Congrats, Mama! You just made it through childbirth, the most sacred right of passage in a woman's life. Now it's time to bond and learn to care for the most precious being you've ever known. We know all the feels. It's the greatest love you've ever felt when you hold that new baby in your arms, more love than you ever knew you were capable of feeling. Ah, it's heavenly! We also know that along with all those wonderfully made oxytocin vibes, comes some challenging stuff too.
These are the lack-of-sleep, hungry-but-you-don't-realize-it, boobs-bursting-at-the-seems, heaviest-period-ever, aching-vagina, exhausted, blessed welcome into new motherhood. We've been there, and we totally feel you. The most incredible time in your life can also feel relentless. Don't fret though, you'll get through it. They say as the baby is born into the world, so is the mother. And what a beautiful world it is!
Over time, as you create an everlasting bond with your little bundle of joy, it will get easier. You will sleep again. But as you give all you have to care for your baby, you have to remember to care for yourself too. Here are some things to remember during your amazing postpartum period or the "fourth trimester":
1. Newborns cry. It's not a bad thing. This is how they communicate. Responding to your baby's needs is extremely important. Discerning what the specific need is, however, is sometimes challenging. They might be hungry or uncomfortable. They might just need you to hold them, rock them, kiss them or sing a tune. It's hard to know exactly what's going on sometimes, but your motherly instincts will always guide you. If you have questions, always reach out to a care provider or trusted source if you need to.
2. Patience is key. When your not quite sure what to do and feeling overwhelmed, just take some deep breaths. Do the next right thing. Remember that when you're worked up, baby will feel it too. A tough episode is always made better simply by staying calm and remaining patient. Be patient with your baby and patient with yourself. This too shall pass, and you'll be back to enjoying those little smiles and laughter soon enough.
3. Accept help when it's offered. The postpartum period is one of healing and bonding. It's much more important for you to rest and bond with your baby than it is to worry about cooking, cleaning, doing laundry or running to the store. Yes, these things need to be done, but in my experience, if you are blessed to have friend, family member or postpartum doula available and willing to help out - take the help! Sleep when baby sleeps, take time for a bath, meditate when you can, and talk to other mamas who've been through it too. Don't take it all upon yourself. This is a huge adjustment in your life. You’re strong enough to handle it, but it's really important to find your village. Reach out to others, especially if your feeling any postpartum blues or depression. It's more common than you think, and you don't have to go through it alone.
4. Choose a pediatrician you can trust. When it comes to making decisions concerning your child's health, you have to be under the care of someone who is going to respect and support your choices, keep you informed, and give you helpful suggestions when needed. Whether it's regarding breastfeeding, vaccines, or your baby's development, you don't have to be pushed one way or the other into anything that doesn't feel right. There are many different types of pediatricians, and one out there that is absolutely right for your family and your baby. Talk to your midwife or doctor to get a referral.
5. Most importantly, enjoy the moment. You can't get it back. Your baby will grow so fast. One day he or she will be totally dependent on you, and before you know it, be too busy to stop for a snuggle. Crawling, walking, talking, and finding out what makes their world go round will take the top seat in their life. There's so much to do and see and learn. It's all such a joy to watch. Some days you'll miss when they fit perfectly in your arms and you could just hold them all day.
So, instead of worrying that the house isn't clean enough, your not doing enough, or there has to be more to it, just take a breath and look at that little smile. Watch those eyes sparkle when mama is at ease. See their face light up when they learn a new skill. Time passes so quickly. You'll be amazed. Each new step of the way is as precious as the last. The newborn phase goes by in a heartbeat. Take pictures, but not so many that you miss the moment.
By Christine Rapsys Writer and Pure Births Mama