Having a whole new person join your family obviously causes some changes. And when that person is a nonverbal, floppy, helpless, tiny poop machine who wants to nurse 20 hours a day (well, almost)? It can cause some stress. If you let it. I’m a pretty “chill” person when it comes to stuff like this, and while I have had a couple of freak-outs (when my husband was about to go back to work and I was imagining doing naps and bedtime and errands with 2 kids and one me), I’ve mostly been pretty stress-free.
Here are some things that have helped me the last few weeks:
- Letting my husband help at night. I often hear about stay-at-home moms who won’t let their husband do any “baby work” (especially at night) because it’s not their “job.” I think that’s kind of crazy. We are equal parents, and we both work hard, even if it’s in different ways. In the weeks after Anneliese was born, I did ask my husband if he needed me to let him sleep instead of waking him for help at night sometimes (especially if he had an early flight the next day). He told me no, that I should wake him for things like diaper changes or anything he can help with, so I did. After a while, he told me he basically slept through diaper changes and other nighttime “errands” I sent him on (refilling my water mostly; nursing makes me thirsty!) and often had no idea whether he had been woken up or not. If I’m up for several hours each night with the baby, he really doesn’t mind helping out for a cumulative 15 minutes or less per night.
And if your husband doesn’t offer to help at night? Ask him to. Like I said, you’re equal parents. You’re not asking him to do anything beyond what a dad should do. It’s not unreasonable to get a bit of help, EVEN if he’s the breadwinner.
- Being flexible. Whatever expectations you have about what babies are “supposed” to be doing (sleeping through the night, anyone? HA!)…whatever hopes you have for a daily/weekly routine (at least right away)…whatever expectations you may have had for yourself as a mother (the famous “I would NEVER…”)…be flexible. Be willing to let go or change course if you need to. When a storm comes, trees that don’t bend break. Stay flexible and bend with the wind, and you’ll do just fine.
We set up the co-sleeper a couple days after Joseph was born, but he’s probably only slept in it for a total of 6 hours. He prefers to sleep on me or beside me in our bed. That’s fine. If I weren’t being flexible about sleeping arrangements, and kept trying to put him in the co-sleeper, I wouldn’t be getting ANY sleep. Instead, I get a decent amount every night and I get to cuddle my new baby.
This goes for older kids too. I’m not a huge fan of TV for kids, but Anneliese is going to be watching more these days, I’m pretty sure. Today it was a Sesame Street clip of Feist singing “Counting to 4” about 100 times. And some “Dada stories” (videos of her dad reading books). If I need some help from the TV tomorrow, it might be Signing Time or something…It’s not ideal, but it could be much worse. (Please no Dora or Wiggles or Barney or Teletubbies in my house!!!)
- Taking care of myself. I’m one of those weird people who can forget to eat when she’s busy or stressed. In college, there was a weekend I had to study a LOT for a bunch of tests, and I had papers and presentations due on Monday. I actually forgot to eat all of Saturday, and by Sunday afternoon, when I realized I needed to get some food, I fainted in the line in the cafeteria. Ridiculous. When I was teaching first grade, I would often have something like a can of corn or a yogurt for dinner. So dumb. NOT healthy, and it DOESN’T help with stress levels when your body doesn’t have the most basic things it needs.
So what seem like small things–like making sure my cup of water is nearby and full of cold water all day so I’ll drink more, and paying attention to eating a variety of healthy foods throughout the day–aren’t such small things after all. (Fruit is great, but a day where all you eat is fruit? Not so great. Variety is key.) And since I’m breastfeeding, making sure I have good nutrition for myself is important for my kids too.
At this point, getting enough sleep isn’t necessarily something I can control, but if both kids are napping and I feel tired, I should nap too, even if it means the hall bathroom is dirty for another day.
- Enjoying my kids. How sad would it be to focus so much on survival that I forget to enjoy my children? Super sad. So I don’t. I have sweet toddler conversations with Anneliese, kiss the back of Joseph’s soft, soft neck and breathe in his yummy newborn smell, happily accept sparkly star stickers being stuck all over my legs, and marvel at how tiny newborn fingers can be! It would be easy to get overwhelmed and stressed if I forgot why I was doing what I’m doing. By actively enjoying my children, I keep the focus where it should be. On family. On moments. On happy memories-to-be.
And since today was brought to me by Feist and the number 4, I’ll stop there. 1-2-3-4 chickens just back from the shore, 1-2-3-4 penguins that were by the door, 1-2-3-4 monsters walking ‘cross the floor…
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