Post by Contributing Writer, Emily P.
This Mother’s Day signified a special time for my family and I. Not only was it my first mother’s day as a mom, but we also announced the coming of our second little one to extended family. As I look back on my year as a new mom and look ahead to the coming of a new life this fall, I am reminded of the unique struggles, lessons, and joys of early motherhood.
My first year as a mom was filled with so many changes, emotions, experiences, and struggles. Blissful naivety paved my passage into motherhood. As I anticipate the arrival of another little one, there are two principles I’ve learned along the way that I will be quicker to implement the second time around: giving myself time and making life easier.
Whether you are a new mom or expecting a little one soon, I’d like to share with you how I’m taking these principles into this next year, where, in a way, I’m becoming a “new mom” all over again…but maybe with a little more experience and patience under my quickly expanding belt.
Giving Myself Time
I am a reformed perfectionist and a recovering control-freak. I always want to do things better and quicker, but the early months of motherhood is a time to let go of expectations and be okay with going into “survival mode” for a while. These are ways I’ll be giving myself time:
- Time to bond. Bonding and learning to love someone takes time. At first, the bond with my daughter looked like a utilitarian effort to feed her and help her stop crying. I expected the gushy feelings to be present 24 hours a day, but they weren’t. For the first couple months, I would catch glimpses of them, but I felt like something was wrong with me. I didn’t realize that bonding takes a lot of time and eventually those gushy feelings come and just keep getting stronger and more unconditional.
- Time to get back in shape. After my daughter was born, I got on the scale and was mortified that I was 30lbs over my pre-pregnancy weight. None of my clothes fit. I had literally two shirts that I felt comfortable in. I wanted to lose all the weight immediately! It took awhile to accept that the pounds would come off, but in a matter of months, not weeks. The added fat is there for a reason: my baby needs it. I realized I needed to give myself a good year to lose most or all of the weight.
- Time to get back in a routine. Routine is comforting during seasons of great change. For us control freaks, letting go of old routines and embracing the somewhat chaotic routine of nursing for 12 hours a day can be a difficult transition. This time around, I’m keeping priority on helpful routines like meals and bedtime, and letting go of secondary routines like play dates and library reading groups.
- Time to heal. Birth is extremely demanding on the body. Supposedly us redheads bleed a lot during birth. I followed suit by obligingly having a double hemorrhage and passing out due to blood loss. My bleeding didn’t stop until about 8 weeks, and until then, I couldn’t stand for more than 20 minutes without extreme pressure. [Michele’s note: Me too.] Sometimes I wondered if I would ever feel “normal” again. I did, it just took…you guessed it, time.
Making Life Easier
With all the energy and determination of a woman who clearly never had a baby, I resolved to do cloth diapers in our apartment without laundry facilities. I kid you not, I registered and received a washboard from Amazon at one of my baby showers.
Thankfully we moved into an apartment with a laundry room before the baby came and I was spared from the daily task of bending over a tub scrubbing poopy diapers.
Instead of trying to ease the load of those first weeks, I now realize the unneeded pressure I put on myself to “do it all”. I think it’s hard for us as women give ourselves permission to take the easy route once in a while.
It’s more important to be rested and enjoy those first special weeks than to save some disposable diapers from going into the landfill. With that in mind, here are some things I’m doing with baby #2 to help ease the load:
- Disposable is easier. For the first couple weeks we will be using disposable plates/cups/utensils and disposable diapers will be on hand for those days when washing diapers seems like an insurmountable task.
- Watching some TV is easier. When the new baby comes, the TV will be turned on at times, and instead of feeling guilty, I’m going to make special memories with my daughter as we snuggle up with the new baby and some snacks for a little tube time together.
- The freezer is easier. Receiving meals from friends and family is a wonderful blessing, but those seemed to end all too soon and my husband and I were left ordering out more than we’d like out of sheer exhaustion. Before the baby comes, I’m planning on making extras of dinners each night and freezing them for easy postpartum meals.
- Others helping is easier. After the birth of my daughter, I was willing to accept help, but not so willing to ask for it. While it can be difficult to ask for help, I realized that my friends and family love to help and feel needed and appreciated when I allow them to do so.
This time, I’ll be asking for help on things like babysitting, running errands, basic housework and meals. [Michele’s Note: If you don’t have willing helpers around, you may need to pay someone, like I did. You may be able to get doula recommendations from a local midwife or school.]
The early months of motherhood are exhausting, but by giving myself time and trying to make life a little easier, I hope to find more balance and peace during this upcoming exciting time.
What have you found helpful during the early months of motherhood?
Emily and her husband make their home in Portland, OR and enjoy the community and camaraderie of life in the city. After the arrival of their baby girl in the spring of 2010, Emily quit her job and dove into homemaking headfirst and wholeheartedly. Emily is passionate about helping others become self-sufficient through simple and sustainable living. Find Emily’s latest adventures at Sustainable Food for Thought.