The first three months at home with a new baby will try your willpower unlike anything else. Guest author and super-mom, Emily Hourican, has 7 tips to survive this difficult time and emerge from the fourth trimester with your health and sanity intact.
Unless you regularly buy into Ponzi schemes, or order Miracle Cure-Alls from the internet, there is a very good chance that the first three months after bringing your newborn home will be a bigger let-down than anything else you have ever known.
You’ll likely experience the painful process of rearranging your expectations in line with the actual reality of a tiny infant, rather than the pretty fantasy. Sure, the media had a lot to do with fostering those expectations, but, let’s be honest, we all eagerly bought into them hook, line, and sinker.
Like me, you may have been looking forward to adorable, cosy times with your peaceful little baby, catching up with friends now that you are on maternity leave, going for long walks in the park, and even getting a few things done around the house.
Instead, you might well find yourself still in your pajamas at 5pm, wondering where on earth the day has gone, and how you are supposed to create dinner out of a tin of chickpeas and some old carrots (I recommend hummus; I think we lived off it for about 6 months). You will have expected to be tired – that’s the bit everyone, from your mother to the local florist, warns you about in advance – but you might be surprised, and worried, to also find yourself feeling frustrated, frantic, and a little bit bored.
Here are a few top tips to get you through the first 3 months – the Red Zone, as it were. After that, things will start to fall into place quite more easily. These tips will, I promise, save your life. Or at least get you through the next few hours.
Tip #1: Accept All Offers of Help
Before Baby, you will be inundated with people offering to help, everyone from coworkers to neighbours. Say yes to all of these. Do not be a hero and do what most of us do – that is, smile and say “Thank you so much, I will definitely ask if there is anything,” and then go off and do everything yourself, until you are cross-eyed with exhaustion.
When you read some sleek, shiny post-baby actress saying how she didn’t exercise at all and the weight just feel off because she was breastfeeding, you will feel like screaming.
Perfect saying “Oh, you are kind. Well, perhaps you wouldn’t mind taking the dog for a walk? And then maybe you would peel a few potatoes?” My greatest regret from the early months of my children? Not taking up all those kind offers. I could have had an army of people cooking, cleaning, minding. Instead I was tearing my hair out and trying to do it all, badly.
Tip #2: Do Not Read Celebrity Magazines
Really, don’t. They will be full of pictures of starlets three days after giving birth, looking poker-thin and perfectly groomed, and these will make you feel terrible about yourself. Even worse are the pictures of celebs who are being chided, obliquely, by the magazines, for not having lost the baby weight, because they will still look ten times better than any of the rest of us. And when you read some sleek, shiny post-baby actress saying how she didn’t exercise at all and the weight just feel off because she was breastfeeding, you will feel like screaming.
Tip #3: Expect Nothing
Expectation is the enemy of happiness, particularly when it comes to newborn babies. Do not expect your child to be sleeping 6 hours by 6 weeks old, or feeding every four hours. Babies conform to their own patterns and nothing else, no matter what those prescriptive books tell you.
Do not expect that because you are not working you will be able to sort out the bookshelves, arranging them alphabetically by author. You will never get beyond pulling them all out onto the floor, because the peacefully-sleeping baby, who you expected to stay down for two hours, will begin to yell after 15 minutes. Months later you will still be tripping over copies of Anna Karenina and cursing your over-ambition.
Tip #4: Ban Visitors for the First 3 Weeks
This one sounds really harsh, and you will be longing to show your adorable darling off, but trust me – they will all stay just a little too long. The wrappers and bags that accompany their incredibly generous gifts will make you feel that you are drowning in paper and ribbon. Their talk will be too noisy and jolly, and will, inevitably, after a few courtesy minutes, turn from You and Baby, to their own lives and concerns. They will leave you feeling drained and obscurely miserable. And then the doorbell will go again.
Tip #5: Let Your Standards Drop, Just a Little
Let them ease out, like a forgiving, elastic waistband. So your bathroom doesn’t sparkle for a couple of months. The world will not stop turning. Nor will you be a Bad Mom if, instead of home-cooking, you turn to one of the many companies whose job it is produce and package excellent take-home food. And remember, everyone hates SuperMom anyway.
Tip #6: Remember, This Too Will Pass
None of it lasts, good, bad, or indifferent. This is the beauty, and the incredible poignancy of children. The adorable thing they do with their hands today, they will stop doing it. That sweet noise they make when they are asleep? In a couple of weeks, you will never hear it again.
In the same way, the phase of crying every night for an hour, of waking up at 5am, and refusing to go back to sleep, of chucking their food at the wall, these will all pass.
Tip #7: Tell the Truth
To yourself about how much you can manage, and to others about how miserable, overwhelmed, lonely, frustrated, angry, and confused you sometimes feel. They won’t judge (especially if they’re parents too). In fact, they’ll probably cheer that someone finally admitted it.