Siena has spent two weeks as her own person as of Saturday. One of the relaxation YouTube videos I would listen to leading up to her birth said something along the lines of, “Soon your baby will be outside of you, her own person” and it always made me a little emotional to think about the bond that we had created in the womb being broken. But now that she’s on the outside, that bond is even stronger.
Life, however, is harder! My pregnancy was pretty easy and my discomfort level was low, even at the end. Life with a newborn is a whole different level of challenging, but I am so thankful to have a healthy, vibrant little girl to share my days with.
We came home from the hospital last Monday morning and it was way less scary than I thought it’d be. Life in the hospital with Siena was pretty easy – she never had any long crying spells and only had a few needs that we easily could meet with trial and error. However, a few days later when my milk came in and the reality that her cozy womb was a distant memory set in, life with Siena got a little harder. Although I still wouldn’t consider her a colicky baby, she definitely has her moments (which we have learned is often due to trapped gas so I have been much more diligent about burping her and my doctor suggested I take a probiotic), including her nightly “witching hour” which has brought me to tears, caused Mike to wonder if his daughter loves him (yes she does!) and left both of us more hesitant to invite guests over in the evening.
I’m not sure who invented the term “sleep like a baby,” but it wasn’t about Siena. She sleeps less than I would have imagined a newborn would – instead she’s always eating (and sometimes I suppose snoozing on my boob). We joke that she doesn’t even love me, just loves my boobs. Newborns are notorious for long nursing sessions and Siena is on the high end of the spectrum, with the average feeding lasting 45-60 minutes and sometimes longer if we are in the middle of a “cluster feed.” I was avoiding giving her a pacifier until we were well established with breast feeding but it doesn’t matter because for now, she won’t take the pacifier anyway. She just wants her two BFFs-right boob and left boob. Nipple cream, soothing breast pads and the My Brest Friend pillow are literally my best friends.
The best way to describe these last two weeks is high highs and low lows. My emotions have been all over the map (which is expected since my hormones are going crazy trying to adjust back to normal after pregnancy) but they strongest feeling I have is true love. I’ve never wanted to fiercely to protect and love someone more. Every cry sends off an alarm in my mind and all I want to do is make her happy, and it’s frustrating when I can’t (besides offering the breast – she will always take it even if she’s not making signs that she’s hungry). I’m pretty sure they make these babies cute so that no matter how frustrating they are, they still melt your heart with one glance.
Despite Siena’s love of food, breastfeeding is way, way harder than I imagined. Despite receiving 8 or more demonstrations in the hospital (Scripps Encinitas is designated as “Baby Friendly” by the World Health Organization and every single nurse has training on breastfeeding) I was still experiencing quite a bit of nipple pain (and a little bleeding) in the first week. My friend Amber who is due this week invited me to a lactation support group at CAP Wellness (which happens to be where I do prenatal yoga) and the lactation consultant there helped a lot. There’s still a little pain at times when she latched wrong and some aching after a marathon feeding but overall it’s getting more comfortable. The two lactation support groups I’ve attended have been therapeutic for me as well because it’s nice talking to fellow moms in the same situation as me.
Mike took 4 weeks paternity leave and I couldn’t be more thankful. He immediately took to being a dad and we have talked about how we are both surprised how quickly he’s bonded with her since we have heard that many new dads struggle in the beginning since the baby doesn’t really do much. He helps me immensely by changing diapers, running errands, cooking food, fetching me water or whatever else I need while breastfeeding, giving me nightly back massages and most importantly, soothing the baby when she’s fussy, especially if it’s in the middle of the night so that I can sleep after each 45-60 minute feeding session. I can’t even imagine doing this without him and I’m already nervous for him to go back to work in November!
We have had several generous visitors who have brought us food and company, which has also helped. Not only does it help to have a meal (even if I have to eat it cold because of Siena’s unpredictable nursing schedule), but a little conversation is welcomed and helps us stay sane among the piles of diapers.
As for me, I am recovering well. My lady parts seem almost back to normal and the most discomfort I’ve experiencing is upper back pain and a little soreness from breastfeeding (hence Mike’s nightly back massages). My stomach shrunk way faster than I imagined it would though it is very squishy and doesn’t look anything like my old stomach (no stretch marks at least)! I have done my best to sleep when baby sleeps by taking at least 1 nap a day and we try to be in bed as long as possible each night even though it’s interrupted. It’s not uncommon for us to be in bed from 10 pm – 10 a.m., although I’m sure we sleep for only about half of that time.
I didn’t do any physical activity for the first four days and then took a walk around the block (10 min or so). I waited another day and then ventured out on another walk. In the past week I’ve managed to get out at least for a short walk every day (we have about a 1 mile trail near our house and the bumps help rock Siena to sleep) and hope to continue this trend. At this point the walks are more for my mental health than anything – being cooped up all day isn’t healthy for someone who is used to working out every single day! I also do some gentle yoga stretches daily (cat cow, child’s pose, happy baby, nothing crazy) to help with my achy back and reverse the symptoms of sitting on my butt nursing all day long (I really need to figure out the nursing in the wrap thing).
We made it out to lunch twice now and man, it felt like an accomplishment! Siena usually takes a little longer nap midday and we took advantage of this and enjoyed some sunshine and fresh air during our lunch. She even slept long enough after our last lunch for us to go for a walk near the beach!
We are learning more about our little girl every day. Every single day has a high and a low, and each day is balanced between the two differently. I know this phase won’t last forever and that I’ll miss her being a tiny newborn, so we just have to roll with the punches. Knock on wood, but I really do feel like it’s getting a little easier!
Moms, what was your favorite or least favorite part of the newborn phase?