Secret mothers’ business: an honest look at the first week of motherhood

We spend months, if not years, building up to the magical, clock-stopping moment when we’re finally holding our baby in our arms. While it may feel that time stands still, you’ll soon realise it flies by at the rate of knots! So here’s an honest account of what really happens in those first, precious few days after your baby is born.

Day one – happy birth day!

It’s the day you’ve been waiting for, and the emotional floodgates will open. I can remember thinking I had finally joined the mum club. I’d earned my stripes, and was now a fully-fledged member of the exclusive motherhood brigade that I’d so longed to join. I was on an absolute high, I couldn’t feel any pain and felt like I had superhuman strength. Lap it up, soak up every moment and breathe it all in. It’s truly amazing.

But once all of the medical staff have left the room, your family has been and gone, and you sit cradling your little one in your arms, that’s when the emotion hits. I can remember the big, fat tears of joy (and exhaustion) rolling down my cheeks as the enormity of the past 24 hours hit me. I was someone’s mummy. This little being was relying on me. I was his everything. And all of a sudden I realised, he was mine.

Interspersed with the new mum-high I had a visit from a lactation consultant to make sure my baby was latching and feeding properly, and constant visits from midwives checking bleeding, blood pressure and addressing any other concerns I had (I’ll get to one of my big worries on day two!).

I must admit my first night as a mum wasn’t all that peaceful. What I didn’t know is that babies can spend the first few hours of their lives coughing up any excess fluid they may have ingested during birth – so I spent much of the first night propping my bub on his side and patting his back any time this happened. I’m a worrier at heart, so hearing his choking cough was enough to ensure I had very little sleep that first night! There wasn’t a whole lot of breastfeeding overnight, as many babies are also tired from birth, and will sleep for a big stretch of time after their very first feed.

Day two – down to work

There is precious little else more incredible than waking up to your newborn baby. It’s such an overwhelming moment, when you open your eyes and see your beautiful babe – fresh out of the womb. On day two post-birth I often still found myself thinking back to my labour, and being completely overwhelmed at the thought that this perfect creature was inside my belly just hours ago.

Today, your mothering instincts will likely kick in along with exhaustion. Adrenaline is a wonderful thing, and it certainly got me through my first 24 hours of motherhood, but by the second day I was well and truly feeling it. With my first child, I stayed in hospital for the first five days, as I struggled to establish breastfeeding. With my second I was home after 24 hours. Whichever is the case for you, make sure you use this second day to simply nap when your baby does, and nourish your body. If you’re in pain down below, make sure you take the breastfeeding-safe medication your nurses offer. Eat well (you’ll probably be ravenous if you didn’t eat much during labour), drink plenty of water, rest and just stare at your gorgeous baby.

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One of my major concerns after giving birth was how much it would hurt to go to the toilet, given I had an episiotomy. Most midwives will be on the same wavelength as you, and will offer stool softening powder in a bid to make it as painless as possible.

It’s usually the second day that you will start getting visitors, and it can be somewhat awkward when you’re still learning the ropes when it comes to feeding and changing your bub. If you feel you still need some more quiet, calm time with your baby, tell visitors you simply aren’t ready yet. They will completely understand.

Day three – emotions run high

There are a huge amount of hormonal changes that happen in our bodies in the first few days after giving birth. There are hormones turning on breastmilk production and causing all sort of changes, including the way we feel. I can remember being a ball of tears on the third day after giving birth. The midwives explained to me that around this time, it’s very common to get a bout of the ‘baby blues’. At the time I felt really belittled, but looking back, they were absolutely right.

Make sure you speak to your healthcare providers, you partner and your family about how you are feeling. It made me feel so much better to simply talk about my emotions – from feeling like I wasn’t breastfeeding properly to feelings that I wasn’t being a good mother. If these feelings continue to last beyond the first couple of weeks, make sure you do seek professional help.

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It’s around this time that your milk will most likely come in. I remember noticing big changes in my breasts. They resembled roadmaps, with veins as the highways, and of course they felt full, and even painful at times. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself mopping up leaking milk any time your breasts are free of a maternity bra and breast pads! I can also remember being shocked and embarrassed the first time my very strong letdown resulted in my son copping an eyeful of breastmilk – but I soon got used to it, and so did he!

Day four – home time?

If you haven’t already headed home from hospital, today most likely will be the day (unless you’ve had a c-section). It’s your baby’s first ever ride in the car (so don’t forget to get your car seat installed by a professional). Your midwife will want to be sure your baby is back to his birth weight and feeding well, that your milk is in, and that you are healing well. If you don’t feel comfortable heading home to face motherhood on your own just yet, speak up. I certainly did with my first son, and I’m so glad I did. I felt I still needed the support of midwives to guide me through the choppy waters of first-time motherhood.

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I was still second-guessing everything I was doing, even to the point where I didn’t feel confident enough to bathe my baby (thankfully my husband stepped up to the plate!).

Your baby will most likely be feeding every couple of hours as his natural instinct to get your milk production flowing kicks in. And as you’re both still learning, it’s not uncommon for these feeds to last up to an hour – so it can feel like you’re constantly feeding. And that’s ok – you’re being a mother. This is motherhood four days in.

Day five – sleep, feed, repeat

It was around day five that I started to really feel like a mum. After the first few days of juggling emotions, exhaustion and a body repairing itself, you will start to feel a bit of déjà vu in motherhood. And that’s ok – much of motherhood is like this! All your baby needs right now is to be fed, to sleep and to feel loved – so make sure you work as many cuddles as you want into the routine! I used to nestle my baby on my legs as he fell asleep and just stare at him. I took in every little inch of him – his long eyelashes, his tiny fingernails. You will never have this time again, so take it slow.

Asian mother holds her newborn baby

Day six – home visits

You may have well-meaning visitors dropping into your home to shower you with gifts and meet the newest member of your family. I have to admit, I absolutely loved having friends and family visit me both in the hospital and at home. However, I did remove myself to go and breastfeed, as I still didn’t feel confident, and they respected this.

Finally being home with your bub will mean the sweet bubble of the first few days of motherhood has burst somewhat, and you might even be back to running a household. If your visitors ask if there is anything they can do – say yes! Even if it’s just stacking the dishwasher or folding some washing, they will feel useful and it’s one less thing you have to do.

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Your first couple of night at home may be trying for you and your partner. While my firstborn slept pretty well at night in hospital (and of course the midwives helped when he didn’t), when you get home, you’re on your own. And in the middle of the night when you’re sleep deprived, and your newborn is crying, even though he’s just fed for an hour and has a dry nappy, it can feel overwhelming. It can feel isolating. I know it did for me. Thankfully my husband was a great help, as was my state’s parents’ helpline.

Day seven – one week old!

Congratulations – you’ve made it through your first week of motherhood! Looking back, you won’t believe just how much can happen, and how much your life can change in seven short days. Your entire universe has changed forever, and it’s really helpful to take stock seven days later and see just how far you’ve come.

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I can remember thinking just how quickly my newborn became one week old, and realising that what everyone says is true – the days are long but the years are short. Although a week can seem like a long time, in other ways I was still learning every minute of every day. I still wasn’t completely confident in breastfeeding, so continued to see a lactation consultant. But I had become more relaxed in other ways – knowing when my baby needed to be fed and changed, or simply comforted. I was able to head out for a period of time with my baby knowing we would both be fine.

The first week of motherhood is both astounding and alarming. You’ll learn so much about yourself, as well as about your baby. And whatever that turns out to be, hold your head high mumma – you’re everything your new baby needs and wants, and that’s amazing.

(This is a sponsored post for Britax)

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