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You and baby’s first 24 hours together
If you are counting the days or even weeks until your little one arrives, you must be excited, joyful, scared, nervous, and feeling about a thousand more emotions all at once.
Luckily for you, there are plenty of resources to help you get through your pregnancy and labor – use those resources they are so valuable! Despite all of these resources, I had questions about what comes after birth:
What happens once you push that little one out?
Do I see her immediately?
What goes on in the hospital?
How does my body feel after giving birth?
Since these types of questions were on my mind during my pregnancy, I want to share with everyone what I went through. Hopefully, my experience can give you a frame of mind for what you are about to go through.
Although every hospital is different, most have similar procedures. The hospital I was in really pushed for skin-to-skin and told me I would not be separated from my baby. However, that was not exactly how everything went down (more details on this below).
I had a typical birthing experience at a hospital, delivered vaginally with an epidural. Except for being in excruciating labor for over 20 hours, I feel like my experience was run of the mill. There were no complications, my water broke, and I was sent to the hospital to deliver. My doctor gave me Pitocin, which did not really help, in my opinion, but it did make everything more painful.
Now, let’s skip over the labor and get right to having a screaming baby in the delivery room.
Immediately after birth
Tips: They may put your baby on your chest, then cut the umbilical cord, you can attempt to nurse your baby immediately. They may take all the measurements in your labor room, so your baby will not be far away and you can watch. You’re exhausted, so hopefully, someone takes good photos or videos of your first meeting.
As soon as my baby was delivered, they took a look at her, made sure everything was okay, then they put her tiny body on my chest and had my husband cut the umbilical cord.
That was the beginning of it all. My baby was now separated from me for good, and our relationship shifted, I was no longer my baby’s carrier – but officially her mother.
All this was happening as my doctor was sewing me up, she cut me down there, aka an episiotomy. I did not feel the placenta come out or anything. I was too consumed with my daughter.
Once her umbilical cord was cut, they wrapped her in that typical hospital baby blanket and put her back on my chest, where I first saw her little face. It is incredible seeing your baby for the first time. It wasn’t like on TV when the new mom cries. I was so tired I could barely move my lips, and my eyes were only half-open.
For a while, my husband was scared and thought I had no emotions – I later explained to him that I was so out of it and tired I did not have the strength to display my emotions.
You could clearly hear in the video my raspy voice trying to put words together. I had thought in advance about the first words I was going to say to my baby, and I was barely able to get them out.
During our first meeting, I immediately attempted to nurse her. I tried my best to remember everything I was taught and read about nursing, but it was hard. Instead, I felt like I was just shoving this tiny baby’s mouth on my nipple. Her reflexes worked though, she attempted and latched on – although painfully.
Perhaps, since this first nursing interaction was painful, it set the table for all future latch problems? I am not sure, but the painful latch never went away. It’s just the way my daughter nurses (to this day, even at two years old).
After spending that time with my baby, I looked up, and the room was cleared of all the doctors, nurses, and commotion from earlier. It was replaced with nurses prepping to do the newborn baby procedures.
As I was still nursing, to my surprise, family members started trickling into my room. I was surprised they let them in minutes after giving birth, and while I was as exhausted as I was. I honestly did not know I had family in the waiting room while I was delivering. It was a surprise.
I would have preferred more time to rest and to have that bonding time with fewer people in the room, so if you feel this way (which you might not right now, but you may feel differently after going through labor) let whoever is in the delivery room with you know that you do not want visitors immediately after giving birth.
My husband also had his time with her. He did skin-to-skin for a while.
After that, the nurses took over, they cleaned her up a bit, measured her, weighed her, and did all sorts of other things. While they did that, I got up to use the restroom and to take a shower. I could barely move, but I had to do something to get all the blood and gunk off of me.
I got dressed and ready to move to the next room.
By then, they had done all they could with my daughter in the room. Then they took her away to do other tests. All my hospital tours prior said that I would not be separated from her at all, so I was a bit surprised when they rolled her out. I think hospital policy and what the nurses actually do is not aligned perfectly. Keep that in mind, when you take a tour or read your hospital’s policies.
What is communicated may be different from what is done.
My husband and I walked to the next room.
Where did my baby go?
Tips: It took a few hours for my daughter to join us in the recovery room. Try to get sleep despite the interruptions. Your baby will eventually get delivered to your room.
We were in the next room by ourselves, it was late into the night, past midnight. I finally ate my first meal in over 24 hours, not as satisfying as I thought it would be since I felt sick. My suggestion is to eat whatever you want after you give birth – but eat the dream meal you have been craving a few days later.
Everyone left, and our daughter was with the nurses. It was the last peaceful moment in our parenting life. We were worried and concerned about our daughter not being with us, but we had been parents only for a few hours and did not know that alert “is my child okay” feeling yet.
We knew we were parents, but she did not feel like ours to keep – at least not yet.
So we slept. We slept for one last time before parenthood struck. Albeit, we woke during our rest several times to see if our baby was back with us, then a few hours later, they rolled her in.
Suddenly it was just us. Nobody else was around to tend to her as she cried. Nobody was there to swaddle her (because we could not get it right). Nobody to change those pesky diapers. Only my husband and I.
It’s daunting to have a newborn all to yourself, especially the first time around.
