Congratulations. You’ve had a baby. The hospital has sent you home VERY quickly with your new, needy, adorable infant. You’re lucky if you’ve had a shower by this point, and your hair is probably already up in the “mom bun” that will become its new home for the next 6 months or more (you know what I’m talking about, ladies.) You take your car ride home, and once you get there… you think “what now?!”
Parents are exhausted for a long time after having a baby. When I say a long time… I mean, I don’t even know when the end is in sight yet (my LO is just now 8 months, and I’m still pulling some pretty intense all-nighters.) Do I ever get to sleep in again? Will I ever have time to do cat-eye liner again? Take a shower longer than 5 minutes? Read a book for a WHOLE entire chapter?
So let me just tell you– those 8 weeks of maternity leave I looked liked I’d just survived a few weeks of zombie apocalypse. Yoga pants. Dry shampoo. No makeup. And yeah, I totally forgot to brush my teeth and eat a meal more than once. Infants require 24/7 attention, and if I looked crazy, it’s because my postpartum hormones and lack of sleep had totally taken over. Don’t get me wrong, I put everything I had into nurturing my tiny, amazing human, but WOW did I look rough.
So my first trip leaving the house: I went to Target (the mecca of all for meccas for moms.) While standing in the card aisle I witnessed another new mom with her toddler and also new-ish baby waltz by. But let me tell you– she was not me. This woman looked like a celebrity. Skinny. Hair done. Makeup done. Babies calm. I had a total meltdown, right there in the card aisle of Target. I justified her glamour by saying she must be their aunt, or have a night nanny, or have her mother living with her. Or maybe it was a total mirage and I was hallucinating from the lack of sleep.
Now I wonder sometimes if I’m that mom, because when I go out these days I feel like I really have it together. I can shower, do makeup, curl my hair, make some coffee easily in 20 minutes. I take my LO out of his drool-covered onesie and throw some cute clothes on him. He’s almost always content on trips, and spends most of his time flirting with the ladies. I’ve built up some serious arm muscle and can handle carrying both my LO, and an infinite amount of groceries (seriously, I’d rather dislocate both of my arms than take more than one trip out to the car to unload.)
So, I feel like I’ve got it together.
The point? I want new moms to know that the zombie-apocalypse phase doesn’t necessarily go away, but you get good at it. I’m talking Michonne from the Walking Dead good. Those first few weeks home with a newborn you are in total survival mode: feed the baby, change the baby, Google all the things you don’t know how to do with the baby, cry in the bathroom, maybe remember deodorant. But soon after, those parenting-instincts kick in and you acclimate to the situation. You develop routines, learn how to best take advantage of naps and play times, memorize the peak Target rush hours so you can avoid crowds, and continue to take pointers from other moms who have recently survived the battlefield. So if you see me out, I wasn’t always able to feel “put together” for the day. And if you need more time in your yoga pants, I won’t judge you.
Here are some of the tips that helped me:
- Start establishing a routine as soon as possible. It may take weeks to work, but eventually it will.
- Take care of yourself. Sometimes this means taking help from others. Get a shower, and make a cup of tea for yourself. You can’t be healthy to take care of your baby if you aren’t taking care of your mental and physical needs for yourself.
- If you have a partner helping you with the baby, be straight-forward. Letting him/her know your needs will help both of you to avoid frustration when those 2AM crying wake-up calls come.
- Don’t stay up late. I know we all just want some time to ourselves after our LO falls asleep, but if your LO is a poor sleeper, try to go to bed around the time that they do. (I was never a person that could sleep when the baby did during the day, but when I put my LO down at 8:00 every night, I promptly hopped into bed.)
- Find ways to simplify your routines. Set clothes out the night before, set your coffee to brew, find simple hairstyles and makeup tips to make yourself feel human.
- Stick to the routine. I can’t say it enough– when we started sleep-training our LO, everyone invited us to come over to their houses for late parties. As much as you might want to keep your LO up so that you can go have fun, don’t. Routines are hard to establish, and easy to break. If you want to go out, hire a babysitter that is comfortable with putting your LO to bed.
- Take a shower without the baby monitor (or the baby,) in the room. When my LO was super tiny and wouldn’t sleep, he sat in his rock n’ play while I showered. But, nothing is as relaxing as a shower alone while someone else watches the baby for a few minutes.
- Have as many things shipped to you as possible. SAMS club ships baby items free, and my Amazon Prime membership has been thoroughly used. Quick trips to the store are no longer quick… and sometimes it’s just easier to order what you need online, and then push all of the boxes quickly in through your front door before your neighbor sees them when they’re delivered.
- Don’t set yourself up for failure. You won’t be able to do everything you could before. Want to watch an entire season of Parks and Recreation in one sitting? HA. Forget about it. Stick to a half an hour episode, and count yourself lucky if you only have to pause it twice.
- Don’t compare. Every mom handles having a baby differently. Every mom has struggles (whether they’re external or not.)
Just remember that each phase of infancy is just that, a phase. Soon your tiny baby will be a grown adult that doesn’t need your constant care;treasure the moments while they’re still little.