A strange thing happens when all of the help that surrounds you after the first days of parenthood leaves: you're on your own. With this tiny human relying on you to make sane decisions and feed, clothe, and bathe BOTH OF YOU and generally have some idea what the heck you're doing. As if any brand new parent does.
You're left with your instincts and your stretchy pants and the pack of wipes you stole from the hospital. And whatever it was you packed the house with during your nesting phase. (You did have a nesting phase, right?) Our time in the Special Care nursery gave us a leg up. We had several days of parenting under strict supervision, with the bare necessities close at hand. Anything we used there that I didn't already have I ordered in a panic with two-day shipping. (I only have four burp cloths? How could I be so unprepared?!)
At first, it felt impossible. This baby who was so dependent on me for everything those first nine months seemed even more so now. We barely slept more than two hours at a time, and there were moments when Misha was totally inconsolable. More than once I put him down in the crib and just walked away. At its worst, Vance came home from work to find Misha and me in the rocking chair, tears streaming down both our faces.
Our postpartum doula calls the first six weeks with a newborn Baby Boot Camp.
And. It. Was. Even with help, which we had a ton of with my mom's two-week visit, a few days of postpartum doula visits, and friends who brought meals, the first six weeks were just hard.
But if there's one thing we heard over and over from friends who have kids, it'd be, "It gets better." And it does. It has. We're sleeping 3-4 hours at a clip at night. We're changing at least 10 diapers a day. We're nursing 2-3 hours a day. And with the help of caffeine, a stack of swaddle blankets, and baby Zantac, it feels manageable now. Instead of circling the house endlessly chanting om while Misha screams inconsolably, we're playing on the floor and splashing in the tub and reading books (well, Vance and I are reading; he's smiling at the colorful pictures).
There are still moments where I feel helpless, like nothing I do can calm his beet-red, tear-streaked face. But we're over the hump now, finally settling into life with our precious son.
For my pregnant friends, who are about to experience boot camps of their own, here's what got us through the first six weeks:
- Friends bringing meals. (If at all possible, leave mom out of the planning and get dad or a friend to organize it.)
- A postpartum doula. Or, friends and family who are comfortable doing household chores, changing diapers, caring for the baby while you get a shower, etc. Better yet, both.
- At least 12 burp cloths, stationed in reliable locations throughout the house. Big, soft ones. Like these, which we affectionately call "drop cloths." Or these, which double as bibs.
- A few different types of pacifiers. Your baby will tell you which one(s) he prefers, at which point order five more. Misha's favorite are the same ones they gave him at the hospital to calm him during his car seat test.
- A safe place to put baby within earshot of every room in the house. We love our bloom Coco Go Lounger (it vibrates AND eats batteries!!) and BABYBJORN Balance bouncer, which we just carry from room to room. This, by the way, is how I get a shower when no one else is home. Baby goes in the bouncer right outside the tub.
- A stack of Muslin Swaddle Blankets. Practice on an infant-sized stuffed animal before your baby arrives. Then pretend that stuffed animal is screaming and clawing at your arms, leaving bits of microsocopic fingernail shrapnel embedded in your skin. (Seriously, though. Learn you a swaddle for great good.)
- A sound machine you don't mind listening to for hours at a time.
- An infant carrier suitable for newborns. Vance prefers the Ergobaby Performance Carrier. I'm more of the Solly Baby or Sakura Bloom type. It's been over seven weeks and we still haven't taken our fancy stroller out of the house. Baby carriers come equipped with Sleepy Dust™, which is another way of saying they'll get you through a trip to the grocery store or, if you're lucky, dinner at a decent restaurant.
- A snot sucking device and the stomach to use it.
- And, if you're neurotic like me and want to answer the pediatrician's questions with DATA and CHARTS, an app for tracking feeding and everything that happens on the other end.
There are probably a dozen other things I could add to this list, but they seemed so obvious to me. Rompers with legs, so he can wear them in the car seat; wipes and butt balm; a safe place to sleep (we used our stroller's bassinet); and on and on. The most important thing of all, though, is you. So whatever it takes to keep you in your right mind, add that to the top of the list before you start in on the rest of it.
Misha is swaddled comfortably in his vibrating lounger, which has eaten its second set of batteries for the day.