Congratulations. You've just brought a new baby into this world. She is beautiful and tiny and everything you could have ever wished for. Although the past 5 days have been rough, you finally have her home with you. The little hole that was made every time you had to leave the NICU without her has been filled... so it should get much easier now, right?
Last night - your first night home with her - was just a taste of what life will be like for now.
You'll lose count of a lot of things in the next while: You'll lose count of the number of hours of sleep you miss out on. You'll lose count of the number of diapers you change, the number of times you tell someone you're "doing fine", the number of hours (or days) it's been since you last showered, the number of outfits the baby manages to ruin in one day (whether they be her own or yours).
You'll also do things you never thought you'd do: You might go nearly a whole week without leaving the apartment, except to take out the trash or get the mail. You might change your mind on what parenting techniques to use just to make things easier for yourself right in that moment. You might read the entire Twilight series again just to give yourself something to do during those long hours of nursing. You might even snap at your husband in the next week or two before the crazy hormones die down and you're back to your semi-normal self again.
You will worry about the tiniest things. Are her legs supposed to look that bowlegged? Is she getting enough milk? Why isn't she [insert any milestone like smiling, rolling, etc.] yet? Is her poop supposed to be that color? Will her skin be bothered if I use normal laundry detergent? Where did that rash come from? She's been asleep for 3 whole hours... is she still alive??!?!
It is normal to worry. It is normal to lose track of things. It is normal to feel a little crazy, a little sad and empty and drained and weak and unworthy. It hasn't even been a week since you went through the most physically demanding event of your life, after all! Sometimes it will seem like it's too much, I know. But...
First, just know that you're doing great. She's so lucky to have a mom like you. Don't forget that. Any time you're feeling like you don't deserve to be a mom, remember that she will spend her whole life looking up to you and loving you. She wants you as her mom. She loves you and needs you, even if you feel you can't give her nearly enough.
Second... I want you to look at that little baby in your arms. Go ahead, look at her.
She has your eyes. She looks just like your husband. Her tiny fingers wrap around your pinky and she squeaks in her sleep. She is happy when she's close to you; it makes her feel safe, loved, warm, protected. You are her best friend. She gazes into your face as you talk to her. She is a miracle.
She is worth it all.
Every day she gets bigger; every day she learns. Hold her tight... hold her very, very tight! The day will come when you will gladly wish you could give up a little sleep, a little time, a little sanity... just to hold her as a baby again.
Everyone tells you to enjoy the early days with your baby... listen to them! As impossible as it might seem to enjoy it when your hormones are taking you on a rollercoaster ride, it's true. Enjoy it! You will sleep again, and you will (very soon) reach a time when you aren't crying for no reason several times a day. You will be able to do the things you want and have time to yourself. It takes patience, but you'll get there.
In the meantime...
Hold that babe close, breathe in the newborn smell, and savor the sensation of her tiny hand resting on the bare skin of your chest.
Look at her.
Memorize her little face.
Kiss her cheeks, run your finger through her peach-fuzz hair, tickle her tiny toes.
Just promise you won't blink... because that's how fast she'll grow up.