Becoming a parent is one of the most awe-inspiring and magical moments in your life. But when the hormones settle, the epidural wears off, and the home-cooked meals and new baby gifts stop coming, new parenthood is also one of the most mentally and physically challenging roles you will ever have. There are many hurdles for a mom in those first few months. And as with any phase of life, sometimes it helps to know that you’re not alone, and that this is a normal part of the journey.
Fatigue: We’re not talking about yawning or a few, interrupted and restless nights. With a new baby comes the sleep deprivation and exhaustion that takes over your whole body so that you feel draped in a continual blanket of fatigue. In fact, it’s one of those feelings that you don’t really and truly understand until you’ve experienced it. Unfortunately, there’s no easy fix for this challenge, but there are ways you can better cope with this.
- Set a routine or schedule. It may take time, but once you and your baby become acclimated to specific sleep and wake times, your body will adjust and you’ll feel better. It’s amazing how with time, good sleep can suddenly become four uninterrupted hours or a 45 minute afternoon nap.
- Accept help with open arms. So often when friends or family members offer to drop by, new moms feel the need to chitchat, entertain, reconnect or even run out to do errands. All of that will still be waiting for you, but right now, you need sleep! Take all offers of help and use them to sleep and recharge.
- Get away. When it’s your time to sleep — if your spouse is handling a feeding or walking the baby — escape to a room where you can sleep. For example, slip off to the guest room or a basement, the living room couch, where your body isn’t poised and ready to hear that 11 pm cry or sit up straight at the sound of the baby monitor.
Loneliness: For all the books and websites about new motherhood, there’s not much talk about the loneliness that comes with a new baby. It’s hard to believe because here you have this sweet bundle of joy with you at all times. But, when your spouse has gone back to work, friends and family have resumed their routines, and you’re at home tied to three-hour feeding and changing schedules, it’s rough. There’s no time for friends, no time for lunches or phone conversations; it’s even hard to send emails or texts while holding a little one. And to be honest, when you do have free time, you want be sleeping! So, what’s a lonely mom to do?
- Allot some time to reach out to friends. The reality is it’s not going to be like it was pre-baby, but new changes call for new routines. Settle for a 10-minute conversation during your BFF’s morning commute, or a quick coffee instead of lunch.
- Branch out. In addition to your current network, it’s good to broaden your social circle to include new moms who are going through the exact same phase that you are – it’s amazing how a little empathy goes a long way in making you feel connected. Look for neighborhood playgroups, baby sign language classes or even just the park as good ways to meet new moms. And, this doesn’t mean you ditch your other friends and family members – just broaden that circle.
- Enjoy the moment. The time with just you and your baby is sometimes hard, but also fleeting. Embrace the moment and realize that like all good things in life, it won’t last forever. Sometimes, a fresh perspective is all we need to make it through a trying situation.
The Relationship Squeeze. Even though you and your spouse embarked on this parenthood journey together, he might be feeling like the odd-man-out, and you both feel there’s never enough time. But, you started out together, and long after this little one has grown, it’ll be the two of you together – so you have to make time for what’s important.
- Talk to each other. Share a few things of your day, even if they were the same as yesterday. It not only keeps your husband in the loop but lets him know the challenges – and sometimes monotony – that you’re facing. It’s also good for you to hear about “the real world” and it shows him that you are interested.
- Realize the grass is always greener. He gets to wear “real clothes”, drive in a car by himself, talk to grownups and maybe even go out to lunch. From his perspective, you get to stay at home all day, wearing exactly the same clothes you slept in, there’s no performance review, and no one, least of all your baby, is going to try and fire you. New parenthood takes a toll on each of you; don’t assume only one is bearing the brunt of it. Rather, keep the communication with – and the appreciation for – each other going.
- Take what you can get. Right now is not the time for romantic evenings out or weekend excursions with friends. For now, it’s ok to download a movie from Netflix – and yes, fall asleep before it’s halfway over. Sometimes, just sitting down to breakfast or coffee together is your “together time,” or a 5 minute conversation before you drift off to sleep.
Parenthood, especially for newbies, is one of the most challenging roles you will experience. As the legendary father, Bill Cosby, once said, “. . . having a child is surely the most beautifully irrational act two people in love can commit.”
But’s it’s worth every good, bad and exhausting moment it brings.
~ The Baby Pibu™ Team