You see your friends who already had babies and you think, well, that didn’t seem too hard for them. They still look fabulous and whenever we all meet, they would just mention oh-so-casually that they don’t have enough sleep when they gave birth. I didn’t see any dark circles under their eyes so I thought, oh perhaps they just lost an hour or two of sleep! Now, I just wish that they EMPHASIZED it properly and firmly with lots of exclamation marks. Hence, I will not sugarcoat anything for you–I have never felt AND looked so haggard. During those days of turmoil, you could have swum in the deep wells under my eyes. Your journey may have been better or will be better as we’ll all go through different experiences, but if you are one of those having a difficult time, you. are. not. the. only. one! I completely and wholeheartedly commiserate with you.
The Top 1 on my List is definitely:
1. How incredibly difficult it was to BARELY get enough sleep.
Prior to pregnancy, I was used to staying up late. Sometimes I stay up until 2am or 3am. I chalked it up to my being a “night person”. During my third trimester, I wrote about how my baby kicked me all night long and even if I wanted to sleep, I couldn’t. So sometimes my bedtime is around 4:30am. I was being trained for sleep deprivation, I thought. If my present self could go back to that time my reaction would be HA HA HA HA HA ROFL *Chortle* *Snort* *Chortle* *Chortle* you don’t know what you are getting into!!!
When the nurses say that you must feed the newborn every 3 hours, they meant it. Round-the-clock. Which meant, waking up every 3 hours, bleary eyed and groggy, and trying to coax a sleepy newborn to feed. As a first time and very naive mom, I thought that every 3 hours meant until 12 midnight and then we all sleep and wake up at around 6:00am and start over. When I asked the nurses about that, they all shook their head and repeated, EVERY 3 HOURS.
Now I know why Mommies wake up early all the time! It’s because we have been coerced from the day we gave birth!
Helpful Tip: Newborns sleep better on their tummy. I do this a lot, but I watched her like a hawk. At night, I would put her to sleep on my chest just so we can all sleep together. Otherwise, she’d wake up intermittently in the wee hours of the morning. There came a time when I no longer had to do this and she can sleep through the night by the time she is three months old (translation: four hours straight is already sleeping through the night!)
2. Breastfeeding is not a breeze!
I GET now why mommies are keen on displaying badges and hashtags and photos about them breastfeeding their babies. It’s quite an accomplishment once you’ve done it. I felt so terrible about not being able to continuously give my baby breastmilk. However, there were certain factors that I couldn’t control. The first two days in the hospital, my baby could not latch onto me. The lactation consultant saw my chest and declared, “Yes, that could be a problem.” WHAT?! What is wrong with it?! Apparently there’s such a thing as “short nipples.” She then recommended a nipple shield. The nipple shield worked for the first couple of days since my baby had such a tiny stomach that time, she only needed a few drops. The problem with nipple shields, from my experience, is I might as well have given her the bottle immediately. It caused nipple confusion. It also slid off a lot, and my baby would scream because she couldn’t get milk properly. She would suck and suck but it would never be enough. Looking back, perhaps a different lactation consultant would have helped me better.
Three days after we got home, it became clear that my poor baby was starving despite trying to offer the breast. I did not want to pump because of everyone just keeps saying “Don’t Pump Till You’re 6 Weeks Postpartum”. I did not sleep for three days. I developed postpartum hypertension, got confined for almost a week, away from my baby, and that’s when I decided to pump so that my supply would continue. Those were miserable days! I missed my baby so much!
I had no choice but to give my baby formula. She had dropped her weight to the point that her pediatrician was already worried. I love our pedia, Dr. Vienne Saulog. She took one look at my face which must have aged ten years, and said, “Mommy, let’s take some of the pressure off you. The baby will survive with formula. But you need to take care of yourself.”
The relief I felt was massive! I ended up mixed feeding my baby. My baby did not starve, she became happier, and I was able to deal with my hypertension better so I can take care of my baby.
Of course, to this day, I still do believe that breastfeeding is best for babies. But mommies who chose to give formula should not be condemned. If we could have it our way, we really would breastfeed.
Helpful Tip: Even before giving birth, read about mommies’ personal breastfeeding experiences so that you have an idea what to expect. Join support groups such as Breastfeeding Pinays or Exclusively Pumping Pinays in Facebook, or read forums in Girltalk at Femalenetwork.com. More importantly, if you feel that your baby has difficulty latching when you gave birth, call a lactation consultant to visit you as soon as you get home to guide you properly.
