So you’ve just brought your new bundle of joy home for the first time. You look forward to just loving on and nurturing your new blessing. But it doesn’t take long until you start to realize that your happy new life is also full of exhaustion and stress. Who knew that such a little bitty thing could make so much noise? And you realize that a full nights’ sleep is only a pipe dream now. You’re sore from breast feeding, you have a ton of dirty diapers sitting in the diaper hamper and you’ve noticed you and your husband are starting to get short with each other. Welcome to New Motherhood.
Sure, this may be one of the greatest times of your life. One day you will look back and cherish those late night feedings and how your baby would curl his little hand around your finger. But sometimes, you’re not quite sure how to handle the stress that goes along with it.
Rebecca Ingram Powell, author of Baby Boot Camp: Basic Training for the First Six Weeks of Motherhood, sums it up well: “New moms are often flustered and bewildered during those early days with a baby. Besides having a body that’s getting back to normal, postpartum mothers must deal with fluctuating hormones, extreme fatigue and roller-coaster emotions.”
Powell provides five basic strategies for getting through those turbulent days:
1. Remember It’s Only Temporary. You may feel like the situation will never pass, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Eventually Baby will settle into a better sleeping pattern, and your body and hormones will begin to feel normal again. It may be hard to imagine that life will stop being so unpredictable and chaotic, but give it time.
2. Prioritize Your Life. During this time, your focus should be on the health and care of your baby and yourself. Be sure that you get as much rest as you can, eat nutritional meals and drink plenty of water. Your body has gone through a major change and it just needs some time to recover. So instead of worrying about keeping the house spotless or what’s going on at the office without you, focus on caring for your baby and yourself.
3. Let Others Help You. If you’re naturally an independent, “I can do it all!” type of woman, it may be emotionally difficult to find yourself in a situation where you’re dependent on others. But you need to realize that in these early days of motherhood, you cannot do it all. While it may be difficult to accept help, realize that you need every bit of help that you can get. If you have a neighbor or friend who offers to cook your dinner, let them. If you need help with doing dishes and vacuuming, consider hiring a housecleaning service. Or if you have relatives who want to stay with you a few days, let them help take care of Baby while you sneak in a nap or relaxing bath. As much as it may go against your grain, this is not the time to exert independence. This is a time of healing and of caring for your newborn. Besides, you may discover that you actually enjoy people helping you out.
4. Recognize Your Family’s New Roles. Any time there is an addition to the family, dynamics change. Now, instead of just being your husband’s wife or your parents’ daughter, you are a child’s mother. And now your husband is a father. These are life-changing roles that may take some time to adjust to. This is an area where Powell says mothers need to exercise patience. Family transitions can be stressful, but this too will evolve into something that becomes a normal part of your life. It may take some trial and error in learning how to balance caring for Baby while growing your relationship with your spouse; and it may take some effort to welcome your parents and in-laws into your life more than before.
5. Know that You Are Not Alone. You may feel exhausted. You may feel overwhelmed. You may feel on edge. But take some comfort in knowing that you are not alone. Motherhood is a joyful experience, but it is not an easy one. Ask any mother you know if their early days with Baby was easy… Now is a time to reach out to others for encouragement, to take time to seek comfort in your faith and to realize that even though this is one of the toughest things you’ve ever done, it is also one of the most rewarding.
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