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Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Surviving the First Six Weeks

While any veteran mom will tell you that the first six weeks of a baby's life go by lightening fast, when you're living in those 6 weeks in real time they feel slow and unescapable at times. When I had my third child especially, I remember a moment in my third postpartum week when my mother-in-law was over helping out. My oldest was in kindergarten at the time and had just gotten home (Meme, my MIL, picked him up for me), lunch was coming to an end, and my darling new daughter was past the point of exhaustion as was I. She was inconsolable and clearly only wanted to sleep but couldn't seem to get there herself. I tried everything to calm her but just couldn't. I laid her down in her bed and closed the door, but of course this didn't help. I went downstairs, feeling like a failure of a mom and questioning why on Earth God would entrust me with yet another of His precious children when I was obviously so terrible at comforting them (dramatic, I know, but remember I was sleep deprived, a new mommy to 3, and so stressed out). I sat on the floor in the kitchen and cried. I'm sure my MIL thought I was nutty. The point of this story is this: in that moment, I didn't think those stressful 6 weeks would ever come to an end or that I would ever adjust to mothering 3 kids. But now, as I look back on it, it was such a tiny piece of that 6 weeks that really did go by lightening fast.

Whether you're mothering your first newborn or your sixth, a new baby and that first 6 weeks are definitely an adjustment period. Today, I want to offer some tips to help that time go a little more smoothly and hopefully make them more enjoyable.

1. If anyone offers to arrange meals for a week or so, take them up on the offer! It's so nice to have dinner covered for a week. I've even had it covered 3 weeks for one of my baby's births. In my house, it seems that dinner time is also always our craziest time. This took the stress out of that one time of day.

2. Take people up on their offers to help. Mother-in-laws, sisters, brothers, moms, dads, grandparents, friends-all of them can help you out in some way. Maybe someone wants to take over the laundry for a week or even just one day. Maybe someone else wouldn't mind picking up older kids from school or driving them to appointments. If no one offers, please ask! Sometimes, no one realizes how much help you need. When I have my babies, I arrange for 3 weeks of help before delivery has even happened. Most of this is because I have c-sections and am not allowed to lift or drive for at least 2 weeks. Not only that, but I am nearly always in way too much pain to be able to function beyond feeding and changing my baby. Even a shower is a struggle for me in those first few weeks.

3. I need to pause here and give some c-section advice to those of you who will end up with one. With our c-section rates higher than ever, it's virtually a guarantee that at least one person reading this post will get one. I have had both stitches and staples. When you get the staples out, do it sooner rather than later. If you wait a week, it will sting getting them out. My doctor has them routinely removed the fourth day after my surgery just before I leave the hospital. It doesn't really hurt so don't worry much about that part. Just take deep breaths. The first time you stand up, be sure to take some pain meds about 30 minutes beforehand to lessen the pain. You also need to use your stomach muscles as little as possible to sit up as this puts pressure on the incision and makes it feel more painful. When you stand up, brace your stomach either with a wrap you can wear or with a blanket/pillow against the incision. This lessens the pull on the incision and makes it hurt less to walk around. At home, arrange for at least a week of help so you can recover. You really need to be resting as much as possible so you'll heal faster.

Back to tips for everyone. :)

4. Don't worry about making your home look perfect for now. The best piece of advice I was ever given is that your only job in the first six weeks, is to keep your baby alive. This means changing diapers, keeping them warm enough/cool enough, feeding them, loving them, meeting all of their needs. What the house looks like doesn't really matter right now and if you try to keep up with it, you're just going to frustrate yourself. This brings us back to tip #2. If the house bugs you, let others help you out. If it doesn't, then just let it go until you get into a routine with your baby.

5. Take some time for you. You needed it before you had a baby and you still need it now. Hand the baby to Daddy and take a shower alone. Watch your favorite show while the baby sleeps next to you. Call your best friend and talk about nothing or everything. Do something. You need it. You'll feel it fast if you don't, trust me. Remember my story from the start of this post? Part of the trouble there was not enough "me time."

6. Sleep when the baby sleeps...but only if you're tired. If you're not tired, then just relax and read, talk to a friend, crochet, take some time for you and hubby, anything. If you are tired, then by all means take a nap and don't feel guilty about it. You know you're going to be up off and on all night, so a nap during the day is absolutely okay.


Jill said...

I'd love a post on surviving with a toddler/preschooler and a newborn. especially if you have zero help, or may only get help for a few days up to a week post birth. We have no one around, they have to drive almost 2 hours and most certainly wouldn't stay very long, since they have other responsibilities. Suggestions for feeding/dealing with clothes/entertaining while you are exhausted and NEED sleep specifically would be appreciated.

Kristi26 said...

Jill! I feel for you! :(

How old is your older child? We always had 3 years between each of our kids, but here are my tips for when you have no help.

1. A somewhat rigid schedule- You should arrange bedtime, naptime, meal times, etc so they occur, for the most part, at the same time each day for your older child. The consistency will reduce (but definitely not eliminate) meltdowns.

2. Movie time! When you need a break, set your older child up with a movie that they'll watch even if only for 5 minutes.

3. Use naptime to your advantage. If your toddler/preschooler still naps, arrange theirs around the baby and not the other way around. This way, you'll get the most mommytime that you can and maybe even a nap. When mine were younger, I'd keep the older one up a little longer or nap them a little earlier depending on when the baby napped in the afternoon. This way, I could take a nap too or even get a shower. If you don't have naptime anymore, it's time to make quiet time. Your older child MUST stay in their room for quiet time. If your baby is sleeping in their, then pick another room for your older child. This one isn't easy to get going but definitely worth it!

4. If you have a kid that goes crazy during baby feeding time, read books to him/her then, set up some playdoh in your line of sight (my 19 month old loves it), etc to get them distracted.

5. Take it one day at a time. Remember, it will seriously get better!

6. On the good days, make extra meals you can freeze and use later on the bad days.

7. Make one or two rooms completely safe so you aren't constantly saying no and running after a toddler while tired. We have our living room pretty safe and I am able to gate it off so that my youngest can't get into any trouble.

8. Start a load of laundry every morning when you get up and put it in the dryer before you go to bed. If it builds up too much, you'll get overwhelmed and eventually someone will run out of underwear! Lol. Trust me on this one.

I hope those suggestions help you out. You'll make it! You can do this!