My husband and I became parents for the first time this past Saint Patrick’s Day. In some ways it feels like yesterday and in others it was a lifetime ago.
It’s a drastic thing, having a baby. One day we could go wherever we wanted at the drop of a hat, and the next day I wasn’t even allowed to leave the hospital. Talk about a life change.
Not that I don’t love being a parent. Especially now that our daughter is laughing and holding rattles and making it clear that she likes us, I can’t think of anything more rewarding than her happiness. But I loved the life I had before too… it’s sometimes weird that it’s never going to be the same again.
Three months ago, as I was about to begin the longest six weeks of my life, these were the thoughts just beginning to take shape in my mind.
The first week was wonderful – the weather was unseasonably warm and my energy levels were unexpectedly high. Our baby was gaining weight and letting us get three hours of sleep at a time. I even found time to cook a few meals.
But a couple weeks later, as temperatures dropped and broken sleep caught up with me, the pediatrician became concerned that our daughter wasn’t gaining enough. I hadn’t managed to stop using the nipple shields that kept my child from bruising me during feedings and it was getting harder to squeeze in some cooking. I began to learn how full-time and challenging parenting really is.
We overcame those first hurdles with more frequent feedings and eventual sleep improvement, though my eating habits still weren’t as stellar as I’d have liked. I reminded myself that succumbing to ramen noodles now and then wasn’t going to ruin my health or slowly returning figure.
The second test came when, at two months, the doctor again questioned seemingly slow weight gain, as well as a small amount of jaundice. In one day our wee one endured three vaccine shots and having blood squeezed from her tiny heel. Her bilirubin was normal and another weight check proved satisfactory, but as someone already prone to anxiety, I just wanted to be free of worry and as relaxed as I was before I became pregnant.
Of course, that carefree mindset is gone forever. Because our daughter is completely worth the mental and emotional turmoil, it’s essential that I adjust.
Perhaps the first survival skill was learning to use my breast pump. It allowed me to go out with a friend for three whole hours, helping me to feel a bit more like my old self. It also gave my husband time to be in charge of baby care, which was good for both him and our daughter.
Another step was learning to accept help. I’m more stubborn than I’d like to admit, and am generally determined to do things on my own. However, it really does take a village to raise a child. There’s nothing wrong with letting someone else calm my baby when she’s upset, accepting a meal or permitting my mother do the dishes in my sink.
Finally, exercise. I think that if I didn’t find an hour each week to do some cardio or yoga, I’d have lost it long ago.
New parents survive, because it’s the only option. But it helps to have a few tools to make the adjustment a little less stressful. I’m slowly building my reserve, and am looking forward to what the next three months bring for our little family.
Katherine E. Reilly Mitchell is an assistant for Assistanceforsinglemothers.com, a website that that teaches parents how to stop bullying in schools. She also maintains a personal blog at www.humantextuality.com/.
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Image courtesy of hkrabye via Creative Commons license, some rights reserved.