When you have a baby at 4am as I did, you go to sleep for a few hours, and you wake up the next morning to an entirely different reality. This is the story of the first few weeks of my new daughter's life and how my life and my husband's life were forever altered.
I will start in the hospital recovery room the morning after she was born - February 6th, 2015. If you would like to read about my pregnancy and birth story you can find that in a previous post found here. This is a mostly story about breastfeeding, sleeping, and the aches and pains of recovering from childbirth. I have also included my recommended packing list for the hospital recovery room. Since my childbirth experience was very short and dramatic I have not included what I packed in my hospital delivery room bag, since I didn't use anything at all from it. I've been completely blunt and honest in this post, some of it is gross, because let's just be honest, the aftermath of childbirth is pretty gross. I hope that me sharing my experiences will help someone else feel better about what is about to happen to them as they approach childbirth.
Our little girl was born at 4am on February 6th, 2015 - for the sake of this post, we'll call her Miss C. At the hospital I delivered at (California Pacific Medical Center (CPMC) in San Francisco, CA) you stay two nights at the hospital following a vaginal delivery. Since Miss C arrived in the early morning hours on Friday, February 6th, I would be staying in the hospital Friday night, Saturday night, and until I was discharged on Sunday around 3pm.
Somehow in all the reading I did leading up to Miss C's birth, I did not get the memo that if you get an epidural (which I ended up getting), that you would also get a urinary catheter put in, which would stay in for 12 hours after delivery. Obviously in retrospect it makes total sense, during labor and delivery you need the catheter because you are numb down there so you aren't just peeing all over everywhere, and after delivery, getting up and walking to the toilet (or anywhere) is not high on the list of enjoyable things to do, so they might as well leave it in there for you. So, from 4am until 4pm on Friday I could not move from the bed I was in because I was still attached to the catheter. You are also expected to drink a very large volume of water during this time to rehydrate following delivery, and you can't go refill that water glass yourself when you are bed-bound. My personality is such that I am inclined to wait for someone to stop in and check on me to mention that I am out of water and could I please get a refill. But I quickly realized that you need to speak up a lot more or you'll get forgotten in that busy hospital unit. So, here's my advice, ring that hospital buzzer as soon as you need something - and ring it again if no one shows up in a few minutes. Those nurses are busy, and you really do need to be your own advocate. I got over my shyness pretty fast once I realized this.
Around 12 hours after delivery the nurses came in to remove the catheter. This was thankfully not a big deal at all, it simply slipped out with no pain. You are then told to pee in the toilet (scary, but I found surprisingly to not be painful at all!) and you are taught how to clean yourself and your stitches down there - which seems terrifying since you can only imagine what has just happened to your nether regions, but I also found cleaning myself to not be painful at all either. It consisted of filling a squirt bottle with lukewarm water, and squirting yourself clean over the toilet (or later, in the shower). I'll let you in on a little tip, DO NOT make the mistake as I did of trying to save water and leaving a partially used squirt bottle of water sitting by the toilet and then picking it up to clean yourself again a few hours later. The water will have cooled down, and this is NOT pleasant...at all. Go get that nice lukewarm water and fill it up each time!
If you read my birth story I explained about the hep-lock that is installed as part of the prep for getting an epidural - this is also something that I didn't remember learning about from my childbirth books or classes - I was starting to feel like maybe I really didn't pay attention! (If you didn't read my previous post, I'll recap here that a hep-lock - also called a saline lock - is an intravenous catheter that is threaded into your vein, flushed with saline, and then capped off for later use. This way you are not hooked up to an IV pole, but the nurses have easy access in case you need something injected into your vein later.) In my birth story I explained how I ended up with the hep-lock installed on the back of my left hand, not in my forearm as would have been more desirable. Since I had this big thing attached to the back of my hand I was pretty useless with that hand - I really struggled to adjust myself in the bed, hold Miss C, etc. I had been told that it would remain in for 24 hours after delivery, incase I needed to be given any medication or fluids via IV. I was pretty excited when they removed my urinary catheter and told me that I could also get the hep-lock removed that evening instead of waiting until the next morning since there was no indication that I would be needing anything via IV anymore! However, as I noted above, you really have to be your own advocate...instead of someone coming back to remove the hep-lock "in a few minutes" as they had promised, I got it removed a good 3 or 4 hours later. Super annoying and I wish I had spoken up about that. But in any case, add that to the list of things I didn't know were part of childbirth. I was also terrified of the sensation of them pulling this out - but I just didn't look and it was out before I knew it, not terrible as I had imagined at all.
THE PAIN DOWN THERE.
