My daughter is 10 months old and only now am I feeling like we’re finding our own rhythm. For my first offering, I want to reflect on How I Got Through The First 3months Of Being A First-time Mom.
- Preparation is key!
Finding out that you’re expecting a baby for the first time can be overwhelming. It can be a roller-coaster of emotions. One minute you’re ecstatic at the opportunity of being a first-time mother and the next you’re anxious whether you’ll be able to pull it through. It’s completely normal! It’s best to start preparing yourself emotionally, spiritually, physically, and financially for the new journey.
You have to think about everything. Think about the birth experience. What kind of birth do you hope for? Natural birth? Waterbirth? Homebirth? C-Section? Read up on the options you have and make a decision with your partner. My go-to app was Baby Centre; an online community about conception, pregnancy, childbirth, and early childhood development. It’s been so great connecting with other first-time mothers and sharing experiences. Babycenter is very informative and can help settle your anxieties about parenting.
Being informed is good but It is important to know early on that you don’t have control over what happens in the delivery room. Things could turn sideways real quick. Pregnancy is sacred and unpredictable.
My husband and I had planned for a natural birth and made the mistake of not reading up on other options. I stretched and exercised through my whole pregnancy; focusing on my pelvic area and breathing; completely preparing for a natural birth. During my last trimester my husband; appointed birth partner, joined in on the labor exercises to prepare himself on how he would help me through labor. The breathing exercises with him were particularly hilarious! We were prepared. Never did it cross our minds that things could go otherwise because our faith wouldn’t allow us to. Boy were we wrong! Things went sideways real quick. 8th July 2019 I was in the hospital waiting to be induced for labor because our little girl had decided to chill in there for 2 more weeks on top of the 40 weeks. Minutes before my induction, I went into Labor! God is good! 45 minutes later, I’m only 2 centimeters dilated, and all of a sudden my baby gets distressed; fetal distress as they had said it! A word I never came across! In simple terms, my child wasn’t receiving enough oxygen. Next, I’m in the theater room being prepared for a C-section. It hit us right there that God is in control, not us. Our whole world changed! Our precious little girl was born at a whopping 3.6 kg; healthy and well!
Do not make the mistake I made of overloading yourself with information and not allowing mother nature to take its cause. After you’ve learned all that you need to, relax, and embrace the process of the unknown.
- Taking Care of a Newborn:
I was so fortunate to have my mother around for the first three months of motherhood. She made a commitment to usher both her daughters into motherhood for at least 3 months. In Tswana culture, we call this tradition Setswetsi. To have an elder around to help the first time mother with anything and everything during what is known as the “fourth” trimester. The Chinese have a similar tradition about the transition to first-time motherhood called the ground theory. My dear mother put a halt to her life and moved in with us for a period of 3 months as per mutual agreement. You will get to know how that experience was for both my husband and me in the near future. For now, we’re talking all things, ‘ first-time mother’.
My mother moved in with us 3 weeks before my due date. During this time, she cleaned and prepared our house for the coming of a new baby. A newborn baby’ s immune system isn’t strong enough. It’s important to disinfect and clean the house before the arrival of the baby. If you do not have any help beforehand as I did, you can do a cleaning schedule for you and your partner for the whole month divided into 1 week per area. You can clean the kitchen first, then the lounge, then the bedrooms, then the toilet. However, you see it fit. Just make sure you don’t put any strain on your fragile body.
This applies to holding your baby. The new habit was to always sanitize or wash our hands when handling the baby. Be it feeding her, giving her medication, checking her temperature, having cuddle time, whatever, we just kept our hands clean and made sure this was the same for anyone who came into contact with our baby. We were taught not to allow any visitors during the first 3 months of our baby’s life. This time is used for the baby to adapt to its new matrix, to bond first hand with her parents and for her immune system and spirit man to continue developing and strengthening without any environmental threats nor bad energy. It requires extra care and tough decisions to be made. In the olden days, my mom tells me they placed a broom across the entrance of a home as a sign there is a newborn baby in there. Any visitors approaching would turn away before even reaching the door in respect of the Setswetsi tradition. This was interesting to know.
We had countless conversations regarding this issue leading towards my due date. Of cause, we would’ve loved to show off with our first baby, but we had to be firm in our decision to protect our baby in any way possible. We had to decide what will work for us and stick to that no matter how hard it was. We allowed immediate family members to visit the hospital to see the baby after delivery. As soon as we were discharged, rights of admission to our home were reserved except for my husband’s mother who could visit as she pleased. It was only fair because my mom was there as well. Though it was difficult, thank goodness everyone respected our decision. It also gave me time to heal from my C-section scars without having to worry or tend to visitors who were in and out of our home. On the lighter side of things though, I think my mother’s presence played a huge role in family relatives and friends staying away because she is quite a stern one.
