As I approach the latter stages of pregnancy and mentally prepare for baby #2, I’ve been thinking a lot about what I will change or do differently with my second baby. Of course it’s easy to make plans and hard to actually follow through with them, but at least this list can serve as a guide or reminder for me (and hopefully you too) during the tough, exhausting, chaotic times that come hand-in-hand with a newborn.
1. Take Time To Do Nothing
We’ve been keeping a daily journal for the past few years, and looking back onto our first few months as new parents, we were busy! Our pace didn’t slow down, we just kept up all our social obligations, Ryan continued to work regularly, we had visitors over from day 1, we were constantly on the move, and honestly, it was too much! We were dealing with so many new things, a major lack of sleep, and serious hormonal imbalances (for me). So next time around we are planning on doing as little as possible. We know now that our lives have changed with little ones, it’s not permanent, but you need time with no obligations and no plans to adjust to the major life change that is a baby!
2. Talk About My Feelings
I’ve recently discovered an amazing FREE counselling service in Peterborough for postpartum women (Women’s Health Centre). During my postpartum recovery I had a lot of thoughts and feelings that I didn’t necessarily know how to process. I talked about some of them with close family and friends, but there was a lot that I didn’t – until now, almost 2 1/2 years later! I didn’t know until 2 years later that I actually was dealing with some sort of postpartum depression, but I just thought it was normal sleep deprived/new baby feelings. I felt so much guilt for not having intense love or bonding feelings for my baby right away, I felt like I may never love my child – and that scared me. Now I am prepared to have some down feelings and down thoughts, but I will have a counsellor to talk to about it. She will be able to help me process any feelings or trauma I can’t on my own, and it should help make the transition a little easier for me, ultimately allowing me to focus positive thoughts on myself and my kids. So get yourself someone to talk to, even if it is a postpartum support group or playgroup with other moms (Play Cafe offers some great support groups for new moms), the more you talk about what you’re going through, the better you will feel and the more energy you will have to give to your baby and your recovery.
3. Let Go Of Daily Household Responsibilities
The truth is, the first 3 months should just rotate around you and your baby. When I had Isla, I wanted to keep the house in order, I wanted to continue making dinner and doing laundry, I felt like the addition of a baby shouldn’t stop me from doing these ‘simple’ daily tasks. But truthfully, I was feeding my baby for something like 16 hours a day some days – It was insane! It was hard because I wasn’t allowing myself to fully enjoy these days. I felt like, Ok, I’ll try to feed her quickly so I can put her down and get my chores done. This lead me to almost feeling resentment when she cried…I didn’t want her to ‘need’ me so much. But she was a baby! That’s all babies need, and it’s only going to last a year at the most, so make plans to give them just what they need!
I plan on doing this by stocking our freezer with ready made meals, looking into ordering groceries online, or letting my mom help by cooking some meals for us in the early days. Another good option that I may consider is getting a meal service like hello fresh, where they deliver the ingredients and meal plans for the week and you just have to assemble it – no thinking or leaving the house required.
As for cleaning, and the overall state of the house, my biggest thing will be letting go of having a clean house all the time. We are lucky because our house is small and doesn’t take too long to clean. But I will let go of the responsibility and Ryan plans on taking over the chores. Now that we have a plan in place and the ball is in his court, I won’t feel like it’s on me to get it done. Another consideration if you don’t have that support is getting a cleaning service in once a week for the first few months, I think it’s totally worth the investment!
4. Stop Googling
This is one that I’ve implemented throughout this pregnancy already and it is making a huge difference in my mental state. When do you ever feel better after Googling something? I can think of zero times personally. In my early parenting days I Googled EVERYTHING! Like “why is my baby crying?”, “why won’t my baby sleep?”, I spent hours looking through forums and trying to figure out what to do. Because of that I restricted my diet thinking something I was eating was affecting my baby and making her cry. I also doubted my own judgement and felt cloudy with all the opinions I was reading. So next time, I’m not allowing myself to Google these silly questions, because I already know the answer to all of them…”because she’s a baby!” Babies are all different and you can’t compare your child to your friend’s baby or even your previous baby. Just give them what they need (love, sleep, food, warmth), and just go with the flow for the rest of it!
5. Stop Following Those “Perfect” Insta-Moms
During the hours and hours of feeding my baby, I would spend time on my phone scrolling through Instagram for some form of entertainment. Prior to having my baby I started following all these insta-famous moms who I wanted to be like. You know the ones – perfectly clean house, beautifully outfitted baby, exercising or walking with their baby in a fancy stroller and Starbucks latte. That is how I envisioned my new life as a new mom, and it seriously affected my priorities. So next time around – goodbye Instagram scrolling. Instead I plan on filling my phone and ereader with good podcasts, books and audiobooks. So I can have a little more healthy entertainment, where I will not be comparing myself to others. As I’m sure everyone has heard before – “Comparison is the thief of joy” (T. Rosevelt).
