After having a baby, you start out tracking their age in weeks. After getting through three weeks, we finally hit the first “big” milestone – one month old! My, how fast, and yet how slow, it came. We were all getting accustomed to things during that first month; Maddie was figuring out life ‘on the outside’ and I was figuring out this whole being a mom gig.
What people fail to tell you is that those early days are pretty boring. Yes, there is this amazing little human that you created, but all that amazing little human does is eat, sleep and poop – literally! There are no smiles (save for the quick, random sleep or poop smiles), there is no playing. Most of Maddie’s time was spent in her bouncy chair or in my arms. I was breatfeeding still, but by exclusively pumping only, which meant that once I finally got her to sleep, I then had to spend 20-30 minutes pumping, storing the milk, cleaning bottles and pump parts, etc. So by the time I got to lie down and eventually got to sleep, she was waking up. I was chronically exhausted!
There were lots of sweet moments, like this one:
We tried not to let a new baby change our life too terribly much, plus it was summer vacation, so the boys were out of school and bored. Therefore, we went to the pool, a lot. Like, every day. We had to make sure our baby was fashionable at the pool! Is this not the cutest swimsuit ever???
One of the most notable events of the first month was that Maddie got to meet her maternal grandmother, who drove all the way from Northern Michigan to North Carolina to meet her. Unsurprisingly, Grandma was over-the-top in love from day one.
I would definitely say that the first month was the most difficult by far, but it’s a right of passage for babies and mommies alike – figuring out this new life together. The overall theme of the month seemed to be tracking things: how much was she eating? How many wet diapers was she making per day? How many poopy diapers? How many naps? How much sleep? Did I give her enough tummy time? Too much?
There was a lot of fear. “She’s not sleeping in her crib, but “they” say if I let her sleep on my chest she could suffocate; what do I do???” [Answer: you let the baby sleep on your dang chest, carefully, and while keeping an eye on her making sure her nose and mouth are not obstructed.]
There were pediatrician’s appointments; first at around five days old, then one week, then two weeks, then one month; whew, that was a lot! But I honestly found those appointments reassuring, especially since she was born a little small, to know that she was growing appropriately and that everything was OK. Just look at those tiny, spindly legs!
It became my only purpose in life to fatten that little baby up, and we were lucky that she was an amazing eater. She was not picky at all, and would drink breast milk or formula, whatever was available, and was eating more than the ‘recommended’ amounts pretty much from the moment we got home. It all paid off, and she started plumping up promptly.
What many people forget is that during this first month, while adjusting to having a new baby at home, you are also post-partum, with hormones on a roller coaster, a very sore hoo-ha, engorged breasts, blood, and all the other fun bodily functions that are part of having just pushed a baby out of a vagina. “Take care of yourself, too, during this time,” they say. WHEN???
That first month was the hardest for me, as a mother and a human being, because there just wasn’t time – and when there was time, there wasn’t energy – to do any of this supposed self-care. I barely ate, and subsequently lost weight, which wasn’t healthy, because I didn’t find or make the time to eat. I could have done better with that. It was survival mode for me.
“Make sure the baby is OK and taken care of” was all I cared about. I neglected myself during that time, I now realize.
My doctor asked me at my post-natal visit what was the most surprising thing I had encountered being a new mom. My answer was that I expected that it would be easy to make a baby happy as long as their needs were met. That as long as she had on a clean diaper, was getting enough sleep, and was eating enough, she would be happy. I quickly learned that is not always the case, and a crying baby does not always mean I need something; sometimes babies just cry!
My husband taught me early on about gas, and how to release it. Sometimes she would fuss, and it would turn out to be because she had gas in her belly and didn’t know how to get it out! If you help her, by pushing her knees up towards her belly, or doing a “bicycle” motion with her legs, the gas is released and she is again happy. Amazing! This was one of the many things I simply had no clue about. I’m forever grateful to my hubby, who had been through this before and who was able to help guide me, because I don’t know how I would have done it on my own or if we were both as clueless as I!