If you're like me, you may have done a ton of research (I may have done a little extra due to being on bed rest so long with my first daughter) to prepare you for having a baby. There is a lot of information out there in the form of books, videos, classes, and on the web. I remember vowing to read every book available on the subject of parenting prior to having my first child. I envisioned myself sitting in a rocking chair by a lamp every evening, soaking up the words of wisdom offered by doctors, professionals, and other parents to ready myself for what was to come.
In reality, however, you can only prepare so much. Because honestly, there is nothing that can 100% prepare you for having your first child.
There are some tips and suggestions however that might make this transition a little easier for you.
1. Stocking up
Before your new bundle of joy arrives, stock the freezer and the pantry. There is nothing better than having a meal ready to simply warm up and eat, and not having to worry about having the energy to cook a nice meal. You'll need a well-balanced diet more than ever right now, as your body is adjusting and recovering in so many ways. You will especially need a healthy diet if you're breast-feeding your baby.
So, stock the freezer with meals you can prepare ahead of time. Here are some helpful sites with recipes:
MealBaby - a great site for registering yourself or someone you know to receive meals from family, friends, and the community during this time of transition.
If you need to order out, keep a pile of take-out menus offering delivery in your area within easy reach.
2. Organizing your Birth Plan
No, I don't mean your hospital's birth plan, but rather your own plan for your baby's birth and transition home. Some things to consider:
- Creating a list of people and phone numbers you'd like to have contacted with news of the baby's birth.
- Setting up pet-care for your fur-babies. Who can stop by to let Rosco out during the day, take him for a quick walk, and feed him while you are recovering in the hospital? If you're scheduled for a c-section, is there someone who can take your pet for a few days?
- Setting up child-care for your other children if this is not your first pregnancy. A lot of family members would probably like to be in the hospital waiting room awaiting the new arrival. Where does that leave your older child(ren), especially if he or she can not or should not be sitting in the waiting room too? (It's probably not the best place for a three-year old). Make sure you have someone you can count on (particularly at say two in the morning when your water breaks) and who your child is comfortable with to watch your child(ren) while you are welcoming this new baby into the world.
- Having someone available to help you for the first couple days or weeks. This time will be a huge transition for your and your spouse/partner, and it is wonderful to have someone you can count on to help during this time. Perhaps this person is willing to get up for one of the night-time feedings so you can get a little more sleep. Maybe they can help with loading the dishes in the dishwasher or throwing a load of laundry in. It may be nice just to have someone there to listen and offer advice, especially if they've already been through this parenting thing a time or two. This person could be a parent, in-law, sibling, close friend, or a combination of different people. Be sure you have this organized ahead of time. Ask for the help - don't necessarily assume it's a given. Though I'm sure there will be many people who will offer to help in any way they can when the baby arrives. Simply having a friend drop by who is willing to watch your baby for an hour while you take a nap can be one of the biggest blessings of all.
3. Do Not Expect Too Much of Yourself
Everyone wants to be the perfect parent. Truth is, there is not a perfect parent out there. You need to let go of these expectations, for they can lead to disappointment and added stress. This time is foreign to both you and your baby, however, it is a time of learning, growing, and loving together.
Don't expect too much of yourself during this transition. There are some days, or moments, when you may be feeling great and think you can conquer the world. Then there might be other times when you're still be in your pj's at 2 in the afternoon, you haven't showered in days, and you're completely and utterly exhausted wondering how you can do even one more minute of this. I want you to know that it is okay to feel whatever you're feeling. I know for me, the first couple of days following my daughter's birth, I was on a natural high - I couldn't sleep (and I really didn't want to); I was just so excited. Then there was a time when we were home from the hospital, in a new and foreign home, with a new baby (who wasn't yet sleeping through the night - can you imagine?!) I was recovering from surgery and my hormones were all over the place, and I was just so exhausted, both mentally and physically. I cried a lot during that time. And you know what? That is okay. Whatever emotions you are feeling are yours to feel. Do not feel ashamed or think you're a bad mother for having emotional difficulties. Because it happens to the majority of us. Over time, you will learn to read your child's cues and you'll have some sort of schedule with your baby. You'll become more comfortable with your child and in your role as a parent. Just remember, this too shall pass.
4. Take Time for Yourself
In those first few weeks of my daughter's life my doctor suggested that I load her in the car seat and take a drive. The destination didn't matter - a quick stop through the drive-thru, an errand, or simply just driving around with no intended destination. He wanted me to get out of my world at home and into "the real world" for a bit, to feel connected and refreshed.
Take time for yourself. Ask your spouse or relative to watch the baby for a few minutes so you can rejuvenate with a shower. Take the baby for a walk in the stroller - you'll be thankful for the fresh air and change of scenery. When you're comfortable, allow someone you trust to stay with your baby for a couple of hours while you and your spouse enjoy a quiet dinner out. Taking a little time for yourself will not only be beneficial to you, but to your baby as well.