The First Weeks and What Helped Us Through
Here we are, almost 2 months as parents. They say these first 3 months are the hardest and most beautiful times and I will be the first to agree it is 100% true. I won’t lie that it has been a wild ride these last few months with a newborn and then recovering myself. The struggle of learning this new road is a tough one, in the process you feel a little like you have lost yourself as the exhaustion kicks in, the lack of doing your normal things begins to hit, and you begin to realize how life has forever shifted in good ways, but trying ways as well. There is no doubt life has changed, but the reality in the first 3 months isn’t forever, which is something I daily have to remind myself as a new mom. Both Mike and I have taken time off, Mike went back after almost 4 weeks and I have been little by little getting back to things between naps and feedings. I am still giving myself time to breathe, not feel pressured, and take on things with baby steps. Somedays are great and somedays I feel like life is caving in, those are days I know I expected too much of myself and our new reality. I think it is hard to really talk about the difficulty of the first few weeks in an honest way. Keeping it together is a realitive term that relates to the current moment and not in comparison to what life was pre-baby. Simple things feel like major victories such as going grocery shopping the first time, baby-wearing, eating out, driving somewhere on your own, and then the first time you take steps back into work. At this point many women in America head back to work, and I realize not only do I have the luxury of choosing when I get back to work, but how I do as well. It is a real gift, but no matter how you slice the first three months of life whether you have an easy baby or not, have to go back to work or not, have a c-section or a home birth….life post-baby is about surviving in the first 3 months without a doubt. Thus, I wanted to give a few things we have learned in this process thus far that have helped us survive ourselves.
At almost 2 months we are seeing a light at the end of the tunnel in some regards. The haze of newborn life is lifting, we are getting some level of sleep (this means 6 hours of broken sleep if we are lucky), and the learning curve has gotten a little less steep (actually a lot). We have been very lucky as little H is a very easy to please baby. He sleeps easily and communicates clearly. I think people would dub him a textbook baby. He believes currently he can walk and wants to jump and see the world so badly. He is in love with watching us talk and talking back to us in his own way. He has always recently been conquering his first developmental leap and showed us that sleep will continually shift week to week as growth happens. A lot of you have asked for the things that have made this time easier, and it has taken time to write this post between naps and hand-offs to Mike without losing sleep in the process, but I wanted to share because I want to help some of you to be able to find joy in this process as we have because of these small things. I gathered up the 8 clutch things that have helped us from not going nuts during this time. I have another post I will share about the necessary items for the first 3 months as well. It is amazing what you don’t need.
Not every baby is the same, but for us HW loves to be swaddled. He was very little when he was born (6.8 and then dropped to 5.15) and his hands and arms weren’t his best friends in the world. At first we swaddled him like they did at the hospital, but then at about 1.5 weeks we discovered this magical item. Why so magical, you swaddle them (makes it easy and fast) and the zipper is at the bottom so you can easily unzip the bottom, change them, and zip them back up without having to fully reswaddle and wake them. Absolutely a necessity and thankfully Prime Now had them and you can bet we ordered it right away after a couple of rough nights. It has been clutch the last month for us to get good sleep and helps calm him down during the wonderful witching hour that occurs before bed times. The other swaddles we love for nap times are from Solly Baby. They stretch well so you can get a good tight swaddle on them, which is so important for the little Houdinis out there.
- Learning his cues and signs:
Whatever your parenting style I think communication is key. The truth is that babies come out with their own way of communicating with you through movements, gestures, and even their cries. Friends suggested we read the Baby Whisperer in order to learn some key cues and then another friend suggested watching this video about the different cries. I thought all of it was completely nuts, but the last thing I wanted was to make H feel as if he wasn’t understood. So from day 1 we have made a point to stay on top of learning and listening for his cues and thanks to the two above sources, we have a little guy who trusts he doesn’t need to yell to get his point across…well very often anyways.
- The Swing:
We received this swing from Nuna along with their brand new Wind attachment to keep the motion never ending. Not only is it one of the best designed swings on the market, but it creates motions that can only be easily replicated by human movements as well. This way you aren’t too reliant on that little machine if you can’t get your baby to sleep or soothe them. We use it most often when H is awake and we need to eat, cook, clean, or just need an extra arm. I looked all over for something that could fit into the decor of our living space, was easy to move, would be quiet, and most of all would last longer than a few months of use. This swing will hang with him until he is nearly 100 lbs and with the Wind attachment the movements will keep going endlessly or you can unattach the Wind and use the swing anywhere and it will swing on its own for up to nearly 3 minutes. I was anti-swing because I didn’t want to create a bad habit with it, but this one has been the perfect inbetween item for me. The best part is he loves the toy bar and as toy bars go it is the coolest looking one on the market. Mama and baby are both happy this way!
- Development Apps:
Out of the gate HW was an easy baby. He has been right on track, but most importantly he sleeps. I started to think about a schedule with him and realized after observation he already was on one on his own. He is very happy and communicates clearly to us. We couldn’t ask for a better baby, so when we had a few really rough days I got scared. I really thought our sweet, easy baby had just started becoming another type of baby all together. The moment was just before 5 weeks. He fought everything and I was at my limit with him. Then one of my girlfriends asked if I had heard of the Wonder Weeks app and I immediately searched for it on my phone. Hello to all my answers! This little app gives you a heads up on when major development is happening for them and lets you know it may be a little rough with them during specific times of the month. Not only that it tells you how to help them through this stage. I read the first development stage and realized we were knee-deep in him making his first leap mentally. Instantly I was releived and knew we could make it through knowing on the other side we might have a more socially engaged, sleeps a little longer, and happier little man. It also shows on the calendar when turbulent times are ahead so if you are planning a trip you can avoid those moments or at least know what to expect.
