Walking into the house for the first time with my firstborn, I wasn’t sure what to do. He was sleeping peacefully in his carseat. Do I pick him up? Was it okay to just sit and hold him? He didn’t quite feel like mine yet. In the hospital, the nurses did most of his care. They swaddled him up and laid him down to sleep, they told me when it was time to feed him, they gave him a bath, and they checked on him every couple of hours. When they told us we were being discharged, it barely felt real that they were letting us take him with us.
On the 30-minute drive home the realization that we were now solely responsible for his safety and well-being rested heavily on my mind. I found myself suddenly aware of all of the cars on the road, and as each car turned or passed by us I wanted to scream out “Don’t you know we have a newborn baby in here? Be careful!” I suddenly understood why people put those “Baby on Board” stickers on their car. When we finally pulled into the safety of our driveway, I let out a huge sigh of relief. We made it home, but now what?
I must have stared at him in his car seat for 5 minutes before finally deciding it was okay to pick him up and hold him. I was shy and unsure of this new role as mother. I had been a babysitter and worked in a preschool before, but those were other people’s children. This little baby was mine and it was different.
As he peacefully slept in my arms, I studied every inch of his little face. His dark, fluffy hair, his cute button nose, his beautiful lips, and sweet chin – each feature unique and exquisite. He made sweet faces as he slept. A little hint of a smile, a frown, and a pout all passed over his face. I held him for a long time as he slept but then, I needed to use the bathroom. It was also time for lunch. I didn’t know what to do. Was it okay to lay him down while I took care of those things? It was weird to be separated from him for even a second. I needed more hands. I didn’t want to take my eyes off him. What if he needed me?
But I really needed to pee, and if I waited too long, he’d be hungry and this little window of time would be gone. After moments of internal struggle, I laid him down in the carefully prepared bassinet and scurried to the bathroom. As soon as I sat down on the toilet, he began to stir. Oh no, I thought. I rushed to finish, washed my hands, and was by his side as quickly as my legs could carry me. By the time I arrived and peeked at him, he was back to sleep.
And the day went on like that. Minutes turned to hours as daytime turned to night. My watchful eyes always on him, my needs forgotten. He ate when he was hungry, slept A LOT, and pooped and peed as he should. He was doing great, but I was completely wiped. I needed sleep, but the thought of closing my eyes while he was here seemed impossible. That first night, and for many nights afterward, my sleep was sporadic. I would wake up suddenly at the littlest sound coming from his bassinet. I would lay awake and watch him breathe. My brain was on high alert and I was sleeping with one eye open and my ears were constantly listening for him.
If only I had a postpartum doula by my side. At the time, I had never heard of a doula, let alone knew that postpartum doulas existed. But they do! And they are life-changing. A postpartum doula is there with you, in the day or in the night, whenever you need her most. She is an expert in babies and postpartum recovery, and she knows how to attune to your needs. Her care and support makes each moment easier. She becomes your second set of hands! You can close your eyes and actually, truly and fully sleep when she’s there, because you know that her attention is focused on the baby.
She takes care of you, bringing you a perfectly timed snack or refill of water, encouraging your blossoming motherhood as it begins to emerge, building your confidence each step of the way. Her vast knowledge and caring heart make her the perfect postpartum companion. Each time she is with you, she is meeting your needs on the highest level. Whatever your goals are for each day, she is by your side to help you accomplish them. She pays attention to your stressors and does her best to eliminate them so that you can focus on bonding with your new baby.
At Tennessee Family Doulas, we pride ourselves in our excellent postpartum care. Our doulas are the best in the Nashville area! Our clients call us baby whisperers, a true God-send, and lifesavers. The perfect time to hire us is during pregnancy, but if you’re reading this and have a newborn at home already, then the time is now!