So now, let's get real, a baby just came out of my vagina. Lucky for me she was a tiny baby, but I still had had a uterus that had stretched to 10cm, and I still ended up with stitches from my episiotomy that needed to heal, and I still was in pain. Those first 12 hours as I mentioned above I didn't have to / couldn't move from bed. This is a blessing really, because even shifting around in the bed was uncomfortable. Fortunately I was on pain medication, so I could sleep just fine, and I wasn't in pain when I wasn't trying to move around. The next 12 hours once the catheter was removed were better, but still not so fun. It was a fairly major production for me to get my legs over to the side of the bed, scoot myself to the edge of the bed, and get to a standing position while trying to minimize the pain down there. I learned that it was better to try to get to the bathroom around the midpoint of my every 4 hour pain medication dose, if I waited until shortly before or shortly after I took the medication, it was noticeably more painful. I was pleasantly surprised that peeing and showering were not actually painful at all. Walking wasn't painful per say either, but I also wasn't really 'walking' - it was more of a slow shuffle. Really it was sitting in the bed (not lying, that was fine) or transitioning between any of these activities that was somewhat painful. The next 35 hours until I was discharged were better yet, although I made the mistake at one point of trying out taking my pain medication every 8 hours instead of every 4 hours since I was feeling so much improved, which turns out was not a good idea (the nurses suggested I was welcome to take it less often if I wanted, this wasn't just me being crazy!) - so back to every 4 hours it went.
Now here is something I learned too late. The first nurse I had after I was moved to the recovery room stuck an ice pack in my mesh underwear. This was pretty freaking awesome, it kept things nice and numb. Here's the part I learned too late...there were more of these ice packs in the bathroom and I could have used as many as I wanted!!!! What?!?!? No one told me this!!!!! I discovered them as I was cleaning up to go home 2 days later. So, anyways, that was a bummer. Ice packs FTW. Also something I learned too late - there is something called stitch numbing spray. It's actually called Dermoplast, but this is what everyone I know who's had a baby at Kasier has called it. Turns out CPMC doesn't offer it to you! So, weeks after I'd had the baby and my stitches finally weren't so painful, I discovered that my fellow new moms who had had their babies at other hospitals were spraying themselves numb down there all this time! What?!?!?! So jealous. So do yourself a favor and get some of that spray...you can buy it at Walgreens. Lastly, I did not use witch hazel pads until a few weeks postpartum. I started using them (stick them in your underwear and leave them there) for about two weeks, from weeks 4-6 postpartum when I felt like things should be starting to feel better down there but they just weren't. I was scared to use them earlier because I felt so tender down there and the witch hazel pads feel very potent - next time I would probably try them earlier, so, food for thought.
Alright, onto something gross. Let's talk about lochia. In case you haven't heard of this before, lochia is the vaginal discharge after giving birth containing blood, mucus, and uterine tissue. It usually lasts for 4-6 weeks following childbirth. So so gross. It's like having your period, times a million, for 6 weeks. So, throughout all the time since delivery I'd been padded up down there with the heavy duty lochia pads (think super super absorbent menstrual pads, and the nurses even stick in there like two or three at a time at the very beginning!) in the mesh underwear the hospital provides. That mesh underwear is really as awesome as everyone says. So comfy. For the first 24 hours or so I was soaking through the pads and onto the bed (which they have layered with giant absorbent pads too). This is super gross. I mean, I knew about lochia, but wow, gross. Once I was more mobile and back in "clothes" (sweatpants) the next 24 hours and onwards I would change out the pad about every three hours. This continued to be the norm for about 4 weeks until it dwindled and ended. Now, 4 months later, its sort of hard to believe that was even happening - how time flies. Here is another pro tip for you. At my hospital they had two different kind of lochia pads you could use - one was like a super duper large maxi pad (with adhesive on the bottom to stick to your underwear) and the others were just super duper large cotton pads. I'm still not sure how the heck you were supposed to use the later kind - they just slid all over the place - if you discover these in your hospital room ask your nurse WTF this is all about, I will if there is a next time! Also, do not make the mistake that I (and I discovered later, several other new moms) did and buy the largest maxi pads you can find from your drugstore - you know, the ones designed for larger women with heavy flows. These are REALLY really uncomfortable after you've had a baby unless you are a larger woman. If you need more lochia pads just ask your friends who have already had a baby - chances are someone has some extras from the hospital still kicking around. I ended up needing more pads, and have several friends happy to let me take their extras off their hands. Although I still ended up using the horrible Walgreens mega maxi pads because I can't throw things out...but I honestly think in retrospect this was a poor decision and had a negative impact on my healing!
