You might picture the first night's sleep after you've had a baby as being similar to the kind of sleep you'd enjoy after running a marathon. In some ways, you have engaged in quite an athletic feat your body has been training nine months for. Maybe you're looking forward to finally laying down and allowing sleep to overtake you. Yeah, postpartum sleep doesn't go down like that. I'm going to tell you some things no one tells you about that first postpartum night's sleep and, honestly, you may not like them. For that I am sorry, but you deserve to know the truth.
If I could do it all over again, I would have insisted that my husband stay in the hospital the first night our first son was born. I do not do well in brand new situations (having a baby qualifies as super duper brand new, right?), and I don't particularly enjoy hospital environments, so I could have used the moral support. My husband, on the other hand and to this day, insists that him enjoying a good night's sleep was integral part of us being stronger as a family, because he was able to support me and the baby during the day (rather than him being a zombie, too).
Honestly, I don't know if I agree. I was so scared, confused, and pretty drugged up that first night thanks to my c-section, that I would have been willing to have him groggy the next day if it meant having his company the night before. Here is the trajectory I went through that first night in the hospital, and it was not pretty:
You'll Start Out Optimistic...
Seeing as you've given birth that day, your day has been kind of, well, full of action and excitement. So the idea of going to sleep, even in an hospital room, doesn't sound so bad at all. You have pillows, some clean sheets, and a bed that reclines with the push of a button. Compared to where you were at earlier in the day, you could almost overlook the fact that you're lying on three layers of bed liners to absorb the post-labor bleeding.
When I got settled in for my first night postpartum, I was feeling pretty good. Before my husband left for the evening (how nice for him), he had helped me sponge my face with my cleanser from home, and I even applied some nice moisturizer. Those two things made me feel a little like a real person again.
My newborn was sleeping soundly in his little plastic bassinet beside me, and I even got in some good old fashioned journaling. I thought that the first night with my newborn was going to be a breeze and I'd wake up refreshed and ready to face any new-parent-challenge the world could throw at me.
...But It'll Soon Go Downhill From There
Just as I was about to turn in for the night my baby, of course, woke up to nurse. "Sure, no problem," I thought, as leaned over my hospital bed to try to get him. This in itself was quite an effort, as I was hooked to various things, including a catheter from my cesarean section. I probably wasn't supposed to be lifting anything, come to think of it, but it felt silly to call on a nurse to simply take my own baby out of his bassinet right next to me.
However, as I went to help him latch to my nipple, I remembered that my milk had not yet really come in and that my supplemental nursing system was all the way across the room. I rang for a nurse to come help and I tried to soothe my baby with my breasts that had basically nothing to offer him. Not my idea of a good time, my friends.
You Will Feel Super Pumped On Adrenaline
If you had an original plan of getting to sleep early that first postpartum night, to make up for all the sleep you lost when you were in labor and all that energy you expended pushing a life out of your body (or enduring major surgery), you will soon realize that that goes out the window. Your first night postpartum is not about sleep, it is about raw, unchecked emotion. Sleep would imply that you are able to assume some kind of resting state. How can you rest when a human who you made out of your own organs is now lying in the same room as you? Honestly, how can you do anything but worry about this creature and also freak out about what just happened and try to process what you've just gone through?
I wanted to settle down to sleep, but my brain was having none of it. Especially after the failed nursing session that ended up pushing off my bed time by about two hours. I didn't get to "bed" until close to midnight that first night, and with the 6 a.m. wake up from the hospital resident to check my surgery site, it went down as one of the worst nights of sleep I've ever endured.
You'll Have To Force Yourself To Sleep
You will most likely have to give yourself one of those pep talks where you have to will your brain to cut you some slack. If you don't sleep you know all you're going to do is cry any time someone smiles at you the next day. You will be that raw.
There Will Be A Lot Of Interruptions
The most unfair thing about the first postpartum night's sleep in a hospital is all the checking that happens. It seems like at least once an hour, a nurse is coming in to check your vitals, change a bed sheet, or give you a pill. Sometimes they even send in maintenance staff to empty your garbage. I swear someone emptied my garbage can twice in the middle of the night and I was like, "Really? I swear I have not thrown anything in there since you changed the liner at dinner time."
Any Sleep You Do Get Will Feel Like A Fever Dream
Because you are human, you will probably fall asleep for a few minutes at a time throughout the night, but it will be such bad quality sleep it will feel like a fever dream. The next day you will have trouble deciphering what was real and what you imagined.
The morning after my first night in the hospital with my baby, I couldn't figure out if I had had a full conversation with one of the night nurses about her daughter living in Bermuda or if I had made it up. I asked the other nurses about any of the nurses that night having children in Bermuda and they had all looked puzzled like, "No one on our staff has a daughter."
You'll Be Happy The First Time The Nurse Brings Your Baby To You From The Nursery...
I have to say, I missed my little guy when he he went off to the nursery that first night. Let me point out that not all hospitals keep newborns overnight in the nursery, but the one where I delivered had this option for moms and I thought it was great. They basically keep the newborns with their nursing staff and they attend to the fussing and the diaper changing, and even bathe them if you want so that you can get as full a night sleep as possible. Every time your baby needs to nurse, they bring him or her in and whenever you are finished you ring for the nurse and they come and get the baby. The first time my son was brought to me I was like, "Awwww! Sweet Pea! I missed you!"
...But The Second Or Third Time Isn't As Fun
The second, and third, and fourth time he was wheeled in I was like, "Uh, is this normal?" The nurses told me that for most babies that first night, they tend to sleep longer stretches but, lucky me, my guy was a bit more fussy. It felt like every time I closed my eyes and entered the black abyss of sleep, I was jolted awake again by the sound of my baby's bassinet wheels squeaking into my room accompanied by his desperate cries.
"Why? Why? Can't I just have one hour of uninterrupted sleep?" That's all I really wanted to know in the moment. The answer? Motherhood, apparently.
Hospitals At Night Are Spooky
If you're sleeping in the hospital without your partner, and you don't have a roommate, it can be easy to get spooked out of your mind in the hospital at night. My mind just kept on going back, as it often does, to the Zombie Apocalypse, where I imagined this very night would be the night it happened. I would be stuck to my catheter with no one to help me and I would have to find my baby before he got eaten by the zombies. It would be an epic story of survival. I played through all possible scenarios of how we would escape and defend ourselves from this impending doom while cowering under my covers and listening for zombie moans in the hallways.
You'll Probably Be Too Afraid To Pee
If you're in your hospital bed, wide awake on adrenaline or because you've given up completely on sleep, you'll probably notice you have to pee. However, one look around your creepy looking room and your inner voice is all, "Hell no. We just won't go." Holding it in seems ideal when faced with the prospect of going to the bathroom.
I was lucky at least in this regard, because I had a catheter. Who knew I would ever say this but, well, catheter for the win!