Your baby's birthday is finally here. Whether you had vaginal birth or a C-section, growing a baby and bringing them into the world was, and always will be, hard work. So, now what? After childbirth is over, but before motherhood really begins, is there something you should be doing? In my opinion, there's only one thing you should do with your baby immediately after they're born: have some one-on-one time. Just the two of you, not even your partner in the room, and without apology.
Of course, I know that not every new mom has the opportunity to kick people out of the delivery room and spend time with her new babe (or babes). Childbirth complications do happen, so the health of the mother and the baby take precedence, always. But if you can, I truly believe time spent with your baby, and no one else, is exactly what you should demand you're given right after your newborn comes into the world.
As soon as my first child was born, it felt like all of the focus shifted to her and away from me. As she was measured and weighed, I started to feel alone and a afraid. But when she was placed in my arms, all was right with the world. We locked eyes, she latched on, and we snuggled. Well, for a few minutes. Then my parents came in to meet their first grandchild and the nurses started asking us to hurry up and get situated so they could move us to the postpartum unit and give our labor and delivery room to someone else.
What I really wanted was a meal and some alone time with my baby. Unfortunately, I didn't get either.
Even after I settled into the postpartum room, baby in my arms, I was left wanting. A nurse came in roughly every 10 minutes, and I felt exposed and awkward for the entirety of my first 24 hours as a new mom. I asked for help from a lactation consultant, but I was told no one was not available on the weekend. I ate dinner — finally — and then started asking when I could go home. If I wasn't going to be given the opportunity to bond with my baby in the hospital, I wanted to go home as soon as possible. And, fortunately for us, there was plenty of time to bond once we got there.
When my second baby was born, I decided I was definitely going to get some alone time with my baby right away. I had read about the "golden hour" — the magical hour when you're supposed to enjoy bonding, breastfeeding, and skin-to-skin baby snuggles after birth — so I knew what I would be missing if I didn't demand some time with my child. Countless studies show that early skin-to-skin contact can help babies do everything from breastfeed to gain weight. A study published in Pediatrics even showed that preterm babies who were frequently held skin-to-skin in their early days had fewer behavioral issues and stronger social skills 20 years later, compared to preterm babies who weren't.
Even after I settled into the postpartum room, baby in my arms, I was left wanting.
But my son was born early and had trouble breathing, so he was whisked away to the NICU right after he was born. I only held him for a few moments, and no one even bothered to give me an update on his condition, even hours after he was taken from me. I was terrified, and once again worried I had completely messed things up from the start. Fortunately he was fine, and once we were reunited I cashed in on the snuggles I had missed, fed him, and gazed adoringly at him for hours. It turns out that the golden hour isn't absolutely necessary to bond with your baby, thank goodness, but that didn't mean I was spared from feeling like I had, once again, missed out.
When my third child was born, I discovered that, apparently, third time's a charm. I totally got my "golden hour" — an hour of snuggles, staring adoringly at my newborn son, and spending some one-on-one time was just what we both needed. Once it was established that he was OK, the placenta was delivered, and my stitches were placed, I asked for some time, some privacy, some snuggles, and a damn snack. I wouldn't trade those moments for the world.
Your first hour as a mom, and every hour thereafter, may not be what you expected, but to you it'll be perfect.
The first hour after my son's birth was one of the most intense, most magical hours of my life. I wanted to hold him close and savor the snuggles, but I was also exhausted, sore, and weepy. Honestly, I really just wanted to be left the hell alone. I was finally able to relax and enjoy the experience. I finally understood what all the "golden hour" hype was about.
Of course, if you miss out on the golden hour, for whatever reason, that doesn't mean you've subsequently ruined your child's life and the bond you wish to share with them. I can happily tell you that my NICU baby is very attached to me, five years later, and that he can't fall asleep without stroking my arm. If you can't have skin-to-skin contact, a golden hour, or immediate baby snuggles because you or your baby needs medical care after birth, more often than not everything will be fine and you'll find other ways to enjoy some quality time with your newborn.
But if you want some alone time with your new baby, and the only thing that's stopping you is persistent nurses, family members, or even your partner, go ahead and kick them out. You shouldn't have to ask for time you've absolutely earned, but if you need to, go ahead and go a little "mama bear" to get what you need.
Whether you get a moment of gazing adoringly at your baby, from a chair next to their bassinet in the NICU, or a golden hour of skin-to-skin snuggles, you'll probably remember those first moments of alone time with your baby forever. Regardless of how it all plays out, I can guarantee that you'll learn the first real lesson of parenting: your first hour as a mom, and every hour thereafter, may not be what you expected, but to you it'll be perfect.
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