I think all new parents go through a classic, almost comical moment. An hour or two after the baby is home for the first time... where they sit on the couch- a sleeping baby between them and they look around as if to notice that they are indeed alone.
Just after the birth EVERYONE in the room is an expert. You have help with diapering and swaddling, breast feeding, bathing, and dressing. Then you get home and you look around and wonder how all that expertise and support didn't follow you home in some measure. Most parents joke about that mythical "instruction manual" that we don't go home with from the hospital. I remember "joking" with my husband after dinner that first day that I wondered when the doorbell would ring with someone there to check on us to see how we were doing.
Little did I know in a few short hours I would seriously be wishing that doorbell had rung, or ANY expert on ANYTHING baby would call. I wish someone had come around that day that I came home from the hospital to tell me that this bizarre experience is transitional and OK.
My typical post birth days went something like: I've been sleepless since just before the labor, the baby has needs that may be hard to understand, I'm obsessing over when my milk will come in and whether it will be sufficient. And then I wonder if my milk will surge in and engorge my breasts making baby's latch more difficult. Does the baby have a lip or tongue tie? Or do I just need more time to "get this breastfeeding thing down?" Or do I really just need help? And what color is baby's poo supposed to be this day? Where's the chart thingy they sent us home with? Did I fill it in at that three am wake up? I swear I woke up once more than what I recorded here. I'm hungry again.. but didn't I just eat an hour ago? Aunt Amy is coming this afternoon, I should probably wash my hair and change my shirt, but I may just fall asleep in the shower and I can't seem to break out of pumping and feeding and washing bottles for more than 20 minutes here and there. And why can't I seem to stop sweating through my tshirt? WHY AM I NOT ENJOYING THIS?! I HAVE A BRAND NEW AHHHMAZING BABY AND I CAN'T ENJOY HIM!
I wish someone had told me, and I WANT YOU TO KNOW, that the day you come home from the hospital- or the next day- or the day before that, is extraordinary. You may not know it to look at a 3-day postpartum mom, but her whole endocrine system is on full reset. For months she's been generating hormones to support her pregnancy, at 20 to 30 times the non-pregnant rate.* Then the massive flow of endorphines during labor and birth. Now the recovery of the uterus and beginning of breastmilk production dictates that there must be a new balance of hormones in the body and the time to do it is short. Now add to that the expected stress of big changes to a household and the understandable inexperience (and uncertainty) of a first time mom and transitioning home can be a challenge.
I wish someone had told me this feeling will pass. On day four, or day five, or day six. When your body's hormones have begun to level off, and there's a hint of a routine and the baby poo has reached a stable color. When you throw out the chart thingy because you know when your baby's hungry better than the pamphlet and you've done enough swaddles to take a phone call while your doing it. But mostly, it's the hormones and you will fare better than I did because you now know that that adjustment is normal and temporary.
To make it easier:
Ask your dad- or mom- or partner- or bestie to put a vase of flowers in your room (or wherever your "nest" is in the house).
Establish a window of visiting hours for guests with a specific "no visitors after #:00"
Have a friend organize a meal train for you for a week or so- request meals every OTHER day, because contributors typically bring a heap of food that will last for a time. Also - request the containers be disposable to save having to keep track of washing and returning dishes.
Have your partner stay home with you and baby for a few days. One or two afternoons they exclusively will do diaper changes.
Schedule your bath HOUR every other day. Play music to make sure you're not eavesdropping on what's going on outside of you.
Hold your baby skin-to-skin. That oxytocin rush isn't just for newborns.
If all this and laundry seems like a lot, look into the hired service of a house helper for a week. Better yet, get a postpartum doula.
Lastly and most importantly TALK about what you're experiencing! The best way to cope with the ups and downs of the first days is to normalize it for yourself and those around you. One study concluded that nearly 1 in 3 moms experienced these "Baby Blues" in the first 10 days postpartum.**
The key is taking the stigma away from it so that those of us for whom postpartum depression is a risk can differentiate between the two. The irony is being sent home from the hospital at the peak of emotional and physical transition without a manual or follow-up call.
You can do this! - Because now you know!