First Week Home with Baby
A new mom shares the highs and lows, fun and frustration of the first week with baby.
What's that saying -- be careful what you wish for? After 16 months of infertility treatments, 37 weeks of pregnancy, and nearly 24 hours of labor, Harry Mose entered the world on Tuesday, August 29, 2006. You might think, given more than two years of anticipation, that my husband, Stephen, and I would've been ready for our tiny, perfect newborn. Wrong. We were so busy wishing for a baby that we didn't consider what to do with him once he got here. We'd leapt into the deep end, and there was nothing to do but swim.
Day 1: Friday
7 a.m.: We're at the hospital, hoping to take 4-day-old Harry home; jaundice kept him there an extra night. Excitement, hormones, and anxiety fuel me; I've barely slept since my water broke on Monday.
10 a.m.: Harry is discharged! As instructed, we brought our car seat with us, but we can't figure out how to loosen the straps. Forty minutes and four nurses later, he's safely loaded. Walking through the hospital lobby with my husband and baby -- my family -- my face hurts from smiling. I want the world to stop and celebrate this moment with us.
12 p.m.: We sit gazing at our boy. Stephen and I can't see a resemblance to either of us. But Harry's hairline, thin around the sides and bald on top, reminds me of my grandfather Harry, his namesake.
3 p.m.: Breastfeeding is shockingly painful. In the hospital it was hardly pleasant, but there were nurses and lactation consultants to guide me. Plus, the cycle is relentless; Harry nurses for an hour, followed by a diaper change and being soothed to sleep -- and an hour later his thin, delicate wail signals he's hungry again.
4:30 p.m.: Harry has pooped three times but hasn't really peed. Afraid he isn't eating enough, I call every lactation consultant I can find, but it's Labor Day weekend; nobody's around. Finally, someone answers the phone, and miraculously she's free tomorrow.
6:30 p.m.: Harry naps in our bed. When he stirs, I pull him gently to me, the sweetest feeling ever. I cry, happily.
8 p.m.: Harry's Snuggle Nest, placed between our pillows so we can co-sleep, is a vast canyon separating me from Stephen. It's as if Harry gets his own king-size bed while Stephen and I are in separate cots. We'll never have sex again.
8:30 p.m.: I love Stephen more than ever -- but I hate that he falls asleep in a snap, while I obsess about the next feeding, dirty dishes, and co-sleeping. Every baby snort wakes me up.
9:30 p.m.: Operation Co-Sleep is abandoned. Stephen places the entire Snuggle Nest into the crib while Harry snoozes peacefully inside it, then climbs back into our bed to spoon. Heaven.
10:30 p.m.: Harry begins cluster feeding, nursing every hour, and his latch is excruciating. We're swaddling and soothing a la The Happiest Baby on the Block, but he'll sleep only in our exhausted arms. Through tears of frustration, I'm struck by how pure and beautiful he is. None of my complaints matter. Harry is here.
Day 2: Saturday
6:30 a.m.: I'm awake, alligator Harry chomping my left breast, tears rolling down my face. The lactation consultant won't be here for hours.
12 p.m.: The lactation consultant finally gets here. With difficulty she gets Harry latched on, but she can't pinpoint the problem. I worry that she doesn't really know what she's doing, but I'm too unsure of myself to question her.
4 p.m.: Time for a quick phone call, to apologize to my mom -- I snapped at her earlier for calling during a family nap.
8 p.m.: Stephen and I watch reruns and eat Thai food while Harry dozes.
12:30 a.m.: Harry finally sleeps for two straight hours, and Stephen and I tumble into bed, too exhausted to spoon. During overnight feeds we work our way through the movie Terms of Endearment, and I cry again and again. Each scene resonates more deeply now that I'm a mother myself.
Day 3: Sunday
8 a.m.: Sleep deprivation sends me floating. Objects around me shimmer. What's a dream and what's reality? This is even worse than I'd expected.
8:30 a.m.: I cry through my first shower since Harry's homecoming, horrified at my flabby body.
9:30 a.m.: Stephen and I give Harry his first sponge bath. Afraid to damage his fragile skin, we leave him almost as dirty as he started.
11 a.m.: It's a gorgeous late-summer day, so we take Harry for his first walk. We attract smiles and stares, as if people have never seen a newborn before.
