HOW TO SURVIVE (HAPPILY) THROUGH THE FIRST FEW MONTHS OF YOUR MOTHERHOOD
Updated: Jan 28
In the continuation of my previous article about the first 6 moths after the birth of my daughter Slatki, I decided to put together a list of 12 advice (2 per month) to help you maintain morale during the first 6 months of motherhood. This is not a dogma, nor the opinion of an expert in parenting. These are the tricks that helped me personally and I would be happy to know what boosts you as a parent.
1) Before you became a mother, you were yourself. Take care of yourself, if you don't do it, no one else will
It might sound very egoistic. But think about it this way - you are the foundation of the building of your life. If this foundation is weak, the building will collapse. So take care of your foundation, take time during the day to do something for yourself, even if it is such a small thing as dressing up and taking a shower. In the very beginning of motherhood I forced myself to change my clothes every day, at least to remember what day of the week it was! From time to time I offer to myself manucure or shopping sessions. The most important thing here is to remember who YOU are and what lifts YOUR spirits up.
2) Before you became parents, you were a couple. Don't forget your husband
It happens quite often that caught up by the stress of motherhood, we give all our attention to the baby, thereby completely depriving our partner of our time. We become too tired, too irritated, we fight over trifles and we forget that this baby is the fruit of our love. There is no magic solution here - you just need to find this time, away from the baby or while the baby is sleeping, to show your partner that you are there for him as well.
3) Share home tasks with your partner, including the baby
On the flip side though, you are not alone there. The fact that you are a mother, does not mean that you also have to be a sexy woman and a good house keeper and all that - by yourself. You were two to make this child and you should stay a team to raise him / her. Because my husband works while I'm on maternity leave, I don't discuss my responsibility to stay up at night, but once Slatki wakes up at 6 am before the Chef leaves for work, it's his turn to take care of her. I stay with her during the day, but in the evenings it is my time to do sports, see my friends or learn languages. Weekends are "us" time - we clean, do grocery shopping, cook and take care of the baby together.
4) Sleep when you can
The first months of severe sleep lack are tough if we don't try to catch up on it during the day. New born babies sleep a lot, even if they can't yet make difference between day and night, so this is your opportunity to forget everything else and take a nap or at least relax with your eyes closed.
5) If someone proposes to help you, accept it with gratitude
This brings me to the next point. Home tasks and taking care of the baby, especially during the first weeks, are much easier, when you have some help. If you have a chance to have parents or friends willing to help you, thank them dearly and say YES! Our parents don't live nearby, but we know that we can 100% count on them. They allow us to take time for the two of us, go to the cinema, sleep at night and even go on vacations.
6) Go out and see your friends
Staying at home with your baby can be very tiring. It's a Groundhog Day - you tend to do the same tasks 10 times per day, from one day to another. So break the circle - take your baby bag and go out: to a park, to a cafe, to a museum, to your friend's place - it actually doesn't matter as long as you "change the air" as they say in French. However, this is still not enough to feel good. We would not be us without our friends and their support. During the first few months every second day I met with a friend for a lunch or a coffee. Once I even took Slatki together with me to a restaurant for a dinner to a tiny Asian restaurant where I had to take the stroller up to the first floor by a very steep turning staircase. Slatki rewarded me for my courage and seemed to enjoy her milk as much as I did okonomiyaki. This is not to say that bad experiences never happen to us - the metro with the stroller can be challenging, Slatki is not always good at social places and it happened to me to run out in panic out of the cafe with the baby in hysteria, but I prefer to spend at least a short time out with people I love rather than all day long at home.
7) Use your quiet time to do whatever you enjoy doing
At first it might seem that you have almost no time during the day to do whatever you enjoy doing, but if you try to be creative, you can find it. For example, when Slakti was little and woke up at night, our feedings could easily last up to 2 hours. Out of this time maybe about 40 minutes were quiet when I was breast feeding her. I used this time to either read my Kindle e-book without putting the light on or listening to Ted Talk podcasts that very conveniently last about 10 minutes. I also listen to podcasts made by inspiring women about juggling work and home lives while pushing a stroller. There are also lots of opportunities for listening to e-books while you are walking with your baby. As for me, I enjoy art and my unemployment status allows me to visit art exhibitions for free or with a reduced price. I was happy to realise that Slatki is very much attracted by sounds, visuals, noise and people, and modern exhibitions work as magic with her. I also study Spanish during one of the week evenings and of course write here in this blog whenever I have a bit of time. Your children might be different and you might not be a fan of art, but try to find a way to do your hobbies together with your baby.
My favourite podcasts:
8) Do sports
Another aspect of my lifestyle that is very important to me is sports. I traded off with my husband one evening per week for this purpose and I try to do yoga at home or in a studio when I feel like I need it. There are lots of fun and very efficient exercices on the internet that you can do with your baby at home, you just need to motivate yourself. Imagine putting your baby between your arms and kissing him / her with every push-up. I tried it - Slatki loved it! But try not to collapse in the end on your baby!
9) Don't do something that makes you suffer just because it is supposed to be better for your baby
What I mean here is breast feeding although you hate it, making home made puree although you don't like cooking and you don't have time for it, using washable nappies although the only thought of it makes is nauseous, etc. If you enjoy these things, no problem at all, but if you do them because that's how "a good mother should act", then you'd better forget about it. What your baby needs is not an exhausted super-hero, but a happy mom to play with.
10) Listen to your baby's needs and don't try to exceed his / her expectations
I don't want this advice to sound like a cruel recommendation not to act when your baby needs you. What I'm trying to say is that before you run to comfort your crying baby, wait for a few minutes, listen to the tone of his voice and try to adapt your actions to his / her needs. Maybe he doesn't even need you, but is just trying to express himself. Or he is crying through the sleep without waking up (so no need to do it for him). At the end of the day, your baby also needs a bit of independence to develop his imagination and play by himself, so just let him be sometimes.
11) Talk about your problems, you are not alone
While I'm writing all this, I'm thinking how many times, although I knew all this theory, I didn't manage by myself. How many times I called my husband, my mother or my friends in despair asking for their support! Sometimes all good advice in the world wouldn't help and you just need a shoulder to lean upon. If you don't find the knowledge you need around you, check it out on the internet. High chances are that your baby is not the first one to have had the problem that is bothering you in the history of mankind. You are not alone out there, just reach out to others.
12) Listen to others' advice, thank them and do what you think is best for your baby (and this applies to me as well)
And finally, the advice. You will have so much of it! Your mother will tell you one thing, your pediatrician another and the book that you trust will say that both of them are wrong. At the end of the day, listen to your heart and your babies' needs. Apart from your partner and yourself nobody else can know your baby as well as you do. They tell not to let your baby sleep on the belly, but if this is the only position that makes him stop crying and you - going crazy, then go for it. You can very well erase all the advice I have given here if it doesn't suit you. You and you alone decide what is good for your baby.
On this motherhood path, I'm just a baby myself, I'm learning every day. Maybe you will not agree with me, maybe you are doing better. And this is totally fine, I'm just sharing my experience. My only real message here is - enjoy this time however hard it might seem because it doesn't last that long. Our memory has a very good ability of erasing the tough parts and only keeping the pleasant ones. I see it every day when I wake up happy to be a mother.