breath, and if I needed to… step away and try again later. Motherhood is a process, cut yourself some slack and learn to roll with the punches (because things never go by the book). –Ashley, “Say Yes” fashion editor and blog manager
Just because leggings and knit tees are the only thing in your closet that fits doesn’t mean you should wear them. Do yourself a favor and buy a neutral button up blouse (I like chambray) that fits. You’ll feel so much better. –Madeline of Über Chic for Cheap
I loved using a baby app this time around to keep track of eating and sleeping. (I used Total Baby) On that note, I needed to learn to trust my instincts when it came to having a schedule or not having a schedule. I continue to remind myself to trust my parenting style and instincts. –Angie Whittemore
After struggling with postpartum depression with my first two babies I decided to get on medication right away with my current lil’ babe. It has made all the difference in the world! I know this advice won’t be applicable for everyone, but if you think you might be suffering from PPD it’s worth talking to your doctor or medical provider to see if medication would be a good option. My other survival tactic is doing at least one thing a day that helps you feel more like “you”…listening to your favorite music, eating some quality chocolate, going on a walk, having an impromptu dance party in your kitchen, watching an episode of your favorite show…anything that puts a little spring in your step. –Mignon of This Little Miggy