While we're at it, let's talk about another gross topic. Pooping. Don't worry I'll keep this short. Twice a day after I had the baby I was given stool softeners pills. Now, so you're not confused like I was, these are not stool loosening pills, they are stool softening pills. The first time they gave me one I thought they were for constipation, because I had never heard of stool softening before, and I stupidly asked the nurse - um, but I have this catheter in, so I can't go to the bathroom yet, so what do I do when this makes me have to poop?!?! So, stool softening simply means it makes your poop soft...which is a good thing when your area down there is a little (ok, a lot) sore - the last thing you want to be doing is pushing out a big hard poop. When I did finally poop, I was terrified. Fortunately it was no big deal, it didn't hurt at all! However, because I had a huge fear of a future painful pool I continued taking those stool softeners the whole first week after I was home. And yes, I can finally poop without being terrified of it hurting.
I remember when I left the hospital, 59 hours after I delivered Miss C, the nurses made a joke on my way out (as they do to all first time moms) - "See you again in two years!" I distinctly remember at that time being like, OMG, what a mean joke! I am still reeling in the pain of having this baby, I can't even imagine doing this all over again! (But not to worry, about a week later I had already blocked the worst of the pain out and was all, "Oh yeah, I want to have another baby. Definitely.")
One of the first things I did when I got home was to take a little mirror and check out what was going on down there. And OH MY GOD THAT DOESN'T LOOK LIKE MY VAGINA. That's all I can say about that. Nothing looked normal. Things were all stretched out of shape, and even though I knew I had stitches I couldn't even find them. WTF. By a few days later I could see a slit, a precisely cut straight line, which was my episiotomy. This was very confusing because hadn't that been stitched up?! I learned later that they stitch you up on the inside, the muscles and tissue that they had to cut, and the outer skin layer they let heal together naturally - so what I was seeing (the outer skin layer) had actually not been stitched up, which is why it looked exactly as it did - as if it had been cut. A few days later, much to my surprise, when I was wiping myself after having used the toilet I saw that I had wiped off the knot of the stitches! Yikes! Is that normal?!! They said that my stitches would dissolve in about 10 days, but it had been only a few days. This continued to worry me every time I had pain down there. But, I guess this is normal, because my 6 week postpartum doctors visit confirmed that everything had healed up just fine.
After about a week at home I was feeling much more back to normal. I was still walking slowly, but I was walking rather than shuffling. However, those next 5 weeks I don't feel like things actually got much better at all...until all of a sudden they did. 5 weeks postpartum and I was still wondering if I should go see my doctor ASAP because things still hurt pretty bad and I wondered if something had gone wrong with my stitches...and then all of a sudden by the time by 6 week postpartum appointment rolled around I was able to say, yes, things feel fine. Thank goodness. Also yes, checking myself in that little mirror, things did in fact appear to have returned to normal. Phew.
Miss C was deemed hypoglycemic (having low blood sugar) upon delivery, and after some initial bonding time with me was taken to the nursery where she was formula fed in order to correct this imbalance. For the first day or so of her life she was brought into my room every 3 hours in order for me to attempt to breastfeed her, and then returned to the nursery. Though immediately after delivery she did naturally root around and start breastfeeding, when I tried to feed her again a few hours later it was unsuccessful, and continued to be for the next few days. The lactation consultant I worked with told me that this is very common for babies who come early (Miss C came at 37 weeks, 4 hours) to be able to feed immediately, but due to their sucking ability being one of the later things to develop in utero, they may have a weak or immature sucking ability and take a few extra days or weeks to catch up and be able to consistently breastfeed successfully.
When we discovered that she was not breastfeeding, the nurses taught me how to hand express my colostrum (the first milk, which comes out very thick and in much lower volume than established breastmilk). I would express a few drops into a spoon and feed it to Miss C from the spoon, and do this over and over again until she appeared full and fell back to sleep. I repeated this every 3 hours for around the first 12 hours, and in between feedings Miss C was returned to the nursery so that she could be observed for her hypoglycemia and fed formula as needed to be sure it was correcting. At around her 12 hour of age mark she was cleared of being hypoglycemic and she could stay in the room with me full time and was no longer fed supplemental formula.
Towards the evening on Friday, around this same time, when Miss C was around 12 hours old (and shortly after I had had my urinary catheter removed) a lactation consultant came to meet with me to discuss the fact that Miss C was not breastfeeding successfully. She brought with her a hospital grade breast pump - the Medela Symphony - and showed me how to use it. Every three hours from now until I was discharged I would...
attempt to breastfeed Miss C for 10 minutes (which mostly amounted to cuddling her skin to skin on my chest).
Then I would pump for 15 minutes,
transfer the pumped colostrum into a syringe (like I said, you really don't get very much out, we're talking just a few milliliters!),
and feed what I had pumped to Miss C from the syringe.
Then I would disassemble and clean all of pump parts,
...and get ready to do it all again 3 hours later. I did this through the night Friday and into Saturday.
Saturday morning the pediatrician came in to report on her daily examination of Miss C and let us know that her bilirubin levels appeared to be rising and that she might be becoming jaundiced and if so would require 24 hours under phototherapy lights. She gave us 12 more hours to attempt to correct the bilirubin levels via breastfeeding alone.
