When I gave birth to my first daughter three years ago, none of my friends had had babies yet. I wasn't part of the Yummy Mummy Club, and I didn't know much about the experience of giving birth or what to expect when I brought baby home. My house was well-stocked with the essentials—diapers, wipes, sleepers, and receiving blankets—but I didn't know about all the less-adorable and much more essential items that would make life easier and less painful for me and baby. Now that I do know, I feel like I must share them. In 2013, more than a dozen of my friends will be having babies, and I'm excited to share the not-so-glamorous parts of motherhood with them. What can I say—misery loves company, right?
So here they are, in no particular order: the five things you'll want to have on-hand when you and your new baby come home from the hospital. They aren't cute. They aren't fluffy. And they won't come in a basket from your friends or co-workers. But trust me when I say, they'll make your first weeks home much more tolerable.
1. Matter Herbal Sitz Bath (or what has come to be known as "vag tea")
When I delivered Willow at Mount Sinai Hospital, they sent us home with a bright green sitz bath tub and instructions to fill it with warm water and sit on it a few times a day. I don't think hospitals give these out for free anymore, and most of my mama friends haven't even heard of the sitz bath. But it's a life saver! We discovered this amazing herbal soak (a botanical blend of calendula flowers, comfrey leaves, lavender, yarrow, and rose flowers) shortly after Willow was born, and it made a huge difference in my healing process. It looks like a yummy loose leaf tea you'd get from DAVIDsTEA, and you steep it the same way in boiling water. Simply cool, pour into the sitz bath (which you can buy at most drug stores) and soak! The key here is to actually make time for yourself to sit and soak your sore lady bits while baby snoozes.
2. Stool softeners, high-fiber snacks, and lots of water.
I know, there's nothing remotely glamourous or cute about this one, but postpartum constipation is a reality. It's been a very hard (no pun intended) and unpleasant part of my recovery. So trust me when I say, you'll want to have a bottle of stool softeners in your medicine cabinet, high-fiber cereal in your pantry, and a reusable bottle or cup on hand to keep you hydrated throughout the day (especially if you're breastfeeding).
3. SHOOSHA Rescue Nipple Butter
Sore, cracked nipples are another one of the things people don't really warn you about before you have a baby. But there's a good chance that your first attempt at breastfeeding (even if you've done it before) will be hard on your nipples. Taking good care of them from the onset is one of the best ways to ensure breastfeeding goes smoothly and doesn't leave you in tears. SHOOSHA is a relatively new line of products developed by Toronto mom Patricia Di Gasbarro. They're completely natural and organic and smell amazing. Plus, all the ingredients in this nipple butter are safe to ingest, which means you don't have to worry about wiping it off before feeding baby. SHOOSHA also makes a fantastic Protective Diaper Butter that I've not only been using on my baby's tush, but also on her dry, cracked feet. SHOOSHA products are available online and will soon be available at Whole Foods stores.
4. hydraSense Nasal Aspirator
This one is for your baby, not you! If your newborns are anything like mine, then a stuffy nose is par for the course when you bring baby home. The combination of dust in the house and their little nasal passages adjusting to outside air can result in really stuffy, blocked noses. I still remember the night I called telehealth because I was freaking out that Willow couldn't breathe properly. I sent my poor husband out in a snow storm early the next morning to find a solution...and he came home with this contraption. Admittedly, I make this my husband's job, because sucking snot from a little nose doesn't seem to bother him as much as it does me. It works like a charm. And, don't worry, there is a filter that prevents any of that baby snot from actually going into your mouth.
No, I don't mean a good nursing bra that will hold up your milk-filled boobs (though that's really important!), and I don't mean a pair of awesome yoga pants that will help keep your postpartum belly tucked in (though those may also be really helpful, also). I actually mean a network of people, be it your mom, husband, best friend, therapist, or doctor, who are on hand to help you—day or night—when you're feeling hormonal, unstable, overwhelmed, or just plain exhausted. I can't tell you how helpful it is to know you have people you can call, text, or visit with who will love you no matter how crazy you seem, and will stand by you no matter how irrational your fears and concerns. Remember, post-baby you, is not the real you. Don't panic if you think you can't handle a newborn. If you wonder how you'll get through another sleepless night. If you find yourself sobbing for no reason at all. All of this is normal. There is comfort in knowing that other new moms are going through the exact same thing as you. So, join a mommy group, phone a friend, or invite your own mom over—whatever it takes to help you feel better. Someone once told me that the first three months of baby's life are fondly referred to as "The 100 Days of Hell." If you can, remind yourself that these one hundred days will fly by, and before you know it you'll find yourself battling it out with your toddler and wishing you could have your little squishy newborn back.
So, enjoy the peaceful moments, and take the chaos in stride.
Twenty-one days ago, in what proved to be an extremely intense and very fast labour and delivery (two hours start to finish), I went from being the mom of one little girl to a mom of two. It was only 21 days ago, but in some ways it feels like a lifetime. Fiona Rose has been the ideal second child. She sleeps better than her older sister ever did (or does). She rarely cries. And, so far (and I say this knowing that things change very quickly with newborns!) she’s the type of baby all first-time moms long for…but few get.
In just 21 days I feel like we’ve accomplished a lot. I am now the proud owner of a huge double stroller. I’ve figured out how to breast-feed using one arm while getting my 3-year-old a snack at the same time. I’ve done more loads of laundry than I probably ever did in an entire year when it was just my husband and me. I’ve designed and ordered ‘thank you cards.’ I’ve entertained relatives and friends. I've taken much-needed time to care for my postpartum ‘war wounds.’ Worked out a pick-up, drop-off, and entertainment schedule for my toddler that relies heavily on the help of my mom and husband. Taken a bunch of long walks. Made a few (very few!) meals. Sent some work emails. Followed up with clients. Had one actual meeting. Got halfway through a number of posts for this blog. Fought off (with the help of antibiotics) mastitis. Bought myself a new pair of (non-maternity!) yoga pants. And, spent hours and hours just staring at and falling in love with our new baby girl. All of this in just 21 days. Which has gotten me thinking…
In her second week of life, I bundled Fiona up and walked around the corner to get my eyebrows waxed. I figured if I was going to have bags under my eyes, I might as well have well-shaped eyebrows to help offset them. While I was lying on the table, the lady doing my wax expressed her shock that I was already out of the house with my newborn. In her native Korea, she told me, new moms and babies must stay inside for 21 days. She told me that during this postpartum period, the mother is well taken care of by family members and treated as though she’s a recovering patient. Neither the mom nor the baby is supposed to be exposed to cold, and thus they don’t consume cold beverages or foods, or leave the warmth of the house for three weeks.
And there I was getting my eyebrows waxed. My baby bundled up, but already out being pushed around on a windy spring day. My first reaction was of guilt: Oy, what a bad mother I must be. And, my second reaction was of disbelief: What an old fashioned, crazy tradition to still be following.
But, when you think about it, this practice—while seemingly impractical—is kind of lovely. Imagine taking 21 days to just relax and focus on self-care (and baby care) after giving birth? Here I was already immersed in my old routine while busily carving out a new one for my family…when I could have been tucked into bed, covered in blankets, while my mom or mother-in-law took care of me, cooked for me, and kept me warm.
Maybe it’s us Western women who are the crazy ones. Maybe it was me who was missing out.
What do you think? How long did you spend recuperating before you were back on your feet after having a baby? Do you think I did things too quickly this time around?
Either way…it’s been 21 days and there’s no turning back now!