By Justyn Lang, Contributing Writer
I have wanted to write this blog post since my daughter was born 3 ½ years ago. This is the post that I got on-line to hunt for but never found, and now I have the opportunity to offer it to all of the first-time moms out there.
My husband had to go back to work just five days after our first daughter was born. We were thrilled to be parents, but we were also exhausted and concerned because she was having such a difficult time with nursing. By about two weeks after she was born, we had gotten into a pretty good rhythm of nursing and naps…
That’s when I sat down on the sofa and cried my eyes out. I was CERTAIN I would never have the time or energy to read a book again (my favorite way to relax). Every waking moment was consumed with caring for this helpless little creature. I couldn’t even get the laundry and dishes done, let alone find time to relax. The house was a mess and I was too tired to do anything but sit there and cry.
I had heard that when you have a baby you have to find a “new normal”, but I just didn’t know how to do that. I couldn’t even fathom how it would be possible. So, I got on-line and hoped for some brilliant insight. Nothing. Everybody either said, “you’ll figure it out” or “it’s the end of everything fun.” Dismissal or doom… not what I was looking for. I also saw several people who said that becoming a mother completely changes you into a different person. Now, not only did I not know what to do, I supposedly didn’t even know who I was. Peachy.
First of all, let me say that I understand. Everything is up-side-down, but hang in there. You really will get your feet under you again. You really will find that “new normal” that seems so elusive. And, no, you are not a completely different person. You are still you. I think what actually happens is more like a part of yourself that hadn’t been known before is suddenly there. You see things differently, but it’s still “you” doing the seeing. You are still the same person; you’re just getting to know yourself a little better, now.
Finding Your “New Normal”
- First, give yourself some grace. Try to let go of the expectations you had and think about ways you can make things easier for the next several weeks. Could you switch to paper plates and plastic-ware for a few weeks? Could you have the hubby pick up extra socks and underwear, so you don’t have to do the laundry quite as often?
- On the same note, let people help. If somebody offers to bring a meal, accept. Sure, it probably won’t be what you would make, but unless there are allergy issues, relax your standards for a few weeks. (Do try to stock up healthy meals in your freezer, if you’re reading this before your baby comes, though!) Have a list ready for people who ask how they can help you. It could include vacuuming the floor, putting away clean laundry, harvesting food from your garden, stopping at the grocery store… whatever needs doing.
- NAP WHEN YOU CAN! I know, I know. Everybody says that. There is a good reason: you NEED to sleep in order to heal.
- Once you’re recovering physically, think about ways you can start to move towards a “new normal”. Remember that just because you’ve always done something one way, doesn’t mean that’s the “right” way for you, right now. If you’ve always made a new meal from scratch every night, consider doubling the recipe and having leftovers every other day. If you usually have one “laundry day” a week, think about spreading it out over a few days or even just doing a little every day.
- Something I learned over the first few months of motherhood was that I am NOT a schedule person. Yes, I nursed the baby about every three hours, but that did not mean that I could have my day all mapped out according to the time. I do best with a routine. When I had a little baby, that meant a lot of nursing and napping, but I did best when I followed a basic routine. After my breakfast, I would switch out the laundry, then I would work on dishes (we’re doing disposable for a month with this baby!!), then I would do general clean-up, then I would rest for most of the afternoon (I was dealing with some health problems I didn’t know I had), then I would work on dinner. I didn’t push myself and I often didn’t get everything done, but this method helped me to feel like I was figuring things out and moving in the right direction. Again, give yourself some grace.
We’re expecting our second baby in the middle of November (our first homebirth!), and I plan to follow all of my own advice. Such a huge change in a family takes time to adjust to. For some it takes a few weeks, for others the entire first year. Try not to compare yourself with others, but take the opportunity to ask moms you know about how they found their “new normal”.