Nothing rocks your world more than having a new baby. Literally every part of ourselves- our bodies, our emotions, our schedules, our lifestyles, our sex lives (oy!)- are instantly turned upside down, and there’s nothing- no magazine article, no bestie’s advice, no amount of preparation to adequately prepare us for this special adventure. But there are some must-know truths I wish I wouldn’t have known before having baby number one. Here are the best of them…
Survival Hack #1: Say No To The Drive-By’s
I find the tradition of mothers having to entertain a roomful after birth almost as strange and uncomfortable as westernized funeral proceedings. I’ve never understood the concept of lining up before an open casket, and then saying how peaceful the dead look. Same as I still can’t comprehend why mothers would want a stream of non-immeditates filtering through like tourists at a wax museum, only to perjure themselves and say you look beautiful, and less bloated. Lying rubberneckers, I look like death. Show’s over…leave the chocolates.
This phenomenon sadly continues through the month or two after bringing home baby, much to our chagrin. Some new moms may welcome the onslaught of drive-by’s and drop-ins to hold your new bundle, but I find this practice horrific. I do not want anyone. Not one soul, to “pop in” when I can barely figure out how/when to shower, and I’m prone to balling hysterically, for no reason, at any given moment. So no, Aunt Beth, we do NOT want to throw on off my nursing jammies to answer the door after your insidious knocking catapulted the dog into nap-killing barks, even for gifted meatloaf. If you share such sentiments, make it clear to all that you need time to “adjust” before taking visitors. Even a month is okay. An eight pound human has stolen your ability to sleep. People understand.
Survival Hack #2: Accept Help
One of my biggest mistakes as a new mom was refusing help. I subconsciously felt the need to do everything myself as a first-time mom. To prove I could hang with big dogs…i.e. those homeschooling friends popping out kids by the dozen with no pain meds. I wanted to be the best, most incredible multitasking mother goddess every to grace the lands of central Connecticut. I thought it would show signs of weakness or failure (especially to my mother-in-law) to admit I needed an afternoon off. I felt guilty for quitting my job to stay home with the baby, so I felt selfish asking for my husband’s help. (ugh, such rubbish!) Now three babies in, here’s my best advice: if you’re blessed with offers to watch baby/the kids so you can run to the store, or work out, the answer is always yes my friend! Say yes to meal/coffee drop offs (left on the step, of course…no visitors!) Let that colleague cover for you for a while. And take ever ounce of help your husband has to offer. If he isn’t offering to help enough, don’t be shy about voicing exactly what you need.
Studies show that men often feel helpless and clueless (poor babies, lol) especially if we’re breastfeeding. So, we need to communicate our evolving needs and expectations. And don’t forget, guys typically need specific directions. AKA “it would help so much if you take care of weekday dinners/ giving baby a bath/take the dog out nightly/putting baby down for bed,” etc. This help avoid lots of conflict and disappointment, while increasing your parenting bond (and our desire for “romance”). Remember to give each other grace. No one’s born a parent, and successful co-parenting takes time.
Survival Hack #3: Remember There’s No “Right” Way To Anything
The only phenomena aside from your baby’s endless ability to poo, is the swell of unsolicited advice towards every nube mom. Everyone- your co-workers, strangers in the Starbucks line, the lady pumping gas next to you at Costco-seems to have something to say about what to do-or not do-when it comes to rearing a newborn. “Let ‘em cry it out. Never ‘over-hold’ ‘em or they’ll become too attached. Don’t let them fall asleep on the boob. Avoid co-sleep, Do/don’t get them on a schedule”…it goes and an on right?
I have found that there is no right or wrong, or perfect way of doing anything, in all areas of motherhood, for that matter. Like the delicate snowflake, every baby’s disposition is different. It’ll take a bit of experimentation, but you will discover what routines and habits work for you and your baby. Try to graciously accept others’ advice but don’t take it as gold. Only gold ‘round here is breastmilk, people.
Survival Hack#4: Get Out Of The House
As a new mom, I remember thinking I was supposed to remain home at all times in a sanitized cocoon of quiet domesticity. But for the extroverted mom this can be straight up depressing. I can still remember roaming the house, talking to the baby about my wall décor, staring at the clock thinking surely it must be noon by now? By the time my third popped out, I was literally attending a party six days after birth. It obviously takes so much effort getting out with a baby, but it can feel so good trading slippers for actual shoes, even if it’s just driving down the street to get caffeine with a mom friend. Escaping the house clears our head, refreshes our perspective, and ensures random gushing over our infant, somehow reaffirming our life choice. Start by getting out in little doses (low stress at first). Then work your way up to bigger/longer outings if you’re feeling ambitious.
Survival Hack #5: Embrace The Mess. Cuz It’s Here To Stay
Life with a new baby is an absolute circus. If you have pre-existing little ones, it’s even more insane. Seriously. This shizzle is not for the faint of heart. There are experiences ahead nothing can shield us from…the double running stroller, the “nursing moms room,” clogged ducts. I need not expound.
So here’s the raw, unfortunate truth. It’ll take at least a few months to get your body back. An unrecognizable version of yourself will most like venture into public wearing yoga pants you slept in the night before. Your house will look like it was mildly ransacked at all times. Days will blend from one to another and you will often have no record of the actual date. Showers will feel like a day at the spa and you will at some point take the dog out against its will, just for alone time.
I’m so tired of all the sugar-coated ads and articles about the beauty and magic of new motherhood. It is beautiful. And yes peeing alone as a new mom is pure magic, for sure. But there is so much frustration, and work, and tiredness, and mess, and chaos… it’s just better to know now, and except what lies ahead. And when you’re in it, remind yourself daily, this is a temporary state of affairs. You will feel and look like yourself again. You will sleep again. Sex will be fab again. Try to stop feeling bad/guilty about he piling heaps of laundry, or mediocre dinners, or still not being able to fasten the top button of your jeans. It gets better, and easier, every day. Try to embrace the insanity, and laugh at the ridiculous, whenever possible. Stressing over inevitable chaos and disappointments, will rob your joy and the preciousness of these first months, if you let it.
Survival Hack #6: Treat Yourself. And Don’t Feel Guilty.
From the moment baby takes her first breath…we’re “on.” Daddy says he’s gonna be “on.” Older kids say they’ll help out. But honestly. Momma’s usually the only one who never gets to shut down, zone out or go MIA. We now have another life force making demands on us, every single moment, of every day. Even through the night, it’s usually mom sleeping with one eye open listening for baby’s cry, while daddy enjoys the very best REM has to offer. And if you’re breastfeeding, forget it. One time I exhaustedly kissed my own shoulder, I was so accustomed to baby being there.
For this reason, and so many others, all new moms to should treat themselves, as much as possible. This could mean bubble baths when dad’s “on duty,” or a a manicure every couple weeks, or two hours of Netflix binging, alone once a week. Pay for a house cleaner, just for a few months. Don’t ditch date nights. Have sex. Everyone’s afraid at first, but the lady parts are dang resilient, I can assure you. Order takeout more than ever. “Self care” is such trendy term these days (commonly abused by spoiled millennials taking quarterly vacays for ‘self care’) but if there’s any time to amp up the self rewards, it’s now ladies.
Being a new mom is one of the most difficult yet precious and sacred seasons of life. Don’t let the influence of others, or stressors and messes rob your joy and steal your focus. You got this. Xo
For more on finding your own mothering style, read my post, “How to become your own mother artist.”
For more more spiritual encouragement check out these 10 prayers for new moms.