by Katie Madden, RN, BSN, IBCLC
You deserve to hear the truth about the first two weeks of motherhood.
I’m writing this as if I am talking to a pregnant woman, but that pregnant woman’s partner should read this, too.
The first two weeks of motherhood are the hardest two weeks you can possibly have during the happiest two weeks of your life.
It isn’t the worst two weeks of your life. Not by far. Most of us are old enough to have experienced some pretty, pretty terrible crap in life.
But this very well may be the hardest two weeks of your life.
Now, as a side note, some people will read this blog and say, “That’s weird. The first two weeks of my baby’s life were great!” or “The first two weeks were no problem at all. It was the third and fourth week that were the worst.”
Just go with me here. I am happy that you had a pretty good first two weeks (I did). Maybe you had a pretty good first six months (I didn’t. Lucy didn’t stop crying from week two to week 14). But in my humble opinion, after working with thousands of women over the past decade, I can tell you:
The first two weeks will try to break you… especially if you are breastfeeding.
I am not saying that the first two weeks isn’t hard on formula feeding moms. It is still really freaking hard, but it is really hard for two adults. Not one. Because…
Every single new mother needs an adult partner by her side for the first two weeks 24 hours a day.
So, potentially, if you are a formula feeder and you play your cards right, you can each get a fraction more of sleep.
If you are a breastfeeding mother, you are “on-duty” for at least two weeks without any LOA. Yes, your amazing partner will do everything he can to stay awake with you. He will hold the baby off for as long as he possibly can between breastfeeds while you sleep. He will slap himself in the face at 3:00 am trying to stay awake in a dim, quiet room while you silently breastfeed. He doesn’t want to leave you alone because you are so fragile… but he is so tired.
If you are a breastfeeding mother, you, in your sleep deprived, hormonal, overreacting head, feel 100% responsible for keeping the most precious creature you have ever touched alive. It is like you are holding your own life in your hands, yet it is even more precious than that.
The weight of the realization of this new life-long responsibility can suddenly feel suffocating in a way that makes the hair of your arms stand up on end and also makes you feel the nausea of having possibly made an irreversible mistake. Then there is the strangling fear of failure.
Or maybe, you were like me. Maybe it was because I was young, but I don’t remember feeling the fear of early motherhood. I just remember the weight of my love for Lucy. Every time she awoke me from a painfully short fifteen minutes of light sleep, my body ached with fatigue from lack of sleep and soreness from a battered postpartum body (like I was run over by a truck and that truck also drove through my vagina) and yet I was ready to literally pour myself into her. I would have fed her my last dying breath if that was what she needed.
I swear at some point during that two weeks I honestly thought she was trying to drink my last dying breath.
If you make it through those first two weeks of breastfeeding without quitting, you have overcome what is arguably the most difficult, but definitely the most triumphant, of hurdles.
Oh, and by the way, not quitting means not quitting. Like, stopping. Like not trying anymore. It does not mean using a breastfeeding tool. Using tools through get you through the first two weeks is not cheating. It is being smart and strategic.
I am not going to say you are 100% guaranteed to meet your breastfeeding goal once you make it to the two week mark, but I will tell you that things change a little after the first two weeks. The fog starts to lift enough for you to see a little more clearly. You feel a little less emotional. Your body is, hopefully, mostly physically healed. You have been a mother for two weeks and the experience you have gained has made you a little more confident.
Then you make it to six weeks… and it gets a little better.
Then you make it to twelve weeks.
Then you make it all the way to your own personal goal.
Blog originally posted on Balancedbreastfeeding.com