Necessities For a New Mother
The first several weeks after Valentine was born were a rollercoaster. I felt totally unprepared for the highs and lows that I went through — the pain of labor and the euphoria of seeing my child for the first time, the discomfort of breastfeeding and the rush of endorphins every time she latched on, the exhaustion of interrupted sleep and the feeling like I never wanted to stop looking at Valentine. At one point, I texted my friend Amber and said, “I feel like I’m hanging on for dear life.”
Along with the support and advice from my amazing friends and family, these are the things that kept me alive during the first six weeks ::
Breastfeeding makes you thirsty. Like running-a-marathon-in-the-Sahara thirsty. Sometimes it felt like I was blinded by thirst, if that makes any sense. I would easily down 48 ounces of water each time Valentine nursed, so it was imperative to have a full water bottle beside me at all times.
The afternoon that my milk came in, it felt like my breasts were up to my neck. I’m usually a fan of a demi-bra or a bralette, but I realized quickly that I would need something a bit more sturdy. Also, it needed to be big enough to hold nursing pads, which were a necessity at the time (your breastmilk will leak out even when you’re not nursing). I loved the pretty gray color and the lace on this bra, but it was also the most comfortable and highest quality bra I’ve ever worn.
Pretty pajamas became important for a number of reasons. Your body is rapidly loosing weight from the pregnancy (I lost 25 pounds that first week), so you don’t fit well into maternity clothes, but you’re still not small enough for your regular clothes. Also, you’re incredibly sore from labor and you’re sleeping whenever you can, so lounge clothes are really the most sensible clothes to wear. But you already feel profoundly unattractive — your breasts are utilitarian, your vagina is sore and misshapen, and your body looks like you’ve eaten nothing but cream puffs for months. So it’s psychologically important to do what you can to look nice.
For the reasons listed above, it helps to have a go-to hair style that looks nice, but it’s also imperative that it’s easy to do. You have very limited free time, and the time you do have you don’t want to spend doing your hair. I wore a topknot for five months after Valentine was born. I could do it up in a matter of seconds, but it still felt stylish and pretty. Beachy waves are also a good option if your hair allows it or this modern ponytail.
You spend so much time nursing, which is to say sitting down with only one available hand. There’s an aspect of this time that feels dark and lonely. You’re alone a lot of the time and your days and nights look no different, so it can actually end up feeling like a never-ending night. There was something about watching TV that felt even more depressing, so I read a lot. I read the whole Bible in those first three months, actually. It did so much to open up the space and to clear my head. But since I only had one hand, it would’ve been impossible to read without my iPhone or Kindle.
This pillow is amazing. I think I used it twice as much as Valli ever did. It came in especially handy those first few weeks for two reasons :: One, my bottom was so sore from pushing during labor that it was too painful to sit, so I would place the Boppy on the couch and sit on it to alleviate any pressure. Two, I would place the Boppy around my middle while nursing, which held Valentine in just the right spot for nursing. Nursing doesn’t always come naturally to a mother or a baby, and it took awhile for both Valentine and me to get the hang of it. It helped so much to have her in the right position, freeing up both arms to assist her in getting all the food she needed.
So there’s my list. What about you mothers out there? Did the first few weeks after having your first child feel as overwhelming as it did to me? Or was your experience completely different? What were some things that helped you at the beginning? What would you add to my list? What about those of you who haven’t had children? Anything on this list that was surprising to you? Any thoughts as an objective observer?