Lesson one: Don’t thrive… just survive.
When you’re a new parent, it’s extremely difficult to pinpoint exactly how you’re feeling at any given time. Because, if you’re anything like me, you felt what seemed to be a million counterintuitive emotions all at once. Though one emotion was consistent throughout every moment of every day: love.
Although my heart was exploding with an overwhelming amount of love and joy, my body and mind felt exhausted, frustrated, and fearful…
…exhausted from an intense lack of sleep…
…frustrated as my husband, baby, and I tried to figure out our new normal…
…and fearful that anything bad could happen to my baby at any moment…
This. This is parenthood. And parenthood is amazing, but it’s a challenge.
Like any new life event, having a baby is a transition. While I don’t have some catch-all solution that’ll magically get you eight hours of sleep or make your baby stop crying, I can tell you what worked (and didn’t work) for me and my family.
So, without further ado, here’s my rendition of surviving parenthood 101.
Don’t forget about each other.
There will be days when you don’t even remember hugging your husband or kissing your wife. There will be days when you can’t think of anything other than getting your child to stop crying. And there will be days when you’re simply too tired to care that your house is occupied by another human.
After a baby, your priorities change. But don’t let them change so much that you forget about your relationship.
If you’re having an especially long day, call Aunt Jane, Uncle Dave, or Grandma and Grandpa. Believe me, your family is dying to snuggle your little peanut. So let them! Have someone you trust watch your baby while you and your significant other get some peaceful alone time… even if it’s just for a couple hours.
The best thing you can do for your baby is give them a healthy household. And in order to do that, you can’t forget to work on your relationship. Putting your spouse first (or at least as a solid second) will only help strengthen your family’s foundation.
Instead of both parents being present for every feeding, take turns. Splitting the time will help you feel like you get a break and more time to collect yourself. While your significant other is “on duty” (and after you’ve gotten the go-ahead from your partner), step outside and soak up a few moments for yourself. Or go to a different room, close your eyes, and try to ease your mind.
For those who have a significant other, lean on them. Help each other out as much as you can. The amazing thing about parenting together is just that—you’re in it together. Set the expectations early on and help the other out when you sense it’s needed.
Sleep when you can.
You’ve heard it before… sleep when the baby sleeps. So it’s as simple as that! Sleep when you can. Sure, you likely won’t have a normal sleep schedule until your children are moved out, but you do what you have to to survive. Take a nap at dinner time or during your favorite show (that’s what Netflix is for anyway). With a newborn baby, your two main goals are keeping your child alive and being able to function.
Drink coffee. Lots of coffee.
While taking care of your physical health is important, I’m not a doctor, personal trainer, or dietitian, so I’m allowed to tell you to drink ALL the coffee.
While I could make this section about paying attention to your fitness, having time to cook elaborate meals and exercise is time I either a.) didn’t have, or b.) spent trying to catch up on sleep. So instead, I’m making this category about forgiving yourself when you don’t make your health your number one priority.
You’re stretched so thin. A tiny human depends on you practically 24/7 so you’re allowed one…or five…cups of coffee to get you through the day.
Once you feel like you have a routine down, take time for your health. Just don’t put so much pressure on yourself to lose the baby weight or tone your “dad bod.” Find little ways throughout the day to start improving your health… from healthy snacks to going on walks around the neighborhood.
Accept help (and meals).
Lean on your community… if friends and family are offering to deliver you meals, take them. If your mom wants to come over and watch the baby while you sleep, let her. I was blown away by the amount of love and support my husband and I received from family and friends when we brought our baby home.
From baby gifts to meals to help with our laundry, we were absolutely spoiled. People want to help. Let them do their good deed and you can return the favor at some point down the road. Any to-dos you can relieve yourself of will help you focus on your baby and figuring out your new normal.
There are tons of new parent resources on the web too, so apart from your local community, you have an online community ready and willing to support you. Here are a few recommendations to get you started:
Ask for help.
I saved the most serious topic for last. Postpartum depression is a very real thing and it shouldn’t be taken lightly. In fact, the American Psychological Association found that 1 in 7 women experience some sort of serious mood condition after giving birth. Vice versa, men can also suffer from feelings of isolation and hopelessness after bringing a baby home.
Please ask for help. You don’t have to do it all on your own.
Moms: if you feel off, don’t be afraid to talk about it with your significant other or doctor. It’s natural to feel emotional and vulnerable after having a baby. But postpartum depression won’t go away on its own, so it’s important to seek help if you’re experiencing any of the below symptoms for longer than two weeks.
- Anxiety all or most of the time
- Feelings of guilt or worthlessness
- Excessive irritability
- Crying uncontrollably for long periods of time
- Disinterest in your baby or family and friends
- See a full list here
In the bustle of it all, try not to forget about your husband. This is new for him too, so check in on him and make sure he’s doing okay with this new transition.
Dads: pay attention to your partner. If something seems off, don’t be afraid to have an open conversation with her about how she’s feeling. She needs your support now more than ever. She’s adjusting to her new body after having a baby and the trauma that comes with it, in addition to the lack of sleep you’re both experiencing.
So try to go out of your way to notice her.
- Tell her she’s beautiful.
- Ask how she’s feeling—physically and emotionally.
- Be the positivity she needs.
- Help with chores around the house.
- Change diapers.
- Assist with late-night feedings.
And likewise, don’t be afraid to talk to your significant other or doctor if you’re feeling abnormally sad. It has been proven that men can also experience postpartum depression… actually, 1 in 10 dads suffer from it. So don’t make the mistake of thinking it can only affect women.
Soak it all up.
While the challenges are real, welcoming a new baby into your world is incredible and a huge blessing. But time has a way of escaping from us. My baby is 7 months old, and I’m already feeling robbed of time. Live in each moment as much as you can. And just remember, you’re doing great! You got this. 🙂