Wednesday, 28 September 2016

How to Survive the First Three Months with a Newborn

Don't get me wrong. I love babies, I love motherhood, I love my children (obviously), I love raising children, and blah blah blah. But man, is it hard.

In the first few months after my first child was born, I felt like someone knocked me over the head with a baseball bat. My head was fuzzy with exhaustion and I was so busy looking after my newborn that I would forget to eat. I basically felt like a zombie with two boobs. Two milk-producing jugs; albeit the milk flow was hardly something to brag about and nothing like the two litre overflowing variety some women are lucky to produce.

In the beginning, the first few weeks, I found that the excitement of being a new mother (and my post-pregnancy hormones) provided me with some much-needed momentum to tackle the job. Everything was new, fun, and my husband took time off work for the first two weeks so I wasn't alone. A short while after though, once my husband was back at work, I began to feel it. The grinding effects of the lack of sleep creeping up. That has to be the hardest part of the whole experience. Sleep deprivation is a mother#$@*er.

With infants everything is so monotonous. Your day (or at least mine) goes a little something like this: Wake up to baby's cries, shuffle over to baby's crib, lift shirt, attempt to shove nipple in baby's mouth, deal with cracked-nipple pain, burp baby, change baby's diaper, put baby in swing or seat, apply cream to soothe nipple, apply suss to soothe baby, play with baby, quickly try and feed yourself, put baby to sleep, stare at baby, do dishes, do laundry, and repeat.

And unless you have some good friends you can call or who can visit, and even if you do, you start to feel isolated in your home those initial months. You're tired, sometimes too tired to get dressed, and entertaining someone else, other than the infant you're required to be ON for, is the last thing you feel like doing.

And through all this, You. Are. Irritable. And not just you. Your significant other is most likely just as irritable especially if he/she is being woken in the night just as many times as you are. Let me just say this: it is okay to feel like you DISLIKE/CAN'T STAND/HATE your partner during this stage. It's perfectly normal. This is TEMPORARY. You're exhausted, you're doing so much, you really have absolutely no energy left over for anyone else no matter how much you really do love the person, and right now anyone who isn't saying "yes, sure, what else can I do for you, no problem, I'm going to take care of the baby for the next five hours - you go relax" is an @*hole. Totally. I get it. This stage is a write off. Once you're through it, and believe me it does pass, you both just agree to totally forget about it, because really you both weren't yourselves and you cannot be held accountable for deleting all of his recorded football games, purposely forgetting to wash his socks that he kept throwing on the floor before bed and leaving there for you to pick up the next morning, and really wanting to take a permanent marker to his favorite watch (but not doing it - obviously that would be crazy :/)

Somehow though, once you've gone through all of it the first time around, it is much easier with baby number two. You 're wiser and you're experienced. Your body just knows. It gears up and readies itself for lack of sleep like never before. You got this. You know which things worked with baby number one and what you need to do differently in round two.

Whether you're learning how to adjust with a first baby, or whether you're on baby number three, the following list will be invaluable, or may just serve as a reminder, for helping you get through the first three months with a newborn infant like a champ:

1. Feed yourself and drink a lot of water (in general). Even if you're only munching on bread with peanut butter. Or ask a friend or family member to pick up food for you. Order in. Eat something.
2. Drink a full glass of water each time before you breastfeed.
3. Sleep when the baby sleeps. Do not ignore this advice which you will often hear. It's a warning. Even if the house is upside down, even if that means you can't get to the laundry and your baby will have to stay in dirty clothes a bit longer.
4. If a responsible friend or family member you trust offers to help, let them. Let them make food for you, play with baby while you relax, help tidy up the house, help pick up diapers. Just say Yes. Even if you're a control freak.
5. Go for walks. Get out of the house with the baby, even if it's for 20 minutes. Fresh air is revitalizing for both of you and you'll feel half normal making contact with the outside world.
6. Do not compare your baby's habits to anyone else's baby. Obviously if you have a concern, speak to a doctor, or a qualified nurse or social worker. No one else is the authority, and your baby will sleep as long as 'Martha's baby' when he's damn ready.
7. Soak in all the infant sweetness you can - soft skin, first smile, first laugh, and endless love.

Although I consider what I described above as a true account of how most new mothers may feel at one point or another (even if they won't admit it publicly), obviously if you're feeling something deeper, if you're feeling depressed, don't try and make excuses for how you're feeling. I was lucky not to have suffered from postpartum depression, but it's a very real thing. Just because being a new mother is extremely difficult, depression is not something that should come with it. You never signed up for depression or anything that resembles it. If you feel helpless, seek out resources and people who can help you get better right away. You must always come first in this scenario - your baby wants and needs a healthy mama.

While you're in the thick of learning how to adjust as a new mama, and the first few months seem like they'll last forever, remember that you will feel normal again soon. This stage too shall pass. And it does. Too fast.

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