Surviving the first two weeks
This survival kit is a collaborative effort between myself, my sister and my 3 closest friends. We all had the joy of companionship through the good, bad and ugly. We each welcomed our first children (all girls) within a 6-month span.
Surviving the first two weeks. Or in my case a few weeks longer due to late onset hemorrhaging, but that’s a story for another time. I was blessed to have my older sister give birth to her daughter two weeks before me, as well as having my best friend give birth to her daughter a few weeks before me. Their support and honesty helped me get through the most surreal, awful and (at times) amazing period of my life. To say I was slightly shocked at the intensity post birth is putting it lightly. I knew I was in for some challenges, but boy, or should I say girrrrrl, was I in for a surprise. Now this isn’t to scare the living shit out of you, it’s merely to prepare you as much as possible. I wish I had known some of this going into it. We’re all in it together sister. I’ll never forget when my husband said on day 2 or 3 of having Georgia home; “How do single mothers do this on their own? It’s literally not possible.” He was rocked to the core. Having a child, no matter what way they come out, means your mind, body and soul has just undergone a trauma like no other. And traumas require extensive rest, in order to get the body back into balance. Rest sounds lovely, and entirely not possible with a new little human who just got evicted from the warm, cozy place they called home for the last 9 months.
I had heard you could bleed for quite some time after labor, so in preparation, I bought a single packs of pads. Oh, the overnight ones, I mean I wasn’t stupid. HA. Well, let’s just say you may need a few more pads than a 12 pack of overnights. I recommend a pack of Depends (they actually make discreet-ish ones now) for at least the first week. You place an overnight pad in the Depends and simply swap out the pad. Great protection, no leaking. Once the bleeding slows down, some super sexy full-coverage, tuck-it-all in undies are a must. These Magic Underwear will be your best friend in the first couple weeks. With everything that has just gone down, down there, a sitz bath proves to be your saving grace. Sprinkle in some soothing Epsom salts, fill it with warm water and soak your poor hooha. This will help you heal, and if you light a nice vanilla bean candle and turn down the bathroom light, it’s pretty much a spa. Eyeroll. After your trip to the bathroom spa, give yourself a nice spritz of a witch hazel-based spray. Witch hazel helps with the pain and inflammation. The first time you go to the bathroom can be a bit terrifying. You’ve just pushed out a watermelon, so the thought of putting any pressure down there, especially if you’ve had an episiotomy or any tearing is overwhelming. Plenty of water in the first 48 hours, fibre and a little stool softener, help to alleviate the crippling fear.
My baby latched quite well, but low and behold less than a day in, I had such sore nipples that my eyes welled up every time we started the feed. You’ll need a nipple cream on hand before your nipples get sore. We recommend a natural, organic one that soothes your gals like this Nipple crack nipple balm. Once the nipples crack, it is very hard for them to heal with a wee one latching on for dear life. And if relief isn’t coming soon enough, get to a doctor for a prescription cream STAT. Part of what made it so damn hard for my nipples to heal was the fact that they needed some ‘air time’. But airtime is real hard when your days are filled with visitors and your nights with your boobs dripping like leaky, old faucets. So, don’t feel the need to let everyone you know come by in the first two weeks, they will meet your little babe in due time. Those nipples deserve freedom! Back to the leaky faucets, a few soft tanks with built in bras are great to sleep in. You can slip in nipple pads and voila, you’ve got the faucets under control. We recommend silky-soft tanks, which also work great under a shirt in the day for easy-access when nursing.
Headaches are another pleasant occurrence in the first week or so, so make sure you have a bottle of Tylenol and stay hydrated. The easiest way to do so, is to get a big water bottle and keep that sucker filled. The perfect time to drink water is anytime during the SEVEN hours a day you’ll spend breast feeding or formula feeding. No really, that’s how much time you’ll spend as you and your baby learn this whole feeding thing. I managed to re-watch the entire 6 seasons of Sex and the City in the first few months. Food is one of those weird things you know you need lots of, but you really find hard to enjoy in the beginning. There’s so much going on with the baby, and visitors and your body. Smoothies, soups, homemade energy balls, muffins and bars, were the easiest to consume. I could sip on a smoothie or throw back a bar while I fed my daughter.
I can’t stress how important it is to have mental, moral and physical help from people who aren’t also suffering from sleep deprivation. My husband was knee deep in it with me in those first few weeks, making me every meal, being 100% on dog duty, cleaning, shopping, and of course getting to know this little human. But he too needs help from other people. Moms, mother-in-laws, dads, siblings, friends-basically anyone in your life who you don’t have to make small talk with when your nipples feel like they are going to fall off and you don’t know what day or time it is. I know not everyone is in a position where their family and close friends live nearby-texts and phone calls are just as helpful. Ask for help, ask questions; you have no clue what you are doing or why your baby won’t sleep a wink on the first night home from the hospital. Any parent before you feels this deep, aching desire to offer help and moral support in any way possible, because they were once you, fumbling through the early days. My friends and I have a group conversation filled with thousands upon thousands of texts. Sending each other messages at 3 am when you’re both up feeding the baby, or when you aren’t sure why your baby’s poo is such a weird color, or when you see them smile for the first time, those exchanges are priceless in helping you. And please for the love of god, if you feel sad, extremely anxious, overwhelmed beyond belief, know that many women feel this way. Tell your doctor, tell your partner, tell your friends, help is there for you, you just need to make sure people know what you are feeling. Your hormones are doing somersaults, your life has changed overnight, your body is healing, you aren’t getting the sleep your body so badly needs, all of these factors can be a recipe for postpartum anxiety or depression. Check out Postpartum Support International for resources.
Finally getting to meet your baby is incredible, and weird and hard. Healing from the trauma of it all in the first few weeks is extremely hard. But, once you come out on the other side, healed and with a few hours of sleep under your belt, there is nothing better in the world than spending time snuggled up with your little person for a nap. So, take the early days one day at a time, be gentle on yourself and your partner, and enjoy the little moments of calm and peace. They won’t always be this little, and before you know it they will be these wild little creatures running and talking and smacking you in the face (can you tell what stage we’re at, ha). So I hope your take-away message is this; the first few weeks are intense, you can prepare yourself with some of the products and tips mentioned above, help is key and it really does take a village, lean in to the experience, and you’ll be amazed at what you are capable of.
Every woman's birth experience and postpartum experience is different. You may not need ginormous diapers for yourself, or you may be spared the cracked nipples, so please remember this is simply a few gals sharing their experiences.