Hello Simple Kids readers! I’m taking a break from blogging while my family prepares to welcome our new baby. (The photo above is my daughter Lucy, taken in 2008, just so there isn’t any confusion). Before I “unplugged” from the computer, I worked on this series about Ages and Stages. Today is the first installment, on newborns and the postpartum mom. I hope you enjoy it! Best Wishes – Kara
If someone were to ask me what I think the hardest transition in my life as a parent has been, without a doubt I would say that it was becoming a brand new mom.
Going from one child to two was a major change, of course, and every child changes our family, but becoming a mom for the first time was the most fundamentally life-changing transition for me.
As we prepare for our fourth child, I don’t know that I would necessarily say that I expect for life with a new baby to be less challenging the fourth time around, but I do find that I am able to face the postpartum period with more grace and less worry because I have been down this path before.
I know, to some extent, what I can expect.
People will tell you before you become a parent about the sleepless nights and the challenges. They will also share with you the joys, the wonder, and the emotions.
However, I found that until I had actually gone through it, it didn’t matter what people said or what I read in the books, I just didn’t totally get it until I had experienced it – the highs or the lows.
It was one of the hardest times of my life, but also one of the most wonderful (which I know is one of those sentences that makes no sense until you live it).
That said, a question I get quite a bit as the editor of Simple Kids, is usually some variation on inquiries pertaining to what I would recommend for new parents. So, because so many have asked, I’m sharing my thoughts today on newborns and parenting in those early days.
Of course, every family, and every baby, is different. As I am fond of saying, one family’s simple might well be another family’s complicated.
But, here are a few things that my personal experiences so far have taught me are valuable to keep in mind during the first weeks of parenthood.
Photo by Kara Fleck: Lucy, 2008
Sleeping Like a Baby
Finding time to sleep, shower and eat – basics of human life – and yet such a challenge for a new mother, especially during the early weeks. As a new mom, I was deliriously happy and in love with my baby but also so sleep-deprived and, well, sometimes just delirious.
For someone who slept all the time, my new baby never seemed to stay asleep for very long. As soon as I would drift off to sleep myself, or hop in the shower, or sit down to eat a meal with both hands, she would wake up as if on cue.
It took me a few weeks to figure out that, as so many people had tried to tell me, the best tactic was truly to sleep when the baby sleeps.
And, if you’re not going to sleep, use the time for other self-care – NOT housework. Trying to squeeze in a quick load of laundry wasn’t a good use of my time. If I wasn’t going to sleep, it was far better to take a quick shower or use that time to eat something than to squander it on housework.
The housework, of course, was still there after the postpartum period. It was more important that I either get some rest myself or tend to those basics, like showering and eating, that make you feel like a human being.
“People who say they sleep like a baby usually don’t have one.” - Leo J. Burke
The hardest lesson for me as a new mom: to accept help. I was blessed to have many people in my life offering to help, but for a while I operated under this misguided sense that I could, and should, be doing as much on my own as I could.
That, my friends, is a sure-fire recipe for becoming overwhelmed.
My mom gave me the advice to keep a list of what needs to be done. That way, when someone asks “What can I do to help?” you can tell them. Don’t be too proud to let someone else run the vacuum or empty your dishwasher. This is the time in life to be a little self-centered and let others dote on you and your new baby.
Give Yourself Time to Physically Recover
Your mind and your body need rest. You’re recovering physically from giving birth, which is no small thing.
On top of that, you’re adjusting to the sleep schedule (or lack thereof) of a newborn, and your body is going through hormonal and physical changes as you begin the time of motherhood that some people call “the fourth trimester.”
I heard once that a new mom should give herself six weeks after the baby is born - “two weeks IN the bed, two weeks ON the bed, and two weeks hanging AROUND the bed.” In other words, take it easy, mama. Rest. Recover. Enjoy that new baby.
This is Hard Work
Caring for a newborn is a round-the-clock job. Becoming a parent turns your world upside-down, in fantastic ways and also in not so fantastic ways.
If you are a brand new mom reading this and I can encourage you about anything, let me stress the importance of being gentle with yourself. This is hard work. You’re learning. Extend yourself some grace and allow for moments of imperfection.
Some of us have an easy time adjusting to breastfeeding, for example. Some of us don’t.
Some of us are ready to welcome visitors from the moment we give birth. Some of us aren’t.
Some of us have an instant internal parenting instinct that kicks in. And, some of us take a little bit longer to figure things out.
And that is okay.
What Does a Newborn Really Need?
I’ve talked a lot today about what the postpartum mom needs and I haven’t said much about what the newborn needs. That is because, to my mind, a newborn doesn’t really need too many material things.
A newborn needs:
- a peaceful environment
- warmth (clothing, shelter)
- to be fed
- connection: time in the arms of parents and people who love him/her
There will be time for toys and other items later, but a newborn just needs the basics.
If you’re interested in a list of things that are nice to have for this stage, do head over to Simple Mom and check out Tsh’s list of 8 Essentials for a Newborn Baby. Be sure to check out her list of The Things You Don’t Need (But They Say You Do) for a New Baby, too.
So, what do you think? Did I leave anything out? What would you include? How was your postpartum time?