Y’all…….I forgot…… I wholly and utterly, completely and totally – forgot how hard it is to have a newborn baby. You think you remember. But you don’t. The baby brain amnesia thing is real. If one really remembered- really and truly, in vivid detail – the bone deep exhaustion, the physical pain, the crazy hormones, the bizarre and unpleasant things going on with your body- then the second, third and fourth babies of the world would probably never be born. What I did manage to remember is how sweet this season is. The quiet, the innocence, the snuggles. And as hard as it is, this season is fleeting. I don’t want to miss a single opportunity to sit and inhale his little newborn smell, marveling at his perfect innocence; being stressed out because overnight, life became overwhelming. So, we are slowly navigating this sleep deprived fog, finding our new rhythm, searching for our new normal. As in, so slowly I started typing this when this babe was three weeks old. He’s 10 weeks today. Like I said, we’re getting there, finding a rhythm, letting go of the stress, finding peace, finding calm after baby.
I am no expert on this parenting business. I only have two babies, I don’t have any fancy letters after my name. But when this wee one was still growing in the belly, I wrote a letter to myself with the advice I would give a new mama that I didn’t follow (or even know) with my firstborn that I thought might serve me well when hormones were raging and sleep deprivation robbed me of common sense. The essence of it is below. Maybe out there somewhere on the inter webs is a bleary eyed, overwhelmed, coffee fueled mama sitting in the predawn silence searching for a tiny bit of help or even just a little camaraderie. If she is out there, I so hope something here is just a tiny bit helpful. This mama business is not for the faint of heart, but we can all cut ourselves a little slack and give ourselves and each other boatloads of grace during this precious, blissful, yet somewhat debilitating season of newborn babyhood.
First and foremost, repeat after me. You are amazing. You are rocking this mama thing. But, you cannot do everything. You are not superwoman. Nor should you to try to be.
- Don’t do the dishes! Universal advice preached to new mamas ’round the world – SLEEP WHEN THAT BABY SLEEPS. The dishes will wait. When I had my first son, I felt the day was a success if I managed to make the bed, do the dishes, the laundry and sweep up the dog hair by the time Alan got home. He didn’t expect this or ask it of me- I came up with this harebrained theory all by my crazy, postpartum, sleep deprived self. Guess how much sleep I got? Zip. I was miserable. This go-round – Dishes. Be. Damned. I’m marking today down in the WIN column if I get a NAP. Because guess what? No one is a good and loving mama/wife/friend/human when they are frustrated/cranky/short tempered/impatient because they are sooooo sleep deprived they simply cannot function. And guess what else? Twenty years from now, I don’t plan to have a relationship with my dishes. I want healthy, loving relationships with these little humans I brought into this world and with the man that I made these little humans with. So, the dishes be damned, the laundry can wait. While this babe snoozes, I’m heading for a nap. So when my son gets home from school, I won’t be too tired for a round of Candy Land and I can maybe stay up to snuggle with my husband for thirty minutes of Netflix before we fall exhausted into bed and start all over again tomorrow on this crazy, exhausting, wondrous merry-go-round they call parenthood.
- Take time for self care. I’m not talking about a Cabo weekend or a spa day. If you are lucky and these kiddos of yours have awesome grandparents (mine do), that will all come later. Right now a thirty minute soak in a hot bath will soothe your tired mama soul. Bonus points for bubbles and a glass of vino.
- Ask for help. Another universal truth- raising these little humans takes a village. Find your village. If you don’t have a village, find a village, hire a village-whatever. You need help. With my first baby, well meaning friends and family would ask “What do you need?” And I would sweetly say “Nothing, we’re just fine” And then I would hang up the phone and just cry. I didn’t know that I needed and I didn’t know how to ask for it. But guess what- Universal Truth #3- people ACTUALLY want to help you. Especially the Mamas of the world. It transcends all cultures, ages and backgrounds- having a newborn is HARD and all the mamas of the world know that, whether they are right there in the thick of it with you, or their babies are long since grown. From your parents and in-laws who are loving on the firstborn and doing your laundry and dishes (bless them), to the stranger at the grocery store who sees your exhausted face and kindly picks up the item your toddler just hurled out of the cart. Your neighbor who offers to come hold the baby so you can take a shower in peace. Your amazing friends who organize themselves to bring your family meals for the first few weeks you’re home from the hospital. Because they know if you tried to cook- there is a small chance you could burn the house down, you are so darn tired. They get it. They KNOW. They’ve been there. And they WANT to help. A dear friend said to me recently- as I was profusely thanking her for the lovely meal she delivered- “This is our way of physically loving you during this time.” We are mamas; this is our love language. So, say yes to the help. Just say yes and say thank you. You’ll pay it forward when it’s your turn. Just say yes and be insanely grateful.
