We did it! We have successfully navigated the first month with our new baby. Although she is our third child, it hasn't come without its challenges, frustrations and new experiences. Each of our children has been very different, and isn’t that just the nature of parenting?! Just when you think you have it all figured out and you are enjoying a period of smooth sailing, things change and you feel like you are back at square one in rough waters.
With each of our children, there are things that I feel like we did very well in the first month and things that we could have done differently that would have helped for a smoother transition, less stress, and more new baby bliss. Here are five insights on simple strategies that can make a big difference those first 30 days with your sweet, new baby!
1. Clear your calendar. Seriously. Having very low or no expectations as to having places to be and things to do will go a long way to creating the space and time that you and your new baby need for bonding. My midwife calls it the “babymoon”. People wouldn't dream of having expectations of you on your honeymoon…. same goes for your babymoon.
Being able to focus on settling into your new routines of feeding, sleeping and baby care without the pressure of leaving the house or hosting will greatly ease your stress. I have noticed with all three of our babies that they are extremely sensitive to our moods and energy. When I am frazzled, rushed and wound up, my baby behaves the same. When I am calm and cool, my baby is too. Making it known that you are unavailable to friends and family for a short period of time after baby is born will be understood, and it truly is that—a very short period of time that you will never regret having given up.
2. Accept any and ALL help. With baby number one I was all “business as usual”. Family and friends would offer to help and I would confidently claim that “I got it”. This third time around I have accepted any and all help. Not only has this made space for me to rest, it makes others feel good because they are able to be helpful. This has taken many forms: help with shuttling our other kids around, help folding laundry, help by bringing meals, help with grocery shopping. You name it, if it’s been offered I have said YES! Love can take many different forms and some people’s love language is service: let them be of service!
3. Rest. We have all heard: “nap when baby naps”. My experience has been two fold. Some days I have blissfully napped while my babe does the same. Other days I have powered through those periods while the baby is sleeping and get the long list of things that I think need to be done, done. But here is the thing—the baby doesn't know the difference and you never know what tomorrow brings. I can confidently say that I have been way more equipped to handle the sleepless nights, long bouts of fussy times or the pop up needs of our other children when I am rested. Also, my ability to deal with the waves of hormonal adjustments, while experiencing a faster rate of recovery is so much better when I am rested. Being rested makes me a better parent, a better partner, and I feel better about myself too! (and if you follow insight #1 and #2 you will actually have time for rest!)
4. Make time for you. I think this is likely the insight that most moms will struggle with the most. It can be very easy to put the needs of everyone else in the house ahead of yours. It can be a very slippery slope where you lose a sense of self, get disconnected from your family and friends, or lose sight of things that truly bring YOU joy. A new baby is an all-consuming experience. Being able to set aside time each week where you can do “you” is critical to being a good parent. This could be a 30 minute walk ALONE, a coffee date with a friend, time in the tub with a good book or for me- being able to pull weeds and tend the garden quietly in the evening all by myself. It really doesn't have to be time or energy intensive as long as it is just for you and connects you with your joy. My midwife actually sent me home with a prescription for “you time” at one of our follow up visits after baby #2 - smart lady.
5. Make time for your partner. Here is another tricky one. In all the newness of parenting we can often lose sight of being a wife or a husband. Now your probably thinking I’m talking about sex. That is certainly one piece of the equation that will likely get no attention in the first month after the baby is born. Aside from your body healing and recovering, you may not have the energy or desire. HOWEVER your partner is a different story. Connection, intimacy and love can take several forms that have nothing to do with intercourse. Simple things like holding hands, hugging, sharing words of affirmation or encouragement, being able to set aside time to talk about how each of you is honestly doing in this new and challenging time is important. Your connection to one another is what created and welcomed this new life into the world. Nurturing that connection and relationship will have the overflow effect of sustaining that love and creating a positive space for each member of your family.
Above all, be very kind to yourself. If this is your first baby, its going to be a time of great learning, awkwardness, and challenge for everyone in your family. If this is your second or third trip around the new parent block, it will still have its areas of surprise and challenge. By taking it day by day ( sometimes hour by hour) and allowing yourself to be present in your feelings and experience, you will create a very special and memorable time with your new bundle of love.