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My First Week of Motherhood

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baby feet

I know it’s cliché to say when you have a baby, but holy cow, how is it possible that our little June Bug is already a week old? It’s crazy, because I’ve been awake for probably twice the amount of time this week as I was last week, but this week feels like it’s half the length. It’s a very strange feeling to want both time to completely stop and wanting it to speed up.

This week has definitely been one of the hardest ones of my life. I expected it to be hard. Society conditions you to expect that. But I don’t think I quite grasped the reality of how hard it would be. And honestly, I’m not sure there is anyway to grasp that until you’re in the middle of it. Just like with the time passing thing, the emotional rollercoaster of the newborn stage is completely contradictory. On one hand, it’s so incredibly difficult, emotional and taxing, you’d think you’d want to do anything in your power to make it stop. But that’s not the case, because even though it really sucks, it’s totally worth it and you’re happier than you’ve ever been. I’ve never done anything in my life that is so difficult, but so rewarding (maybe that’s what you runners get from marathons?).

me baby

Anywho, one of the things I’ve been thinking about during 3am feedings is how much of a disconnect there can be between the expectations of a major life event and the reality. You can do as much reading, researching and learning as possible, and it still doesn’t entirely prepare you for the experience of something. I knew that going into parenthood. I knew there was no amount of reading I could do that would really ready me for the journey I was about to take, but even so, I felt like I prepared as much as I could.

Of course, even with all the preparation, there have been some things that have totally caught me off guard this week (and I’m sure more and more will bubble up as we keep on the parenthood road). I’m not naive enough to think that I have anything of substance to add to the droves of experts and parents doling out advice out there, but I can share my experience. And I think there is value in hearing everyone’s experiences. I think that same thing applies to labor and delivery, and I definitely plan on sharing that story with you guys in the near future, but first, I thought I’d do some reflecting on my expectations and reality from the first week of motherhood.

What I Expected: Baby blues, weepiness, crying all the time, sadness.
What I Didn’t Expect: Crushing anxiety and panic attacks.

When you’re pregnant, you hear a lot about the baby blues (and their ugly, more severe cousin, postpartum depression), so both Craig and I have been on high alert for any signs that I’m not coping well with the insane amounts of hormones that are ebbing and flowing through my body. We’ve been on the watch for your typical signs of depression, but one thing we didn’t learn until this week is that postpartum anxiety is just as common. I’m not talking run-of-the-mill anxiety because you have a tiny, fragile human to take care of. I’m talking full-on, feel like you’re having a heart attack anxiety for no apparent reason. I have yet to feel down or sad, but anxiety? I’ve got that one in droves.

I’ve never suffered with anxiety much before, so this has been an incredibly confusing thing to wrap my brain around. For the first few days (both in the hospital and at home), I felt like surely something had to be wrong with me physically. Craig almost took me to the ER one night because he thought for sure I was having a heart attack. We’re both so thankful to have a great support system (both in person and online) and were able to figure out that anxiety is a totally normal part of the postpartum hormone crash (and we also learned that a few of the complications I had during labor can exacerbate the problem). It made me feel better just to know that what I was going through was normal. And now, I’m happy to say, after a week postpartum, the anxiety attacks are dwindling in both frequency and intensity.

What I Expected: To be sleep deprived.
What I Didn’t Expect: Insomnia.

The number of things you hear about sleep when you’re pregnant is insane. You’re going to be exhausted. You should stock up on your sleep while you can. Sleep when the baby sleeps. And while all of that is true, none of it talks about something I had no idea was common—postpartum insomnia. I’m not talking about not being able to sleep because there is a screaming baby in your room, I’m talking about when the baby is peacefully passed out in her bassinet, you’re exhausted and you can’t sleep. I had no idea insomnia was an issue in postpartum mothers. I figured I’d be so exhausted that I could fall asleep at the drop of the hat, but it hasn’t been the case. In fact, our little June Bug is actually a really awesome sleeper, and I’m the one who can’t seem to get the whole sleeping thing down. It has definitely improved as the anxiety attacks are lessening (trying to fall asleep when your heart feels like its going to explode and you are hyperventilating is not easy), but I can still tell that sleep won’t come as easily as it once did—and probably never will.

babyface baby

What I Expected: Craig to be an awesome Dad.
What I Didn’t Expect: Craig is an awesome Dad and an awesome husband.

