My baby turned 3-months-old this past weekend and I’m slowly crawling out of the hole that is new-motherhood. And while I’m deeply in love with my tiny bundle of heaven, let’s face it: Life with a newborn is not exactly a cakewalk. Sometimes it feels like I’m so busy racing to a feeding or load of laundry or half-hearted attempt at a hot cup of coffee that I’m missing opportunities to actually enjoy my daughter. And other times, the middle-of-the-night dramatics, spats with my husband, and secret longing for 10 minutes of solitude can be overwhelming.
Things have started to go smoother now that my daughter and I have a rhythm down and she has figured out (for the most part) how to sleep. But even now I’m finding that the tactics I developed in the first few weeks continue to help me stay sane with a newborn. Here they are — I hope you try at least one this week:
1. Connecting with other new moms during those late-night feedings
These interactions became my central point of survival the first few weeks. There were things my non-mom friends simply didn’t understand about what I was going through. Mom friends with bigger kids often just said, “Savor this because it goes so fast.” (Which is true, but at times I needed something a little better than that). Other brand new mommies were going through the same things I was in real time. They were exhausted, just like me. And they were awake at the same bizarre times, feeding or soothing their littles just as I was. I often found myself in the wee hours on Instagram searching #newmom or cruising Facebook groups for chats and articles that were of interest. These fellow new mothers became a crutch at times when I felt totally alone, in the dark, holding my baby and bursting with questions. It was also fun and encouraging to see our kiddos hit milestones at the same time, even from a distance.
2. Pumping or leaving pre-measured water and formula out so someone else can feed the baby
Just because I’m the primary caretaker does not mean I have to be the only one who takes care of my baby. I learned fast that it’s important to trust my partner to help for an hour so I could regain my sanity. Or, to hire a sitter — it’s worth the $10. For peace of mind, I lay out everything they could possibly need — from explicit feeding instructions to three changes of clothes. Then, I hightail it out of there. I had a pedicure three weeks postpartum and it was the best thing I ever did. I contemplated taking the baby with me, but how relaxing would that have been? It took a lot of planning ahead and a bit of stress, but once I was in that chair unfettered, forcing myself to take me-time, I realized it was worth it. (Embarrassingly enough, I missed my daughter like crazy, but even at the time I recognized the value of the break).
3. Keeping “my” area clean and being OK with clutter elsewhere
I am so type-A, it’s not even funny. I can’t stand one thing being out of place, let alone an entire two-bedroom apartment that’s fallen to shambles. But any new mom can tell you that cleaning is a lot harder than you think it will be once there’s a baby around. My daughter doesn’t want to be put down, which makes straightening up not only time-consuming, but sometimes downright impossible. The mess stresses me out and makes me feel helpless, though. Recently, I started being meticulous about only the two main areas where I usually hang with the baby, letting the rest of the apartment fall apart when it must. I’ve been so much more zen about the mess since I started doing this. We’ll have plenty of time to clean when our littles are older; right now, I try to use that naptime to relax as much as possible and keep the piles of laundry and dirty dishes out of sight. Which brings me to my next point…
4. Investing in an easy baby-wearing option so I can get more stuff done
I sincerely wish I was one of those moms who could figure out the complicated wraps with a screaming infant in my arms. But of everything I’ve tried, my favorite is the Infantino (it’s $30 at Target). Even once I cut down on what I expected from myself, I still found a sense of joy and control when I could strap my fussy gal on my chest and conquer a load or two of laundry. (My baby doesn’t just want to be held – there’s scientific evidence that she needs to be held). Wearing my daughter also gives me the opportunity to get out of the house without lugging the stroller. Many days, the seemingly arduous task of getting my daughter into and out of the car, folding up the stroller, and so on, can seem more than overwhelming. Once or twice a week, I take the 30 seconds to strap her on and head out unfettered for some fresh air or just a quick stroll to the nearest coffee shop. It’s amazing what half an hour spent among other adults can do for my spirit, especially when I’m hands-free.
5. Enjoying a strategically-timed glass of wine
My pediatrician and lactation consultant both agree that a glass of wine here and there after a feed is not only okay, but would be helpful in making me feel calmer and more like my old self. I have found, from the beginning, that it feels amazing to pour myself an occasional glass of liquid relaxation and enjoy some good (ie. totally bad) TV in my sweatpants. There might not be a cocktail dress and heels in my near future, but that doesn’t mean I can’t indulge.
And hey New Mom, as one of my best friends told me, this whole newborn thing, it’s only a season. Deep breaths. Lots of water. Any nap or shower you can possibly grab. Three months in, I am back at yoga. I am blowing my hair out at least once a week. I am finding a rhythm. You will, too.
Photo: Jenny Studenroth