Recently I had the pleasure and joy of welcoming a second sweet child into our family. The second time around feels so different from the first. I feel more calm, relaxed and ready to take things as they come. I also feel much more confident in my abilities to care for this little being, able to listen to myself better, and communicate my needs as I come into my own as a mother of 2.
With my 1st born I was obsessed with Google and taking advice from every mom blog I could find. I read books about sleeping, parenting, you name it. I spent so much time worrying if I was doing everything right that I exhausted myself and sometimes forgot to live in the moment and relish the time with my newborn son. We had a wonderful time and I have very fond memories of my 1st maternity leave; however this time I promised myself would be different. Besides banning myself from Google and internet advice, I made the commitment to enjoy the moments, to stop and take a breath, and use my maternity leave as time for me to reboot and my son and I to bond and connect.
As I reflect back on both newborn experiences I wanted to put together a list of what I’ve learned for all those new moms out there. This list is particularly pertinent to the 1st couple of weeks after you get home from the hospital. I am sure it will continue to evolve and change as you and your baby grow each day.
- Have your support person – It is essential, in the beginning, that you have someone there to help you. For both babies I had both my partner and my mom to help. Having a person, or a couple of people, is something you need because you simply need help and cannot do it all. This person should not be someone that expects you to be your normal self or someone that you feel the need to entertain. This is someone who can see you through highs and lows and you feel comfortable with communicating with easily.
- Get off the internet! (and STOP reading books!) – Everyone has an opinion, experience, and different perspective. No two babies are the same and there is no magic formula. You can try different techniques with your baby to see what works and do what feels right for you. There is no magic answer to getting your baby to sleep, eat, etc… so just listen to yourself, watch your baby, and take comfort in knowing every new mom has felt this way. If you do want to look something up use some of the more reputable, less opinion based sites, http://www.aap.org, www.llli.org, or call your pediatrician for those medical questions.
- Go topless – OK you might be wondering, what?! Trust me on this one. You have likely heard about skin to skin time with your baby. Skin to skin time is my lifesaver and has been my number one help in combatting baby blues feelings. Every day I make sure I take off everything on the top half of my body, undress baby down to the diaper, and lay with my him. I do this at least 2-4 times per day and the feeling is indescribable. It is the most relaxing, restoring, and happy time for us both. Both of my sons would melt into my chest, our temperatures adjust to the same level and we both just relax and breathe. AMAZING!
- Ask for help- As someone who has a hard time asking for help this is something I have to force myself to do. But really, if your partner is there, a support person, family member, etc… don’t be afraid to ask them to do the laundry, cook dinner, put the dishes away. You should not be doing any of this in the 1st few weeks if you can help it and you need to ask for help. This also goes for any roller coaster emotions you may experience. Postpartum hormones are no joke and it helps to have someone to talk to and share your feelings with. Find someone or a network of people that you can call when you want to sing with joy and when you feel like you are about to crack. It is important that you ride the rollercoaster of emotions with someone next to you who can listen and watch for any signs of concern.
- Limit visitors– I know it is so exciting and everyone is Facebook-ing, texting, etc… and they want to see you and the baby. But it is also exhausting… you are tired, not sure of what you are doing, learning your babies’ cues, and not wanting to expose them to a lot germs and the outside world. I make the rule that for the 1st two weeks I limit visitors as minimally as possible to allow myself time to rest and not have to worry about anyone other than me and baby.
- Take naps– Everyone says to sleep when the baby sleeps… based on my experiences that would be a lot of sleep. Both of my babies slept A LOT! However I did find it particularly helpful to reserve a time around the same time everyday to sleep. Each nap I took helped me to feel more rested, patient, and prepared.
- Allow yourself time to heal– It is easy after the 1st week or so to start feeling a little bit better. When you start feeling better you might get a bit over ambitious and start running errands, filling in your social calendar, etc… The 1st 2 weeks are such a critical time for healing so make sure you are listening to that and taking time time to rest, heal, and limit activity until you are back to normal. The 1st two weeks I drink A LOT of water, get as much sleep as I can, eat whatever sounds good to me, and pamper my body as much as I can. You have just been through an extraordinary physical journey and you deserve to treat yourself like a Queen.
- Keep somewhat of a schedule– Babies are unpredictable, life is crazy, and sometimes you don’t know how to make sense as to what is going on. I am a bit of a planner and a tad bit OCD so this might not resonate with all of you.. but… it really helped me to keep somewhat of a daily routine. For me I am most emotional postpartum in the mornings so it was important for me to communicate with my partner that I needed him to take care of our older son so I could lay in bed, breastfeed, and then take a nice shower before I came out of the bedroom for the day. It is also helpful for me to make sure that I am doing my hair/makeup and dressing somewhat nicely everyday so I can feel like a real person. This small morning routine made all the difference in my outlook on the day.
- Laundry! – OMG babies are so dirty! I completely forgot how much laundry you do in the beginning. The minute you go to change them they pee on their onesie. If you have a boy they pee out of their diapers a lot… tons of spit up, etc… Just be prepared for a lot of laundry.
- One day at a time – Last but certainly not least, take everything one day at a time. It can become so easy to get sucked into thinking about the future… How will I ever go back to work? Will my body ever get back to normal? When will I feel like this new life is normal? Etc… You just have to focus on each day as it comes. This is a special time for you as you are becoming a mother. Allow yourself time to do things you like, sleep when you need, eat what you want, and feel content with just being. All of the other stuff will work it’s way out you just have to focus on each day and it will get easier and easier as you go.
I so hope this list is helpful to all of you new or expectant mama’s out there. If you have a baby on the way or are a new mom, congratulations to you! I have found motherhood to be one of the most fulfilling and rewarding experiences in my life and I hope you do too.