I never had any doubts that my husband would pick up this whole fatherhood thing pretty quickly. I also expected to take a bit of a backseat in his life while he figured out his new role as a Daddy, but I’ve been so insanely impressed with his ability to juggle both roles. I think he grasped early on that the best thing he can do for our daughter right now is to make sure I’m taken care of, and he’s been making that his priority. Of course, he holds and loves and takes care of our little girl, but he also does everything he can to make sure I’m set up to take care of her as well. This involves everything from being the one to change the majority of the diapers to spoon-feeding me yogurt while I nurse at 2am. I feel so fortunate to have him along on this ride with me.

What I Expected: To enjoy having a support system.
What I Didn’t Expect: I need my support system.

Before I gave birth, I thought it was going to be nice to have my parents nearby. They could bring me dinner. Or come hold the baby while I showered. And while they’ve done both of those things, the importance of having them nearby has gone so far above and beyond those menial chores. Like I said above, Craig has been amazing, but I truly believe the hard reality of life with a newborn goes beyond just what two people can handle (especially when they’re first time parents). I truly get the “it takes a village” sentiment now. If I didn’t have my parents around, I’m sure we would have muddled through it, but having their support has been so key in helping both Craig and I feel like we can succeed as parents.

My parents have done truly helpful things like laundry, cleaning (as I type this, my Mama is vacuuming our bedroom), running errands, and driving us to doctor’s appointments, but I think just the emotional support of having them nearby has been so much more important than the actions. On our second night home, at 2 am, I sat on the couch in hysterics in the middle of the panic attack, and I managed to choke out, “I want my Mommy” to Craig. He called, and she was over within a few minutes. It wasn’t that I wanted her because Craig was doing a bad job, but I wanted her because I knew I needed someone to take care of me in that moment and we needed someone to take care of the baby because I was a mess—and as awesome as Craig is, he’s just one person. I’ve said multiple times this week that I don’t understand how single parents or parents that are far away from their support systems handle the first few days/weeks of parenthood. I feel so fortunate to be in the situation I am in.

What I Expected: My appetite to return.
What I Didn’t Expect: I could eat everything ever.

I made no secret of the fact that I felt rough during pregnancy, and my appetite was particularly screwed up for the majority of those 42 weeks. I was really excited for my appetite to regulate postpartum (and a little bit terrified I’d be one of the 1% of women who still deal with morning sickness postpartum). Thankfully, all my morning sickness symptoms were gone pretty much the second I pushed the little one out—literally, I was asking for a cheeseburger within the hour—but something I didn’t really expect was just how flipping hungry I’d be! I had heard breastfeeding makes you hungry, but I didn’t have any frame of reference for this kind of hunger. I imagine I’m probably wolfing down a good 3000 calories a day! It is so nice to enjoy to eat again. And hey, if my body needs all that fuel to make milk, I’m all for it.

baby

What I Expected: This week to be difficult.
What I Didn’t Expect: This week to be hilarious.

Oh man, some of the things and situations that you land in during your first week of parenthood are absolutely hilarious. I’m not sure if it’s sleep-deprived laughter, hormonal surges or actual hilarity, but I’ve found myself all-out-cackling a few times this week. There was one night, after I had finally come down from a panic attack, Craig had finally gotten the baby to sleep in her bassinet, and I was sprawled out on the couch without shirt on (because, ow) and he was curled up sleeping on Puppyface’s bed on the floor, and I just started howling in laughter. Look at what this little eight pound bundle of cuteness had reduced us to!

What I Expected: Decisions to be black and white.
What I Didn’t Expect: Every shade of gray.

When you’re pregnant, you get asked all kinds of questions about “how” you are going to parent. Are you going to breastfeed or formula feed? Are you going to cloth diaper or use disposables? Are you going to use a bassinet or a crib? At the time, the answers feel so black and white. You do the research, and you make your decision. But when you’re in the middle of it, you realize there is a whole range of shades of gray to choose from on almost every single parenting decision. It might eventually become more clear, but for now, every decision we make is about getting through today. And that might or might not be the same decision we make for tomorrow.

me baby

What I Expected: To loathe getting up at 3am to feed.
What I Didn’t Expect: To love early morning nursing.

Everyone talks about how much it sucks to get up every two hours to feed your kid, and while it’s not totally awesome, I’ve actually found quite a bit of enjoyment in our early morning nursing sessions. They’ve started to regulate a bit (for now) and tend to happen after we’ve both had our longest stretches of sleep, so while I don’t feel totally rested, I feel more rested that normal, and I can just sit there by the light of the LED candles (what we use as a nightlight) and enjoy the beautiful face of my beautiful girl. It’s a really spectacular time. And then we both drift off to sleep, and the next time we wake up, the horizon is usually starting to lighten up and we’ve made it through another night (which is a victory). I can’t definitely see why mothers are hesitant to give up that last nursing session when they’re weaning.

