• Meghan Bartok

What I've learned my first 4 months as a mom

First off, I can't believe it's already been four months of life with a baby. I had hoped to write updates more frequently, but my hands are usually very full, both literally and figuratively. Since Claire really likes to be held, we spend a lot of time snuggling and reading stories to her when she's awake. When she's asleep, I'm usually running around the house catching up on chores. Laundry and dishes never seem to end... That's adulthood for you, I suppose!

Click here to jump straight to Claire's milestones in the first four months, or keep reading to hear about what I've experienced as a new mom during this time.

Claire at 3 days old

I won't lie, being a mom is very different from what I imagined before I had Claire. It's the most rewarding and stressful job at the same time, and I give stay-at-home moms so much more credit now that I've become one myself. It's been a whirlwind for the first four months, and I am learning new things every day. Here are some of the biggest ups and downs.

What is it like having a baby in Asia?

Vietnamese people adore Claire. They really love babies in general, but fully caucasian babies aren't seen very often here. Every time we take her out, people are always staring, pointing, and admiring her. It's a little awkward at first, but I've learned just to smile back and take it in stride.

After a quck nurse at dinner - 5 weeks old

Everyone has been very accommodating, which is so nice. Whenever we go out to eat, they always make sure we have a stroller-friendly table, and taxi drivers get out of their cars to load and unload the stroller. Before our summer lockdown, we took Claire out about once a week. The Vietnamese people were always amazed when we would say she was three weeks or one month old. Traditionally, new Vietnamese moms don't leave the house for up to three months after the baby is born, so seeing a baby that's under three months out and about is a rarity. If I had to stay at home that long, I would have gone CRAZY.

Despite being a country of people that love babies, there are plenty of places that aren't particularly baby-friendly. This means a lot of carrying the stroller up and down stairs and breastfeeding on benches in the middle of the mall because when Claire is hungry, she's HUNGRY. Finding a restroom with a changing table isn't that common, which is frustrating. Our favorite mall here has a separate nursing and changing room, which was a total game-changer. I wish there were at least more changing tables available.

*Please remember I've only been a mom and had to worry about these things in Vietnam. The same may be true in other countries, but I have not personally experienced it.

The first two weeks are REALLY hard

I mean, they are really, really hard. In most cases, newborns only sleep for 1-2 hours during the night, so there will be nights when you spend more time awake than asleep. Those nights were the worst. Breastfeeding was SO painful for me in the very beginning as my body was adjusting to it. There was definitely more than one occasion I didn't think I'd be able to stick with it. There were also times where Claire would just cry and cry, and I didn't know what to do, so I would start to cry as well. It was very emotionally draining.

In addition, I had just given birth to a 7lb (3.5kg) baby, which is more trauma for your body than they prepare you for. Things won't instantly return to normal. For the first two weeks, I was in a lot of pain. I think I spent so much time mentally prepping for Claire being here and taking care of her that I forgot to think about the effect on my body.

Luckily, one day you'll wake up and notice how much better you feel physically, and that helps tremendously mentally. After the two-week mark, things really started to click between Claire and I. My dread of feeding disappeared, and I became much better at recognizing her different cries. After I got a little less stressed out, I realized I was doing a better job of being a mom than I thought. This is also the same time that my own pain started to disappear and I felt a lot better physically.

Making the adjustment from Meghan to Mom

The first two weeks are very challenging. There are so many emotions and changes to work through and adjust to. I started to panic about not having the chance to do everything I wanted to do before I had children. I was really grieving my old life. I felt like I was losing my identity as Meghan and becoming just a mom. I've always been pretty adventurous and independent, so becoming a mom felt like losing the identity I've held onto since I was 25.

In typical Meghan fashion, I did some research and discovered that this is totally normal for new moms. The feeling is normal, and in most cases, it will pass with time. If not, please don't hesitate to reach out for help! Luckily, it passed quickly for me. In fact, Claire is a huge part of me, and I cannot imagine life without her. She makes me smile every day when I see her grow and change. I also enjoy cuddling her to sleep every night. I'm so glad she made me a mother, and I can't wait for all the adventures we will have together in the future.

