If you are a mom with a newborn child, there is a strong possibility you’re reading this article at an odd time of day or night! You look at the clock and realize everyone else in your home is fast asleep, but you’re wide awake at 3am with baby. “Newborn life” can be one of joy, sleep deprivation and learning to sometimes accept things for what they are at that moment.
Although adjusting to your new lifestyle may feel like an eternity – you are not alone! Melissa Sawatzky, the Community Marketing Manager for Kids & Company in Alberta shares a glimpse into her world as a mom adjusting to life with a newborn child:
Mode: Newborn Survival
We didn’t know we were getting a daughter. Yet in the last ten minutes before she arrived, my husband grabbed my hand and said, “You know we’re having a girl, right?” Not sure how he knew, but he was right and suddenly our two little boys had a tiny sister.
We’re old and experienced enough to know how lucky we are to have three healthy children. But having kids is hard, and each newborn – first, second or third – brings challenges.
Here are the things I try to do when I’m in newborn survival mode.
1. Limit (or welcome) visitors however I want. Especially with my first newborn, I was surprised at how tired I was, how distraught I was in my new role as a mother, and how strong my desire to simply ‘be’ with my son was. That time, the good and the bad, does pass – so don’t feel obligated to host people at the hospital or to throw a meet-the-baby function or even to say yes when people ask to pop by. See the people you need to early on and explain to others that you require time to recover and focus on the baby and your family. Alternatively, if you’re craving company, go for it! Enlist your partner or someone in your family who can help gate-keep and manage invites. When you have the right balance, your baby and you will be grateful.
2. Let go of expectations as much as possible. There is nothing like babies and kids to throw off any well-laid plans. Obviously, it’s smart to learn as much as you can, talk to others and your own parents, read all the books, and think on who you want to be as a parent. But also, mentally prepare for things not going as you expected (like, at all). Prepare for the possibility of a baby that might not sleep through the night for a year or health challenges or just feeling less-than-happy when your bundle arrives. We’ve been surprised – not pleasantly – by all kinds of things: baby blues, vicious baby acne, birth marks, marriage challenges, six week flues. We’ve changed diapers in car trunks, on our laps and under the security table at the airport. We have googled things like ‘is projectile vomit normal’ and ‘should baby cry in car EVERY TIME’. I struggled big-time with transitioning to mat leave and then struggled again with a return to work. So by now, the third time around, we set our expectations low and know it is easier to just go with the flow of our family and the new baby.
3. Wait to see if we need things. Having multiple children clues you in to this, but even if you’re on your first baby you’ll be surprised at how little you need when you start out. These are the guiding things to think about: you’ll need a safe place for baby to sleep, a way to get them around, a bit of clothing, a way to feed them, and a way to catch and deal with what comes out their bottoms. Anything beyond that might be nice, or it might be an unnecessary, expensive dust-collector. You’ll eventually need and want more, but wait to see what your baby is like and what you feel is missing once baby comes. Bonus budget tip: once you know you need something, try second-hand. There’s loads of stuff bought in anticipation of a baby that gets used once before ending up at consignment stores.
4. Get some sleep and get some fun. Yeah, I know that’s the kind of advice that makes you want to slap me because obviously we all want these things yet a newborn can sometimes seem like a little package of ‘you’ll-never-sleep-or-have-fun-again.’ But make a conscious effort on both these fronts for these reasons:
Sleep – you will be better equipped to deal with your baby, your partner, your household, your obligations, your health, your other kids and/or your job if you have a bit of rest under your belt. And if baby is wide awake looking for a nice bouncy walk around the house from 11 PM to 4 AM (been there), nap when they do in the day without guilt or abandon. And if siblings or work or other things simply won’t allow for naps, try to get help so you can sneak in a bit of rest and charge up. When an understanding grandparent first offered to simply hold the baby while I napped, I did it and could not have been more grateful.
Fun – (warning: melodramatic statement forthcoming). A part of me felt like my identity shifted in one single birthing moment from being a fun, engaging person capable of contributing to intelligent conversation to being a worrying, stuck-at-home, baby-talking caretaker of a tiny, helpless being who is basically designed to suck the life out of their parents on their journey to beginning their own. It is incredibly intense and, if you don’t make an effort to get yourself some fun outside of those irresistible baby smiles, it can also be all-consuming. This is feasible for us because we have loads of help from our incredibly supportive family and friends, but not everyone has that – so take whatever help you can get. Try to build other things back into your day as things settle in. For me, that means getting back into sports, staying connected with solid friends (some with and some without children) and date nights. And I try to let things like cleaning slide to make time for goofing around once in a while with our boys – because to date I have no amazing memories about my sparkling clean house but I do remember fondly things like tickle fights, impromptu dance parties and family hugs.
5. Enjoy it. This too is frustrating advice in the throes of sleepless nights and cry-filled days, but it’s said wisely and honestly by those who know. Those who know the days are long but the years are short. Those who see a baby after theirs are grown and feel a tiny yearning for those fleeting years when you have youth and energy overflowing (sometimes loudly) in the house. Take time here and there to simply be present. Enjoy that sneaky bright smile your infant makes when she catches your sleep-craving eye at 2AM and explodes with joy. Enjoy the aggravating grumbles of a babe in tummy time, frustrated and uncomfortable and making you both wonder why you’re doing it as he gains strength and tenacity and patience for his life ahead. Enjoy the cry that comes through the monitor, taking you away from work or cleaning or that email you need to get out – because that cry is leading to a hug and a cuddle with a tiny being whose heart still beats in rhythm with yours.
Melissa lives in Calgary and is the Community Marketing Manager for Kids & Company in Alberta and BC. Her vision of what she would be like as a mom was shattered years ago when she discovered nothing ever goes as planned for parents, but laughter and community sees you through. You can reach her at email@example.com.