On top of that, around Saturday afternoon it was determined that in addition to the bilirubin numbers rising, I was also not producing enough colostrum to give Miss C the nutrition she needed. She was falling into a pattern of too much sleep (even for a newborn there is such a thing) and losing more weight than they would like. Therefore she was started again on another regiment of formula supplementation. So my new routine every three hours became...
10 minutes of skin to skin contact with Miss C attempting to breastfeed if possible,
followed by feeding her previously pumped colostrum from a syringe,
followed by formula feeding her until she consumed a set volume of formula,
followed by 15 minutes of pumping.
The pumped colostrum was transferred to a syringe and saved for the next feeding.
Then I would disassemble and clean all of the pump parts,
...and get ready to do it all again 3 hours later. This whole routine was very very very time consuming.
A few hours later it was determined that her bilirubin levels had gotten too high and she was deemed jaundiced, and that she would be going under the phototherapy lights starting that evening. So once again, Miss C was in the nursery and only wheeled into my room every three hours when it was time to feed her. Now...
I would spend 10 minutes with her skin to skin attempting to breastfeed,
then the nurses would come get her and put her back under the phototherapy lights.
The nurses would take care of the formula feeding which they could do while she was under the lights,
and I would pump for 15 minutes.
Then I would walk a syringe of colostrum down to the nursery and they would feed it to her,
...and we did this every three hours through the night on Saturday. At least because of this I was getting more sleep, so that was appreciated in a way.
Sunday morning we got the good news that after just 12 hours under the phototherapy lights Miss C's jaundice had been corrected! This was especially good news because I was being discharged from the hospital around noon on Sunday no matter if Miss C had to stay until the evening (or longer). The nurses had assured me that they would find me a spare room so that I could continue to rest and pump until Miss C finished her phototherapy later that evening, but it was much better to hear that we could all go home around noon together. Miss C was still being formula supplemented due to her low weight, but at least we could go through the routine of skin to skin, pumping, and feeding at home.
Sunday mid-day we were discharged from the hospital, Miss C weighing in at only 4lbs7oz. Our first stop was to a local shop, Day One Baby, where I rented a Medela Symphony breast pump to use at home. In my mind I thought I would just use this for the new week or two until the portable double electric breastpump that I had ordered through my insurance arrived. And then there we were, at home, doing the whole routine every 3 hours, but with no nurses to help out and no nursery to wheel Miss C into when I needed a little break! I continued to do this routine through Sunday and Sunday night.
On Monday we had our first pediatrician appointment to make sure everything looked ok 24 hours after discharge from the hospital. Unfortunately Miss C was still losing weight, and weighed in at 4lbs6oz today. We were told that this needed to be her lowest weight and that we should weigh her daily for the next week, and that she needed to gain at least 1oz per day - if she wasn't I was to continue to increase the amount of formula she was getting until she started gaining the prescribed amount of weight. They gave us some powdered formula to try out moving forward because it's a bit more cost effective than the individual serving pre-packaged formula bottles we had been using at the hospital (and were about to run out of what they gave us to take home anyways), and we swung by Day One Baby again to pick up a bottle (we decided to get the Comotomo bottle since it is supposed to most closely imitate the experience of breastfeeding, and we didn't want to encounter any 'nipple confusion').
Later on Monday though, about 3.5 days after delivery, my milk came in! This was really sort of an incredible experience for me. I think it was a bit unique for me because I had been seeing in milliliters exactly how much (or to be honest how little) colostrum I was producing when I pumped. The 'parts kit' that I was given to use with the pump has two different sizes of vials to collect your milk in - one pair collected up to 40ml from each breast, the other collects up to 80ml per breast. When I was pumping colostrum and transferring it to a syringe to feed Miss C I never ended up with more than 5ml TOTAL from both breasts combined. The entire time in the hospital I was using the smaller vials and had to admit, having never seen a breast pump in action before, I couldn't imagine how I would ever possibly need the larger vials! But lo and behold, just a few days later and I needed to size up to the larger vials! Once I started producing milk, I was able to feed Miss C exclusively breastmilk and cut out the formula entirely over that next 24 hours! Every day that week we took a walk over to Natural Resources where they have a baby scale, and I would strip her naked and weigh her. Over that next week we had awesome progress...
Monday: 4lb 6oz, as weighted at the pediatrician's office
Tuesday: 4lb 8oz
Wednesday: 4lb 9.5oz
Thursday: 4lb 10.5oz
Friday: skipped the daily weigh-in, she's doing so well - only needed to be up to 4lb 10oz by today and beat that yesterday already!
