Last week I wrote about some of the items that I found to be essential to have in the first few weeks of having a newborn in the house. This week I want to focus more on some of the emotional strategies that can help. Some of them I learned (the hard way) from my own experience, some I have heard repeatedly from other mamas. Bringing a newborn into a family is such a special time, but it certainly comes with it’s own challenges, not only in the adjustment, but also in navigating many of the interpersonal relationships and expectations of others.
Keep Your Schedule Empty
This one is first on my list because this is the one I got completely wrong. Being a business owner, and being that I have patients who rely on being able to contact me for advice and guidance, I had visions of being able to pop in to the office on a daily basis starting from about week 2 and go over charts, emails etc with my staff. I live a few blocks from my office, so I thought I’d just pop the baby in the pram and walk on up there like normal. Um, wrong. Mostly, I completely underestimated the physical recovery and what that would entail. I was in no shape to walk four blocks for several weeks after giving birth, and next time, if there is a next time, I won’t pretend that I can. I also had my mum in town for 3 weeks, so I thought I’d be popping off for facials and manicures and other appointments, while I had grandma to babysit. Um, wrong again, for the same reasons. My body needed much more time and rest to heal that I was willing to give it, and I suffered more because of it. If I had my time again I’d have at least six weeks with absolutely nothing on the calendar and no promises to anyone to be anywhere.
Be Ok With Saying No
There is some overlap with the first point, of course, but the difference is that in the case above, no one was pushing me to do anything, it was more me pushing myself. Being ok with saying no relates more to others’ expectations of you – family members wanting to visit or come and stay, friends who want to drop by and see the baby, work wanting you to just return a few emails or call a client. Many mamas I’ve spoken with felt pressured to say yes to visitors and guests, feeling guilty about limiting their access to their new grandchild/ nephew/ niece/ God child etc. I think it’s crucial to remember that (a) this is your time as a new family unit to bond and establish your own routine; and (b) that you’ll never get this time back. It can be so hard to say no to others, but if you are feeling resentful about their presence, it’s not going to be productive time anyway, it may cause stress and impact your healing from the birth, your breastfeeding relationship with your newborn, and further interrupt your sleep patterns. Babies need peace and calm around them, the outside world is crazy enough in their tiny eyes after the comfort of their personal jacuzzi’s – it’s not fair on anyone to add stress by allowing more visitors (or anything else) than you’re comfortable with.
Ask For Help
Ok I was really bad here too. My mum says I came out of the womb saying “me do it”. The joke is on me now of course as Valentina is so fiercely independent, and now it’s her turn to say “baby do it” to everything. Anyway, in those early days and weeks, I wish I’d asked for more help. I wish I’d asked for my mum to do our laundry, or for Dave to cook the dinner. Don’t get me wrong, they were both very helpful and pitched in to do things, but there was more I could have asked for help with and didn’t. I could’ve asked my front office manager to walk to me to go over patient emails, rather than me trying to get to her. Dave’s family live just 20 minutes away, but I always felt bad calling and asking his mum would she bring over a meal or pop by the store and pick something up for me, so I didn’t.
Cherish The Time
Most of all, my advice would be to cherish every moment. There can be hard days, and sleep deprivation, and nursing challenges, and all that stuff. But really, those early days and weeks will be over in the blink of an eye, and you can’t get that time back. I had a policy not to touch my phone or watch TV while nursing. Everyone is different and this is just what worked for me, but I wanted to just stare at my baby, smell her head, talk to her, and hear her squeaking noises as she nursed. I didn’t want any distractions or noises, nor did I want to lose a moment of being fully present in the moment. If I had one word of advice to new mamas it would be to just drink it in, take a deep breath and take a mental snapshot of the moment – what your baby was wearing, how they smelled, how you were feeling at the time – and save those memories in a special place.
The first couple of months go by so fast, and while every phase is fun and exciting (especially when they get to six-ish months and they’re smiling and giggling and really showing their personality) the itty-bitty newborn phase is so special. I look back on Valentina’s first onesies and can’t believe she was ever that small! I remember the miracle of her little fingers and toes and the tiny little nails and the funny noises she used to make. Yes it can be hard, but it’ll only ever happen once with that child, so cherish every moment, even the hard ones … it’ll go by so fast and you’ll never get that time over again.