As my husband, Todd, drove us home from the hospital, I sat in the back, resting our
newborn daughter’s head straight up in her car seat the whole way. It felt strange to be
out in the world, in charge of this tiny, floppy neck. When we arrived home, I carried
Kate’s seat upstairs, put it on the floor, sat down, and stared at her.
The first six weeks of a newborn’s life are a series of ups and downs for any parentーーbig
ups and downs! It’s intense, and then it’s over and you remember it as a blur.
Fortunately, I wrote a lot of it down, and reading through my notes gave me a clearer
picture of those sleepy days (and nights). I hope my memories will help prepare moms-to-be
and hopefully help new moms feel less lost.
The first week of new motherhood
First day at home: Day 4 of Kate’s life
After I took my eyes off my sleeping daughter, the first thing I did was take a shower.
This wasn’t easy, considering my C-section incision. The doctor said I could get it wet,
but I was skeptical about that. I also didn’t want the water to hit my sore, swollen
breasts, so washing my hair was clumsy if not nearly impossible.
Then I resumed my main job as a mom: breastfeeding Kate. It wasn’t as easy as it sounds.
You’ve read that breastfeeding shouldn’t be harmful, but in the beginning, it really is,
even if you do it right. Kate was born with it, but I wasnーーwhen she opened her mouth and
frantically shoved her nipples in, I would tense up so she wouldn’t clamp down in the wrong
place. It really hurts my brain.
Day 2: Sleep, please!
You’ve heard that new parents are exhausted, but for the first few days, you can get a good
run of adrenaline and mysterious mommy hormones. Then, slowly, the lack of sleep starts to
not only catch up with you, but overtake you and take control of your life. On our second
night at home, we don’t know everything yet and are content to steal sleep whenever we get
the chance. Kate often dozed off on my chest or Todd’sーーwe pushed her back and forth.
When I was pregnant, I thought I would never want kids in our bed, but now that I see that
it allows everyone to stay level, I’m totally behind itーat least on these first nights.
Day 3: Crazy Eating
Every morning was like this: I fed Kate and she would always burp (for the first few weeks,
she seemed to burp non-stop). Todd made me breakfast and held her while I gobbled it up.
Then she was ready to eat again. Afterwards when she fell asleep, I was afraid to put her
down because she might wake up and want to eat again.
Physicallyーーwell, my thighs and ankles are still sickeningly swollen from the IVs I got
in the hospital. I was always thirsty. I take ibuprofen several times a day for abdominal
incision pain. My belly button has gone from flat to simply bulgingーーI can’t imagine
turning my dimples back, but they say it will happen!
We took Kate to the pediatrician. She was 7lbs 1oz at birth, 6lbs 8oz at discharge, and now
6lbs 14oz. (This is typical for newborns to lose a few ounces immediately after birth and
then regain it.) The doctor wants her to regain her birth weight in three days, which seems
Day 4: Spread out
Todd had some work to do, but luckily I had the support of my family. My sister and her
husband would come over in the afternoon and let me take a 90 minute nap. I need it because
my nerves are fraying. Kate was crying after a feeding and I didn’t know what to do. What
could I use to comfort her other than milk, burps and cuddles?
I felt like I was the one who needed a mother’s love. Luckily, my mom came over that night
and planned to stay for two weeks. I have never been so happy to see her.
Day 5: Frustrated!
Todd worked all day and then he worked up the courage to go to bed at 10pm while I sat with
Kate, moping. Of course, I suggested he take a nap, but I didn’t think he’d actually take
me up on it! He redeemed himself by putting Kate back to sleep after feeding her at 1am.
Day 6: We return to the pediatrician
Kate is at her birth weight! All the breastfeeding seemed to have done the trick. Now we
just need to focus on her sleep at night. She is so cute!
Week 2 of new mommyhood
The Routine Begins
Kate ended up sleeping for two four-hour periods, eating at 11pm, 3am, and 7am. With my
lack of sleep, keeping track of when she ate was surprisingly difficult. And, since she
basically ate non-stop during the day, it was hard to tell when one session ended and the
next one began.
I slipped out to run a few errands, but it wasn’t as refreshing as I had hoped. I can’t
walk very fast yet, and my chest hurts.
Kate’s umbilical cord was broken! Mom and I saved it for Todd.
The crying continues
My new plan is to let Kate take a nap in her crib. Swaddling her helpedーーsometimes she
even napped for an hour and a half, which felt like a miracle. But the nights got tough
again. Why is it that when you have a little victory in one area, something goes wrong in
another? When Kate cried at 3 a.m., we dared to look up “hernia” in the parenting manual.
But she wasn’t crying in any way. We paced around the floor with her in our arms, then
tried the running water in the bathroom. Finally, Todd put her head in his arms and rocked
her back and forth, just like the nurses he saw in the hospital. That seemed to help.
Kate’s birth certificate was in the mailbox, so we joked that she was “official.”