Saturday: 4lb 12.5oz
Sunday: skipped the daily-weigh-in again
Monday: 4lb 14oz
Tuesday: skipped the daily-weigh-in again
We went back to the pediatrician the next day, Wednesday, and he clocked her in at 5lb 1oz, beating her goal weight gain by 3oz. Ever since then we have been able to exclusively breastfeed Miss C. We cut out her taking the bottle entirely at this point (since she wasn't needing formula anymore), and we did not sub in a bottle of pumped breastmilk to keep up her willingness to accept a bottle, mostly because I was a little burned out on pumping after having to be so rigorous about it in those early days. So I stopped pumping, and returned that giant Medela Symphony rental that had been kicking around my house for over a week now.
Additionally during this week #1 of Miss C's life we did make a visit to a lactation consultant on the recommendation of both my pediatrician and the lactation consultants I had worked with at the hospital. Because I had been pumping since the beginning everyone wanted to be sure that me and Miss C established a good latch and breastfeeding as soon as possible. I ended up visiting a lactation consultant at Healthy Horizons down in Burlingame, because this was the nearest lactation consultant that was covered by my insurance! This sort of blow my mind (aka pissed me off) - so do your research. Had I gone to see anyone in the city I would have paid it entirely out of pocket. I found the appointment pleasant, but since our appointment was a day or two after my milk had come in, it also seemed a bit unnecessary at that point, since things were then going just fine.
(Sidenote: On the pediatrician's recommendation we did start Miss C on a daily bottle of pumped breastmilk at 6weeks old, however this wasn't terribly successful mostly because I really didn't enjoy pumping, so I stopped doing it and we stopped giving her a daily bottle, it seemed unnecessary to add the stress of doing that into our lives. If we need to get her on a bottle in the future, we'll cross that bridge when we come to it. For now, she's not too keen on the bottle the few times we have tried again, but it's never really necessary because I haven't had need to be away from her for any amount of time, so we are just not worrying about it right now!)
There were some things which I anticipated experiencing during early breastfeeding, which I was fortunate enough not to. I did not experience engorgement, perhaps because I was pumping on such a regular schedule from the start? Or perhaps because I just had a lower supply? I did not experience nipple pain, so I never needed to use ointment, cooling breast pads, or nipple shields. So if you struggle with these issues I can offer only my condolences and best wishes. I did experience lots of other normal things, like leaking boobs - which let's be honest, I had no idea happened! Apparently I was pretty uninformed going into this whole motherhood thing. I think having a lower supply made even this not so bad for me - I would generally leak through my shirt at night for the first few weeks, but not to the extant that I needed to change it until morning - I've heard I'm pretty lucky and many friends were waking up in the middle of the night soaked and needing a new shirt! I feel like all things considered I found breastfeeding (once we got over that first initial hump) to be pretty painless and come naturally for me. I also did not experience my breasts getting gigantic (happy and sad face). While I was pregnant I went from a B to a C, and I have stayed at a C ever since. I presume I'll be back down to a B when I stop breastfeeding, but only time will tell. Some friends have had quite different experiences and have grown many many sizes, so you just have to wait and see what nature throws at you!
I've created another post with lists of my personal 'new motherhood essentials', and there is a section just on breastfeeding products that I used - you can find that linked here if you'd like to read that as well.
Well now that you've read all about breastfeeding, I guess you know a little of what my sleep schedule was like. In the hospital this was pretty easy, at night I got to sleep for around 2 1/2 hours in a dark room with no baby around, then Miss C got wheeled in, I did my feeding/pumping routine which took about 30 minutes, and then I could go back to sleep. During the day I could have napped if I wanted, but once the sun is up I wasn't really tired, so I never did nap. Most newborns sleep a lot, and don't require much effort to get back to sleep those first few days, so in the hospital things are pretty easy.
The first night home from the hospital was a doozie though. I actually cried as we stopped by the nurses station to say goodbye when we left the hospital. I think the thought of taking this little (4lb 7oz at that point) baby home and taking care of her without the nurses around felt really overwhelming.
For several reasons we didn't have a nursery set up for Miss C. One is that we have been planning a home renovation, which once it begins will necessitate us living in half of our home, the equivalent of a one bedroom apartment. So we set up a corner of our bedroom as her nursery instead of decorating a room for her (which would be in the soon be renovated half of the house). To add to this, the 'nursery corner' of our bedroom wasn't complete yet either since Miss C arrived early, and though all the things we wanted for the nursery had been ordered, some important things, like the changing table, hadn't arrived yet. Over the next few weeks we figured things out though, and I'm extremely happy with our decision to not only sleep with her in the same bedroom as us, but also to have all of her nursery essentials in there too. Here is a link to a post that lists our basic set up of essentials for sleeping and changing (among other things).
