This is the first in a continuing series of interviews with parents about their first month with their newborns.
My good friend Dana – who gave birth to a baby boy named Zachary in October – joined us for our first interview. It’s beautiful.
The First Month
Can you write five to 10 words that describe the first month of being a new mom?
I think my theme for the first little bit was, “I didn’t really think this through” and “I am so thankful for coffee”. Lol.
But honestly, on reflection, I think I could describe the first month with the word change. And change is hard. Necessary, lovely, rewarding, but hard.
What is one thing that you can tell us that you weren’t sure you would tell anybody about what you are feeling or have felt this past month?
I thought I would have Z and feel this overwhelming connection to this tiny being that had been growing inside of me for 41 weeks. I didn’t. Don’t get me wrong, I cared for him deeply. I was determined to protect him, feed him and learn about him. But the joyous love wasn’t there at first. I think this was wrapped up in my birth story and the fact that I had an unexpected c-section. That possibility wasn’t even on my radar. I remember talking to Dave and the doctor and crying during my labour because I felt like I had “failed” at giving birth. I know now that’s not true but in the moment and in the weeks after, it was my truth.
What is the one thing that took you off-guard, that surprised you the most?
I was surprised how much a little being could poop! Honestly?! Where does it all come from?
On a more serious note…Each day I would look at Z and it took me off guard to see how much he could grow in a day. How my body could produce enough food for him to not only sustain his life but help him to grow and thrive. That was amazing. It still is.
What are the moments and experiences that you have enjoyed the most this past month?
Strangely, it’s the 4:00 am smiles and squeaks that Z gives me and watching him discover the world around him. He watches everything. The dogs, the sunrises, the flickering flames in the fireplace. It’s really helped me to slow down and enjoy those things with him too.
What do you wish was different?
Dave was able to take two-and-a-half weeks off when Z was born. Which was amazing. We were able to bond as a unit and develop a new normal for our new little family. Dave works 10-hour days and I wish that wasn’t the case. Most days he doesn’t get home until Z is getting ready for bed, or is already sleeping. I wish they had more time together during the week.
Someone is about to give birth – she asks you for one piece of advice, and you say:
Ask for the laughing gas! Seriously, it takes the edge off of those intense contractions and allows you to focus on just breathing. I guess my advice would be to breathe. Breathe through the labour pains. Pause and breathe before you make any decisions about your delivery or make any medical decisions. Slow down and breathe when you meet your new little person. Take it all in as best as you can. Inhale, pause, exhale.
What is a question that you have for other moms?
I have lots!
- At what age do they sleep through the night? I feel like if I could just round up a five hour chunk of sleep I would be a new woman.
- How do you keep your little one warm and cozy at night when the medical advice warns against blankets in bed and keeping the room too warm?
- What’s with rice cereal? Is this necessary? It just seems wrong to me.
How has this changed you?
Oh jeez. Where do I begin? I think the biggest change has been the pace of my day. It’s much slower now. I no longer operate at my own speed. For example, it snowed 20cm here yesterday. Normally I would/could shovel the driveway in 15 min. It took me over an hour because I had to stop twice to feed and change Z. Things just take more time.
What do you look forward to?
Personally … five hours of sleep, in a row, in my own bed.
For Zach … first giggles and taking him out into the snow.
When you are gazing at your baby snoozing, what are you thinking about?
For the first couple of weeks it was, “Are you sure you’re mine?” It didn’t feel real. Now, I wonder what he’s thinking. What little part of his brain is developing? And some times it’s, “Please, for the love of all things, just keep sleeping.”
Anything else to share that I haven’t asked?
I just want to share that I am eternally grateful for the space that my friends and family gave to Dave, Zach and I in the first few weeks. We needed the time to develop our own bond and family. I am also extremely grateful for the love, help, gifts (food was precious) that my community provided us. I know that Z will grow up with a bunch of people that love and care for him.
I am also grateful for friends that shared their birth story and post birth stories with me. A couple of my girlfriends suffered with post partum depression. They would, and continue to, check in with me to make sure I am taking care of myself and my own mental health. It’s so important to have those people who talk openly about the potential struggles for a new mom.