Pregnancy in our culture is often characterized by being showered, both literally and figuratively, with attention. Your OB or midwife is concerned with how you are feeling and how your body is adjusting to the demands of pregnancy. Your family and friends fawn over your growing bump. Strangers on public transportation give up their seats so that you can be comfortable. It is often a sharp contrast after your baby is born when all of a sudden, you, your concerns and needs, often take a backseat to your baby. Now when you go to the doctor, you are going for your baby. The pediatrician asks how the baby is doing, how the baby is growing, how the baby is eating, sleeping, pooping, etc. Well-meaning relatives now come to see the baby, sometimes barely even stopping to say hello to the new parents before rushing in to greet their new grandchild/niece/nephew. None of these people are to blame. Having a baby is an exciting time but it is also a huge transition for the parents. One that takes caring for them and adjustment to the drastic change that becoming a parent truly is.
I can’t emphasize enough the importance of taking even just a few moments each day to make yourself a priority. Here are some tips to help you take care of yourself in the early weeks after you have a baby:
- Set small goals for yourself each day that you can realistically accomplish like showering, eating a snack, going to the bathroom. It may seem silly to write it down but you will feel a sense of accomplishment (not to mention cleaner, less hungry and less uncomfortable) by checking something off a list and feeling like you have succeeded in getting something done each day.
- Leave the house once a day every day. Taking care of a newborn is a very consuming job. One can spend every hour in the day feeding, changing diapers, changing clothes, trying to take naps, and trying to “figure it out.” Cabin fever sets in quickly. When the relatives leave and your partner has gone back to work, make sure you are getting out, even if it is just to run a quick errand or go for a walk around the block. The fresh air will make a big difference in your mood, not to mention a little light exercise if you are walking.
- Get help with meals. If you have friends who have had babies or who are also expecting, set up a meal train. Often churches and synagogues organize meals for new families. This way you will benefit when it is your turn and then when it is someone else’s, they will have meals as well. Knowing that someone will be feeding you can make a big difference. Don’t know anyone who you can ask to do this for you? Use a meal service like Moment for Mom. Better yet, if your mother or mother in law asks you what her friends should get you for a baby gift, ask for a gift certificate to a meal service business. A few good meals will help you much more then yet another pink sleeper.
- Find your community of support. Whether you join a formal group like The Chicago New Moms Group or you chat with other new moms online or at local meetup group, talking to others who are sharing similar experiences makes a world of difference. Other moms are your best parenting resource!