6 Tips for Moms with Newborns
Well let's put out one of the most important facts of this post out there first: I am not an expert. I am not trained. I am not a doctor. And am not an experienced mother of 45 kids. I have a two-year-old girl and a 1-month-old boy. I'm at the close of my maternity leave (returning to my job as a middle school youth director at my church) and have done some major thinking over the last 6 weeks. I've done some soul digging and a lot of discovery via trial & error.
Being at home with a newborn is a beautiful beautiful wonderful miraculous gift. But it is hard. Beautifully hard, but hard nonetheless. And for some, it is really really hard. We can feel like we are loosing ourselves and our lives. Those feelings are real. I've experienced them. Below are just a few light hearted things that have helped me steer my ship through the baby blues.
My husband loves process. It is why he loves to paint and cook and can sit for hours doing repetitive tasks with many steps. Me, not so much. And as much as any of us think we might not be a creature of routine, there are certain guidelines we have for our days. We brush our teeth in the same pattern, put our shoes and socks on in the same order and pour our coffee the same same way. Even unconsciously we are soothing our emotions through regiments and routine.
Babies throw us off kilter. We don't wake up at the same time. We don't leave the house. And if we do leave the house we have a checklist a mile long of what we need (or think we need). Everything takes longer. Half the time we feel like we are in panic mode just trying to get through folding the laundry.
So take some routine back into your life. For me, makeup. One morning instead of going back to sleep after a 6am feeding I got up, took a shower... and put on makeup. I had nothing on my calendar for the day. Nowhere to go. No pictures to take. No real reason to wear makeup. But I have a make up routine. Everyday I put on the same colors the same way with the same brushes and it looks the same. Running through a routine that I know like the back of my hand (how vain is it that I have a comfort giving makeup routine? separate subject...) slows down my racing mind and makes me feel normal.
Let's face it. There aren't many things you have less control over than a newborn. They are going to eat, sleep, cry, poop, repeat whenever they want. If you try to control it in the first few months you will go insane trying. You will be defeated. And that can feel like a huge punch in the gut (and face and groin). But even if pre-pregnancy you weren't a proclaimed control freak, we all desire control. Nothing throws it in our face that we lack it like a crying newborn who won't stop. So instead of trying to control the newborn. Control something else... my suggestion is baking.
Because here is what is great about baking. There are directions! There are ingredients! Certain ingredients with certain outcomes! You do what you're told and yumminess ensues. You can control it! You don't have to decide how to do it. You follow and do it and your in control of the outcome. And that feels good!
It doesn't have to be baking. For my first child it was crocheting. I sat, crocheted, and let the repetitive, predictable task ease a mind full of so many daunting unknowns.
Borrow a Grandma
Do you know how many grandmas are sitting home on their hands (no offense grandmas) wishing they lived near their grandchildren? Just going crazy to canoodle the little shoots of their offspring? Lots. Think about it. That sweet older woman at your church who always checks in on you? Or the lady who was great friends with your mom growing up? Give them a call. Let them come help you. I know asking isn't fun. It takes some real vulnerability. But think of it this way, you are blessing them. You are giving them value as a grandma (or someone who might wish they were a grandma). A woman gets great esteem from being entrusted with the love of a little one.
So bring those grandmas over, let them hold your little one while you sleep/shower/go to the bathroom alone. Bask in their wisdom. Let them help you. And bonus points -- most of them are not afraid of tears. They've had plenty of their own, so let it all out if you need to. You might even put baby down in the basinet and curl up in grandma's lap yourself. Either way, win win.
Don't be a Hero
To use a running analogy... when I go on runs I incentivize myself to make it just a few more steps, just 15 more feet, just one more mile. If there is a little pain I push through. I'm hard on myself. "It's just one more mile, you've already done 3. Just do it." Well... in the case of newborns, what I am saying is... DON'T do that. If the first six hours of your time at home alone with baby are hard you don't have to push through for the extra two until hubby gets home just because you've "already made it this far". Call out for help. You are no less of a mom and no more of a hero for suffering through the last dredges of the day. You don't have to "buck up." Face what is real and in front of you and call a friend. Call your husband. If you need help, you need help, and no one could ever judge a mother for that. You shouldn't judge yourself either.
Don't Build a Levy
It's not just okay to cry. I would argue that it is necessary. Don't quote me on this or anything but I would venture to say that it is clinically proven somewhere somehow that the release of tears triggers your brain to slow down and heal. So don't hold those tears in. Don't be afraid of them. Listen to them. Why are you crying? Dig to the bottom of yourself. Evaluate. Allow yourself to feel the realness of the world around you. Don't build a levy, don't go for numb. Let it flow. Let yourself feel. Cry in front of others. Pick your "safe" people. Cry. It feels good.
You Best Recognize
Recognize these things: It is not an accident that you are a mom. It is natural that it feels hard. Your baby is not a mistake. YOU are not a mistake. It is normal to feel resentment and even anger, but peace comes through the release of those emotions, not holding on to them. Don't be shy about feeling proud over the little accomplishments in your day -- celebrate them all. You can't compare yourself or your baby to others. You are your own unique precious you and so is your child. Holding your baby as they fall asleep is not a waste of time. No man is an island -- you need others. And nothing, NOTHING is too big (or too small) for God our Savior.
** Please Read **
Everyone experiences baby blues. If you think that you might be experiencing sadness, anxiety, fear, or depression that goes beyond the blues, please know and believe that there is no shame in reaching out for professional help. There are resources. You are not alone. It gets better.