- Reclaim one space in your home. Housekeeping is going to be put on hold. Period- end of story. Let it go- it will be okay. If at all possible, hire a housekeeper. Even if it’s just for this newborn season. I have a hard time with this whole letting the housework go, because I find it difficult to feel peaceful when my space is cluttered. But rest, non-stop baby feeding, making time for my four year old and my hubby just take priority right now- there is no way around it. However, take ten minutes and reclaim one space in your home from the clutter that inevitably piles up and mentally it will do you a world of good. For me, this is my living room. Toys, crayons and other toddler paraphernalia go into big baskets, dirty coffee cups are dumped in the sink, any laundry piles get moved to the laundry room. Stacks of mail are relocated to the desk in my study. All to be addressed later, but now my living room has some semblance of peace and it’s a more comfortable space to sit and snuggle.
- Buy the Transition clothes. By now you are ready to set your maternity clothes on FIRE. And throw those giant postpartum granny panties on the pyre while you’re at it. But guess what? Your regular clothes don’t fit yet. So your options are to wear the tents that your maternity gear has become, or stuff yourself like a sausage into your pre-pregnancy clothes. Both terrible options. Get online and order yourself a few pieces that actually fit you right now. It may feel like a waste of money, but mentally, you will feel more human in clothes that actually fit- I promise. It’s worth every penny. I’m digging the whole capsule wardrobe concept. I’m such a wannabe minimalist. We’ll see how I do with that.
- Get. Out. Of. Your. House. Preferably via your own two feet. (The minute your doc clears you for exercise) There are a multitude of reasons this will revitalize your tired, fuzzy mama brain. Sunshine and fresh air- you need it. So plop that babe in the stroller and get moving. A simple walk- no matter how short or how slow, has synergistic benefits. Along with fresh air, your body will gift you with much needed endorphins (happy hormones), the kinks in your back, neck and shoulders from carrying babe and breastfeeding will magically work themselves out, all while combatting the cabin fever that is probably beginning to close in. If you are fortunate enough to live in a walkable area and you can combine this with a stop at your fave local coffee shop for a caffeine fix, I’d call this a double win.
Lastly, and for me, most importantly, be still. While you really do forget how hard this is- the second time around, you do have some perspective. And you know this season is short. And instead of trying to do all the things-do the one thing. Which is to be still with this amazing little human conceived in love and grown in your body. Inhale the sweet baby smell and feel him breathe in and out while he lays on your chest. Soak up all the baby snuggles. This is the reward for all the hard things. So the dishes can wait, the laundry can wait. Take this time, this exhausting, challenging yet beautiful, precious time and just Be. Still.
For all you amazing people who have showered our little family with so much love- the meals, the help, the calls, texts and prayers- when I count my blessings, I count you twice. We feel so very, very blessed.
I would be completely remiss to not profusely thank the amazing and talented Jenna of Jenna Petty Photography for these most darling snaps of my two little monkeys from our family shoot.
And also this guy. The center of my world. The provider for our family. And also the maker of school lunches, and our dinners, cleaner of the kitchen, doer of the dishes, tender of the garden, reader of bedtime stories, weaver of dreams. Doing ALL the things so I can do the one thing. And maintain my sanity. Never was there a better a husband or father. Lucky, lucky, lucky me.
I also do remember that this is primarily a food blog and I promise you will find some new recipes here very soon. I can pretty much guarantee they will be pretty simple- I think all you mamas out there will appreciate that. In the meantime, if you have a new babe, you might want to take 10 minutes and whip up a batch of these No Bake Energy Bites. They are sort of 50% addictive little crack balls, 50% Mama Super Food. Good fats, soluble fiber and chocolate. And they are pretty heavenly right out of the freezer on days like today when it’s 847 degrees outside.
For now, I’m heading for a nap. Any veteran mamas out there got some more tips on surviving this second babe? I’m all ears- drop ’em in the comments. Pretty, pretty please.