When people hear that newborns sleep between 16-18 hours a day, there is a common misconception that this occurs all at once, or in longer chunks than the realistic 2-3 hours (maybe once a day a stretch of 4 hours, if you’re lucky!). There is the idea that postpartum is a time to be happy and bond with your baby. While this is true, for parents that have just survived a pregnancy after loss, there is the additional layer of grief that is associated with the joys (and turbulence) of these early days.
This grief tends to be connected to being able to see what you missed out on from your loss.
Perhaps it was the loss of a birth experience, the loss of hearing a newborn cry, the loss of being with your baby during your hospital stay or numerous other types of losses. There is the shared loss of never seeing your previous baby meet milestones and seeing the wonderment of these achievements in your baby born after loss while recognizing it was something that is new within your parenting repertoire.
Such a mixture of feelings can be really difficult, even under the best circumstances (in which having to actively care for a newborn tends to not be). For this reason, I share with my clients a helpful pneumonic to ensure that when they have a cue of a really hard day (when the toll of caring for a newborn and the grief feelings feel overwhelming).
Simply, the word N.E.S.T.
These four words are the pillars to postpartum care.
Are you eating (and eating both enough and food that has the nutrients you need?)
Are you getting up to walk around (outside is ideal) either by yourself or with the baby?
Are you able to get a chunk of 4 hours UNINTERRUPTED sleep?
Are you able to spend time with your partner, friends, family, or by yourself—without having to focus on the baby’s needs?
Tweaking even one of these four things can go far with adjusting how you are feeling in the moment.