Bringing your baby home for the first time is going to be one of the happiest moments of your life, but it also has the potential to be one of the scariest. Sure, you're elated to be out of that hospital gown and to be in the comfort of your own home sans nursing staff barging into your room every ten minutes, but once you take your baby home, you're pretty much on your own and you might actually miss having help around the clock. It's difficult for any mother to know exactly how to survive the first month of motherhood, because along with the normal excitement comes exhaustion and fear and anxiety and uncertainty and self-doubt and, well, the list goes on.
In fact, it's not unheard of that some women hate having a newborn, even though no one likes (or feels confident or safe or free from judgment enough) to admit it. Nurturing an all-consuming human around the clock while you're simultaneously attempting to heal and get some rest and adjust to your new life as a mother, will take a toll on both your mental and physical well-being. That's honestly why, if you feel comfortable and you have a great support system or resources available to you, asking an experienced mother what you can honestly expect when you bring your baby home can be super beneficial.
So, having said that and from one mom to another, here's what you need to know (and what I wish I would have known with my first) to survive the first month at home with your newborn.
I know, the concept of sleep isn't something that a new parent is very familiar with, but that's exactly why getting rest is so important. Staying focused and alert enough to take care of your newborn requires you to be at least semi-awake, so you do need to find a way to get sleep. Let your partner or friend or someone in your family take over watching the baby for a few hours while you take a nap. I know you want to be do it all on your own, but now is not the time to allow your pride to do the negotiating.
Keep Your Expectations Realistic
People tend to think that bringing their babies home is going to be a completely blissful experience. Momentarily it is, sometimes, but once the newness fades and the exhaustion seeps in, it's normal to grow a little weary of the redundancy of newborns. I assumed I would seize every day with a positive attitude; that I would dress my son in the most adorable clothes; that we would laugh and bond and be in love with each other every hour of every day, but that's not how it went down.
At first, it felt like that scene from The Sound of Music where the woman is singing happily in the mountains, but a few weeks into our time together I was resentfully answering cries on the monitor, checking my Facebook while feeding my baby, and crying from complete and utter exhaustion. He was hardly ever clothed in anything more than a diaper, much less a coordinated outfit. My expectations couldn't have been more different than my reality, and knowing that really helped me to not feel guilty after my second son was born.
If someone offers to help you, whether that's letting you nap or cooking or cleaning or just bringing over wine so that you can rant and cry to them, just accept it. Accept all the help you can get. It doesn't make you weak, it makes you human.
Guard your time at home those first few weeks if you feel like you need to. People are going to want to meet your baby and visit with you, but you're getting to know your baby too so if you want some uninterrupted time at home with him or her, feel free to inform your friends and family that you're just not ready for visitors.
Try To Get Into A Routine
Babies need routines, but getting into one can be quite a challenge sometimes. Try to make night and day as different as you possibly can. If you can keep it bright and busy with sounds, sights, and noises to stimulate your baby during the day; and keep night times quite and peaceful, then dim the lights to help your baby feel calm and read a book or give them a bath or a bed time bottle (or breast, obviously) during the same time every night, your baby will get a good sense of when it's time to sleep and when it isn't. Getting your baby into a routine is good for everyone, and it will help them to feel more at easy and comfortable in their new world.
Pay Attention To Your Emotions
New parenthood is overwhelming and stressful, and occasionally frustrating, but those moments of doubt and emotional turmoil should be somewhat fleeting. There's big difference between having the baby blues and suffering from postpartum depression, and the latter of the two needs medical attention. If you find yourself feeling sad or hopeless or even feeling rage, talk to someone. Postpartum depression is serious, but it's a normal reaction to such a monumental life change. Don't try to be a hero, and don't feel guilty about the way you're feeling because it's not your fault. Not everyone feels overwhelming happiness when they have a baby, but with a little help or treatment, you will get there.
Go Easy On Yourself
It's normal to want to keep your life running smoothly post baby, but your life will go on just fine if your house isn't in perfect order. Let the dishes and the laundry sit for a while if you're too tired to take care of them. Let some delivery guy bring your family supper if you don't feel like cooking. Let someone else run your errands. Allow yourself to rest when you're able to, and try not to feel guilty about it when you do. You've got enough on your plate as a new mother without subjecting yourself to your own judgments.
Don't Try To Be Perfect
Try not to create a specific image of what motherhood is supposed to look like, because it doesn't look the same for anyone. You might not have wanted to live in your yoga pants, or go days without showering, or to feel like you're drowning amid all of the sacrifices and stresses of nurturing a baby, but those are all completely normal things. You're going to feel different physically, emotionally, and mentally because your life just changed in a monumental way. Sure, we all want to be the best moms we can be, but none of us are going to be perfect at it, and you can still be a damn amazing mother without trying to be a perfect one.