31 July 2014

Twenty-Five Tips for New Moms/Things I've Learned in Two Months: Part 2

I just sent one of my besties the last preggo care package before she has her baby boy in August. It got me thinking through some things I've learned these past two months. In the spirit of solidarity and paying forward (and probably for a laugh later), here's part two of the 25 tips I picked up along the way.

After the Hospital:
11.  People would ask me, "Is he sleeping well at night?" Ummm…what? There is no day and night for the first weeks. It's just three hours at a time over and over. Your schedule will be: feed baby, feed yourself, change baby, change yourself, nap, cry, take pain meds, and repeat in no particular order. You will probably get up only to go to the bathroom. Give yourself permission to go at baby's speed. Focus on his or her eye movement and go no faster. Don’t check the clock. You have no place to be or anything more to do than be this baby's mama. This is sacred time.
12.  Are you used to accomplishing a list of 4-5 things a day? You will now accomplish negative 8 things. You will watch whatever you would like to get done not get done. Change your focus/perspective. Somethings no longer matter. Others now do. Practice letting go.
13.  Give your husband specific jobs. Have him keep your bathroom and nursing baskets stocked or get the dishes done. Whatever you know will be most helpful to you. Trust him to do it. Also, give him dad jobs. Let him change diapers or get baby dressed without your help. Let him bond on his own with no critique. Go take shower or sitz bath or just lay there and stare at where the wall meets the ceiling. Or pray for those two beings God entrusted to you and ask that He helps you give them right back up to Him.
14.  Give your/his mom specific jobs. Give her different jobs than your husband. Household chores, mealtimes, and shopping seemed to be most helpful for us. While she can obviously be a great help with the little one, your/his mom’s job should be taking care of you, while you and your husband take care of and bond with your baby. Your/his mom is going to be sensitive. Kindly set healthy boundaries anyways.
15.  Make a plan for visitors with your husband before baby comes. Make a plan on how to say no. Visitors (this includes family) will add stress no matter how helpful they are. Don't be a host. If you have guests, let them do your day-to-day chores so you can rest & recovery & recognize those small, special shifts in you, your baby, your man.  
16.  Become a student of your baby and your hubs. Just stare at them and drink it in. If you feel yourself getting scared and trying to control, take a step back and just learn these new things they do.
17.  Eat well. Enjoy whatever is brought if people are so kind to bring meals. Then choose life-giving foods. You need the energy & nutrients. If you are eating healthy foods first, then don't feel guilty for eating whatever you want after that in moderation. ALSO, take your stool softeners like it's your job. And fiber. For real though.
18.  Take pictures with your phone and sort them later. If my baby was crying, sleeping, pooping, staring at me, I'd get my camera and quickly snap a ton in a row. Then I could go back and pick out a good one with missing anything in the moment trying to get the perfect shot.

Disclaimer: this advice may lead to literally over 1,500 photos on your phone leading to very slowed function of your device due to not actually sorting them later or refusing to pick the "perfect shot" because which ones aren't??? Every single shot is a keeper. The next picture you take will always be your very favorite.

19.  Seriously, 6 weeks. Take a break from exercise, sex, or whatever it is you are waiting to get back to for the full amount of time the doctor orders. Take every bit of the entire 6 weeks. You will feel like you can start earlier, but it's not the normal physical stuff that will hold you back. I would hike up to three miles in the few weeks before Eli was born. It’s not like after giving birth my muscles were no longer capable of this. I was still in good shape. But your energy, hormones, and internal anatomy will be very altered and are major factors in what you will be able to do while still making progress in your recovery. Just 2-3 weeks after Eli was born, I went on maybe a 1/2 mile walk. I felt like I could and even felt better right after, but was completely drained and in the worst mood that night. My hormones took me for a ride for the next few days. Relearn your body and try to understand that everything works together. Other parts of you are compensating for the parts still working to heal. It is very necessary to wait for some balancing.

After the first 2-3 weeks:
20.  You will get in a groove, you will come out of the haze, you will find a sweet spot. Until then, roll with it. Find something that soothes you: music, silence, tea, cupcakes, laughing, crying. You will come out of the bathroom where you've been in pain for 25 mins to a screaming baby who aggressively fishes for your sore bleeding milk dispenser and your husband will rush over with no inkling how to help but with a deep, deep desire to make it stop and you will scream at him to go far, far away before you sob through the millionth feeding of a tiny insatiable human. This will not be the first nor last time you will just sit with your sweet babes and sob. Sometimes for no reason or very good reason. Sometimes because everything hurts. Your heart hurts, body hurts, brain hurts, eyeballs hurt, and feelings are hurt. It will pass and you will only remember the sweet stuff.
21.  Ask other “New Moms”. “Old Moms” seem to have selective memory. “Not Moms” are clueless, just like everyone before the moment they go into labor. But “New Moms” are like some underground cult and you do not belong until you are a “New Mom”. So send the text telling how you have never loved nor hated your hubs so much ever, send the disgusting pic text asking if this looks normal, send the email venting about your mom/friend/dentist, send the dog for a play date, or send the friend who offers to pick up something to the grocery. And then when you don't text back for 3 weeks they totally get it and you don't have to feel a lick of guilt or explain.
22.  Your hubs will probably crack under pressure. Mine has never needed more gentleness. He is a “Not Mom”. But he is a dad and he gets to define what that means. Some days he needs a flipping break. So do you but you don't get one. You will resent him and say there's no way in hell he's leaving the house to do whatever recreational activity he had the audacity to suggest he might do later. But then when he leaves to go do the activity anyways, the house will get quiet and tension you didn't realize was there will soften and he will come back softer too. And he'll ask what the baby is doing. DO NOT sarcastically quip about all the ways you suffered at the hands of this newborn to make him feel bad. Because he will not feel bad. He'll be glad he missed it and begin strategically planning his next escape. Instead, tell some sweetness and invite him to join in. Then he will know he was right to miss you both. This is not a manipulative tactic to make him stay. It is an intentional decision to not build a defense, but rather to encourage intimacy. (This is obviously a hypothetical scenario and not something I personally experienced. I always implement such grace to my hubs who is lucky enough to benefit from my wifely wisdom at all times.)
23.  You know that advice you’ve probably heard a bajillion times from nostalgic “Old Moms”? Enjoy every moment, they say. Do NOT take this advice. You will feel like you are doing something wrong when you aren't. There is no way that the process of enduring so many changes- no matter how incredible and beautiful and welcome- won't bring overwhelming difficulty. It's worth it, of course. But there are many moments you just will not enjoy. So instead of expecting to enjoy every moment, just try to be present. Don't get ahead of yourself wondering what he's gonna do or gonna be or gonna look like. Don't look back and worry what you missed. S/he is a person right now. Just recognize the moment.
24.  Each day, be humble in learning how to love your man and teensy babes better than the day before. Then let it be ok if you don’t. Mercies are new every morning. Never give up!
25.  Pray. Everything will seem so strange. This new baby is strange. Your husband will be strange. Your family will be stranger than usual. Your schedule, your house, your body will be strange. These things have changed and they will change. Only God is constant. Pray.

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