If you were totally chill after having your babies, this post will seem overly dramatic and odd.
If you had your babies more than ten years ago, you’ve maybe completely forgotten all these icky feelings and all you remember is how good babies smell and those wonderful cuddles.
Otherwise, you’ll probably just be standing with me nodding your head: yes! I felt this way!
Here’s how we made the first seven weeks of our second child’s life better…
On a practical day-to-day level:
- I went outside. From Day 1 home from the hospital I went outside every single day for fresh air and a walk. (With my first, it was negative twenty for several weeks and I didn’t go anywhere or see anyone after the initial rush of visitors and family. Thus, the horrible overall experience.)
- I took an extended trip to Missouri during the busy planting season on the farm. We planned this trip during the second trimester and successfully dodged the homesick feeling that my hormones exaggerate. Everyone got to see the baby. I had tons of help. John didn’t feel guilty about the long hours that I was alone with two small kids while he got the crop in. Win. Win. Win.
- My best friend called me every day. I never felt like I could answer – there was always some form of chaos going on – but I did anyway. I spoke to a human adult. We laughed. We checked in. We occasionally talked about something besides babies (gasp!).
- From Day 1, I showered at night and laid out my clothes for the next day. I never, ever let myself get to that 48-hour pjs, milk-covered, greasy hair, poop-stained-hands state. As soon as everyone was asleep, I showered. If family was over, they held the baby and I showered. At 7 weeks, I’m still following this routine. I have to be clean to be happy, simple as that.
- I planned our breakfast before falling asleep. Mornings are tough. Everyone wakes hungry and fussy. Me included. I’ve provided 3-4 small meals to a baby since I last dinner, and I’m starving. We had lots of easy breakfasts like yogurt and granola, or bagels. Nothing fancy.
- I drank wine. Every night, one glass. Sometimes two. It was a toast to myself that we made it to the end of the day and everyone was fed, clean (mostly), and alive. A miracle!
- I started the pacifier sooner. With my first, the well-meaning lactation coaches encouraged me not to give our baby a pacifier until “breastfeeding was established” to prevent “nipple confusion” and “lack of supply”. He had one within the first two days. She didn’t until three weeks old. All of those things the coaches said are good and true. However, once that baby can latch on and if you’re nursing every 2-3 hours, I say: don’t worry about supply or nipple confusion. You’ve already got the hang of it!
On a mental, in-the-trenches level:
- I kept a gratitude journal. Every night for several weeks, before collapsing into bed…I wrote down the things I was thankful for that day. Most of the time it was things like: sunshine, naps, hot coffee, warm bagel, baby cuddles, family visits.
- I welcomed the anxiety. I didn’t try to make it go away and I recognized it as temporary and hormone-induced. I know this sounds like some hippie-yoga b.s., but bear with me.
- I said to myself, “I’m feeling very anxious right now because his face is extremely pale when he sleeps and the nurse said he had a naturally low heart rate — whatever the hell that means — and I am feeling anxious, but it’s mostly the hormones.”
- Or, “Hello there, anxiety and crazy thoughts. You’ll be gone in a few weeks. I am not myself yet.”
- Or, “I am feeling extremely anxious because he’s been awake for hours and he looks very overstimulated and he needs sleep, but mostly he’s just fine and so am I.”
- Nothing is worse for anxious feelings than letting them run laps in your head. That just breeds more anxiety. So, I just acknowledged the crazy and let it come and go. Seven weeks later, it’s gone.
- I cried and didn’t draw conclusions. Along this same thought process, when those sneaky, ridiculous crying moments snuck up on me, I just cried and got it out of my system. Last time I would have thought: There is something terribly wrong with me and I should love this baby more and better and I’m the worst mom ever in the history of life because I’m crying right now even though I have a healthy beautiful baby. Why am I not happier? This time I just thought: Golly, this sucks. I’m gonna cry right now for three minutes and get these hormones and feelings out of my body.
- What’s the kindest thing? When I had five seconds, I would literally ask myself: What is the kindest thing I can do for myself right now? I started by staying at the hospital a bit longer to recover. Does this thought process of self-kindess sound selfish to you? I decided it wasn’t, because Grace is my word for the year. I needed to give myself grace lots of times. I also recognized that kindness is one of the Fruits of the Spirit: Go pee before you nurse. Drink a glass of water. Call mom. Text Lucy. Eat something. Put on clean socks. Drink another glass of water. Go outside. Sit down. Put my feet up. Take a Tylenol. Make coffee. Usually while I completed these extremely short tasks, someone had to cry or wait for something they needed for a few moments. That’s why prioritizing “self” is so hard initially.
- I took one picture. I used my Instagram account (@sierrasheawrites) to take and post one photo per day of J.D. during the first ten days (#jdblachfordfirst10days). Every day, it was a tiny victory to take that picture. It provided a moment to reflect on how he was changing. That he was still alive and doing well. And, darn it, he was really cute.
I hope this helps another new Mama out there: you’re definitely not alone with those unexpected feelings and anxious thoughts in the first few weeks!