Sunday, July 21, 2013
How to Survive a Newborn
I don't usually give advice, especially if nobody asked for one. I have read somewhere that advice is the lowest form of conversation. Yet I am going to make an exception this time. This is something I have come to realize just a few days ago and now I find myself repeating it to myself again and again, because it works.
For those who have been following my blogs, I have a shocking revelation. I am enjoying baby #2. I was so shell shocked and unprepared and helpless when I had Kai that I assumed I am not a baby person. I expected that the first weeks, or months, or the whole first year with Fiona will be the same struggle. But that's not the case. The main difference is that now I know. I know what to expect. I know how to handle things. I know that the lame, annoying and irritating cliche "they grow up in the blink of an eye" that feels so untrue and pointless when you are trying to survive a day as a parent has some truth to it. I know this is my last baby. There will never be another newborn that smells like milk, goes limp like a little rag doll and sleeps on my chest like a cat.
The one thing I came to realize is this - taking care of a newborn takes all your time. Every single second of your day and night. It doesn't matter how easy the baby is or how super organized you are. There are no breaks and no escape. You are on. For a moment, after I had Fiona and admitted I actually liked having a newborn, I forgot about that. It briefly led to anxiety and frustration that I felt with Kai all the time. Then I realized that there is no other way around it. When you have a newborn, there is nothing else for you to do, but taking care of him or her. My advice is this - accept it. For a few weeks or months, you don't belong to you. You have no rights and privileges. You are not a master of your time. The sooner you accept this, the easier life will be for you.
Don't set any goals other than you and your newborn surviving. Forget your job if you are on a maternity leave. Forget housework. Forget taking care of the rest of the family other than basics. Make peace with eating sandwiches for lunches and dinners. Plans and timelines will only bring you stress and high blood pressure. There will be days when you will be covered in spit up, milk, pee, blood and sweat and you won't have a minute to take a shower. It happened to me two days ago and it made me cry. The fact that I can't even take a shower. And then it dawned on me that this is the way it is going to be for a short while. That being mad about it and taking it personally won't help me. Once I accepted it, I felt better. I was still stinky and disgusting, but I felt better.
It's not going to last long. Don't take me wrong, you will be busy even later on. Once you have a child, you will be forever busy. But eventually there will be some sort of a schedule, with naps and longer stretches of sleep. Eventually you will be able to finish the tasks you set for yourself. Like writing a blog post. In one sitting. With enough time to edit it, so it doesn't read like a bunch of random stuff pieced together by a sleep deprived analphabet. Without jumping at each whimper, wondering if you need to leave your computer right this second or if you can type one more sentence before you forget what you wanted to write about.
Maybe this advice won't work for you, but for me it is a mantra that makes the day easier - the only thing that I have time for is my baby, and that is OK. It's meant to be that way. It won't last forever. Sooner or later, they won't smell like milk, they won't go limp like a little rag doll and they won't sleep on my chest like a cat.
PS: It also helps if you have a glass of wine every now and then and if your husband makes you a cup of coffee in the morning. But for the most part, just accept things the way they are for a while.
PPS: Possibly this is only achievable with baby #2. It's hard to imagine that it will truly be over one day if you never got to experience the over part. In that case, read my old blog posts rather than this one, because they will probably feel more relatable.