The next 6 weeks: Continuing to learn...
Things I learned over the next 6 weeks...
- You are going to be tired. More tired than you have ever been, but you will still find yourself doing more than you knew you could do. Take the opportunities for sleep when you can, but also embrace that this is the season of your life.
- Find a mom’s group. Real life support with other mamas is incredibly important. I am blessed to be connected through my birth center, but if you don’t have a pre-loaded group, be proactive. Use meetup.com or other online resources as a starting point, then get out there and meet other moms! Ask for phone numbers! Don’t worry if it feels like you’re dating again! Then make sure to text/call them when you’re having a breakdown moment or a triumphant success.
- It’s hard to fit everything in. That’s still okay (even if you’re past the 6 week check up with a clean bill of health). Continue asking for help. Can a family member come watch the little one while you nap, or get caught up on paying bills, or simply taking some time to breathe? Don’t feel like you have to be superwoman – remember this is a marathon, not a sprint.
- But make sure to take care of yourself. Take your vitamins. Drink water. Eat food. If any of these are tough, think of possible solutions. In my case, I’m hunting down ‘on the go’ recipes I can make/freeze even for breakfast/lunch. My freezer crock pot meals are fantastic for dinner, but I notice that when I’m single handedly trying to navigate the day my own nourishment often gets pushed to the side.
- Time passes SO quickly. Take pictures with your phone or camera and flip through them. Even over a couple of weeks, you will marvel at little one’s growth and change.
- It takes time to heal – give yourself that time. If you’re worried, go see the doctor. If the doctor says you’re okay – give yourself a break. I was so worried about how much I still hurt even as I approached the magical 6 week mark that I may have been psyching myself out and getting in the way of my healing. Once I allowed myself to let go, I noticed that I very quickly resumed healing and felt much better.
- Build time for your first relationship – that with your husband/partner. As a mother, I found that all other connections really did seem further away. This tends to make sense – I am biologically connected to this tiny, helpless being and my very body responds to his cries. However, I am also stronger with my husband by my side – we are a family, WERE a family before our little one joined us. I found that even when tired, it feels so good to reconnect and spend time being close. It helps us rejuvenate and better face the ups and downs of the next day. It really opened my eyes when I heard him say “It’s nice to be appreciated as more than just someone else to hold the baby.” While I never meant to come across that way, I can see that perspective.
- Along the same note, make sure to keep lines of communication open with those around you: husband/partner, family, friends. It’s easy to get wrapped up in your own thoughts and just steam ahead while leaving others out in the cold.
- Continue to advocate for yourself. You may need some time to have your own thoughts and rediscover your needs. This is hard to do in close proximity to the little one (at least for me). Remember your voice. Keep a journal, keep your hobbies, find a quiet space. You are you, in addition to being a wonderful mama and partner.
- You will find yourself obsessing over eating, pooping and sleeping. (Your baby’s, not necessarily yours.) This is normal. Take time to be educated, ask questions and rein yourself in. (As in, don’t spin yourself up into hysteria. I need help with this often.) While there are some norms, remember that each baby is unique. Take all information with a grain of salt, and know that you have partners on this journey. If you’re concerned, ask your lactation consultant, doula, midwife, doctor, mother, friends. There’s no way to just KNOW everything.
- You will also find yourself incredibly frustrated by the lack of consistency. One day (or night) will have something amazing/awful happen… and the next day/night could be the opposite. Even though you didn’t DO anything different. This is also normal. It’s way easier to accept on the good days, but just remind yourself during the bad (like nights when all of a sudden baby is waking twice as often) that this is temporary.
- Keep in mind that nursing is not just about food – there’s so much more. The connection, love, and stimulation that go along with nursing should be attended to – not just survived. Don’t get me wrong – some feeds I zombie through. But if you find yourself wondering “How can I make it through this feed?” – take a moment to recenter. Your little one is still your most important focus. Look at his eyelashes, fingers, cheeks, toes. Immerse yourself in this loving moment and know that it’s just the two of you.
- You may find yourself thinking “this is the worst Easter-egg hunt EVER!”… in relation to stretch marks, that is. As my swelling went down, I kept finding NEW stretch marks. The ones on my belly were a no-brainer, but surprise! on my hips, thighs, boobs… I was apparently stretched to my limit! You might find yourself despairing over these changes. It took me some time to evaluate myself and get comfortable within this new body. This helped:
- There will be some scary stuff in this time. You’ll have to consider things like circumcision and vaccinations, and confront possible struggles with breastfeeding. Keep this in mind: it might be the hardest thing you’ve done so far… but when you’re through it, you don’t have to do that day again. You’ve gotten through that hard day, and while there will be another challenge at another time you’re slowly building up your bank of experience and confidence. My friend Brandy from the birth center put it like this: “At our house we call them waves - some are bigger than others - and we just ride it out. Some waves take 10 minutes to ride and others 2 days…” I think that’s a great analogy.
- It’s hard to see the changes in your little one since you’re with him all the time. A great tradition is to take a photo with an object to show scale, and follow his growth. It will amaze you all over again. Our current project involves a regular laundry basket – I plan to take a photo each month to see him change. It’s already amazing – even at 2 months!
Ultimately, it boils down to the fact that the most miraculous event has happened: your little one has joined your world. Over time, you'll get to know each other better and better - and you'll grow into the family you were meant to be. Take it easy on yourselves. You've got a long way to go.