Well, I’m over a week into motherhood and I think it’s pretty rad so far. Sure, there’s some not-so-wonderful aspects to it (sleep deprivation, round the clock feedings, poop explosions, etc.), but when Zelda smiles or grips my finger, all those not-so-wonderful things wash away and I’m left in awe.
I’ve been wrestling with what I want to write about this round, and I finally settled on talking about my experiences with 24/7 rooming at the hospital. If you’re not familiar with the concept, it means the baby is in your postpartum recovery room with you all the time, day and night. The purpose is to promote a stronger bond between the mother and child, encourage breastfeeding, and more or less familiarize the mother with the baby’s cues. In our childbirth class, we were told that we would be doing the 24/7 rooming, and Matt and I thought it was great. I looked forward to the time we would spend getting to know Zelda right away.
Well, it was great in theory.
Don’t get me wrong. I understand how important 24/7 rooming is. I have no problem believing that it fosters stronger bonds and teaches the mother to interact with the child. However, my experience was marred by a few factors.
- I had absolutely no recovery time. After about an hour of recovery time in the birthing room, I was popped onto a wheelchair, baby in arms, and wheeled to the postpartum room. Once I got settled into bed, she was plopped in my arms and that was it. Matt and I were on our own. For the first day, I was unable to get out of bed. Literally. I’d suffered a first-degree tear during the birth (funny enough, getting a tear was my biggest fear and it did come to pass, but I didn’t give a damn one way or the other in the end), so my ladybits were packed with ice packs, witch hazel pads, and a hospital grade menstrual pad. All of it was wrapped up nicely in the equivalent of an adult diaper. And it HURT. The first time I had to pee, it took two nurses to walk me to the bathroom. Needless to say, every time Zelda started to cry, I was completely dependent on Matt to get up and hand her to me, change her diapers, try to swaddle her, etc.
- We got no sleep. I know, I know, newborns and sleep don’t belong in the same sentence unless you’re talking sleep deprivation. Maybe this rooming in was a way to prepare us for it, I don’t know. I’d been awake since 2 AM, birthed a child at 4 PM, and by 12 AM I was ready to have a breakdown. I was unable to form complete sentences. We could not sleep and hold Zelda at the same time; we had to sign a disclaimer saying we wouldn’t due to the safety hazards (which is completely understandable). When we hit 24 hours, I’m pretty sure both of us were safety hazards. We begged the nurse to take her to the nursery for an hour (since Zelda would be due for another feeding) and she told us to tough it out. We finally managed some sleep after 26 hours. As sleep deprived as we are, we have yet to go 26 hours without sleep.
- I resented not having options. I was eager to start breastfeeding and bonding with Zelda, and I dove into the task with enthusiasm. The enthusiasm waned as the lack of rest and pain overtook me. I was so exhausted. I appreciated the opportunity to bond, to learn to breastfeed, and to get to know my baby better. However, I started to resent the fact that I could not get a break. Again, I know. When you go home, you don’t get a break and the nurses aren’t there to help you. But if those first couple of days are so crucial, I didn’t want to spend them so sleep-deprived and resentful that I don’t know heads from tails. My baby and my relationship with the baby is important, but so is my headspace. If my head isn’t in a good place, I can’t be the best I can for Zelda.
Even as I type this, I feel like I’m whining. It wasn’t all bad. I got a lot of quality time with Zelda. We did establish a breastfeeding routine, got lots of skin-to-skin time, and I learned the ol’ check the diaper-offer the breast-rock-soothe-swaddle routine. I’m not saying that the 24/7 rooming in should be abolished, but I am saying that there should be options. I didn’t want to sleep all night. I just wanted to rest so I could not endanger my child.
I would have liked more options. I would have liked my health to be considered a little more. Rooming in is painted as a totally rosy experience, and in truth it was stressful. In the end, everything turned out OK and I think the rooming in was beneficial. I only say it was great in theory because my expectations of what it would be like vs the reality were so drastically different.
But touting the perk that mothers get more rest when the baby is in the room 24/7?
I don’t think so.