Baby boy is officially an infant today which marks the end the newborn stage. Everyone talks about how parents are zombies and how rough those first few months can be with a newborn. It is hard and my husband and I were extremely tired. But to add on to the sleepless nights, my husband and I happened to sell our home, look for a new place to live, and move all within the first few weeks of our newborn’s life. It was stressful to say the least but we’ve made it this far and I am finally starting to feel like my old self again. I know every parent and every newborn is different and you have to find what works for you but here is how I survive the newborn days.
- Understand the “fourth trimester.” It is no coincidence that the Family Medical Leave Act in the US is 12 weeks long. There are three trimesters during pregnancy but there is really another trimester out of utero that happens. When my husband and I became frustrated we had to remind each other of the fourth trimester and understand that it would take time for baby boy to transition into the world. We knew that we couldn’t expect to be on a schedule or a routine or expect baby boy to sleep through the night when he was just learning how to adjust to all that was around him.
- Recreate the womb. Baby was all cozy and comfy in the dark, warm womb and now had to adjust to all these new sounds, sights, smells, and sensations. So whenever we wanted to help baby soothe, we would take him into the dark bathroom, sit on an exercise ball to bounce, and turn on white noise. We bought a Baby Shusher to have one that was convenient to take in to different rooms in the house, in the car, and on the go.
- Get help with breastfeeding. I was fortunate enough to breastfeed my firstborn until past 2, 27 months to be exact (yes I did extended breastfeeding but we will get to that in a later blog post). But breastfeeding was extremely difficult for me the first time around. I had low milk supply and had to supplement at the hospital and in the first month of my daughter’s life. I hired a Lactation Consultant and seeked help through drop-in clinics at my local baby store and that made a huge difference. This time around I used the same Lactation Consultant and was prepared for the challenges that come with breastfeeding. I kept telling myself that I was producing enough milk for my baby and trusted my body to do so. But I also had all my breastfeeding necessities ready and I felt much more prepared. I take Malungay supplements which are pills that are made of malungay leaves, which is an indigenous plant in the Philippines. I try to eat food that supports lactation too such as oats, nuts, and my recent new find is oatmilk which I add to my lattes at my local coffeeshop. One last little trick I have is I use this silicone hands free pump. While I’m nursing baby boy on one side, I pop this on the other side to collect milk. Whether it’s a teaspoon or 2 oz, it’s all liquid gold that I collect and store.
- Find time for yourself and for each other. It can be a little difficult to find time for yourself with two kids but my husband and I found little ways to help each other. There were days when he would take our daughter to the park for a couple of hours so I could rest at home with the baby. There were other times that I went to the nail salon with my daughter just so we could squeeze in a little pampering and mommy-daughter time. My husband and I were open about communicating when we were struggling and when we needed help. Resentment can build up quickly, especially when you pile on sleep deprivation so my husband and I made sure to acknowledge and appreciate each other. Having a baby is a huge transition. It was a huge life change for me, my husband, and our daughter. We tried to prepare our daughter for the life transition and found ways that were developmentally appropriate for her age. We read lots of books about becoming a big sister but we also explained that there would be enough love to go around. I always call my daughter, “my heart” so I kept reminding her that when her baby brother arrives my heart would grow bigger and there would be enough love for both of them. We still find ways for her to have daddy-daughter time or mommy-daughter time so she still gets our undivided attention.
- It Take a Village. It really does take a village to raise a child. I am fortunate enough to have both my parents and sister here to help us out. But with my firstborn I didn’t ask for help enough. I thought that being a good mom meant figuring it all out and handling it on my own. Now that I know better, I’m not afraid to ask for help. Our first night home from the hospital, my sister (@roxypopzchicago) cooked dinner for us and it was so nice to have a home cooked meal. I also asked my parents and sister for help when I needed someone to help entertain our daughter or allow me to sneak in a quick nap. When my in-laws came in to visit from Ohio they took our daughter for some one-on-one time and then watched both kids so my husband and I could have our first date night. I also reached out to my other mom friends whenever I had a question or concern and I wanted to know that I was there for them too. The newborn days can feel so lonely and isolating when you are couped up at home alone, so I found my village (my friends and family) and I relied on them heavily.
I am amazed at how much love and support I have received in bringing our baby boy into the world. I am incredibly lucky to have a partner in parenthood and life. This time around I just keep reminding myself to be kind to myself and give myself time to heal. I understand that I won’t physically “bounce back” to my pre-pregnant self overnight and that’s alright. It was all worth it to grow and create this beautiful baby boy.