What I Expected: All-consuming love.
What I Didn’t Expect: All-consuming every emotion.

Of course I’d love my child, and while it’s the kind of love that’s impossible to put down it words, it is definitely something I expected. What I didn’t expect was that all the other emotions that go along with her to be just as all-consuming as the love I feel for her. All-consuming worry when constantly checking to make sure she is breathing. All-consuming pride when she does something awesome like pooping (woohoo!). Every emotion that is tied to her is heightened to the nth degree. I’m not sure if that’s hormonal or just parenthood, but I’m trying to go with it. It is such a blessing to be able to feel so deeply for someone. What a lucky girl I am.

What’s the hardest (but most rewarding) thing you’ve ever done?

Cassie is the founder and CEO of Wholefully. She's a home cook and wellness junkie with a love of all things healthy living. She lives on a small hobby farm in Southern Indiana with her husband, daughter, two dogs, two cats, and 15 chickens.

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34 Responses
  1. This is a wonderful post! I have been following your blog for years and for the past few months, have been so excited for this new chapter in your life. I knew you would be able to let us in with your trademark wit, candid approach, and thorough detail. My husband and I are still debating the whole having a kid thing. I don’t know what our ultimate decision will be. But I do know that by reading this first post that everything you write on the subject will be helpful to me and our journey. Thank you in advance – and know that this community of your followers and fans completely support you and Craig. Good luck! I can’t wait for the next post!

  2. Jacquie C.

    Wowza, this took me back. I really enjoyed reading your reflection on the first week. It is such a sweet, frustrating, exhausting, incredible time.

    Huff the scent of that sweet baby head for me, will ya? 🙂

  3. Such a beautiful post. My sister brought in my niece as a single mom, and looking back, I know she was so lucky to be living with us at the time. I’m happy that my mom and I were there for her to hold B while my sister showered, or even just was able to eat. =)

  4. I definitely just cried reading this. I miss breastfeeding so much! Those middle of the night feedings were my favourite, too, especially with an active daytime household, those peaceful feedings in the middle of the night were so sweet.

    My anxiety skyrocketed after having N. I had minor anxiety before, but I learned all about postpartum anxiety. I am so glad it is starting to fade for you. It’s THE WORST thing I have experienced as a mother, because I feel so unable to deal with an anxiety attack AND still need to take care of kids. If you ever need to talk about coping methods or anything, you know where to find me. 😉

    And YES about the support system. I don’t have family nearby, but I was mega blessed to have my mother-in-law here for a while before and after baby N was born (mainly to watch T while I was in labour, but she also cooked and cleaned for us), and then my mom was here for two weeks after N was born. It made things so much easier when it came time for me to handle it on my own. I’m so glad you have your mama nearby!

  5. Thank you for your honesty in this post! Like you said, I think everyone can learn from at least hearing out others experiences. Thank you for sharing yours! Juniper is so beautiful!

    1. Ansa Newton

      Thank you so much for the photos. In the recent picture of June Bug, with her eyes open, I can see she has your eyes and possibly Craig’s little smile !

  6. Thank you for this post, it’s wonderful – I’m bookmarking it to reread when I get closer to my due date. My parents are flying over from Norway to stay for a fortnight* two weeks after my due date, but after that we’ll be on our own. Halp! So I’m devouring all of these ‘what to expect’ posts. Thank you for balancing the bads with some really goods. 🙂

    Also, that is one amazingly cute little babby.

    (*sorry, I had to avoid writing “two weeks two weeks” somehow)

  7. Cassie thank you so much for sharing! I was really hoping you’d do a “first week” post sometime soon! Every single word was beautifully written, and it felt very raw and real to read through this. So many “new mommy” blog posts are sugar coated with feelings of euphoria and life-couldn’t-be-better story lines, but I really appreciate you sharing the good, the bad and realness of it all. I’ not a parent yet, but I hope to be one in the next few years, after my new husband and I enjoy a few years to ourselves 🙂 I loved hearing your experiences and I can’t wait to read more. Please don’t shy away from sharing your baby stories, words of advice, etc on the blog. Personally I am really really hoping that you do!!! 🙂 🙂 lots of love, from a very long time reader, -Lindsay

  8. Katie

    I am not a parent and never plan to be, so I won’t pretend I know what you are going through… but reading this post made me laugh and cry and cry and laugh. You sound like you are going through some amazing moments right now, and I feel so privileged that you choose to share those moments with your readers, including me. You are in my thoughts and I wish you all the best on your continues journey of motherhood! 🙂

  9. Yay for a baby update! You are such a great writer… I totally admire that. You have put into words what so many of us momma’s feel but haven’t been able to say. And that insomnia is awful isn’t it?! I took medication with my 1st because I literally could not get it in control for weeks and was making myself sick from lack of sleep! Those babies are something else aren’t they. I just wish I were closer to bring you dinner 🙂 Congrats again! You are a great mom already.

