I cried on the way home from the hospital when we brought both Kayne and Rayna home. I wasn’t sure I was qualified to be taking care of this completely reliant human and dress them and change them and feed them…every single day. I cried because I wanted to take all the L&D nurses home with me. Everything was taken care of at the hospital and they were so sweet to me. And it’s hard to imagine that you may not see your doctor, the person who has seen you almost every single week and held your hand every step of the way, ever again. It’s a strange feeling, but I know other moms understand what I’m talking about.
It’s been six years since I took home a baby and all the emotions and familiar thoughts came back to me full force. Bringing home a baby is the most emotional time in a woman’s life, and it can be extremely isolating and emotional. Not only that, but your hormones go from an all-time high level down to zero fairly quickly, sucking moms into a roller coaster of emotions. When your child is figuring out how
not to sleep, it can compound the problem tenfold.
Those first few weeks home are such a raw, tender time in a mother’s life and need to be navigated delicately, but with every shred of strength that a mother can muster. That being said, here I’ll share my best advice from my experience for surviving the first few weeks:
1. Attend a mommy group right away. My hospital held a weekly group for new moms, and those ladies all had the same look on their faces as I did. We could ugly cry in each other’s company and show up unshaven and puked on in with our babies and feel like we’d been pulled into a warm hug. As a bonus, my group was run by a lactation consultant who freely gave breastfeeding advice, empathy, and even free goodies like milk storage bags. This group was a lifesaver, especially after my first child, when I felt more clueless and isolated than I’d ever felt in my life. You may not feel like you want to go, that the effort to get the baby ready is profound, but trust me, you’ll be glad you went!
2. Take people up on their offers to help. Make a short list of things that you can tell family the next time they ask to help. Ask them to do the dishes, cooking, cleaning or grocery shopping. Prepping snacks or freezer meals, picking your older children up from school, or mowing your lawn are excellent tasks for those who reach out when you and your partner are feeling like zombies. Offering to hold the the baby while you do those tasks just isn’t quite the same, so be ready with your list of orders.
3. Carve out adult time. This could be 5 minutes on the phone with your best friend or a quick coffee with your mom. Getting out and having just a few moments of “normal” time can be quite anchoring, even when you have to bring baby along. Stay in contact with your friends rather than go into hiding. It may feel extremely forced, but it gives you a sense of autonomy that can help keep you sane. It will be so worth it and it will give you the courage to do more and more with baby in tow.
4. Remind yourself over and over again that the first two weeks are the hardest. It gets sooooo much easier from there. During the first two weeks (and maybe a little longer), the baby doesn’t know day from night and you’re just getting used to this astronomical life adjustment. It does get easier, it does get easier, it does get easier. I wish I could wrap my arms around every new mom and tell her that it will all be ok when it feels like you’re not strong enough. But the third week, at least for me, seems to be the golden number when some of the early struggles begin to fade.
5. Get outside. If the weather outside is decent during your maternity leave, make an effort to get outside, even if it’s just in the backyard or on the porch. Taking stroller walks was one of the most rejuvenating things I ever did with Kayne. As an added bonus, the outdoors were magic for my son. He’d be inconsolable for hours inside and then be completely fine the instant we walked outside. Not only that, I always felt so good after moving and getting out of the house.
6. Make time for some yoga or other mind/body practice. As soon as the doctor gave me the ok to exercise after having Kayne, I hid away every Saturday morning for an hour-long yoga session that made me feel so different before and after. Like magic, I felt grounded and peaceful and much more capable of tending to my son. I would encourage new moms to take this gentle, revitalizing approach to your recovery routine. I was pretty hardcore before I had him, so it was nice to slow down and get a little “me time” that made me feel like a better mom.
7. Join an online mommy group. Facebook groups with your birth month are golden. People will answer your questions within minutes and offer support and kind words (usually) and reassure you that they’re going through exactly the same things. You can even throw the wackiest question out there and probably get some great feedback. Nothing is off limits, believe me! You may even find a new mommy in your area to meet up with. I actually did!
8. Create little rituals with your baby: I adored Kayne’s bedtime ritual when he was just days old. We’d head upstairs to bed around 7:30, nurse, watch a little TV, turn out all the lights and just rest. With Rayna we usually do a bath (every other day) followed by a lavender oil massage. Then, I wrap her up in a swaddle blanket, turn on the white noise machine and we very quietly transition into bedtime. In the mornings, I always pull the bassinet or bouncy seat into the bathroom for a shower. Babies love the shower sound and momma doesn’t have to face the world feeling like a greaser:) With both my babies, we had some specific routines that made me feel better and eventually helped get us into a good groove and helped them adjust to life in the non-womb world.
9. Let go of your to-do list Right now, you need to make space for the unexpected, because everything is unexpected. And don’t worry about work and chores. Let them go for awhile. Your sole job right now is taking care of that beautiful little human. Don’t allow other pressures to deter you from that. I’m crazy type-A who always has a list of goals and dreams and can’t stand a dirty house, but in the big picture, my family IS my hopes and dreams and home. And the newborn stage goes by so fast, you have to fully immerse yourself in that and nothing else before you miss it. This is the time to step back from the outside pressures and focus on the ones inside your arms. You can still build your dream home business someday, but for today, just live for that precious little baby. It will take a huge weight off your shoulders.
10. Figure out the magic touch for your baby: Arm yourself with all the baby arsenal that typically soothes them: a rocking chair, rock and play, bouncy seat, swing, white noise machine (or app), and swaddling blanket. Find what works for your bambino right away (and try again later because it could change) and it will save you so many tears!!! By trial and error, we found that both of our babies slept better in the crib in their own room. You might find a pack and play or your own bed is where your baby sleeps best. Rayna loves to be swaddled and sleeps by the sound of crickets every night. One of our nurses told us that the white noise machine and swaddle blanket were the two things she always recommends to new moms, and they happened to be the two things that worked best for Rayna.
11. Give babywearing a try: Wearing your baby in a wrap might just offer you some shred of normalcy, not to mention the bonding opportunity the wrap affords you. Wraps sometimes allow you to get a load of laundry folded, since they leave your arms free. They’re really great for taking the baby out places. We took Kayne to the children’s museum and I “wore” Rayna around. She loved it and there was no way we would’ve navigated that place with a stroller. In their first days, babies often love sleeping in that warm little nest. I guess babywearing is a huge thing. Like a mommy movement. And there are heaps of babywearing groups on Facebook for support. I’ve seen lots of wrap DIYs on the likes of Pinterest. There are even babywearing workouts if you want to be crazy like that:)
12. Read this beautiful article that speaks all the perfect words for this space in time.