Babies are hard work. There is no doubt about it. I knew that it wouldn’t be easy, but it’s a different kind of hard than I anticipated. People talk about how awful it is dealing with dirty nappies, but that’s seriously been the least of my worries. I’d rather change dirty nappies all day long than try to figure out why Harley won’t sleep or what’s causing her to cry. But I have learned a lot in this first week with her.
I think the biggest thing has been to believe in myself. Somehow, I know how to be a mom. not just any mom, but Harley’s mom. I may have picked up some cool tips and advice from people and articles along the way, but the implementation and differentiations are all me. A week into this, and I’m trusting myself in a whole new way – this is more than living my own life according to my own rules, it’s raising a new life, and doing it the way I think is best is really the only option. But here are some lessons learned so far.
- Gas is a real thing for babies. It is painful for them and will cause screaming and crying. By holding Harley’s feet close to her chest when she’s in my arms, it does help with the pressure a bit. Her dummy also helps her burp, and lying on her stomach can make her feel better, too. However, since I refuse to let her sleep on her stomach in her cot, I let her do it on my chest, which has an added benefit.
- Cuddle time is necessary, not just for the baby but for the parents, too. Perhaps it’s because of her time in the NICU, but I was led to believe that she needed to sleep as much as possible in her own bed. While she definitely does need a ton of sleep, and her bed is ideal in many ways, having her sleep on my chest, or in my arms (assisted by the sling) is also great to ensure she knows I’m there to provide comfort. Plus, it helps release whatever chemicals in my brain to bond more with her – something that has been getting better and better.
- Baby wearing is amazing and highly recommended. It’s exhausting to hold a baby all day, but wearing one (with a comfortable contraption) makes it way easier and more enjoyable. It is absolutely wonderful to get to see my little one, cuddle with her, and still have hands free to pour my own coffee or fix myself something to eat.
- Bonding is something that grows over time. In the same way that you can fall in love with a partner at first sight, but it becomes deeper and more real over time, love for a baby might start at whatever level at first, but it grows with awesome experiences, even if those experiences are just lying on the couch together.
- IT DOES GET EASIER! That first day was truly daunting and sorta terrifying. But it doesn’t stay that way. That’s not to say that there aren’t rough days – a night without sleep makes it very hard to feel fondly towards anyone – but a rhythm does develop and it does settle a bit.
- Take the time to take care of yourself. Even small things make a big difference. Dean will hold her so that I can nap for a bit, or take a shower, and just an extra hour of sleep or being freshly cleaned can make me feel like a new woman.
- On that note, recognize the importance of sleep. Babies automatically cause sleep deprivation thanks to waking up in the middle of the night for a change and food. If you start questioning your ability as a mom/wife/human, perhaps you didn’t get enough rest. Try to get a nap if possible, or at least some downtime of reading a book, playing a game or watching TV. Lying on the couch with Harley doing something other than feeding her or pumping or whatever else baby related can still be relaxing and help me feel like I’m doing something for myself while also doing something for us.
- Give it time. None of this stuff comes instantly. I’m slowly learning her cries, her needs, and what works to keep her comfy and happy. Don’t stress about how things are at first – just take it slow and relax into it as much as possible.