I remember the days when I was SO OVER being pregnant. I was about 35 weeks into my pregnancy and was so tired of being swollen and having insomnia and heartburn. I wanted to have my body back. I wanted to have comfortable sex again! I was so ready to meet my little baby and be done with the pregnancy.
I can tell you that at three weeks postpartum, I still have some of these same complaints! The nurse gave me too much IV fluid during delivery, so I have been even more swollen after pregnancy than during. Pregnancy insomnia? I’m happy if I get a solid three hours of sleep between nursing sessions each night. Heartburn has been replaced with constant abdominal cramping. Having my body back is still a dream, as my breasts are now feeding machines for this tiny human. And sex? It is still an elusive fantasy of some future date when the doctor says I’m in the clear, and when, somehow, I feel good enough to make love again.
My problem is that I’m always looking for the next thing. This has been a constant struggle in my life. I think the next thing will make me feel better than I do now. What I’ve learned in my decades on this planet is that the only thing we have is NOW, and if I’m not appreciating the NOW, I’m missing everything!
A life lived in the future, waiting for some future event, is a life that gets passed by.
So throughout the first month of being a new mom (again), I’ve learned some valuable tips in appreciating the NOW of mothering a newborn.
5 Tips to Fully Appreciate Your Newborn
1. Lower Your Expectations
There is no such thing as the perfect newborn photo session, perfect night of sleep, perfect outfit, perfect mothering, or perfect relationship with your partner. Expecting that your life should be a certain way, or that your body should look a certain way, or your baby should behave a certain way only sets you up for disappointment.
Now is the time to drastically lower your expectations. Sometimes, taking a shower is the best accomplishment of my day. My only expectation now is that it is going to take time for both me and my baby to adjust to this new life. In the meantime, it is my top priority to learn everything I can about my new baby.
2. Accept your Baby is Now your Master
This baby is learning how to do everything from scratch. Everything, and I mean everything from breathing to swallowing to feeling air on his skin, is new to him. He needs this time to acclimate to being outside the womb. And it needs to feel as safe as possible for him.
I needed to accept this by learning to work WITH my newborn’s schedule instead of forcing him into MY schedule. There will be a time to enforce my routine and rules, but the first month of this life is not that time. When he cries, it's because he is hungry or wet or just needs to be cuddled by his parents. If he cries now, it's for a reason. He is not old enough to know how to manipulate adults. That comes later!
3. Get Alone Time
Alone time is essential, even if it’s just an hour without baby while you make the bed, drop in a load of laundry, and shower. Or don't do anything at all but sleep. That's fine too!
We have to remember we were Women first, before we were Mothers. Our needs are just as important after the baby is born than they were before the baby is born. We may need to rearrange some things to make sure those needs are still being met.
Which leads me to the next point.
4. Let People Help
This one is super important. All the people who say, “Let me know if I can bring over dinner” – let them bring you dinner. The ones that offer to babysit “anytime” – take them up on it, and go on a date night with your partner. The ones that offer to come over to watch the baby, so you can sleep for a couple hours – YES!! They are offering because they want to help you and they REALLY want to spend time with your baby. It’s a win-win for everyone.
Also, if the baby's dad is in your life, let him help you too! One thing I've learned about dads (especially first time dads) is that they want to help but sometimes don't know how, or they feel inadequate. This is when we can become our partner's biggest cheerleader.
There have been times when I've had to get very specific with my partner about how to care for our newborn. Instead of saying, "Can you watch the baby for a while," I will say something like "Can you change the baby's diaper and then feed him a bottle? I am going to take a shower and will be busy for about 20 minutes." This gives him a structure and framework to work with, instead of leaving things ambiguous. Men do well with structure.
5. Enjoy It! – This time goes SO FAST! Learn to stay in the moment. It’s hard to not think about all the things you’re missing out on or all the things you need to do when you’re stuck to your rocking chair for the eighth time of the day with a baby on your boob. But really, try to enjoy and savor these little moments. They go so fast, and soon enough, they’ll be too big to hold, and you’ll be wondering when the heck your little baby grew up so fast. She grew up so fast while you were waiting for the next big thing, or while you were wishing he would hurry and go to sleep so you can clean the house.
Enjoy these tiny moments with your baby!
Bonus Tip - Take TONS of photos and videos. All those little baby expressions and sounds will be captured on video beautifully. You will treasure them later. My partner and I started a YouTube channel as a repository for our baby’s videos. It’s a private channel just for us and our families, and it lets us easily upload video right from our phones, so we have a long-term place to store our memories of this amazing time in our lives.
You’ve got this, Mama! It gets easier. I promise.
I am a mom of three, marketing guru, and founding CEO of Moms Next Door, Inc., a nonprofit organization fulfilling basic family needs so mothers can prioritize their own self care. I hold a degree in psychology and have years of study in self-care, mental illness, addictions recovery, codependency, and spirituality. I invite you to come with me on this journey to guilt free self care. Every mother, every woman for that matter, needs a safe place to vent, to learn, to advance, and to be supported and lifted up. This blog and The Ascended Mom community was created to provide exactly that.