3. I’ve learned a lot from my mother about life with a newborn baby. If I were to give basic tips to a first-time mother over the phone, these are the few I would mention:
-Never leave your baby unattended. These little human beings are completely in your care. Your baby relies on you for everything. You need to be cautious of your baby 99% of the time, literally! Is she hungry? Is she warm enough? Is she cold? Is she breathing? Is there something blocking her breath? Is she comfortable in her sleeping position? Is her diaper full? It feels monotonous for some time but soon it will be rewarding when she starts smiling and responding to your attention and care. So keep at it, you’re doing a great job!
-Keep her belly button dry at all times. Clean the area during every diaper change using surgical spirit and cotton wool. The umbilical stump needs to fall off. It can only do so if the area is dry. Sometimes it takes days or weeks for it to fall off. After two weeks of using surgical spirit and still seeing no results, my mom gave me a secret recipe passed down from her mother to get the stump to fall off easily and quickly with no pain for the baby. I watched her light a match stick and allowed it to burn through. She did this with a few more matchsticks and placed them on a saucer and then crushed them into ashes. I applied a small amount of the ash onto the umbilical stump at every diaper change. It fell off a day later! I told myself; I am definitely using this for all my babies!
-Do not put your baby in a bathtub during bath time. Baby skin is so fragile and exposure to water too soon may strip the skin of essential minerals and oils. Use a cloth dipped into warm water mixed with a mild baby cleanser to wipe down your baby. My daughter had dry skin therefore, I would apply a water-based moisturizer all over her body instead of a cleanser, then wiped it down with a cotton cloth dipped in warm water. Then I would apply the moisturizer again to moisturize her skin. This method worked wonders for her mild eczema.
-Diapering is a skill! My husband learned this the hard way. One night when he was changing our daughter’s diaper, he got a surprising splash of poo all over his hands and arms. I was awakened with a scream as though he had just dropped the baby! He had skipped a vital step; to place a clean diaper underneath the dirty one before pulling it out. This is to avoid any accidents like the one my husband experienced. Also, make sure you’ve got everything you need at arms reach so that you don’t leave your baby unattended and naked looking for wipes or baby bum cream.
-Sleeping is important for your baby. Sleep time is development time. Babies must sleep for an average of 8 hours during the day and 8 hours at night with not more than 2 hours awake time between naps. My little girl was never a good sleeper, still isn’t, we’ve had to try everything to make sure she gets her 8 hours of sleep during the day. She has slept in my arms, in a baby carrier, on the couch, on the floor with a travel bed, in bed with me, in her stroller, in her travel cot. Everywhere! Desperate times do call for desperate measures!
-Stock up on your baby medication. Remember when you were pregnant, you had to take your pregnancy vitamins and eat right to help your baby develop in your womb? Your baby’s immune system still needs that much support even post-birth. My go-to basic medical supplies for my newborn baby were: Gripe water for colic, a non-aspirin liquid pain reliever like panado, ProB2 probiotic for her gut, digital thermometer, oral syringe for administering meditation and saline drops to wet mucus before drawing it out with bulb syringe.
-Buy baby clothing in a smart and savvy way: All your baby will need for the first three months, is a lot of babies grows, vests and bibs considering the fact that you will be indoors for most of the time. Plus they are easy to put on your baby. Refrain from buying only ‘newborn baby clothes. Buy clothes for sizes 0-3 months because babies grow rapidly in their first few months! This will save you money and your baby will grow into the clothes rather than you running back and forth to the shops for more.
The last piece of advice from me which I had to quickly learn is to quit being perfect! Perfect mothers do not exist! Being a mom is a journey loaded with trials and fun! Most importantly it’s your journey! You will receive loads of advice from Sisters and mothers who have been there before. What you do with the advice is absolutely up to you. Ask for help when you need it. Leave the chores for when you’ve got the energy to do them. You can’t find time to cook? Eat takeaways! Rest, rest, and rest! Lastly, Enjoy It! These little bambinos do grow up real quick!
I would love to hear from you in the comments section below. What was your pregnancy and birth experience like? Was it a planned pregnancy? What tips would you give to a clueless first-time mother? Which medical supplies do you swear by for a newborn baby? What is your opinion on visitors during the first 3 months of your baby’s life? How did you survive your first three months as a first-time mother? What do you think of balancing advice you get from trusted personas compared to going with your guts? Let’s connect!