February 20, 2017. We finally met our dear Chadric Noah. He was our much-awaited bundle of joy, but too soon and sudden, I drowned, feeling everything was more like an overwhelming chunk of responsibility. Sharing this to help first-time expectant mothers be more prepared than I was.
The Social Media Deception
So many cute babies with thriving glam mommas all over my newsfeed. Motherhood looks beautiful and easy, manageable at the very least, and made with sugar, spice, and everything nice. Having a baby looked like the start of another happily ever after… until reality daunted the new mom in me with full dependency, breastfeeding, changing nappies, and oh, yes, burping (as a first time mom, you don’t exactly know when this is finished)… all these, round-the-clock. Before I could even gasp for air, this big wave of all things new has slammed my whole being and I drowned for days.
Right after delivery, Noah was placed on my chest for that first “latch.” I’ve always viewed breastfeeding pitched as a beautiful, serene deed, that it’s simply a natural way to feed the baby… until I realized too late that latching has a learning curve and it can actually be done wrong. By “too late” I mean soreness, wounds, and excruciating pain. I thought that breastfeeding really had pain involved. Googled it up and I was pressured and frustrated because everyone seems to be saying that if it is painful, I’m doing it wrong. No sleep + fatigue + “you’re doing it wrong” = I was all the more frustrated and I felt all the more stuck and helpless. I kid you not, I would dread every hunger cue from my baby and I will have cold sweat every time I’m about to breastfeed, even during the time when the latch was already correct. Once in a while, I still get that pre-latch cold sweat today. That’s how bad it was!
I am not used to having someone fully dependent on me for anything, let alone to actually live! I am uncomfortable when things can’t proceed without me. By uncomfortable, I mean I feel stuck, paralyzed. At work, any time I feel like something’s reliant on me, I would immediately do something about it: create systems, document processes, anything for business continuity! When I used to run events, I would always make sure that if I suddenly couldn’t make it on the event day, everything needed to run the event was accessible to someone else who can run it.
It was round-the-clock feeding every 2 hours. And when a mom says feeding is every 2 hours, that means sleep and rest time for mommy only happens every 2 hours, and for a good 30 minutes only every time, if any, especially in the first days! If a feeding starts at 1:00 AM, feeding ends somewhere around 1:30 AM to 2:00 AM, then burping until 2:15 AM, then change diapers until 2:20 AM. The next feeding will be at 3:00 AM and I have to be up before that time so I can attend to hunger cues without waiting for him to cry for milk. Sometimes, because feeding takes longer than usual, or if burping wasn’t done thoroughly, by the time you’re putting baby down, his mouth starts puckering up…it’s time for the next feeding! Imagine this happening all throughout at least 10 days straight.
I Wasn’t Prepared
It did not help that I was too eager to finally cuddle a baby coming from our loss two years earlier. It’s not as if I didn’t know that babies are fully dependent on their moms or that there will be sleepless nights. It was more like I lacked the preparation I needed and was affixed with the excitement of bringing Noah home and that’s it. I could have started reading “What to Expect: The First Year” or attended breastfeeding and newborn symposiums, but I didn’t. Not even crossed my mind! I focused solely on making sure work runs even during my maternity leave. Looking back, how could I even thought I would have energy or even time to check on work once a week?! I’m the type who needs to have a good grasp of what to expect to be able to function optimally, and I allowed myself to be caught off guard being a mom to a newborn.
Robbed of Joy
In the hospital, I was doing so well recovering from my CS op that even the nurses were surprised I’d go to the bathroom on my own so quickly! (This was my 2nd CS so I knew what to expect and it was easy for me to help myself recover.) The downside: nobody, including me, noticed that baby blues were creeping in. And oh boy how the blues smashed my whole being like a tidal wave a few days after we went home! I was a wreck.
I had no sleep, I was so fatigued, I was in pain (due to wrong latching), I could not take a bath, I was overly emotional, I looked so losyang, I could not understand the big picture, there was no system, I had no control.