So back to that first night home from the hospital. We didn't have our act as organized as we do now nor did we have any idea what we were doing, and so we set out for this first night with Miss C swaddled up and in the moses basket on the floor by my side of the bed and our temporary nighttime changing station set up on the kitchen island (the changing table hadn't arrived yet!). She would sleep for a stretch and I set my alarm for my every three hour feeding/pumping routine. I left my bedside light on all night so I could check on her whenever I wanted and see what I was doing when I had to get up. Talk about nervous! When I woke up I would get her up, unswaddle her, and place her on my chest to do some attempted breastfeeding (mostly she just fell back asleep). Then, after 10 minutes of that, I would carry her into the living room. There I would feed her her formula, then we would go into the kitchen and I would change her diaper and swaddle her back up. Then I would bring her back into the bedroom where I would pump while trying to get her to sleep in her moses basket, mostly rubbing her belly or eventually holding her in my lap. Then, once I was done pumping, and I tried to lay down to sleep, she would inevitably fuss. I tried just reaching over and rubbing her belly, but she wouldn't have it. I would pick her up and put her on my chest where she would immediately fall asleep. I would put her back in the moses basket and she would soon wake up. I would get up and pace up and down the length of our house trying to get her to fall deeply asleep. Eventually she would fall asleep and stay asleep once placed in the moses basket, and I would return to bed....for about 30 minutes of sleep before I had to get up and do this all over again. It was a disaster.
Through this first night, and for the first few weeks, my husband slept with earplugs in. He was able to work from home that first week and was working about half time, so he had some flexibility even though he wasn't able to take the time fully off. The deal my husband and I had was that I would take care of Miss C, and he would take care of me. This meant that in the morning (usually just about when Miss C was starting to sleep better...newborns are prone to having their days and nights confused) he would bring me breakfast in bed. He made sure that I was fed and always had something to drink, and I in turn made sure that our little girl was getting what she needed. This also meant that while I was getting hardly any sleep he was getting a relatively full nights sleep. So since he was getting his sleep, he was able to take care of me which meant that my insufficient sleep was not nearly as debilitating, since I didn't have to really do much other than take care of Miss C. It worked really well for us.
Fortunately my milk came in after only two nights of this, and I was able to breastfeed Miss C and by the end of the week I was skipping the nighttime pumping, which was huge. However, what made even a bigger different is that we discovered the second night that if I laid Miss C down in our bed between us she immediately stopped fussing. At first I did this just so I could lay and relax, not actually sleep. However we quickly learned that for us and Miss C, this was the answer. So, by night number three, our routine had changed. She would awaken, I would breastfeed her sitting in bed, then I would get up and change her diaper, swaddle her back up, and lay her in her moses basket. If she started to fuss, which she did 90% of the time, I would pick her up and put her in bed with us, and we could all get some much needed sleep.
Now I'm sure you're thinking, that's terrible, that's so dangerous, she could die of SIDS. Well, yes, this is the current mindset of Americans in general and the AAP. However, around the world bedsharing is very common and if done safely we felt it was not a problem to do. Neither me or my husband are obese, which is one risk factor for SIDS. Neither of us smoke, and neither of us were going to bed after drinking alcohol, which are two more risk factors for SIDS. We also sleep on a quite firm mattress with a fitted sheet. We both wore sweatpants and sweatshirts to sleep and kept the top sheet and comforter pulled up only to our waists so that no covers were anywhere near Miss C. We had no extra pillows on the bed, and kept the pillows each of us were using pushed far to the edges of the bed away from Miss C in the middle. We both slept touching her (and yes, my husband took out his earplugs when she was in the bed) and were very aware of where she was.
So this is how we slept for the next two months. It was so easy for me to feed her when she awoke in the middle of the night, and she would go right back to sleep after I fed her. In fact she didn't even ever burp (which is something I asked our pediatrician about, and he said not to worry) - around 10 weeks or so she finally started burping consistently after eating.
Gradually we transitioned Miss C into sleeping in her moses basket once we established a bedtime for her around 7 weeks, only bringing her into bed in the middle of the night after she awoke to feed. How we made that transition and the following months of sleep is a story for another time though. We learned that we did what worked for us when Miss C was brand new, and I think all three of us were happier for it.
DOGS, MEET BABY.
Coming home from the hospital with a new baby was a big enough deal, but even bigger of a deal is that we have two dogs (puppies really, they turned 1 year old when Charlotte was almost 2mo old) and we simply had no idea how they would react to the new baby. I had read books and blogs on the subject, but to be honest we really hadn't done much of anything to prep the dogs for the baby's arrival. The night I went into labor we left them at home while we went to the hospital (10pm) and had the baby (4am). Once I was in the recovery room (approx 6am) my husband drove home and took the dogs to be boarded at their daycare for a few days until we were all back home so that he could focus on me and the new baby. So, after we got home from the hospital on Sunday at about 4pm my husband went and picked the dogs up from their boarding facility.