6. Don’t Expect My Body To “Bounce Back”
But Gisele Bundchen had a baby and then did a Victoria Secret lingerie fashion show just weeks later. That is the thinking that I have let go of. Pregnancy and postpartum days are a ridiculous ride for your body, frankly, it’s amazing we’re still alive after giving birth! So this is something I’ve been working very hard on since having Isla 28 months ago – to accept my body and honour what it’s been through! It takes a long time for your internal organs to get back into place after the baby is out. There’s extra skin that has been stretched out to fit a fully formed human being, then there are your hormones on top of all of that making things extra “fun”. Also lack of sleep affects your body in a big way…All of these factors are just a few of the reasons to allow your body the time it needs to get strong again. And accepting that it may never be the same as before is a huge pill to swallow. But to change your thinking and be proud of what it has accomplished, cause it’s freaking miraculous! There will be a time to get back to the gym or back to your regular workouts, but this first year with your new baby is more important, so give it all the attention it deserves.
7. Plan To Preserve My Marriage
No matter how amazing your relationship is with your parter prior to baby, it is going to change (for a while at least). Even just the idea of intimacy will be a challenge right after baby, which may lead to feeling disconnected with your partner or all alone. I know that personally, being intimate after baby took me months to feel comfortable again, mostly because I had this baby on me 24/7, constantly breastfeeding and I just didn’t want to be touched by anyone more than I had to be. So knowing that this period will be coming, but once again, will NOT be permanent. And while going through this phase, finding out little ways to strengthen your bond or connection and feel like a team as opposed to feeling all alone.
There is an exercise worth doing in a book called “Birthing From Within” (p.263) guiding you to write a ‘postpartum adjustment plan’ with your partner. Where each of you write down 5 issues that you anticipate being a problem when your baby is born. Then share your lists with each other (and listen without interrupting). Without judgement, brainstorm with each other and write down all possible solutions for the issues. Choosing the best solutions, write down steps to deal with each one. Then put this list up in a visible spot, so when you are having the pre-conceived problems, you can find the simple, practical solution to the problem before it gets out of hand.
8. Let Go Of Control
Truth is, the first few months are going to be a shit show. It’s total chaos, so if you can at least plan for the chaos, even just knowing that things are going to be cray for a while, also know that it will pass and get easier over time – I promise! Now that Isla is 2, she is awesome and there is some semblance of order in our household and it is a beautiful thing. But it takes time, and work, so allowing the time to hard. I almost look at it as getting a big project done for work; you have to put in the time and the hours, but it will pay off in the end!
9. Don’t Be Afraid To Ask For Help
You may not be as fortunate as me to have my mom living next door and a super supportive husband. But even if it is a friend or neighbour, if they ask if they can help in whatever way – say yes every time! I was trying to prove something to myself the first time and didn’t take as much help as I should have, I honestly thought I didn’t need it. And as a result I struggled, and looking back on those first few months, I don’t exactly have fond memories…it was hard! And although, it is inevitable that there will be some struggle, if somebody offers to bring you dinner or help clean your house, or to watch your baby for 30 minutes while you shower, TAKE IT!
My doula made a really good point about how everyone is so concerned with the baby at the beginning, but the baby’s needs are easy to fulfil; they need sleep, food, warmth, love. The ones who really need to be ‘babied’ at this time is the mothers, so allow people to help you. If you don’t have family or friend support around you, most doula’s offer postpartum support where they will come into your home and take care of your needs, like nutrition, sleep, etc… Another invaluable investment!
10. Take Some “Me Time”
Even if it is just 20 minutes. Get in the shower, lock the door and have a few moments to yourself. Your partner (or family member/friend) can manage the baby for that amount of time without truly needing you. When Isla was one, I started going to yoga classes again, I would be gone for 1.5 hrs, and it was blissful! It was so incredibly necessary for my sanity, to have some peace and quiet, and it definitely made me a better mom when I was around her. When I came home from class, I was more present and I enjoyed her more. Your kids will benefit big-time if you take this time for yourself, everyday or every week. Like the popular saying “Happy mom, happy home”. So take the little time needed to work on your own happiness and well-being, everyone around you will benefit.
I hope some of these points were helpful, I know I’ll be putting this list up where I can see it as a reminder when I can’t think straight. It is such an exciting time and can be so wonderful, just take whatever steps necessary to make it as enjoyable as possible, because it will go by so quickly.