A couple of friends told me that the newborn season was their most favorite season. Everybody was so happy for us. For those few blue days that seemed like forever, I could not relate. I wanted out, whatever way I can, like pumping and bottle feeding all the way, but pedia did not want. Mommy friends agreed. I was frustrated all the more.
I was not a mom. I was an overused milk dispenser and there was no replacing me or giving me time to breathe, and it seemed like it’s going to be like this forever.
In Summary: What to Expect
In my next post, I talk about how I overcame all these. Yes, there is an end to feeling so helpless! For now, here’s a summary of what new moms need to expect for at least the first 1-3 weeks with your little one, so you are caught a little less off guard and have a better start than I had:
1. Sleepless Nights
- No matter what your plan is eventually, for the first few weeks your baby needs you to feed him on demand. He needs to be fed every 2-3 hours and you can’t let him go unfed for more than 4 hours.
- Quick Tip: As every mom before us say, sleep when he sleeps. Even when you don’t feel like it, try to rest/sleep. There will be days (and nights) you feel all up for it, but there will be more when lack of sleep gets the best of you.
- It’s going to be tiring—exhausting. You won’t have energy, let alone time to do anything else but attend to and be there for your little one. So drop that thought that you can still check on work once in a while!
- Quick Tip: Same as #1. To add, free yourself from any burden to do anything else but attend to your baby. Let go of washing the dishes, laundry, replying to messages/emails, answering calls, work, social media, etc! If you have help, like your husband or mom, ask that they burp your baby. Use whatever time you get to sleep or eat.
- There is a learning curve for both you and baby for the correct latch. Educate yourself so you won’t be blind leading the blind.
- Quick Tip: Attend a breastfeeding class or watch Youtube videos for correct latch. If it’s painful (sharp), release the latch (place your finger between baby’s lips and your breast to release suction; never pull your breast or move baby away without doing this!), and start over until what you feel is dull and not sharp pain. The dull “pain” will go away after a few seconds, and it’s not really painful. It’s actually soothing! Try drinking cold or warm water while feeding, whichever you get more comfort from. Oh, and this tip I got from another mom: Get a small tube of lanolin cream, just in case the wrong latch leads to soreness or wounds. Made healing so much faster!
4. Priority Shift
- As soon as baby comes out, your priority will be ONLY your little one and yourself (during those feeding breaks) for these first few weeks.
- Quick Tip: Prepare yourself mentally. Set apart time in your weekly or daily schedule to read and learn about newborn care. Prepare the people around you, too. Give your husband and/or mom or any other help you have a heads up that when the baby is out, you’ll need their help to do this and that (e.g. food prep for you, dishes, burping the baby, changing diapers, giving baby a bath, etc.).
5. Overwhelming and Conflicting Information
- What do you do when you need to know more about something? Google! And there are tons of information on the web and a lot of contradicting information about what to do and what not to do. When you decide what you want to do, there’s either little or too many information about how to do it.
- Quick Tip: Read up while you’re still pregnant. I read Babywise but wasn’t able to finish it before I gave birth to Noah. If you plan to read this book, you must finish it ahead of time since the content is not arranged by the baby’s age (unlike What to Expect). You’ll need some time to understand your options, pros and cons, and then use the information to discover what you and baby can do and are comfortable with. It’s hard, and I must say very stressful, to learn about your options only when you’re already needing to figure out your baby.
I know you can never be 100% prepared most especially first time moms, but knowing these in advance gives you a few steps ahead and I hope it helps you start off better than I did. 😊 Read my next post to learn how I overcame all these, plus other things I learned!
I have been doing so much better! (Obviously, kasi I can blog na!) Super grateful for God’s grace. Thanks to everybody who has reached out to ask how I was doing and to all those who sent encouragements! If I haven’t replied to your messages on time, or my SMS/Viber messages had so many typo errors, now you know why. Haha!