I cried when I had to leave the hospital after having our first son. I couldn’t believe they were letting us load his car seat in the car without their direct supervision. I couldn’t believe we’d have to make the 45-minute trek from our downtown hospital to our suburban neighborhood with a 4-day old baby in our care. I couldn’t believe I was on my own now, with a new life that was 100% dependent on me. To say the least, I was overwhelmed.
I’d read the blogs, registered for the essentials, set up the nursery, taken the birthing class. But why had no one told me about this, the fourth trimester? The fourth trimester: those first three months of your baby adjusting to life on the other side of the womb, trying to switch their days and nights, learning to feed. The fourth trimester: a big blur of diaper changes and milk coming in and feeding every 90 minutes and trying to sleep while baby sleeps and emotions you’ve never felt before. Of course, I expected the missed sleep (though no one can truly explain the next level exhaustion in those first weeks). But I had no clue that all I was feeling was normal and expected and that I wasn’t failing as I was trying desperately to figure out my new baby and our new lives together.
In those first three months as a family of three, I’m so thankful for the community of friends and family we had around us: moms who were a step ahead of me, new moms who’d had babies within weeks of me, friends who’d known me forever, and of course, our own moms. I can’t help but think that if you’re an expectant or new mom that you’d love to hear what our Real Moms have to say about what they wish they’d known before bringing their first baby home.
Like I said above, I took a birthing class a month or so before our son was due. While it was helpful to have all that information, none of it ended up being relevant to me and my unplanned C-Section delivery. I wish I would’ve had a little more information about all kinds of deliveries and tips about recovery.
“I wish I would have read about c-sections…I totally skipped that chapter thinking it would never happen to me. My first was delivered c-section after 30 hours of labor. I felt SO defeated and inadequate as a woman, which of course is totally not true. I was devastated, which is silly looking back. It definitely is something I have been able to talk to others about since, but I really wish I would have read about it before.” -Margo L.
It’s good to have a birth plan, to think and plan and prepare for how you want your delivery to go, but it’s also good to know all the options. You may never need to use any of the information about induction or C-Section, but, if you do, you’ll be glad to have a few things at least somewhat figured out.
The feelings and emotions that come along with the fourth trimester after bringing your baby home are very real.
“I wish someone would have told me my emotions were going to be all over the board and that it was ok, I was ok and it is part of the process.” -Roxi B.
“ Completely agree with the 4th tri….sooo hard and no one told me!!” Kati R.
Not only are there unexpected emotions to deal with, but also the physical pain that remains after labor and delivery.
“After pains!! With my first I seriously thought I was dying! No one told me about after pains! And they get worse with each baby.” Lindy R.
“Night sweats are a thing postpartum. I thought I was dying.” Ashlynn R.
Real Mom Katie B. steps in with a word of advice for all of us in the fourth trimester and the thick of postpartum feelings:
“I wish I would have known the importance of exercise (even if it’s just going for a walk), getting ready every day (even if you don’t feel like it), and getting out of the house. I had Postpartum depression after Adam and Jack. Doing those things helped so much with the depression. Also, the importance of giving myself grace. It’s ok to not have it all together and to not be ok.”
Half the battle of those first few weeks at home is removing all expectations–the ones you placed on yourself and the way you thought this time would go.
My mom told me in those early days that I had two priorities: Feed yourself and feed your baby. My husband could step in and do so many of the other tasks I thought were so necessary and our community of friends and family were always willing to lend a hand. But I had to focus on the two things I couldn’t delegate and it lessened the overwhelm for me.
Far and away the topic that Real Moms had the most to say about was newborn feeding and nursing.
“I wish I would have educated myself about nursing and newborn sleep. I wish I knew it was my new full time job! And that “eating every two hours” starts when the nursing session starts, the timer doesn’t reset after baby is done nursing! And that baby’s tummy only holds about a tablespoon of milk.” -Amy P.
“I wish I was more equipped to advocate for our nursing journey with my 2 bio kids. There are so many reasons I struggled and couldn’t continue that I didn’t know about earlier from tongue and lip ties to a nurses recommendation to supplement on day 2 (before lactation came to meet with me) and having me to supplement way too much. And not knowing who or how to meet with a lactation consultant after we left the hospital (or if insurance would cover that) to get the help needed. I needed to know how hard that would be and what my resources were!” -Kelly B.
“I wish I would have known to seek help from a lactation consultant immediately and not wait a few days!” -Alivia J.
“Pumping is breastfeeding.” -Ashlynn R.
Can anyone ever properly explain the lack of sleep to an expectant parent? I don’t think so. It might be why so much of those first few months are such a blur.
“Ha! Truly how much sleep you wouldn’t be getting!!” Chrissy B.
“How to help baby sleep!! (Especially a colicky one). And how to deal with the feelings that come with sleep deprivation.” -Hannah K.
“Newborn sleep skills! I was so focused on labor and delivery that I didn’t read anything about baby sleep.” Kay L.
There were days in those first few weeks after bringing a newborn home when it felt like both my husband and I were too tired to do anything more than look at each other with a knowing glance. Our whole worlds were completely changed as the result of becoming parents and I’m so glad we had a strong marriage foundation to build upon.
“Communication has always been a huge part of my marriage, but I didn’t realize how much that would change when our baby came!! It’s so important to be sooo intentional with communication and telling your significant other how you’re feeling even if it sucks. -Abby F.
Between feeding, sleeping and changing your baby, there are plenty of other random things to know about newborns. We were glad our postpartum nurses suggested dressing baby in a newborn tshirt and his sleep swaddle at night. This made all those middle of the night diaper changes so much easier, with less to unsnap and undo.
“I just discovered an app for tracking when baby eats/sleeps/diaper changes. Wish I would have had it when he was first born because I was so bad at tracking.” -Kay L. Kay recommends trying the Huckleberry app.
“I wish I had gotten less special newborn clothing (about 90% of it was never worn) and more white onesies and sleepers.” -Laurel S.
“Have Pedialyte around when they are infants. We have used it four times and the first time we didn’t have it and it could have saved us a trip to Children’s ER.” -Alivia J.)
As you look toward this huge life change, remember that the little baby you bring home won’t be little forever. Those first few months go by so fast, despite the lack of sleep and hours of life spent feeding and changing. Months later, all you’ll remember are the precious times baby fell asleep on your chest or the first moment they locked eyes with you and smiled. Remember to soak up each moment in every season!
If you’re still in the midst of preparing for life with a little one, don’t miss any of the posts in our Ask a Real Mom series and other helpful baby posts on our GiveIt Blog. If you’ve got a baby shower coming up, you can point all your guests to your registries available at RegistryFinder.com.