  10. Angela

    Beautiful baby and a great post! Congratulations!!! You totally took me back to the first week home with our twins. OH my!!! Hang in there and enjoy!!

  11. Kristen

    What a beautiful post. My baby is 2.5 months and I think you captured the brand new stage perfectly – I too was not prepared for the all consuming emotions. I found it crazy that I could feel ‘so hard’ (if that makes sense). Thank you for sharing.

  12. Lori

    I think becoming a mom was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I can certainly empathize on many of the situations you describe in your post. Don’t ever be hard on yourself. You’re doing a good job mama. Just take it one day at a time.

  13. This post brought me right back to bringing my babes home! There’s no way to know what to expect, I’m really touched by your honesty.

    Keep laughing about parenthood- it helps put everything in perspective. And enjoy snuggles with your little one- she is so precious!

  14. Yup, yup, yup and yup. Everything you said above is so true and I have been there myself with each of my 4 children. We live away from family and it’s so hard not to have that support after having a baby. I’ve suffered from anxiety after the birth of each of my children (after my daughter was the worst)- it totally sucks. I remember after I had my first child trying to figure out when I was supposed to bathe him or give him tummy time. He woke up hungry then ate and went back to sleep- I just didn’t get it. Over time you figure things out though- that’s what parents do. I miss that baby stage where they are so cuddly and their legs tuck up underneath them no matter how you hold them. They smell wonderful and their skin is so soft…. newborns are such miracles!

  15. Armagan

    Very well written, you brought me back to my first week of having my son! Here is my 4 cents if it helps:
    1) These are the most difficult days, it will get better, most people were telling those were my best days and it gets difficult as he gets older. I wanted to kill them as I was struggling like crazy and they were telling me it gets more difficult. I still don’t understand those people, I guess they are the most mean and inconsiderate people. So if smo ever tells anything close to this, just avoid them and don’t even spend a second of your thoughts on this subject, it is so untrue!
    2) Do whatever feels right to your heart, as a mother you know what is right to do, that is the power/insight of motherhood, don’t ever try to do something bec. you read it somewhere/smo told you to do if it does not feel right to you. This is your daughter and you are the one who will make the decisions and they will be the best decisions under the circumstances. Before I gave birth, I was like “how people can sleep in the same bed with their newborns, that is so wrong, those people are very inconsiderate” and such and I found myself sleeping with our son in our bed on our third night! I did my best to make him sleep in his own bed which was adjacent to ours at the time but that was useless, he was and still like that human contact, he feels secure that way, after I accepted that we both slept like a charm. Him being next to me felt/still feels very good for me either, that closeness enabled me to be sure he was breathing, if anything was wrong I would wake at that second so that gave me the confidence he was safe which decreased my level of anxiety considerably.
    3) At first you have to use your both hands while breastfeeding but as your baby gets stronger/older and you become more experienced , one hand/arm becomes free so you can feed yourself/drink your water without the help of smo. Maybe that is not the case in your situation but asking smo to feed me while breastfeeding was not a nice feeling for me.
    4) Everyday take your baby and yourself out of the house, if it is needed push yourself to do that, just holdind the baby close to your body take a little walk, look at the garden, sky, breath the air, listen to the sound of outside, feel the sunshine, such things, even for 10 minutes do that.
    5) I know from your blog that you are a very organized person but with the baby it gets sometime to make the necessary adjustments. For instance, always have some water nearby, some nuts, dried fruits, a bar to eat. At 2am while you are breastfeeding having these nearby helps a lot!
    Take care.

  16. Thank you for this beautiful essay. As someone who is expecting her first, I love reading raw and honest experiences like this because while I can’t really know what to expect, they really help. Thank you for this and congratulations! I look forward to following your journey.

