The pregnancy, easy or hard, is finished. The birth, smooth or bumpy, is done. You are curled up in your own bed, with your own baby, and your own partner, and…
Well, we are all smitten at this point but we are also all pretty terrified. The learning curve is so steep! How do we sort out what is essential and what is not? What is experienced wisdom and what is old fashioned? How to care for baby and not lose your identity or essential self? How do I care for this fragile, squirmy baby? How do I survive?!
Parenting is a delicate combination of holding tight and letting go. So, here are four small tidbits to help you survive while you sort out the best balance for your new little family….
You have to sleep. Your partner has to sleep. Your baby has to sleep. But do you all have to sleep all night long in one stretch? Take turns. Take naps. Slip your baby into a baby carrier and let her sleep curled up next to your familiar smell while you eat cereal or upload photos of her on Facebook or Instagram. Sleep when your baby sleeps, sometimes. Sleep in the spare bed, sometimes. Keep your baby close so she feels safe.
Slice your day into small pieces.
It is remarkable how much time caring for a baby consumes. He will be hungry, have a sore tummy, spit up, need a diaper change, a bath, or soothing for a large portion of the day. Parenting in the early weeks with a baby rotates around filling these needs and helping him to get used to life earthside. Feed him, soothe him, get him settled, and then do ONE task. Eat. Shower. Take pictures. Just ONE. Then, expect to be interrupted or need to rest. Feed him again, bathe him, dress him, or whatnot, and then do ONE MORE task. Eat. Shower. Take pictures. Take a nap! Remember to feed yourself. Parenting is life, interrupted. Be open to interruptions.
Become a kangaroo, mostly.
Babies feel safest next to your skin. Recline with your baby on your bare chest as often as you can. Breastfeed as often as you can. Have baths WITH your baby. Carry her often, so she can rest assured that you are close and she can focus on feeding, sleeping, and growing. Use a baby carrier when you need your hands free. You have shared your body with her for nine months, and now you are continuing to share it with her in a slightly different way now that she is born. Now, you breastfeed and you carry her. And you get to SHARE the job of carrying with your partner! Finally. So that is the “become a kangaroo” part. Now, the “mostly” part means that sometimes, you have to feel some small bit of freedom. It is okay to put her down and have a shower. Or to put her in her grandma’s arms and go in the kitchen and eat a snack, all by yourself. If she is sleeping, it’s okay to put her down in her bassinet. Small bits of baby free time helps fill you up for the long bits of kangaroo parenting.
The learning curve IS steep. It is a lot to take in, it is a lot to manage, it is a lot. But you can do it! Breathe deeply so that you can relax and release tension. Breathe in assurance that you can do this, breathe out fear. Breathe in and ask for help when you need it. Breathe out and release unhelpful advice.
But most of all? Breathe deeply, and smell that newborn. Before you know it, you will be a seasoned expert, and your baby will be motoring around. Newborns are so yummy~breathe them in!