11:30 a.m.: At the local kids' store, we buy a sling and change Harry's diaper. He poops explosively in front of everyone. I can't help laughing.
2 p.m.: My family visits. Harry slumbers in my arms the entire time, and I realize Stephen and I are losing a major opportunity for sleep. When they leave, Harry wakes up, hungry. Naturally, I cry.
6 p.m.: Stephen introduces our first ritual: to calm Harry's mewling, we kiss his little head while saying, "A wealth of kisses because you're so delicious!"
1-3 a.m. & 5:30-8:30 a.m.: Harry sleeps, and so do we, offering hope that someday we'll be well rested.
Day 4: Monday
8:30 a.m.: Harry Houdini escapes from his swaddle and the Snuggle Nest, landing at the foot of his crib. At first we're proud -- clearly he's advanced for his age -- but then we're scared: we'd left soft bedding in the crib, never imagining it might be dangerous already.
10 a.m.: I load Harry into the sling and wear him for hours. He sleeps peacefully, and I'm thrilled to have my hands free.
6 p.m.: Harry's lethargic and uninterested in nursing. Afraid something is wrong, we call the pediatrician. I cry, of course, while describing his symptoms, but she's reassuring. Being enveloped in the sling for so long put Harry into a deep sleep. An hour later, he's fine.
11 p.m.: While he suckles, I marvel at his dignity, his placidity, his tiny, perfect ear. What an awesome responsibility we've assumed.
3 a.m.: On the changing table Harry pees in his own eye but seems more surprised than upset. Good times!
Day 5: Tuesday
9 a.m.: Harry's bris (circumcision ceremony) is today, and my to-do list is a mile long, our first time juggling a newborn and real-life commitments. Amazingly, we get everything done.
12:15 p.m.: Exactly one week ago, Harry was born. Stephen and I serenade him with "Happy Birthday" while he dozes.
6 p.m.: Our families gather for Harry's bris. They supply all the refreshments. No wonder Stephen and I completed our to-do list -- we don't have to feed everyone!
7 p.m.: The ceremony starts late, and chaos is brewing. Harry sucks happily on a wine-soaked gauze pad, and Stephen and I turn our backs during the crucial moment, wincing as he cries.
12 a.m.: Feeding time. The mohel, who leads the ceremony, told us to expect a night off -- the wine and the excitement would knock Harry out -- but apparently she forgot to tell Harry. He's awake until 4 a.m.
Day 6: Wednesday
9 a.m.: They're building condos across the street. As I listen to the jackhammer, I realize my body feels like a construction site: everything's jagged, my head is throbbing, and my breasts are pulverized.
11 a.m.: Harry's hungry but won't eat. We think it's gas -- he hasn't burped since yesterday. Finally he lets out a belch that rivals the jackhammer. Afterward, Harry nurses like a champ.
8 p.m.: The feeding stretches until 9:30 -- Harry won't latch on. He keeps dozing. I call his pediatrician and the lactation consultant and receive conflicting advice: the doctor says to let him sleep; when he wakes, try nursing for 15 minutes, and if he refuses, give him a bottle of expressed milk. But the lactation consultant says to use only a syringe, no bottles, until we nail breastfeeding. Looks like we'll have to trust our instincts, untested as they are.
11 p.m.: Harry wakes up hungry, but he's still struggling with latching on. We feed him a syringe of expressed milk. It's messy and slow, but finally my boy eats.
12 a.m.: More screaming while refusing to nurse. Stephen gives Harry a bottle with one ounce of pumped milk, which he gobbles so fast it makes me cry. He guzzles a second ounce, only slightly slower. Am I starving my baby?
Day 7: Thursday
8:35 a.m.: We're only five minutes late for Harry's first pediatrician appointment; I'm ridiculously proud. The doctor gives him a big thumbs-up. He's surpassed his birth weight (so nursing really is working), his circumcision is healing nicely, and he's the cutest baby she's ever seen (okay, she didn't say that, but she was thinking it).
2 p.m.: Suddenly I'm calling Harry "Sweet Pea," and I have no idea why -- although sweetness radiates from him like sunshine.
5:30 p.m.: Family nap. I wake up wondering what's to come. We're finding our groove, but what happens when Stephen returns to work? Just me and Harry, all day every day.... That's a whole new deep end, but I'm certain I'll keep my head above water.
Copyright © 2007. Used with permission from the November 2007 issue of American Baby magazine.