Countless times in the past 10 weeks I sat down to write to only be hijacked by my scattered brain and newborn baby. As I write this, 107 days on the other side, my baby is no longer a newborn. The fourth trimester is now behind us. Seriously, how did that happen? No really, it is hard to remember. I am grateful I wrote a lot of things down in those first three months as the newborn fog is real. I would love to say the sleepless nights are long behind us, but that is just not the case. I would love to say that after 107 days we have our little Rubik’s Baby figured out, but we don’t. What I am learning is that there is very little to figure out and the lesson I need to learn the most is to simply be in each moment. My little Baby Buddha is teaching me more than any meditation could. Asking myself “What do I need to do right now” has proven to be more valuable than watching the clock and googling routines. After all, the best thing that any new parent can do is to quiet the noise and go inside. It is amazing how much we already know if we just allow ourselves the space and time to listen.
What I have learned is that motherhood (and parenthood) does not get easier with time, we actually just get better at it. We were told countless times to just get through the first 100 days and it gets easier. Well friends, that is a lie! Heading into Christmas our sort of sleeping baby turned into a not sleeping baby and this sort of coping mom turned into one bitchy elf! It was like I had hoped that on the 100th day of life everything would magically fall into place. I know, I know, but we all do what we need to survive right? Anyway, this moment was a difficult one for me as motherhood has not come easy. What I mean by this is the sleepless nights and lack of routine have been a struggle. I spent a lot of time longing for my old normal rather than focusing on creating my new normal. I sat in our home, once perfectly organized and felt almost suffocated by the baby things that have taken over. It was strange to have my heart so full of love while at the same time aching for the familiar. After a sleepless Christmas and feeling discouraged that the magic of 100 days didn’t bestow itself upon us, I knew that I needed to make some changes and they started with changing my mindset. As one of my best friends texted me in a moment of exhaustion “stop watching the clock and change your mindset. You need to wake up saying I got enough sleep, I can handle this vs Faaaaaaaack I am exhausted”. She was so right as the brain is fickle. I was tired: tired of merely surviving when I wanted to thrive again.
It turns out that the perk of having a newborn in the darkest months (and coldest) is the New Year hits after the three month mark. It was a perfect reflection and reset for this Type A. My hope is that I continue to grow and learn and the rearview mirror will always be a reflection of how far we have come. The thing with struggle is it lays the foundation for growth. We have struggled a lot (and as much as can be expected) and with that, I know we have also grown.
I want to go back to my little Baby Buddha and the magic of 100 days as maybe some of you can relate to this or perhaps this can be of help to those of you still in the newborn trenches. The moment I stopped with the expectations and actually went inside I finally felt a shift and was able to gain perspective. Three months actually passed in the blink of an eye. My once tiny newborn is now smiling and babbling and attempting to roll. The bins of clothes I have donated show me how much he has grown and we are currently working very hard to get him on a sleep schedule (this has been a game changer for me). For the first time I actually understand what people meant when they say “It goes by so quickly”. I have tried to compile a short list of tips and lessons; things that worked for me and perhaps things that I would do differently. As always, take what you need and ignore what you don’t. We are all in this together.
- Journal. Journal. Journal
I wish I would have done this more from the beginning. I actually wish I would have done this daily. A space for me to check in with myself. Whether it is a sentence or a paragraph or a few pages, give yourself both the time and space to acknowledge how you are feeling, what you are thinking and what you are needing.
2. Newborns need very little
As a first time parent I found it so easy to get caught up in All. The. Baby. Things. I wanted everything but thanks to a rational partner and a small home, I was able to limit myself, somewhat. It is so easy to buy all the gadgets and all the clothes when in reality, you need so little. Overall, I am very happy with my investments and even some of the splurges but there are a lot things I would have left behind if I was to do it all over again. I was told this by so many of my friends but of course, I did not listen! I am hoping to compile a list of what I feel my must haves are and what I feel I wasted my money on and will share that in a separate post if there is interest.
3. Nourish Yourself
This does not come easily and requires some serious planning. Looking back, I went through some serious weeks of poor eating, poor sleeping and strait up not taking care of myself. Surprisingly, this didn’t hit until week 4, the endorphins were keeping me afloat until then. What helped? A partner who was my personal chef (seriously and held me accountable), prepared freezer meals and snacks in the freezer. My issue was I was so exhausted that making decisions overwhelmed me. Deciding what to eat honestly seemed like a lot. Meals were overwhelming. Snacks were everything. Basically, I was a toddler.
Beyond food is also hydration and your mental health. I was committed to drinking all the water and also had coconut water on hand to make sure I was always drinking something.
Mental Health. Full disclosure, I was a star the first month. I was getting out of the house, taking breaks from baby and letting Dad have some quality alone time and then BAM I wasn’t. I was fixated on trying to create a schedule and legit stocking up and hoarding breast milk in preparation for my course I am teaching at the University for the Winter Semester (Postpartum Anxiety much?). I am a firm believer that fed is best yet I had this pressure on myself to maintain an exclusively breastfed baby. WTF? Could I BE more of a hypocrite? Well friends, my baby happily receives both formula and breastmilk and I am better because of it. Do what works for YOU but make sure you are making time for you. What else helped? Once I had the go ahead from my Pelvic Floor Physio I enrolled in a Yoga Class. This hour on a mat, even just once a week made me feel like myself again.
4. Make a game plan AND listen to your instincts
There are so many things we did ‘right’ (meaning things that worked for us) off of the start and there are so many things that we would do differently. There is so much information out there and all of it is contradictory, especially in regards to sleep (sleep research has consumed me from the get go), you need to do what works for you. I found myself changing plans so much based on something I would read or hear that day or week and therefore lacked any consistency and more importantly, any semblance of feeling grounded. Now that he is a bit older we have jumped full on into sleep training. We have made a plan that works for us and we are sticking to it. Let me tell you, not only is it working but I feel happy and actually more proactive than constantly in a state of change and reaction. As a perk, our house is getting some sleep.
5. Happy Parents, Happy Baby
If you are fortunate enough to be doing this with someone, then you need to make that relationship a part of your priorities. Find time to connect and communicate. Talk about things other than the baby. But also, talk about the baby. You are partners and need to be in this together. I cannot emphasize the value of date nights. For some this may mean leaving baby and leaving the house and for others it may mean watching a movie at home while skipping the dishes as you just aren’t ready to leave the baby. Whatever it looks like you need to make each other a priority. We have been our best when we have had the time to connect; we are very grateful for grandparents and family who enabled and encouraged that time together.
These past 3.5 months have been my greatest labour of love and I only anticipate that continuing as my little babe continues to grow. The hours are long, the pay is cheap and the boss is demanding. The payout, however, can be priceless.
From our more rested house to your house, wishing you the best in 2018. Like me, I hope you are becoming healthier, stronger, happier, or whatever it is you choose for the year ahead.