We had a plan, I would be in the bedroom with Miss C with the door closed when my husband brought the dogs into the house. Once I heard them come in I would put Miss C in the moses basket and come out into the hall to greet the dogs, presuming that they would be super excited to see me as is their general manner. Then we would all go into the bedroom and pick up Miss C to show to them.
Well, plans never really seem to work out. As soon as my husband brought them home they could hear me in the bedroom. One of them ran right to the bedroom door and pawed it open. She started to run into the room, but stopped right in her tracks...like she knew something was up. I was sitting on the bed holding Miss C, and Zooie (the dog) walked in very slowly and calmly, no jumping on me, no barking. She came over and sniffed Miss C, and that was that. She knew forever things had changed. The other dog (KD) is extremely timid, she was basically just terrified of Miss C.
It was very calming to feel like the dogs knew that Miss C was little and fragile, and while I never leave them alone in a room together unless Miss C is safely in her moses basket on the stand up off the ground, I do not worry that the dogs will step on her or harm her. I know it's possible, but I also know that I've observed their kindness towards her - who knows if it is some sort of maternal instinct, or just a protective instinct, but they treat her like their own small being to protect.
HOSPITAL RECOVERY ROOM PACKING LIST.
Since my labor and delivery was pretty short and dramatic I don't feel like it makes sense for me to share with you what I packed in that bag to take the hospital, since I used exactly zero items from it. And yes, pack two separate bags! One for labor/delivery, and a second one for recovery - you can leave your recovery bag in the car and have your partner or family member go fetch it for you after you are moved to your recovery room - there is really no need at all for a bunch of bags sitting around in the labor/delivery room. My experience was that the labor/delivery room was fairly small, and there were a lot of bodily fluids all over the place, we'll leave it at that. When I arrived at the hospital I changed into the hospital gown they provided me with and wore the flip flops I arrived to the hospital wearing. I continued wearing this, and requiring nothing else, until after the baby arrived. If you have a more 'normal' delivery, I am sure many of the items I had packed would have been useful, but I will let someone else on the internet who had first hand experience make that packing list.
When I was transitioned to the recovery room there were several things that I found VERY useful to have around - I really feel like this is all I needed to have with me. I hope you find this list below useful!
Flip flops. I intentionally wore flip flops to the hospital when I was in labor thinking that I what I would want to have on my feet whenever I needed to walk around the hospital. In the recovery room flip flops were perfect stationed at my bedside to slip on whenever I needed to get up and walk (shuffle) to the bathroom, or later down the hall to the nursery or kitchenette. If you're more of a slipper wearer that would work find too. Some people suggest socks work fine as well, but that just seems a little gross to me, better to have something with a real sole on those hospital floors - a doctor friend kindly reminded me what all has been on those floors - it's a good point.
A maternity sized button down shirt, sweatpants, and a zip front sweatshirt/fleece. For the first 24 hours or so I just wore the hospital gowns provided to me. It's not like I was leaving my room anyways, and the only people who came to see me were close enough friends I didn't mind being seen in a hospital gown. The gowns are also designed with big slits at your boobs for breastfeeding, and they're open in the back so that you don't soak through them with your lochia. Gross, but there you have it. Once I was able to get up and take a shower though I was happy to change into some "real clothes". For me this consisted of a baggy pair of maternity sized sweatpants (a pair I didn't care if they got stained or needed to be thrown out), and a button down shirt (this was actually my husbands). I had brought a nursing tank top (the kind with the built in bra) and a nursing sleep top (no bra), but I didn't wear either of them (they got lots of use once I was home from the hospital though!). I found that no bra plus a button down shirt was the best and is the only thing I wore because I could unbutton the shirt all the way for skin to skin contact while trying to feed Miss C. A zip front sweatshirt or fleece jacket is the perfect second layer and opens just as easily. I found the hospital room to be generally comfortably warm, but I did occasionally throw this extra layer on, so I'd recommend bringing it. The key word for the pants is 'baggy' - trust me that you won't want anything coming anywhere near your vagina! I heard of someone else wearing a maxi skirt, which seems like it would do the trick too and is probably cuter. This is also what I wore home from the hospital. There is no need for a cute outfit (also, there is no need for underwear, just wear the mesh panties they gave you!). I shuffled from my room, to the car, into the house. I saw noone, so this simple same outfit suited me just fine. Just remember, don't be fooled when you pick out these items to pack thinking that you'll be able to fit back into some 'normal' clothes. For the first week I was still very very pregnant looking and still wearing full on maternity clothes. Just pack maternity clothes for the hospital, you'll be back in your normal clothes soon enough!
