So just when you think you might sort of be ready to do this parenting thing, the hospital sends you home. Being at home is a whole new ball game, which starts with the drive home; driving the speed limit was too fast, and I am pretty sure the combination of exhaustion and stress causes a new super power where you can hear the tiniest noise your baby makes no matter where you are.
The first night home was easy. We put Aiden in the pack and play cradle in our room when we thought it was a good bed time, and he slept for eight hours. We didn’t set an alarm assuming he would wake us up at some point. We woke up in the morning in a panic. I don’t think I have ever moved so quickly to check to see that he was still alive. Once I confirmed that he was, in fact, still alive, I picked him up and he slowly opened his eyes… crisis adverted, but that was the last time he slept in that pack and play or in our room!
Day two, Melissa and I refer to as doom day. This is when we learned that parenting a new born was all about survival and there are skills you can master to make survival a little easier.
- Skill number 1: The first skill we learned was that swaddling was a necessity and proper swaddle technique is crucial to success.
- Skill number 2: The second skill was the five s’s (Swaddle, Side or Stomach Position, Shush, Swing, Suck) by Harvey Karp. You can read about our adventures with the 5 s’s and swaddles here.
- Skill number 3: The third skill is learn to sleep for small amounts of time any time you can. Baby sleep is unpredictable and we were so stressed out about taking care of this tiny person, it’s a lot easier said then done. Also, don’t feel bad or guilty if your significant other is on baby duty. Sleep…you will get your turn!
- Skill number 4: The fourth skill is be prepared for the “witching hour”. No matter how good your baby has been all morning and early afternoon, peacefully sleeping away. At 4pm he will turn into a small demon and the crying will not stop. Oh, and if you are really lucky, you may have a super gassy baby who starts crying even earlier.
Eventually, we started to get our routine down and our days were split into 2-3 hour blocks. We split Aiden watching duties for the first month. I was fortunate enough to be able to take the first month off from work, and since I was used to being up at night, I would take bed time. I never would have thought that trying to put a newborn to sleep would take hours and be an exhausting process. More times than not, I would fall asleep in the rocking chair before Aiden did. I actually had a sleeping bag and pillows in his room, because once I got him asleep and put him in the rock and play (LIFESAVER) I would then have to lay on the floor and rock the thing and HOPE that he would stay asleep (Maybe that is another skill, rocking a baby while sleeping?)
The biggest struggle during the fourth trimester (months 1-3) was when you are over tired and stressed you feel alone, or like things will never get better. The thing that helped us was the ability for one of us to take care of Aiden when the other was feeling a little overwhelmed. We also had a great support group of friends and family who had children, and they were able to give us their experience on what they went through or what they could remember.
After the first month I went back to work which was tough, but also I think helped Melissa out. I worked nights, so when Melissa did the late night feeds she would send me texts, which I think helped her feel less alone. Although we had a pretty good routine by the end of month one, I didn’t really start to feel I got my energy back until after three months. I was still tired, but after three months I could feel the baby brain start to subside and forming sentences started to become easier again.
The first three months is all about survival, but to be able to witness all the developments and “firsts” is something special! I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world!