Sure, the books may tell you how to change, feed and burp your newborn baby, but they don’t explain the fine print.
And when it comes to a newborn, there is A LOT of fine print.
I recently (re)-discovered this fact after welcoming newborn baby number three into the world. Let me be the first to tell you, contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t get any easier the more you have. And the surprises just keep coming!
So what can you expect during those first weeks with baby? I mean, besides night wakings, constant feedings and explosive poops?
You slowly start to lose your mind
Blame the lack of sleep. Because a few weeks without sleep (or without more than an hour of sleep at a time), is bound to mess with your brain just a little bit. You will probably start hearing sounds, like your newborn baby crying. ALL THE TIME. Especially when you’re in the shower. No, you’re not going crazy… it’s just how your mind works now.
You may also start noticing things you never noticed before, like how dangerous people drive! And how many people cough when you’re at the grocery store. Like it or not, you start to turn into a safety officer, double-checking labels on all products to make sure they are breastfeeding-friendly, Googling things like “why is my baby grunting?” or “can a newborn sleep too much?” and making sure everyone washes their hands before coming through the door.
Oh, and you become a leaky faucet of emotions too. Usually, they are tears of joy – “how lucky am I to have this adorable little thing in my arms? And NOT to be pregnant anymore!”
But there are plenty of other reasons for tears: tears of pain when feeding as your milk comes in; tears of frustration when you put her down and she wakes up TWO seconds later (like seriously baby, let me at least go to the loo!); tears of resentment when the rest of the household goes to sleep and you’re still wide awake about to take your 109th lap around the house. Seriously, so many tears!
Your body transforms (yet again)
In addition to the leaky eyes, there’s a whole bunch of body changes that were conveniently left out of the baby books. And, no, I’m not just talking about the MASSIVE mum boobs (we are warned about these after all).
First, there’s the pouchy tummy. As your uterus contracts, you’re left with a droopy, floppy, pillowy pouch and a truckload of excessive skin. Next, there’s the bumpy blue veins all over your legs, your stomach, your breasts, even your face, which adds to the post-birth attraction.
And let’s not forget the weird looking belly button that doesn’t know whether it’s an innie or an outie or a sad combination of both. It’s all a bit unfamiliar and surreal until you get used to not having that big baby belly anymore.
You never know what the day will bring
To go with this strange new body, you will also have this strange new routine. Or lack thereof. Because there’s no such thing as structure with a newborn baby. They are so unpredictable, so surprising, so out of your control that it’s almost like you’re in a weird, hazy, parallel universe where nothing gets done and everything seems blurry.
“Will I shower today, will I manage to eat a full meal, will anyone visit, will we try an outing, will she sleep tonight, will I just sit in my chair cuddling her all day?” This uncertainly is hard to get used to, especially if you like control, but it is also sort of satisfying – as if the normal, mundane standards of society don’t apply to you anymore.
You can eat dinner at midnight, wear your jammies all day or forget to brush your teeth. There’s no rulebook to follow.
You won’t really know how to care for your newborn baby until she is actually here
This is what really floored me about becoming a mum. Sure, I’ve been there twice before, I’ve read ALL the books – heck, I write about motherhood for a living. You’d think I’d be prepared this time around.
But, I wasn’t. Because nothing can prepare you for how you are going to feel about your new baby or how your newborn baby will react to this new world. If you have others, they may be similar in temperament but not always.
There is no way to tell until you’re in the newborn baby trenches, working it out. Sure, you know how to change her, feed her, wrap her. But there’s no way to tell exactly what she needs. Will she need one-hourly feeds or three-hourly feeds? Will she be happy to sleep in her cot? Or will she require constant cuddling? Will she need to be rocked, or shushed, bounced or sung to?
This is what is so amazing about those first weeks with a newborn baby – you get to discover the answers to your pre-birth questions. You learn the things the books can’t tell you, because it’s so different with every baby.
So, to all the new mums entering the first weeks with a newborn baby, please be kind to yourself and take each day as it comes. It takes time to learn what our babies specifically need and how to be their mums (even if you’ve done it all before).
Looking for more advice? Check out:
- Real, Raw, Exhausting: 24 Hours in Life of a New Mum
- Baby Sleep Routine at 3, 6 and 12 Months
- Real Mums’ Breastfeeding Questions Answered
- Navigating Motherhood: The Best Advice (EVER) For New Mums