A fuzzy warm blanket. It is true, hospital sheets and blankets are thin. I found that I was very happy to have my own blanket to cuddle up under when I was catching my zzzs. Just be sure that it is something you are OK with possibly having to throw out, or getting stained. At the very least it has to be machine washable. I brought a fleece blanket and it was perfect and survived just fine. Some people suggest also bringing your own pillow, but I found that while the hospital pillows weren't amazing, they were completely sufficient and abundant.
A colorful bath towel. My hospital did provide towels, and they were the size of half of the bath towels I use at home. I was extremely happy to be able to cozy up in my own towel after my shower. Just don't bring a white one, it is likely to get lost amidst the white hospital towels.
Toiletries. Act like you're going away for the weekend. I didn't find I needed anything fancy, but the hospital also doesn't provide anything - for me this was: body wash, shampoo, conditioner, face wash, face cream, deodorant, toothbrush, toothpaste, body lotion, hairbrush, and hairties. Of course, bring whatever you use on a daily basis, and makeup or whatever you feel like you need to feel 'normal'.
Your smartphone and charger. At some other point in time I would say to bring your ipad, or laptop, or some books or magazines. I personally brought my ipad and some magazines in addition to my phone. I never looked at them at all. I did however plug my phone in right by the bed and used it all the time. It was the easiest way to connect with people (phone, text, facetime, facebook etc). I was too emotionally fried to ever actually read a book or even magazine. When I wasn't staring lovingly at my new baby or sleeping, I was somewhat braindead and just trolled facebook or the like. So I'd recommend saving the space in your bag, and just bring your phone and that's it. There's also likely going to be a TV in your room, I'm not much of a TV watcher so I never turned it on, but that would be another good way to pass time brainlessly. My hospital had a bunch of on demand videos you could watch (for free) on topics like 'changing a diaper' or 'bathing your baby' - sadly the service was broken when I was in the hospital, so I couldn't watch those - but I certainly would have!
Your good camera. This one is a personal preference sort of thing. If iphoneography is your specialty, then by all means skip this, but it is pretty special to be able to capture those very first few days of your baby's life. So if you prefer to capture these moments with a better camera, I'd recommend bringing it.
An extra big bag. When it's time to go home you will have amassed A LOT of hospital freebies and other stuff and you will need a bag to throw them into. I found bringing a big bag that packed down into nothing and was easy to throw in my hospital bag was the best way to manage this. For example, here's what I can remember of the stuff I ended up bringing home: breast pump parts, gifts people had brought, packages of mesh underwear, packages of lochia pads, ice packs, lady parts cleaning squirt bottle, swaddle blankets, baby shirt/hats, bottles of formula, diapers, diaper cream, burp clothes, baby shampoo, bulb syringe, and lots of hospital literature/documents.
A car seat. This is required by law. If you get caught a little off guard like my husband and I did when our baby came early, you might have to send your husband out to buy a carseat while you're in the hospital. Fortunately baby stores tend to clump around major birthing hospitals, so this wasn't a problem, but I'd recommend buying a little more in advance than we did.
Baby's going home outfit. I would say that this is actually not a requirement at all but one of personal preference. The hospital is going to dress your new baby in a (probably grossly oversized) kimono top, and give them a hat which they will wear their entire hospital stay. The hospital will also provide you with as many swaddle blankets as you require. You could very easily take your baby home in this hat and top, and cover their legs with a blanket. Something that my hospital did which no one had told me about is that a professional photographer comes into your room when your baby is around 36 hours old and takes photos of the baby and you if you would like. When they showed up they asked if I had any cute clothes or blankets I wanted the baby in - I was totally caught off guard, but I did manage to remember that I had packed a cute blanket and matching hat and the photos turned out really cute. So, I would suggest brining a cute kimono top (ideally with fold over hand mitts) and footed bottoms (a separate top and bottoms is better for them than a onesie until the umbilical cord stump falls off), hat, and blanket for the babe.
Obviously every baby is different and comes out with different needs so bring anything that makes you feel confident and comfortable with what you're embarking on! I had one person tell me to be sure to bring baby nail clippers/file and scratch mitts - but my daughter didn't even need her first nail trim until almost 3 months and never scratched herself as a newborn. Someone else told me to be sure to bring my nursing pillow and nipple cream, but I found that it was not a problem to nurse in the hospital bed, and my nipples never got sore - my baby was under 5lbs though, so I can see how someone with a larger baby might have a different experience.
So there you have it! My personal account, or as much as I can remember through the fog of the 'fourth trimester', of the first 6 weeks of my baby girls life and how it changed my world and my body! I hope it helps give someone else out there a peek into one scenario of what those first few days and weeks can look like. Remember, regardless of if your story ends up anything like mine or not, all the pain is temporary and you will look back and see just how short that time (that felt like forever) actually was - good luck to you new mamas out there!