It’s been a bit over a week now since Ean’s birth. These are my thoughts and advice to you.
I am absolutely exhausted, this actually came as a surprise to me but between work, being a stay at home dad, managing a house construction and caring for a recovering wife from the marathon of labor there is very little room left for me. Both speech and thoughts are affected to the point of slurrying and having difficulty organising thoughts and words. It’s not so much the sleep deprivation, I never cared much for sleep. It’s the emotional stress that I have to assume any parent who cares for their own kids goes through. Your baby is crying and you are trying everything in your power to find what’s wrong and calm them down, but sometimes nothing hits the spot.
This is for me by far the most challenging thing so far. I can change a diaper with my eyes closed, I have learned techniques that I will go over later with you that helps to sooth an agitated baby, I even have a constant food dispenser in the shape of wives breast so I never have to worry about formula, temperatures, dosages and whether or not he had enough food. All of these things are as I expected, a cakewalk. It’s the helplessness and how it affects my self-esteem and confidence that is the most difficult to deal with.
My advice to you, whether you’re a mother or a father is, sleep, sleep, sleep. Any chance you get, any window of opportunity you get to catch a few REM cycles. Put away the phone, Instagram, Skype and Facebook and make sleep your number one priority at all times. It’s a rare commodity when you have a newborn so I can not stress this enough. Dishes, cleaning, friends and family can wait, just get some sleep. At this point in a newborn there is no sense of normalsy or patterns. Your baby can want to eat twice in three hours and then sleep long enough for you to go and check if he’s still breathing.
The highlight of the week was taking a shower with Ean. It was the first real thing that we shared and that wasn’t related to me performing a sanitary service.
Looking beyond the sleep deprivation and shattered confidence, this is truly a time that is both remarkable and amazing. You start noticing changes and nuances. You spend hours just staring at this little creature that is so helpless and your heart will throw off fireworks. I could barely look at him the first four days without tearing up simply because my body couldn’t contain my soul and overwhelming sense of amazement. Now, this is important to say: Not everyone has this experience and there is NOTHING wrong with that. Postpartum depression is very real and it’s perfectly normal, so if you find yourself not being able to connect with the baby immediately, don’t worry and give it some time, if you are concerned, seek help and council.
The highlight of the week was taking a shower with Ean. It was the first real thing that we shared and that wasn’t related to me performing a sanitary service. He was resting with eyes closed, completely safe, relaxed in my arms and just enjoying the warm water. It was amazing.
The first time we tried to bath him, he threw a tantrum like I hadn’t seen before. I was completely surprised as I thought nine months in water would make him feel right at home but then my cousin advised me to try it after feeding him, when he is happy and without any wants and needs. I was curious if he’d like the shower and so the second time we bathed him, I simply stepped into the shower with him in my arms. Don’t get cocky and overconfident, it can get slippery so always be super careful because a baby movement can come from anywhere at any point and you can lose your grip. We had a nice long session and he came out without a peep. It was a perfect bonding and practical experience baked into one.
During the first week it’s not unusual for the baby to shed skin on various places of the body. The skin will look dry and flaky. This leads me to my second favorite thing of the week, oil massage! After the shower or cleaning, once a day I give him a nice and quick full body oil massage (We’re in a hot country in June, careful if you’re in colder climate, it will be less enjoyable for the baby). It’s great for the skin (we use almond oil, I hate Johnson & Johnson or whatever brands of toxic smelling lotions), it helps you bond with the baby and is great for stimulating muscles and joints of the baby. If you’ve ever marinated a chicken, you know exactly how it feels, ha!
His sleep is still very irregular, therefor impossible to influence, so for the moment all hope of regulating sleep and wake time or distributing the hours between myself and the missus… just improvise and give each other time to recover. If you’re doing this on your own, I salute you and your patience and would only encourage you to only focus on baby and yourself. Never mind the dishes or anything else, everything else comes second.
In our case, we had to stay an additional day at the hospital because they needed to make sure his kidneys were functioning properly. That means we spent a total of four days in the hospital and this threw us both for a loop because instead of coming home quickly and getting settled in and started, we ended up napping our way through the days not knowing when we’d go home and therefor not eating or sleeping well.
Now guys, men… I know some of you want to be there every moment with your woman but trust me when I tell you this, GO HOME AND SLEEP. By the third day I was seeing full moons instead of sunsets and my brain was completely fried. So, as much as you feel you have to be responsible and be there, the most responsible thing you can do is to go home and get some proper sleep and return to the hospital in the morning so you can be of some actual use. Don’t worry, the nurses and midwives are there all the time to help out if the exhausted mother needs help and relief in the middle of the night.
As you might know, we opted for cloth diapers but for the sake of convenience and having enough things to deal with and adjusting to, we got some regular diapers until things got rolling. If you want to improve your sleep, get good quality diapers so both you and your baby can get some well needed rest. I know this is gross, but I have to mention the poop because it’s hilarious! If you don’t know, during the final stages of pregnancy, the baby sheds some skin covering layers and digest them and this becomes the first poop. It looks like tar! I was told it would look weird but I wasn’t prepared for this, absolutely crazy.
In my twenty something years of text composing, I have never misspelled so many words so I will be retreating to bed for some well deserved sleep now.