  17. A great friend sent this post to me because your experience made her think of me – and reading this brought back so many memories! We’re expecting our second daughter in August and I am terrified of the extreme anxiety and debilitating insomnia again! For me, after our first, the anxiety never left like everyone kept telling me it would. Instead, I’ve struggled with it for 3 years now! Part of me hopes this pregnancy will undo the anxiety? Haha

    Can’t wait to follow your journey 🙂 keep sharing your experiences – it definitely makes it easier for some of us who are/were/are about to be right there with you. 🙂

  18. Megan

    THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR THIS POST! I am first time reader (I heard about you through a friend) and am 37 weeks pregnant right now. I feel like it was fate that I found you today! I really needed to read this…everything you wrote struck a chord with me. I am sending to both my mom and husband.
    Thank you for your honesty and I can’t wait to keep reading.

  19. She is so precious. Congratulations Cassie and Craig!

    Parenthood definitely is the hardest thing I have ever attempted. I too had my mom nearby for both pregnancies/births and it was a tremendous help. It does take a village and don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. I am anxious to hear your birthing story.

    Keep on Keepin’ on mama!

  20. Ashley

    I love this post, I had happy tears in my eyes through most of it. I am so very happy for you and your new little family. She is beautiful, you are doing an amazing job, and you are so good at putting these things into words. I especially believe the part about it taking a village. My mom stayed with us for 3 weeks after I had my daughter, and when comparing experiences with other mom friends I have really realized just how crucial that was to my recovery and ability to be a good parent. And the insomnia thing! I can remember trying to nap, knowing for an absolute fact that my daughter was fine and being held by her grandma while she slept, and not being able to sleep because I could hear a baby wailing in my head. She was not even a screamer, I don’t know WHAT baby I was hearing, but I just couldn’t make it stop and go to sleep. Or songs would get crazy stuck in my head and like a manic episode I couldn’t turn it off to sleep! It gets much easier to sleep when needed 🙂

  21. Adina

    What a beautiful post!
    I read a phrase in a book (don’t remember which book) “my heart leaps”. The person in the book used this phrase with her daughter to tell her how much she loved.
    I remember getting up in the middle of the night to feed my baby (now 19 months old) and feeling that exact feeling. An almost physical feeling of love rushing out of me to my baby. Every night I’d pick up my baby and say to him “my heart leaps.” And I’d hug him tight.
    He’s now sleeping through the night and as much as I don’t miss waking up with him, the middle of the night feedings were such a special time. Cherish yours!

  22. Jen in SC

    Aww, reading this post took me back to 5 years ago when my older daughter was a newborn. Those memories (amazing, terrible, beautiful, exhausted, and everything in between) are still crystallized in my mind. It’s wild how that works….
    I’m so sorry you’re struggling with PPA. That sounds just awful 🙁
    The single hardest thing for me with both girls, but especially my first, was the insomnia issue. I’ve never been a good napper, so I struggled really hard with getting even a reasonable amount of rest for the first month or so. It really got bad for awhile. I was practically hallucinating…
    Best wishes to your sweet family of three!

  23. I keep hearing that the first month is a doozy, and although I still have almost 5 months to go, I worry about this part more than the birth itself. I’m not sure what kind of help I’m getting besides my husband for the first two weeks, but I know it’s bad regardless. I also worry I will have terrible anxiety because, well, that’s already the story of my life. For now, I’m hoping I kind of just roll with it and survive.

  24. camille

    Just wanted to chime in about the insomnia: I had it rough too after my son was born. Just like Ashley, I kept hearing him cry in my head, which still happens to me to this day, though much less frequently. I was also super anxious, and I felt like my body was resisting sleep as if it thought, it’s not worth it if I’m just going to be awoken again in 5 minutes.

    All this to say in response to your “I can still tell that sleep won’t come as easily as it once did—and probably never will” — that for me at least, the insomnia passed after just a few weeks, and I am now a better sleeper than ever. My son took 20 months to sleep through the night (!) so we had our share of difficult nights, but I soon adapted to the point where I could (and still can) fall asleep or fall back to sleep within seconds.

    Hang in there — I, too, remember thinking this was the hardest thing I had ever done in my entire life, and so far it has truly been *the* *hardest* part, no comparison whatsoever. It’s all uphill from here!

  25. I have a 5 month old (my second girl) and it’s been easier in some ways, like breastfeeding, and harder in other ways. Insomnia is definitely something I did not expect and it is miserable! It is just so wrong to be wide awake while exhausted at the same time your baby FINALLY sleeps. Time flies though and it gets easier and easier, then harder, then easier. I do love it!

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