Dear Natalie: Week 1

Dear Natalie,

Today you are one week old. This week has seen a lot of tears (yours and mine), a lot bodily fluids (also yours and mine), and a Grinch-like swelling of my heart with love for you as your dad and I adjust to being your parents.

The first night you were home, we broke a number of rules by bringing you into our bed (we hadn’t yet mastered the magic of swaddling and having you close to us was the only way to get you to stop fussing and drop off to sleep). You slept for five hours straight. Your dad also slept for most of that time. I didn’t sleep at all.

Completely overwhelmed by the enormous responsibility that was placed in my arms at 7:46 that morning, I was awake for most of the night just watching you sleep, reaching out to touch your soft belly every few minutes as it rose and fell with your snuffling, snorting breathing. You curled your fists up by your face, every so often waving a tiny arm at me. You are still so new to this world, baby girl, but never so new as you were that first night.

You had three pediatrician visits this week, the first of which was just 28 hours after you were born. The doctor confirmed what we already knew – you are perfect. She sent us down to the lab for an innocuous-sounding “newborn screening,” which turned out to be an awful, awful test where the technician pricked your heel with a needle and squeezed out enough blood to cover four circles the size of my fingernail. Watching you wail and writhe on the exam table just about tore my heart from my chest, even though the minute it was over and I gathered you in my arms, your crying subsided immediately. “This is always harder on the moms,” the technician remarked, handing me a box of tissues.

Your next visit was two days later, to check your weight. Your dad and I had been dutifully marking off each wet or poopy diaper and each feeding on a chart that the birth center had given us, but your doctor was concerned that your output was not at the level it should be. She shoved two boxes of formula into my hands and instructed us to chase each feeding with one ounce of formula if you hadn’t had another wet diaper by 3pm that day. I barely made it out of the office before the tears started streaming down my face. I felt like a failure as a mother – I wasn’t producing enough milk to feed my child, and now I’d have to give you formula. Not the end of the world, of course, but the implication –that if I didn’t, I would be doing you a disservice for my own selfish reasons–really shook me.

We broke another rule by disregarding the doctor’s advice after a tearful phone consultation with our doula, who advised that giving you formula would do far more damage to my ability to breastfeed than it would be beneficial for you. She was right. My milk came in later that same day, and we quickly set aside the feeding-and-diapering checklist as it became obvious that you were not only normal, but an overachiever (usually only when your dad changes you – let’s keep that up). You became the valedictorian of baby weight gain when over the course of just three days you gained a whopping thirteen ounces.

We haven’t had a weight check since then, but it’s clear that you are thriving. You hate having your diaper changed, but good lord do you love to eat (I think you get that from me). And that’s wonderful, since that’s your job right now – growing. Your pediatrician remarked that these feeding “challenges” would very quickly become a distant memory, and even a few days beyond those trials I’m finding that’s true.

This week has been both the hardest and the best week of my life. You are so very, very patient with us, baby girl, and for every moment where I feel like I’m letting you down by not figuring out quickly enough what you need (from a short list of options, too – are you hungry? Need a diaper change? Just want to be held?), there are a hundred moments where you make me feel like the luckiest person on the planet. The way you hold up your arms like little chicken wings when you nurse. The exquisite and sometimes hilarious expressions that chase themselves across your face. Your wobbling head bobs to announce your desire for dinner. These are the moments that I want to remember always, because soon enough they’ll just be memories.

I’m so excited to watch you grow, Natalie, but for now I’m so happy to just be, to just be in this space where you are so small and snuggly and we are your world – just as you are ours.

Love always,



  1. On Sleep Training and Armchair Parenting | Happy Helmraths - December 6, 2013

    […] admit that I have flagrantly disregarded the doctors advice before. (TL;DR: She wanted me to supplement with formula until my milk came in. I didn’t do it. […]

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