10 (11) things I wish I'd known about the first week with a newborn

Disclaimer: my bestie just had a gorgeous ladybaby, so I'm reminiscing big style about the newborn days. That, coupled with the fact I didn't blog about the first 2.5 months of Annika's life, means you'll be getting a lot of 'new baby' posts over the next few days!  

1. You'll cry. A lot. About everything and nothing. One of my strongest memories of my time in hospital on the postnatal ward is of me at 3am, tears streaming down my face, at a total loss for what to do with this tiny person who wouldn't stop screaming. I sat at the midwives station and they comforted while one of them rocked Annika and the other gave me tea and tissues. But the crying won't last (or usually doesn't - I'd speak to your doctor if you find yourself crying for no reason after about a month), and once you get out of hospital and start sleeping more then the world seems a much more reasonable place. 

2. You'll bleed, most likely for a long time. Yes, I knew this before I gave birth, but the reality of a five week 'period' was still a shock. After the first fortnight it just annoyed me. As a trade-off, once that's over then, if you're exclusively breastfeeding, you probably won't see Aunt Flo for a while. I'm at 3 months PP now and she's still to make a visit. 
Tip: I was told that standard nighttime sanitary towels are a good alternative to maternity pads. They're not. At least, they weren't for me as a lot of them have that weird, honeycomb plastic layer on top, which just irritated my grazed bits. I found the best thing were those old-school, massive Kotex pads. They're literally about the same thickness as a crib mattress, but that won't matter as you're not going anywhere (seriously, don't - see below), and they're the most comfortable thing for healing lady bits. I loved them. I still have some left and I'm weirdly looking forward to using them when my period comes back. 

3. It's ok to not get out of the house for a while. I wish I'd known this, mainly as I rushed to be up and about and took a trip to Clapham on the train on Day 8 that resulted in me having a postpartum haemorrhage on the train, bleeding all over the station and having to be blue-lighted back to Chelsea and Westminster while I fed Annika in the back of the ambulance. Not my finest moment. And then I had to spend another night on the postnatal ward. It's ok to relax a bit and take your time before resuming 'normal' life. Enjoy having others to help you out and savour the moments that are just you and your little one getting to know each other. Errands and social engagements can wait. You'll have the rest of your maternity leave to meet up with your antenatal group (is what I wish I'd told Day 8 Beth). 

4. About the night sweats. Oh, the night sweats. I'd been warned about these but still was not ready for them. Plus I thought I'd escaped them as I didn't get them in hospital (now I think maybe you just need sleep for them to happen) and then they hit HARD once I got home. I was told I would sweat at night, but no one warned me that it was a 'soaking through three pyjama tops per night' kind of sweat. That lasts about three weeks. On the plus side, getting rid of all that retained water makes you drop weight really fast. 

5. Breastfeeding is hard. So hard. And it takes a good few weeks to get it right. I got so much conflicting advice on it in hospital (post to follow on that one) and once I got home I spent HOURS googling about positioning and latch and researching breastfeeding counsellors (and debating paying them lots of money to fix things for me) in the quest to get it to 'click'. In the end it just took time for us both to learn how to do it, and after about two painful and tear-filled weeks we had it down. 

6. If you've had a vaginal delivery, your...ahem, 'undercarriage' will feel like it's been mauled by a pack of wild dogs. Heck, this might also be true if you've had a caesarean, I have no idea. I hope not - I feel like if you have to cope with a healing tummy from major abdominal surgery then you should get a pass from this one. Luckily, for me this feeling only lasted about 48 hours and things healed pretty quickly, but it was a scary time. I asked the midwife to check me down below as I genuinely thought I'd sustained some sort of prolapse. Nope, just a whole load of bruising and swelling. Ick. 

7. Your baby will lull you into a false sense of security by sleeping for 24 hours solid and then...never sleeping again. Or it can feel like that during the first week. But it gets better, I promise (she says, on a high from a rare 6.5 hour stint of sleep). I survived the first week by alternating eating my body weight in chocolate (so long, gestational diabetes!), and crying. I was not a pretty sight but I care not. 

8. Sometimes it feels like your baby will never stop crying. Particularly at 4am on the postnatal ward when every time she falls asleep another baby screams and wakes her up and she starts crying again. It also feels that way when you're on public transport (which you should not be for about a month - see above) and everyone is staring at you because you're that woman with the screeching infant. But they do stop crying, honestly. Annika is almost three months and a pretty dreamy baby when it comes to crying and hardly ever does (unless she's going through a developmental leap and then all bets are off). I know they're not all like that but the screaming all night phase is usually brief. 

9. Your arms will ache. I must have had seriously weak muscles beforehand because the first few days of Annika's life I'd go to bed with really sore arms from holding her. 

10. The new sensation of cradling a baby the whole time combined with a lack of sleep leads to the 'I've smothered the baby' delusions. You may very well wake up multiple times in the night over the first month either cradling the duvet in your arms or utterly convinced you've fallen asleep with the baby in bed with you and now you've smothered/lost her. I thought this fresh level of weirdness was just me, but a quick canvas of my antenatal group revealed its pretty common. One of my group had her partner searching through the bed sheets in the middle of the night for their daughter, who was sleeping peacefully in the moses basket across the room. 

But (sneaky number 11 coming up)...

11. When it's all over you will miss those days so much. The first ten days of Annika's life were absolutely exhausting. I felt like I was undergoing some sort of SAS-style recruitment challenge, and there were some really, really tough moments (Day 9, having just got home from my second hospital stay in as many weeks, and Matt uttering the phrase "I've got to be honest, I am hating this" being a particularly memorable low point). But I'm now three months on, my tiny scrunchy newborn has been replaced by a baby twice the size and I really do miss those early days. 

So for my lovely Catherine and her sweet little baba, and for all the other new mamas out there, remember the (adapted by me) old saying: 

"The nights are long but the weeks are short" 

Savour every moment. Even the screamy ones. They'll be gone too fast. 

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