***Balancing work and life as a mom? I got you covered!***
Constant interruptions all night
Tips: It’s painful and frustrating to try to rest at a hospital, just do your best. Also, your baby will wake up every few hours to eat.
We finally had our baby with us, but then every time we put her to sleep, someone would come into the room to give me medicine or check on the baby for something.
It was definitely a sleepless night after our daughter arrived.
The worst part was the bright fluorescent lights that were turned on every time someone walked in. We were blinded continuously, and our daughter was not a happy camper.
***Curious about how contractions REALLY feel?***
Your body and makeshift sanitary pads
Tips: Be prepared for lots of blood and figure out if you want to use the hospital’s makeshift pads or if you want to buy something fancy to contain that blood. Pay attention to your body and ask your doctor questions if anything concerns you. Keep your health in mind because everyone else is focused on your baby, not you, even though you are a patient too.
I kind of hoped that once I had my daughter, I would get my body back immediately (naive wishful thinking). That was not the case. My stomach went from baby bump to deflated pouch, not pretty. It is a bit disappointing, the condition of your body and stomach because you want to go back to normal. But it takes a few months and hard work to get your body back.
I was still in pain below, I just had to sit down and get up slowly. I had never been as exhausted either. But overall, I could feel my body getting stronger from day-to-day.
For new moms, one thing I want to make sure you are aware of is the makeshift sanitary pads you have to put together yourself. Let me break it down.
First of all, you are such a bloody mess a regular pad will not do for the first few weeks postpartum. About three days after I had my daughter, I had huge clots coming out – it was scary to the point that I called my doctor, who reassured me it was normal.
The hospital provides the following:
- A really long thick pad
- Underpads (like the puppy training pads)
- Mesh underwear
- A spray bottle
- Pain relief spray medicine
What you do is put the mesh underwear halfway on, then you stuff the pad and underpads in the underwear.
When I learned of this system, I was blown away, I thought something a bit more modern would be offered. However, this system worked for me.
Once I realized these were the tools I was given – I asked for extra everything every time a nurse came in. I was stocked up and had enough to last me a while at home. If you can afford something nicer – check out Amazon, I am sure they have fancy underwear, if not this should work for you.
***Working and Pregnant? Read on…***
The next morning
Tips: Have your baby’s full name ready. Be ready to meet with people hunting you down for money. Have questions prepared for the pediatrician. Again, take plenty of pictures and share them with your loved ones.
The next morning was still constant interruptions from various people. My husband went home to shower and nap a bit while my mom was with me.
The morning had a few highlights:
- The pediatrician came by to check on my daughter
- They had me fill out a form for her official name
- They tested her hearing
- They made me pay the full amount of my hospital bill (not cool), but they made me feel like I could not leave without doing so and my husband was not around to handle it
The best part of that next morning was lying in bed with her sitting on my Boppy Pillow. I could have stared at her all day. In fact, I think I did.
I also took plenty of pictures of her. We had lots of visitors and gifts. It was a nice day. I was still in pain and bleeding, but it was bearable. I sent out pictures of her to my closest friends and family, along with an announcement with her stats. Yes, I was that mom working on graphics from the hospital bed.
Baby’s first bath
Tips: Pack up your baby’s bath stuff. If you are unsure how to bathe a newborn, have a nurse help you.
One thing that was useful to pack in my hospital bag was her bath stuff. I had her shampoo, soap, washcloth, comb, and hooded towel.
When we bathed her, we had to concentrate on her hair; it was full of gunk still. The warm water and comb got most of it out.
At the same time, we were giving her a bath, we were supposed to go to a parenting class. The class is mandatory per hospital policy for new parents who are getting released soon. We did not attend since she was mid-bath.
After the first 24 hours, but still in the hospital
Tips: Have a going home outfit ready. Get the car seat ready in advance and practice using it a few times before you go to the hospital. Trying to load up your car and strapping your baby in the car seat can get overwhelming.
We ended up spending another night in the hospital per the pediatrician since my labor was lengthy.
The next morning we prepared to go home.
The entire hospital stay, she was in a hospital onesie and swaddled in a blanket. Basically, the whole wardrobe I packed in my daughter’s hospital bag did not get used. All we used was the bath stuff, one outfit, and a hat.
We played the waiting game to get released.
We struggled to put her in the car seat. I wish we would have practiced with a doll prior. Luckily, the safety seat class we took helped a bit. At least we knew how to set up the car seat correctly, getting her tiny body in there was the problem. We were so nervous.
Like the typical new parents we were, we had so much stuff, my husband had to make multiple trips to the car. Of course, it was raining, so we cautiously drove home.
I think our experience with our daughter was pretty standard. As you can imagine, I was surprised along the way because I did not know what to expect. Hopefully, you can relate, and it not be such a mystery as to what happens.
The more you know, the more comfortable you can make it for your new family unit.
I am sure if you have a c-section or have a different type of birth plan, your experience will be different. My suggestion is you talk to a mama whose birth experience is similar to the one you envision yourself having.
Fair warning, us mamas like to chat about birth, and we want to get into the gritty details, so if you are not up for it, do not ask until you are ready! Or let the mama know you do not want the gritty details – basic facts, please.
Your first 24 hours with your baby are especially precious, it’s the mark of a new era in your lives. If you prepare now, you can cherish it a bit more rather than stressing over what is going to happen next.
Talk to your hospital or birthing center about their procedures and get ready for your life to change!