You got straight As in school, graduated with Honors (from high school and university). You danced/worked/taught/insert-hugely-time-consuming-activity-here all throughout your younger years. You were probably on the student council, no wait…led the student council, sat on various groups in school, and likely represented your school at events. After school you got an awesome placement, rocked it, and got a variety of job offers. You picked the most challenging one, with the best odds for advancement. You climbed that corporate ladder and blasted through the glass ceiling (you didn’t even know that was there did you?). And then you got married, and got pregnant and had a baby….and LOST IT!
For the first time in your life you find yourself unable to keep up, to cope, to know what to do. And you are NOT alone. Parenthood really levels the playing field. Become a new mom for the first time is a whole new ball game. So don’t feel bad. It’s not you…it’s them. The baby that is. They’re these amazing bundles of joy that don’t come with a flow chart or manual, and your Six Sigma won’t help you here! But there is hope and I’ve got 5 tips to help you:
1. Perfection doesn’t exist
When it comes to parenthood, we’re all guaranteed to fail. There is not one adult who isn’t affected on a very deep level by their parents and their upbringing. Of course we want the best for them, and you will strive to do that to the best of your ability. But stop trying to get everything perfect. It doesn’t exist and you’ll drive yourself mad trying. Just do what you can and what is reasonable. And follow my next 4 suggestions.
2. Learn the language of babies
I work with babies almost every day, and I’ve yet to meet one that I can’t soothe and calm. That’s because newborns are predictable. They want and like certain things, and those things are very well known. It’s more in the specific WAY that YOUR baby wants/likes them that can vary, but they’re pretty straightforward. I’ll take a newborn any day over an older baby or child. Once they get older, your guess is as good as mine! Babies love a few simply things: babies will calm when put on their side, swaddled or hugged/held, rocked, shushed (white noise), fed regularly and allowed to suck. Each baby has a specific combo of these things that works for them. You don’t need a lot of gadgets to calm a baby. Sure a swing can help, and I always wear babies (I prefer a wrap over a sling or carrier), but try to discover exactly how YOUR baby likes to be held/rocked/soothed and you will feel more in control in helping her to soothe and calm.
3. Enlist support
You’ve heard the saying about it “taking a village to raise a baby”. That’s not just lip service. No seriously, it takes a whole village. It’s really hard work. You probably don’t run an entire company or team without all kinds of managers and people, each with their own tasks and duties. So why would you start trying to do that now? Don’t! Figure out what you are struggling with the most, and get help. If your usually clean house is a disaster and driving you nuts, get a family member/friend/cleaning service to help. If you are beside yourself because you’re not sleeping, then let someone hold your baby while you nap. The baby will still love you after. Promise. If you are having a hard time figuring out what your baby needs for specific soothing consider hiring a postpartum doula. They’re experts at newborn behaviour and will TEACH you what you need to learn vs hiring a nanny who will do it for you (and if that’s what you’re after that’s ok too!)
4. Readjust your expectations
Stop expecting this to be a perfect fairy tale. Fairy tales are…well…fairy tales (fair·y tale: noun, a children’s story about magical and imaginary beings and lands). Parenting is hard work. Not getting enough sleep affects your well-being and ability to cope with a difficult situation. If you’ve never seen a newborn being raised, then it’s all new. Remember the last time you learned something new? It took a few days to get it sorted right? Give yourself some time to learn the ropes. It will come in time, which brings us to our final and most important point….
5. Take it one day at a time
Take each day as it comes. Don’t look too far ahead because that is unpredictable. And don’t look at how difficult the past few days/weeks were. Neither is representative of what tomorrow may bring. Just take one day at a time. When I work with families, I often see very challenging situations turn completely around in only a few days. The parents often think the challenging situation will go on for weeks or months. I’m sure some think they’re in for 18 years of it! Breastfeeding is one of the biggest situations this is of critical importance. Most issues (with a plan of action) will improve in only a few days, so just take one day at a time and things will improve before you know it.
Stefanie Antunes is a mother of 3 who’s been a Lamaze® Educator and doula since 2002, after the birth of her second son showed her just how valuable it is to be prepared for birth and to have good support around you. She leads the Discover Birth team that provides a variety of services to expectant parents (classes, birth doulas, postpartum doulas) and training for those wishing to pursue work in the childbirth field. Stefanie is a board member with the Ontario Association of Doulas, former Public Relations Director for DONA International and sits on many local boards and coalitions to improve our communities.