I’ll admit it — adjusting to life with our precious FJ has been hard. I always knew I would mourn the loss of my former self, who of course is still there but has undoubtedly been eclipsed by the needs of this little, helpless person. She is so innocent and so dependant — she needs me almost 24/7 to stay warm, dry, and fed. I’ve had to lose all selfishness and devote myself almost entirely to her. The first month and a half were the hardest. I kept wondering…when will it get better? I loved our baby since day one and don’t think I was technically experiencing postpartum depression, but I was definitely having some blue days. So here are my tip to adjusting as gracefully as possible to life with a new baby:
- Get help. Whether it’s your husband, your mom, or a postpartum doula, have as much help as possible in the week or two following your child’s birth. I thought (naively) that I would be up and running around, ready to take on the world; that was not the case. Instead I was healing and learning how to breastfeed. Let someone else take care of all the rest. And when that person goes home/goes back to work/their job is over? Don’t feel guilty about the things that don’t get done around the house. I’m still not cleaning like I want to.
- Trust your instincts. It’ll amaze you how accurate your instincts are when it comes to taking care of your baby. Each time we took a list of questions and concerns to the pediatrician, I was amazed at how often we were simply reassured, like we knew the answers already. Now I don’t mean to say that we know the things a doctor knows, but we do have instincts when it comes to continuing the species. Listen to yours.
- Ask an expert. When you’re not sure about something, ask an expert. A medical question? Ask your pediatrician. Breastfeeding question? Ask a La Leche League leader or your friend who has been breastfeeding for the past nine months. Something your mom knows a lot about? Ask her. And find what each person in your life is an expert on. For example, your mom may want to give you advice on breastfeeding that you don’t like (“you want to be an organized feeder!” ummm, no, that’s actually not my goal — I actually want to feed with love and respect) so if that’s the case don’t consider her the expert on that topic but find out what she is an expert on and get her help in that area.
- Start trying to get out. Take a walk, go to the drugstore to pick up a few things, just get on your patio for a minute. And on the days when you don’t get out, don’t feel guilty about it.
- Nap at least one time a day with your baby. Your body will thank you.
- Let go of all your expectations of when they’ll eat, sleep, etc. Let go of wanting to be supermom and superwife at first, if that’s getting to you. Your baby will fall asleep when she’s tired at this age, and you can’t force her to sleep otherwise. She might want to eat all the time — let her. She’s getting what she needs. The more you roll with it the less you’ll be frustrated. Also let go of wanting things to be the way they were…as much as you might have thought you could, you simply won’t be able to just pop in the car and head out on the town anymore. Yes, you can get out…there are just a few more steps involved. You might have to stop and breastfeed so you don’t have to put a screaming, hungry baby in the car. Your trip might be pushed back half an hour. Roll with it and you will be a much happier camper.
- It’s okay to be exhilarated/sad/scared/overwhelmed/joyous. Whatever you are feeling is normal. If you are feeling really down in the dumps and you are more than a couple weeks postpartum though, talk to someone about it. And of course talk to someone if you are feeling violent. Otherwise, give yourself permission to just be, and like my friend told me when we were about six weeks after her birth, “you’re in the thick of things. It’ll get better.” And it will.