Being a stay at home mom is not as easy as it seems

It's not just sitting at home having a bunch of time on your hands to do whatever you want. If you're already a mom, you definitely know this, but I was definitely very naive in this area. Before having Claire, I thought to myself, I'll save these books to have something to read while I'm home with the baby. I procrastinated and didn't write as much as I wanted to when I was pregnant, thinking that I would just do it all when Claire was sleeping. I really regret that now.

The honest truth of it is when Claire sleeps, I use that time to do the other things that I feel need to be more of a priority, like household chores. If I'm feeling really tired I'll also try to take a nap when she naps, but I definitely didn't do enough of that in the first couple of weeks, leaving me exhausted and cranky. I've learned to find a good balance, and remember that the laundry can always be done tomorrow.

Get out of the house OR have someone who comes to you

I had a couple of weeks where I only left the house once that week. It definitely wasn't doing wonders for my mental health. Any day that I got out to do something, I instantly felt so much better. Having to put real clothes on is so worth it. Just a change of scenery and getting up and walking around makes all the difference in the world.

If you really can't or don't want to leave the house, get a friend or two who will come over and hang out. During the first couple of weeks, having a friend come over who could hold the baby while I sat and ate a meal helped so much. It sounds like such a little thing, but to me, it was so nice to have both hands to eat a meal without worrying about Claire crying. Plus, sdult social interaction is so important when you're home alone with a newborn.

It gets SO MUCH better

After struggling through the first month, these last three months of having Claire have been amazing. I love spending time with her and seeing her little personality grow. She's sleeping so well, which has helped me immensely. Really just getting used to having a newborn, as well as their personality and cues for sleep, diaper changes, and feeding takes some time. But once it clicks, it gets so much easier, and you realise what a good job you actually are doing!


Claire's milestones

At almost four months, Claire seems like a completely different baby than the one we brought home from the hospital. She seems like she's doubled in size already! I'm already catching myself looking at pictures of her as a newborn and feeling sad because she's not "little" anymore. And it's only been four months!!

- Claire is super alert. She loves watching sensory videos, looking out the window when we're in a car, and looking around the room when someone is holding her. She's so quick to engage when you talk to her and smile at her.

Claire loves her koala jammies!

- We've been so blessed that at around 4 1/2 weeks, she started sleeping one 4-5 hour stretch at night, which makes it so much easier to feel well-rested and like a real person, not just a Mombie (like a zombie, but also a mom... maybe I'm funny?). Now, at four months, she usually sleeps from 10pm-6am, which is amazing. It guarantees I can get at least 6-7 hours of sleep per night.

- Around 6 weeks she started really 'talking' to us. Now she doesn't cry often but will make other little noises that really sound like she's trying to have a conversation. She's very responsive - if I talk to her, she tries to 'talk' back to me. I know once she learns how to talk, she won't stop - a bit like her mom! She also now has the biggest and most adorable smile. Melts my heart every time.

- Claire is a super easy baby to take out and about. Usually, she just sleeps or is content to be in the baby carrier looking around. We've taken her to the mall and out to dinner a couple of times. At the beginning of the May, we spent 2 nights in a hotel in the city for a little staycation and she loved it! Hopefully, she'll continue to be this easy to travel with as she grows up!

- She has grown quite a bit already. She hasn't had a check up since she was two months old, but at that appointment she was around 11.5lbs (5.2kgs). She still fits in some of the bigger 0-3 month onesies but it was a sad moment when I realized her newborn ones didn't fit anymore!

- As of this week, she has learned how to roll from her back to her tummy, which has been great fun for her! She's also figuring out how to reach for things and is much more interactive with toys.

Claire loves to cuddle her giraffe!

I know by the time I write a 6-month update, so many more things will have changed, which is such a bitter-sweet feeling! I'm trying to soak in every little moment with her, but I promise I will be better at writing from now on!


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