When we came home and I was recovering I knew I needed a regular shower and coffee. I kept hearing women say they went without showers for days and I knew I couldn’t do that. I wanted to feel clean and hated the perfume I suddenly took on as a new mother…aka sour milk. So I told Mike this is what I need for my time each day. We figured out how I could squeeze in 20-30 minutes at the beginning and end of the day for me. Those moments kept me sane in the first few weeks especially. Now a days with HW taking more regular naps I am able to find more time for myself if he keeps to the schedule, but my biggest piece of advice is to name the one or two things that will keep you and your partner sane when you are recovering and in those first 5-6 weeks. Communicate it to each other. Give each other that, which leads to my next point.
- Accept help:
You just spent 9 months growing this little one all on your own in many ways. Though, Mike made sure to always reassure me that I wasn’t doing this alone, which was great…it felt like it was all my job at that time. At the end, I especially needed to accept help when I couldn’t do chores like I used to. It felt good to know I didn’t have to do it all. Post having H though I needed help in all new ways. Even though I had a quick labor there was a definite recovery period just with any birth and doing much of anything beyond feeding him and carrying him around the house felt exhausting and hard on my body. We had my parents with us for 2 weeks and they cooked, took HW while we slept, and just were there for moral support. Then my brother came for a long weekend and Mike’s family came for a few weeks later to help as well. Not to mention the number of meals friends and neighbors have brought us that have kept us healthy and fed the last 6 weeks. The one piece of help I didn’t expect was needing a support group of moms. I have a lot of girlfriends both here and all over the world who I have leaned on, asked questions to, and been in touch with to ask questions, text with in the middle of the night while feeding and trying to get a baby to sleep, and more. It may not be the kind of help that cleans your floors, but having women who get it and can support you without judgement is VERY helpful. Your husband can only understand so much of the recovery and emotional things you are going through, but other women get it. Finding women who had no judgement for our own decisions and then supported me and listened even while they went through their own struggles has been so helpful in keeping me sane. So my suggestion is to lean into those relationships because it truly takes a village.
- Don’t be hard on yourself:
I missed work long about 3 weeks postpartum. Work isn’t really work to me as I love it so much, but that doesn’t mean I should be getting back to it that quickly. Taking time, easing into things, and also learning the hard way that my body needs time to heal has been hard and important. Don’t expect to fit into your old clothes quickly (even if you didn’t gain much your hips are wider for a while). Remember you just created life and that is the ultimate thing you can do with your body as a woman so give your body the time and place to recover. It will be better for you and your baby this way…not to mention your partner. I am the first person who needs to listen to this advice pretty much hourly especially these days as I am getting back into life.
- Communicate with your Partner:
We have this saying we say to one another when things start to get hard where we look at the other and say “Same team!” and sometimes HW gets that as well when he is fighting a diaper change at 3 AM, but I think the most important thing that has gotten us through the last few weeks is each other. We had some unexpected things come our way during this time with work that were wonderful, but it meant shifts of expectations. This meant I had to pick up in areas and Mike did as well that we weren’t expecting. Hard as it has been, remembering we are in this together, both working through things ourselves, and communicating our feelings, making sure we are feeling heard, and reminding each other we are on the same team has been very important. We have had some tough fights and some moments that aren’t pretty recently as it has meant a lot of shifts I especially wasn’t ready for, but finding time to really talk, sit and get emotional and honest is extremely important. As women this time is full of really wild hormones that can lead us to difficult and dark places, but allowing your partner to be there for you is important. I have a tendency to communicate poorly especially about my feelings and what I am thinking, which hasn’t been good for us. I am working on it and it is helping. The most important thing is just remember you both are giving 100% and figuring out how to help the other where you can and when you can. Adding a little life into the mix isn’t easy, but it can be an opportunity to grow yourself and your partnership together. It takes work and a willingness to step outside of your own perspective which can be hard with maybe a few hours of sleep over a matter of days, but it can happen. I promise!
There are a lot of ways to make it through this time but this is how Mike and I have been making it work over the last nearly 2 months. Now that I am slowly getting back to work and beginning the journey to find a balance of parenthood and career there are other challenges on the horizon, but getting through those first few weeks is the hurdle. If you can do that, you start to feel like anything is possible with focus, patience, and a lot of self-care.
I apologize if this post isn’t as well put together as some other posts, but I really wanted to get it out there for all you new mamas-to-be and moms. It is a hard and challenging time there is no doubt, but it is also beautiful and everything feels so precious and new. I have never loved mornings so much. Your world will look different and I had to mourn the loss of life the way it was some especially around weeks 4 and 5. Now I am realizing the beauty of this time in life and how it is one of the greatest adventures we have taken thus far. I wouldn’t go back to our old life for anything anymore, even with the lack of sleep. Feel free to share your thoughts and things that helped you as a new mom as well as ask any questions!
All the photos in this post have been from our first few weeks as a family. It has been so precious to watch this little guy begin to open his eyes to the world and to see how he fits into life little by little these days.
I would love to hear your thoughts and on this time as well and how you made it through. Feel free to share your thoughts and things that helped you as a new mom as well as ask any questions!