Friday, May 27, 2011

soapboxing again

I'm not sure whether it's that my babies have gotten easier or that I've gotten better at the weeks following a baby's arrival, but my last two babies have been much easier than my first two.  I thought I would write down some of the things that have helped me in case they're useful to anyone else.  I really hope this comes across the right way--I don't consider myself a fountain of wisdom on mothering by any means, but these are things I wish I'd known in the postpartum haze with earlier babies, where I was staggering around thinking, "There has got to be a better way!!"

1) Take advantage of help!

When my first two babies were born, I felt like I needed to socialize and be a good hostess for my visiting mother.  With my fourth, I slept in until 9:30 and napped when I was tired.  It made a world of difference.  Ditto to accepting offers of meals and playdates.

2) Drink tons of water and begin exercising when your doctor gives you the okay.

Exercise may feel like the last thing you want to do--as I write this, my eyelids are fluttering and the prospect of working out is far from appealing.  But I know that as soon as I finish up, the endorphins from my workout will buoy me through the rest of the day, help me to sleep better at night, and give me a jump-start on the postpartum weight loss (and let's be honest, getting rid of those pounds does SO much for your mood and general well-being!).  And water is like the miracle cure, especially if you're nursing.  Drink as much as you can hold!

3) Schedules, routines, and lists.

I am a huge list-maker, so what works for me may be frustrating for someone who is more of a go-with-the-flow type (but honestly, little kids are SO in love with routines that I think it becomes very beneficial to incorporate more routines).  In the last few weeks, I've focused on crossing off my regular to-do list items and not worrying about anything else:  I know that if I'm doing those daily tasks, just as I've been doing for years, that my house will be clean, the laundry will get done, I will exercise, and I'll spend quality time with the kids every day.  Fitting in a baby's schedule has been so much easier when I work my to-do list around nursing sessions, because I know exactly what I need to do each day to keep the house going--there's no feeling of a huge backlog of unidentified tasks that need to be done.  The biggest benefit to sticking by my lists is that my older children get quality one-on-one time with me every day (since this is written into my daily plan) and I don't feel guilty about neglecting them for the new baby.  This has also really helped them with the transition.  And last but not least, having such a cemented routine means that we just carry on with the normal activities assigned to each day, and their little lives don't get disrupted because we're doing the exact same things we always do, just with another tiny person in tow.

4) Prepare ahead.

About twelve weeks before Luke was born, Neil and I made a comprehensive list of everything we needed to do prior to his birth.  This included everything from setting up Luke's sleeping space to planting the garden to home improvement projects.  Working through these meant that we were prepped and ready to go (with the exception of unanticipated car trouble during my hospital stay).  I also made a few freezer meals and wrote down 8 weeks of menu plans and shopping lists, since food preparation always seems to be the craziest part of the new baby adjustment. 

5) Go on with your life; don't wait for things to calm down.

A week ago, we spent dinnertime discussing all the things we wanted to do as a family over the summer (hence the picture at the top of this post). Neil and I had spent an hour on Sunday afternoon discussing our summer goals and things we wanted to implement in our family to be more successful as parents and as a family unit.  The tendency I had with my first couple of babies was to shift into survival mode, telling myself, 'This, too, shall pass."  Obviously, some sleepless nights will derail the best-laid plans, but in my mind it's better to carry on:  plant the garden, go to the zoo, keep up with family scripture study and date nights and the like, rather than letting your life be completely dictated by the whims of an infant (I've also found that this helps me to look at the baby as a welcome member of the family, rather than that little yeller who is disrupting our ordered existence).  And again, I think this helps the adjustment of the older children--we still do fun things and work towards our family goals, rather than letting them fall by the wayside for three or six months until things are "back to normal." 

I would LOVE to hear what works for you as you adjust to a new baby, whether it's your first or your fifth!


Elise said...

if i had a baby, i would comment on this. but since i don't, i will just tell you once again how much i love you. yep. that much. it's a lot, trust me.

Rachel Mae said...

Well, you're amazing. I don't know that I could do this if I tried. But I have to say that I purposefully take a break from routines and a clean house (not that it's always clean anyway) after I've had my babies and just snuggle and hibernate and enjoy those first few weeks of newness. It was harder to do with Nico since Zoe was around, but she spent lots of time with grandparents (2 sets in the same town is a luxury) while we bonded with our new little guy. But I'm not sure that would work with four . . . and it's nice to know there are ways to allow life to proceed normally should I decide to go that route in the future!

Rachel Mae said...

By the way, I think you should post your To Do lists some time. I may purposefully take a break when I have newborns around, but I could use a bit more structure the rest of the time . . . I'm curious when and how you get everything done that you do! (Though I realize that I can only aspire to do so much and be a mom and work full-time, but I think I could still be more organized about it than I am.)

aLi said...

Rachael you make having a 4th baby look very appealing!!! Hahaha! I think we'll wait til my 4-month old grows up a little. :)
I love your tips!!!! I loved the tip about planning your menu for the next 8 weeks + the grocery list for them. I never thought of that and that would have been a really good idea.
I learned a lot from this post. I need to remember how much my kids love a routine. Lately it's been off, but for good reason. Now that we're settling down I hope to copy some of your ideas, like make a summer to-do list. Awesome!

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