More family arrives
My dad came. He seemed a little surprised to realize that he was actually a grandfather
Todd and I took Kate for her first walk. But my stomach kept vibrating and I kept reaching
to make sure she was still breathing and not feeling cold. If the point of a sling is to
keep your hands free, it doesn’t seem to work. Todd said he felt protective, like he wanted
a 10-foot-tall wrap around his home that no one could penetrate.
New Mom Week 3
Kate was grabbing thingsーーfingers and my shirt while nursing. As I feed her, I start to
relax and stare at her cute little side. I love that I’m the only one who sees her from
that angle. A friend who just had a baby a few months ago said that in another month I will
be able to type and talk on the phone while breastfeeding. I can’t imagine! Now,
positioning seems crucial.
We left Kate with my parents and went out for sushi – for the first time since I was
pregnant. It was strangely liberating to be alone with my husband, even if only for an
hour. Of course, all we talked about was Kate.
I’m recovering nicely, and shockingly, I’ve lost 20 pounds. But my hormones are still
raging. For example, I bought Kate a sweater and when the cashier asked if I wanted a gift
receipt, I said, “No, it’s for my daughter.” Then I immediately burst into tears. I also
felt sad to see my parents leaveーーI think the fact that we were only halfway across the
U.S. from them will be even more apparent now.
We finally worked up the courage to give Kate her first bath. It took us a minute and we
were worried she might catch a cold. After we dried her off, her hair looked sweet and
curly. Then we put her on the changing table and she stared at the phone. She was much more
sensitive to her surroundings.
Week 4 of new motherhood
Feeling like a mom
On our first day alone together (with Todd back in the office), I took Kate to have her
picture taken for her birth announcement. I was proud to have managed to stroll around her
alone! But as the week continued, the sense of accomplishment waned. The great truth of
first-time motherhood hit me: my time was no longer my own. The 24/7 relentless baby care
was hard to adjust to.
Since Todd is now commuting again, he tries to sleep at the right time. On the other hand,
I don’t sleep and rock a crying baby. I feel angry, but when he offers to help, I bark at
him to go back to sleep. Hormonal hormones. I cried with Kate until I dozed off.
To cheer myself up, I joined a new moms group. It was such a relief to talk to women who
knew exactly how I felt! When I talked about my “nap time,” when Todd went to bed at night,
I realized that part of the problem was that I was afraid I would get very little sleep. I
was determined to try to relax and let nature take its course.
Babies are dirty and messy. I do a lot of laundry. Kate has had her first explosive diaper
that has been soaked in her clothes. She also had her first jet of spit-up that managed to
soak her car seat, herself, my pants, and the floor in one spectacular move.
But the baby was also adorable, and when she saw me or Todd, she would make some “oh”
noises and we melted.
New Mom Week 5
More mommy milestones
I know how to use the front carrier and go for walks along the way. I breastfed for the
first time in public, at the New Moms Organization. We went out to dinner with friends and
Kate slept in the stroller so we had plenty of adult conversation. One afternoon, for the
first time, I felt scared and I thought she was choking. But she was coughing and crying
wildly at the same timeーーit was obvious she was fine and it passed.
More baby milestones
Kate started using her playmat a lot and napping in her crib. She developed some baby acne
on her cheeks, which then quickly disappeared. Finally, at five and a half weeks, Kate
smiledーーshe moved her mouth while crinkling up her eyes!
The nights are still the hardest times for everyone. One night, when Kate was screaming,
Todd shakily tapped me on the arm. I hissed, “This isn’t helping me! ” and started crying.
He got up and walked to the couch, complaining that I had pushed him away. Later I
apologized for hurting his feelings. It’s crazy how my relationship with Kate has
complicated my relationship with my husband.
In other news, we asked her out for a month. Kate was 9 lbs 6 oz and 23 inches long. The
doctor told me there would probably be a week of rapid growth and warned me that Kate would
always want to breastfeed (as if she didn’t already!) . I was supposed to feed her whenever
she was hungry (my instincts proved to be correct, which was good). He also showed me how
to position her when she was hungry. She put her head up and placed it there. We were so
Week 6 of new motherhood
Life starts over.
Now it seemed time to develop a bedtime routine, starting with getting Kate into her
pajamas to show that it was now nighttime. The other night she slept from 11:30 pm to 4:30
am, although probably not because of the pajamas.
She seemed to make big leaps in consciousness, like paying more attention to toys. She also
rolled off her tummy and onto her backーーmaybe by accident, but it still means a lot!
Although I would find myself saying this many times during Kate’s first year of life, it
seems like we are finally getting a handle on things. Todd and I are feeling more confident
about parenting and Kate’s personality is clearly showing through.
While it’s been exhausting and sometimes distracting, I wouldn’t call these six weeks bad.
Even when I’m feeling nauseous from lack of sleep or crying for an hour with my baby, all I
have to do is look at her and feel that incredible love, and somehow it’s worth every