3. The first two weeks feel like you got run over by a truck. Repeatedly.
The saying that goes “it takes a village to raise a child” smacked me on the face left and right for the first two weeks. If you can have your mom, your aunt, or a helper, or anyone with you aside from your husband, please go do it! Have it arranged before you give birth! The postpartum blues got to me and I must have bawled every other day. Countless times I wished I can afford a baby nurse to be by my side at those times. I begged my mom to stay over for two days, and we hired a temporary nanny to help me with the baby for about two weeks because my mom cannot stay for long. Oh my sweet baby, if not sleeping, was screaming her lungs out. Can you imagine how exhausting that was? Eat for 5 minutes, cry for hours, sleep, repeat. I had a colicky, high need baby, and even my mom noticed the prolonged crying and declared it as “bisyo na ‘toh!”. Oh, the fun times!
4. You WILL develop a sleeping routine
It took us 2 months and a half to develop a sleeping routine. One mommy from our support group gave a super helpful tip which if I knew earlier, maybe I could have managed my expectations better. Newborn babies have a capacity to stay awake for only 1 to 1.5 hours. From this tiny bit of knowledge, a routine fell into place! I’d wake baby to feed, play a bit, and wouldn’t you know it, her fussiness automatically escalates in an hour because she’ll become sleepy! So we’d dim the lights, play some music, dance with the baby and put her to bed. It’s like this round the clock.
Helpful Tip: Google Waketime Length so you’ll know how to adjust to your babies as they grow older.
6. Your routine will fly out the window once the baby gets sick
Your heart will break at the first sickness that your baby will encounter. Despite my being cautious not to expose her to people, my little Allie caught the colds and cough when she turned exactly four months old. My best friends during this trying time was a nasal aspirator, cotton buds, Sterimar nasal spray (I believe this is a must-have in your newborn survival kit!), Baby Vicks, and a nebulizer. The first two to three days, it felt as though we had regressed to newborn times. She couldn’t sleep or feed properly because of her clogged nose and she will cry all through the night. Keeping her head upright on a pillow was not enough. It was back to sleeping with Allie on my chest so that she can breathe better. I think I only had two hours of sleep through the night as I needed to comfort her and try to get her to drink milk even 0.5 oz per feed just so she wouldn’t get dehydrated.
7. Download Wonderweeks App
One of my friends recommended Wonderweeks App which I love! It guides you on the mental leap developments that your baby would be experiencing as she grows and the milestones that will come with it.
8. You wear your heart on our sleeve
The first few weeks, I really questioned myself as a mother. I look at my bawling baby and thought, I had no business bringing a child into this world because I am so freaking CLUELESS about raising one! Having a baby is SERIOUS business! How am I supposed to raise and protect a tiny human?! I’m already planning how I can sneak a GoPro at her school uniform so that I can monitor her at all times. Oh, to be MOM!
9. Get a haircut before you give birth
My long, thick mane which had not seen a scissor in about a year, absolutely got in the way whenever it could while I was taking care of the baby. During the moments when I carry my baby upright, it gets in my face, it gets in my baby’s fingers, her beddings, and probably made its way into her mouth somehow! Whenever I sit upright so that I can place the sleeping baby on my chest and I lean back, having a ponytail sticking from the back of my head is just added discomfort. So you can’t blame that once I hit the two month prescribed period of recovery post C-Section, I set an appointment at the closest decent salon and amidst my hubby’s warnings to divorce me, I went ahead and chopped it all off into a pixie cut. I’ve always wanted to have one. It definitely isn’t the best haircut for those with thick and curly hair, but it did make my life easier. No qualms about choosing comfort over aesthetics. Totally worth it!
10. Motherhood gets easier because…
My friends told me it gets easier. They joke that the reason it gets easier is that you just get used to the sleepless nights LOL! That’s actually true. I never knew that I was capable of taking care of a baby on two hours of sleep! Okay, aside from that of course, it gets easier because once your little one starts responding to your smile, once she starts giggling and lighting up when she sees you coming towards her, once she begins to respond to your comforting songs and touch and you KNOW that it’s because she is finally recognizing you as an important part of her life, then that’s when you start to finally feel that this, this is what being a Mommy is all about.