A quick 24 hours after the birth of my son, my partner and I drove home to a version of the lives we'd left behind a few days earlier. Nothing would be, or could be, the same after that high-risk, nearly fatal pregnancy. Once we opened our front door and attempted to settle in as a family of four, it was hard for me to adjust. So to say there were some things I was afraid to ask for on my baby's first night home would be a horrific understatement. Fear is a powerful thing and, in the end, it silenced me when I should have been at my loudest.
During this time, our daughter turned 5-years-old, started her second year of preschool, and the family members living near us were no longer a constant presence in our lives. My pregnancy was extremely challenging and I was put on bedrest, but I also had to maintain my responsibilities in the house, regardless. My partner had to go right back to work almost immediately after our son was born, and my nerves (along with my body), were shot.
That first night home from the hospital, with a 5-year-old and a newborn now in my care, everything felt unsettled. I looked around our living room we'd abandoned days prior, and though there were delivery gifts and cards in abundance, I wanted to cry. I'd been through so much to have this baby, including two miscarriages, but those first moments being home with him weren't as beautiful and blissful as I had hoped. I was lonely, even though my partner was right there, and I was angry we didn't have more help. I was also, surprisingly, sad the pregnancy was over, but simultaneously thrilled to have finally completed my family.
In the middle of all those relentless, juxtaposing feelings, were a lot of things I was afraid to ask for. The first night home is a rough one because, and even though my partner and I had done the newborn thing before with our oldest, I didn't know what to expect. There was no routine already in place to help me navigate the difficulties of being a mom of two. Thinking back on that first night home with my newborn son, I so desperately wish I'd been more vocal and asked for the following:
A Long, Hot Shower
It seems simple enough, right? Still, going home after something as life-changing as childbirth means not knowing when normalcy can begin again. I hate that feeling. I like knowing when I can do the important things — like self-care — because they make a difference in my overall wellbeing and mood. I remember thinking it would be so selfish of me to ask to have a shower. It was already late in the day, there was so much to figure out, and I had a 5-year-old daughter waiting to get back to her life. If I had it to do over again, I'd take the shower because I earned it.
A Full Night's Sleep
When I found out I was pregnant with my son I knew eight consecutive hours of sleep were going to be a thing of the past. I was OK with it, though, because of all I'd gone through to have him. That was, of course, until he was in my arms and I was so damn exhausted I couldn't think straight. Sitting on our couch on that first day home, all I wanted was to sleep. Just one entire night of sleep to regain some of the sanity that pregnancy, labor, and delivery had stolen. I thought if I asked, my partner would feel abandoned on our first night, though, and I didn't want that.
Someone To Care For Our Other Child
Our poor daughter had already been through it. Because I was induced and high-risk, she ended up staying with my mother-in-law for nearly a week (and a long one at that). I felt awful because she seemed to think we'd forgotten about her, but by the time we all arrived home I didn't have the energy to spend time with her. My son was hungry, he needed to be changed constantly, and was fussy. I was hungry, I need a change of clothes, and I was fussy. I wish I'd asked for her to stay just one more night, for everyone's sake.
A Volunteer To Do The Chores
There was so much laundry, you guys. Once I got my newborn son inside the house and settled, it was all I could see and focus on. Piles of it. My partner and I put our son in the baby swing, tried to find things our daughter could do to keep herself busy until bedtime, and we washed, dried, and folded laundry. It was too much, though, and I so wish I'd begged for anyone else to barge in and help.
A Free, Hot Meal
When our daughter was born and we came home, there were many surprises awaiting us. A sign that said we had a newborn baby in the house (so no one better ring the damn doorbell), pre-made meals, a clean house. It was fantastic.
Something changed when I was pregnant with and delivered our second, though. We didn't have nearly the response, and to this day, it bothers me. He was my rainbow baby. Maybe it wasn't my place, but I do wish my partner would've wrangled in some help to get us a hot dinner together on the first night back. Every newborn mom needs help, whether it's her first or her fifth.
I had a massive fear of not bonding with my son, mostly because I had a hard time bonding with my daughter when I suffered from postpartum depression (PPD). I kept reminding myself of the signs to look out for, but even still, my time with him was guarded from the moment we stepped into the house. Between loads of laundry, balancing time with our daughter, and cooking dinner, I wanted to just sit with my baby and be. I should've asked for it.
For some reason I thought I had to pretend like I was fine, my body was great, and I could go on with life like "normal." Inside, though, I felt nothing like myself but couldn't seem to talk to my partner about it. I know he would've been understanding, but in asking for that comfort and compassion, it somehow felt like I'd been defeated.
Time To Heal
Ultimately, the biggest thing I needed on this first night home from the hospital, was a little more time to myself. I'd gone through hell and everyone seemed to expect me to pick up where I left off. I tried, but if I could do it over again, I'd speak up on behalf of weathered moms everywhere. We demand a shower. We demand sleep. And we demand, and deserve, however much time to recover as we need.