Ages and Stages: Newborns and the Postpartum Mom

[really_simple_share]

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

Accept Help

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.

Mood swings are normal, as your hormones shift after pregnancy.  Please, make sure that you and your partner are familiar with the signs of the Baby Blues, though and also with Postpartum Depression.

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?

[really_simple_share]
About Kara

Kara Fleck is the editor of Simple Kids. She is a small town mama, writer, knitter, bookworm, and hooligan. Kara lives in Indiana with her husband Christopher and their four children Jillian, Max, Lucy, and Amelia. You can find more of her writing at KElizabethFleck.com.

Teaching from Rest: A Homeschooler's Guide to Unshakable Peace

Comments

  1. This is great advice. Personally, I’ve gotten into postpartum trouble when I try to do as much as I can possibly shove into a day without collapsing in an exhausted heap. This is the WRONG approach! Can you say Hello, mastitis? :(

    It is really hard for me, and most moms, I think, to take the first 4-6 weeks really easy, but it’s so essential. Pushing it to much may help for a day, or even a week, but long-term it just slows down your recovery and makes things harder in the end.

    And a note: if you are truly overwhelmed with a new baby, seek some help and advice sooner rather than later. My firstborn hardly slept at all, but we didn’t know any better because we didn’t have much experience with babies on a 24/7 basis. Little did we know that our little guy was far outside the norm and it’s no wonder we were overwhelmed and exhausted. We finally got him sleeping with some excellent help from an OT, but it was many, many months before that happened.
    Anne @ Modern Mrs Darcy´s latest post: Best of the Modern Mrs Darcy (July 2011)

    • I so agree with this. My first baby had colic for 8 weeks, and I didn’t even know. He cried nonstop and had trouble sleeping. When I brought it up to the pediatrician she just told me that “some babies are like that” and had me put him on rice cereal :( I wish I had known more about what to do and NOT do. You learn with experience, but if you are truly struggling, don’t be afraid to seek out help!

  2. I know that one thing I always tried to keep in perspective (I have 4 young adults now) is that the stage you are in will pass before you know it. I always teased about getting “back to normal”. There of course no going back to the normal that was before, but there will come a new normal that will settle in eventually!
    Good luck on #4!
    Bernice
    Living the Balanced Life´s latest post: Creating our perfect path…

  3. I experienced a very tough recovery period with a lot of pain and ended up severely depressed in the first month with my first child. As a result, I did a lot of work (and took medication) leading up to the birth of my second. I developed a plan with my therapist that included all these tips but to the extreme. I was basically supposed to be a “horrible mom” for the first few weeks of healing and recovery, so that I could be an excellent mom as my kids grew. Sleep sleep sleep, my husband and my mom doing all the work, and acknowledging that the postpartum period (by insurance standards) is actually TWELVE months long! I am so happy to say that I got to experience the “blissed-out” side of the newborn phase this time around and haven’t had to deal with postpartum depression at all!
    Meghan´s latest post: Observations from the First Month

  4. Those newborn days are a not-too-distant memory for me, and while they were special in so many ways, they were hard. I had my fourth baby 10 months ago, and I’m still recovering in many ways. Even with help, it’s a lot. Thankfully, I learned to accept help in the areas where I need it, and let things go when necessary. I have gone to bed with the dishes piled in the sink many times the last year! But the baby has been loved on, cared for, and delighted in, and that’s what really matters. Four is fun! I know you’ll love it.
    Elizabeth´s latest post: Life-giving

  5. What a fantastic blog. If only this was around when I started having babies 28 years ago, I am going to be a grandmother for the 3rd time this fall so I will make sure my daughters subscribe to your feed. I love the realistic, yet loving and hope-filled way you write. Thanks!

    • I can hunderstand thi from one point, and this is a wonderful blog I agree.
      But It seems that 28 years ago, you have done pretty well without the internet, you are going to be a grandmother for the 3rd time this fall…
      It seems that although the surprise, the today’s generation seems to find it much more difficult to rise and keep the families together.. this comes together with the Net generation and information… strange how life works today :)
      Michael´s latest post: Do You Have Issues With Homeschooling

  6. Hi Kara, thank you for this wonderful and touching info. I believe it is so important to accept help, we dont use to it, becouse we live alone but in time like this it necessary.
    amanda´s latest post: נטורופתיה/לימודי נטורופתיה

  7. I wish I could have read this after having my first baby! I so needed to hear all these things at the time. I struggled not only with becoming a mom for the first time, but feelings of guilt because I thought things were supposed to come so easily and they weren’t. I somehow felt like I was missing something. It’s nice to hear that I wasn’t alone. Baby #2 is now on the way…any wisdom regarding this new change? I will happily gobble it up! :)

  8. Best piece of advice I received before our first was born: pay attention to your baby’s sleep and wake cycles BEFORE the birth. This will be the sleep/wake cycle you can expect in the first postpartum weeks. I found it much easier to adjust by having this anticipated schedule ahead of time. The advice was right on the money for both of my children.

  9. I am glad I have read this before having yet my first baby :) I will surly come back for more… It is relaxing your approach to take things at a time. Just to think what a newborn needs before all the rest.. thanks!
    Ravit´s latest post: Small studio apartment ideas

  10. I always give the advice to accept all of the help you can around the house but YOU, new Momma, take care of your baby! As tempting as it is to let others cover for you I think it is so important to go through this newborn bonding phase together. I’ve had friends whose mothers who came to help in the first few weeks got up with the baby in the middle of the night, brought the baby in to be nursed, took the baby to be changed and put the baby back to sleep. Those same friends struggled with bonding issues. If you need a break to get more than 3 hours of sleep occasionally – take it! But it is so important for you to “learn your baby” by going through those first days together. Like everything else in motherhood, good and bad, it will be over before you know it.

  11. Great advice and tips for any mom. I loved the part about you don’t really get it until you experience it. That really is the truth. No amount of reading or tips from others will actually prepare you more than living through it. But hopefully, this post and the comments will help a new mom remember these bits of advice when she needs them which makes her postpartum time just a little easier!
    Kimberly´s latest post: How To Put Your Baby To Sleep at Night In 6 Easy Steps

  12. My ears perked up, figuratively speaking, when I saw your post title and that you are expecting your fourth baby. My fourth baby is one week and one day old and I am smack dab in the middle of post partum and newborn stage. And it’s great! Except when it’s not, of course. Every day brings a new emotional rollercoaster, and the trick seems to be to just ride it out…it’ll pass. Knowing that the swings from pure happiness to feeling that your heart is breaking open is just part of the Days After really helps it from becoming too overwhelming. And thanks for the reminder to go easy…I’m starting to worry a little about keeping up when my husband goes back to work in less than a week.
    Leilani´s latest post: Already

  13. You wrote this a while ago, but I’m just reading it today – as a future First Time Mom (due in April). Thanks for the encouragement…I’m slowly lowering my expectations of what those first few weeks will be like. Initially, I had all kinds of ideas of being off work, so I could get cabinets painted, other house projects done, lunches with friends. I think I’ll count it as a success if I get a shower! Anything else will be bonus!

Trackbacks

  1. […] Another article written by a mom to other first-time-moms. Another article that is slowly giving more realistic expectations for those early days of living with a new baby. Another article filled with encouragement and hope and perspective. This one is from Simple Mom. […]

  2. […] Another article written by a mom to other first-time-moms. Another article that is slowly giving me more realistic expectations for those early days of living with a new baby. Another article filled with encouragement and hope and perspective. This one is from Simple Mom. […]

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