One of my readers, a new mother, requested a post about getting things down with a newborn in the house. My recollection of how I managed with a newborn is a little hazy now, what with Really LIttle Man being a big ol’ 20-monther. But in honor of today, my due date, I thought it would be prudent to take a moment and think about how to handle those first, physically challenging months with a tiny little baby.
What I do remember about life with just one newborn is that I was up at odd hours of the night, wide awake, and thus was able to blog more than I expected (weird, right?). Also, that things like making a sandwich seemed like an insane luxury. A sandwich? Who has time to make such things??!! I ate a lot of frozen waffles, I think. I don’t remember. Somehow I survived. Showering was also something that I learned to really, really appreciate when it actually happened. Everything revolved completely around my new baby and his schedule (or lack thereof). Sleep? Right. Cute.
Life with a newborn and a toddler was different. I discovered that I was totally able to nurse with one arm while preparing a snack with the other. It’s amazing what I can actually accomplish with one hand, no joke. Also, I had realized that life would be easier if my kids were on something resembling a schedule, so I put some effort into that, and it helped. I was in the middle of a big musical endeavor at the time, so it was a bit of an abnormal situation. I was really cranky a lot (sorry, band sistahs!).
This pregnancy has been different than the previous ones, being that I have two energetic little boys who need my attention. A lot. And they don’t really care about my sciatica. Or heartburn. Or fatigue. They really don’t. They want me to read them that book, or go play outside with chalk, or whatever. And that’s cool, but I’ve noticed, with some chagrin, that I have about zero energy for anything extra in my life. Music projects? Hahaha. Blogging? Sorry, not much coherent thinking by the end of the day. My goal for the day is basically this: Take care of the family; make sure the house doesn’t fall apart; sleep. So I imagine that my life will have a fairly similar tone once the baby comes. Take care of the family, make sure the house doesn’t fall apart, sleep.
As for my personal strategy for this baby, here’s what I got: My mother is coming in (tonight! Woot!) for nearly two weeks. My neighbors are making meals for me (it’s an amazing system where women I sometimes barely know make meals for me. It never ceases to amaze me how people are willing to help each other). My mother-in-law will be coming in when the baby is about a month old. I have a freezer packed with food for well over a month. I’m planning on sending Little Man to a camp in the morning, and Really Little Man to a babysitter for the same time slot. I also have cleaning help once a week. That’s my plan. That and really, really lowered standards of what my house will be like, organization-wise. Remember the mantra: Take care of the family, make sure the house doesn’t fall apart, sleep.
Now, because everyone is different, and because I love crowdsourcing (it’s one of the positive things about social media, IMO), I asked around to my Facebook friends, my wonderful readers, and my Twitter friends, to see how everyone else manages with a newborn. I got a fabulous response from many of my experienced mommy friends, and am happy to share some of the wealth. Also, they were very sweetly encouraging to me, as I approach the state of being outnumbered by my progeny. Love you, ladies! You’re fantastic!
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Fraidy: Sleep when the baby sleeps. Send younger siblings out if you have to (babysitter,playgroup whatever) and do tons of meal prep ready to go in the freezer. Sleep when baby sleeps btw is easier said than done. Take extra cleaning help and enlist chesed girls. The more kids you have, the less chance of being able to get sleep.
Leah: Strap him/her to me and go. This works until about 3.5 months. After that, the bouncy seat was my best friend. Extra laundry help if you can get it.
Rivka: My third was my easiet (I hope for you too!) because I had absolutely zero expectations about getting any sleep or getting anything done. So, everything I got was a bracha. Also, I made it a priority to get all 3 to nap at the same time in the afternoon, so I was able to sleep then.
Gail: If you have more then one young child, do your absolute best to get them on the same nap schedule! (of course my 2.5 yr old stopped napping at 16 months :( so I didn’t experience this!)
Tzipporah: For me, newborns are easy! It’s once they hit like 5 months that I start pooping out with exhaustion! Lower your standards. That’s the only way to deal I guess haha.
Rivkah: For me, it has been just the opposite of Fraidy’s experience as far as sleep is concerned. I jammed as much stuff into when the baby slept as I could. With Gary, I was doing a lot of work on the house when he was newborn (still am, but he has for the most part shed his nap, sadly), so I used that time to paint, strip the trim, cut mat board for pictures–do all that stuff that I don’t want the kids/baby around. Obviously everyone is different, and if you need sleep by all means get some shut eye! But for me, I found that if I didn’t do “me” things, I would get into a deep blue funk very easily. I do agree with what Fraidy said about meals, though. Freeze away, baby! Even now,without a newborn, I always make them bigger than needed so I can freeze leftovers for the days that I am too zonked to shop and cook. It also helps with the budget for my husband to always take leftovers to work as lunch. No $8 stops at the bagel shop.
Yaffa: Truth be told, each time I had a baby it was different. Number two was the hardest and it was the winter. The best was when I had #3 when then temp outside was beautiful – I loved going for walks with or without all the kids made everything peaceful. I also made sure to have a good set up for diapers, wipes and anything I needed located in places so I didn’t have to go up and down the stairs. Also finding a good places for everyone to sit in the car. With the sleep stuff I slept one extra cycle with the baby in the morning so I could function all day and not need a nap.
Heather: Going from one to two was incredibly difficult— I just LAY there that whole 2 minutes. (for those of you who don’t know me I only have twins born 2 minutes apart via C section). :) In all seriousness, when my kids were newborns they were soooooooooooooooooooo much easier. They ate, slept, pooped. I could leave the room and move a load of laundry and not worry that one would bite the other, shove the other’s head in a toilet, etc. I loved the newborn stage.
Rena: Sleep and don’t worry about the house. Maccaroni is ok for breakfast, lunch and supper and it’s ok if the house is a mess. As long as everyone has something to wear in the morning the rest doesn’t matter
Rachel: Get help. Send your kids out, or bring in a babyistter for the baby, or for the older ones.
Brina: Freeze food in advance and/or friends give up to 2 weeks of meals, parents come to help, other people take care of night feedings so I can sleep.
Yaffa: I don’t live near family and therefore never had help after birth. Cooking and freezing in advance makes everything a gazillion times easier. But mostly I think its a mindset and attitude. Expect to be tired. Expect to be drained. Expect to be overwhelmed. Because by being prepared for it, its already half as hard. I also find that getting up and getting dressed every day helps significantly. From the day I come home from the hospital I’m fully dressed. Hanging around in your pjs makes you feel tired and yucky and less able to cope. If you can put makeup on, even better.
Marilyn: Sleep with the baby. You can sleep through much nursing, and baby sleeps better next to Mommy. Less exhausting than getting up every time baby cries — and less likely to wake up the other kids.
Nina: Help. Any help in any form, from people dropping off food or taking your big kids for play dates. And slowing down the rest of life. Biggest tip is this: you have to say no to lots of things for a few months. It’s time to hunker in and stay put. It won’t be forever!
Yael: I second the freezing food in advance. Also–if you do have help after birth, take advantage of it! REST! Don’t get out of PJs for a week–it may make you feel a bit less put together but it also puts you in a resting/relaxing state. You’ll have enough to do after that.