Sometimes, I wonder why the people at the hospital thought it was OK to release my newborn daughter into the care of my husband and I just 2 days after she was born. There was no test, no qualification check, no Breathalyzer. They had no idea if we were adequately prepared to be parents. To take care of a fragile, new life. To handle the difficulties that naturally accompany the little beings called newborns.
We were truly unprepared.
I remember coming home that afternoon, bringing the car seat filled with child into our living room, and just staring at her.
"Now what?" I thought.
It occurred to me as the minutes and hours passed that I had no idea what I was doing. How often should I change her? Feed her? What does that cry mean? Should I wake her? Should I let her sleep? Gosh, what time do I put her to bed? What if something happens in the middle of the night?
Never in my life, even after watching horror movies as a kid, have I ever been so nervous to go to bed.
Those first few nights (weeks? months?) were rough. Luckily, despite the factors working against me, I learned.
I shared last week that I wanted to begin posting some parenting discussion topics. Much of this is brought on by my upcoming addition (due in January). As I've processed the new life we will be bringing into the world, I can't help but try to remember how to do it all. And most of the time, I'm drawing blanks. So, I thought I could post these topics in the hopes of gleaning wisdom from all you parents out there.
As I thought about how lost I felt when I first became a parent, and every triumph and failure I've experienced since then, it occurred to me that there might be other people out there who would benefit from a resource like this: parents helping other parents. Thoughts. Advice. Funny stories. Shared experiences.
It helps us get by, and affirms that YES, no matter how good or bad your day is, YOU ARE NORMAL.
I love feeling normal.
So, today's topic: Newborns.
Among the many things I fumbled and stumbled through during Little Chica's newborn stage, how to spend my time is what I struggled with the most.
I can recall one of the first weeks that I wasn't overwhelmed with visitors and Hubby was back at school. I woke up (most likely bleary-eyed from the crying and feedings from the night before), got Little Chica, went downstairs and sat on the couch.
I had no idea what to do with her. She wasn't old enough to be playing or engaging. She probably wasn't even smiling yet. The only thing this child knew how to do was poop, pee, eat and cry.
And she cried. A LOT (sidenote: it took a few weeks to realize that Little Chica didn't know how to nap, nor did I know to encourage her to nap, so she was an extremely tired little girl who spent the first few weeks of her life cranky. Once we figured out naps, life got a lot easier).
Since she spent so much time crying (and I had no idea why. Tired? Diaper? Pain? Hungry?), I spent about every 10 minutes trying something new to make her stop. I'd rock her. I'd change her. I'd try feeding her. I'd take her temperature. I'd let her lay on the floor on her blanket. I'd read to her. We'd listen to music. We'd take a walk outside. We'd change positions. We'd start all over again.
That was how I spent hour after hour, continually thinking, "What SHOULD I be doing with her?" It is something that unnerved me, because I felt like I was missing something huge. Somewhere in the universe, I was convinced there was this simple answer that everyone knew but me.
What I took away from the experience (and what I am telling myself and new/soon-to-be Moms): What I was missing was the mindset of "Take it in stride."
Take it in stride. It sounds so easy to do. Not as easy in practice. And perhaps it is my personality. But I look back and wish I could tell my new-parent self to CHILL OUT. Relax! It's OK to do nothing! It's also OK to do something.
Here are some ideas of how to spend your time with newborns (I could have really benefited from a list like this when Little Chica first came home):
2) Take a walk. A long walk. And if your child decides to having a crying fit halfway through the walk, be armed with a pacifier.
3) Turn on some music and dance. The swaying motion is soothing. And music heals the soul.
4) Give Baby some time in a bouncy seat or swing. A new motion while seeing things from a new perspective (ie: closer to the floor and not in your arms. Even that small difference can be interesting to them).
5) Tummy Time. Most babies hate it - but put a mirror in front of them or let them lay on your tummy while you are on your back.
6) Go for a ride. This can be daunting - but GET OUT OF THE HOUSE (once you are cleared to drive and physically up for it). Even though I can be shy, I am one of those people who re-energizes by being around other people. It makes me feel good. Going to a park or to grab lunch somewhere or for a stroll around the Mall can clear your mind. When you are stuck at home, it can be comforting (and centering) to know that OTHER PEOPLE STILL EXIST! And there is a sale going on at Gap!
7) Use a carrier or sling to do some housework. Sometimes to get things done, I'd put Little Chica in the front carrier or sling and wash dishes or vacuum. Heck, that's even how I went grocery shopping. She liked it better than being in a car seat or stuck in a swing, and I loved feeling like I accomplished something.
8) Set up a visit or playdate. Again. See other people. Especially other parents. They make you feel normal. And sometimes they'll even hold your baby and give you a break.
9) Watch a good movie while you are feeding the baby. In those beginning days, feeding can take anywhere from 15 minutes to an entire hour. I spent so much of that time concerned about how it was going, I was not relaxed and ended up making it more difficult for my baby to eat. If I could have allowed myself to relax (say, by catching up on past seasons of my favorite TV shows), things might have gone more smoothly. And it would have given me some "Me Time." (sidenote: I know this does not exist once I have a newborn AND a toddler).
10) Talk to your child. You might sound like a crazy person, but talk to your baby. Not in "baby goo goo gaa gaa talk," but as you would with a friend. Tell them your thoughts, share some stories from the past. Read them a story. I was surprised to find how my daughter enjoyed hearing my voice, and focused on me more and more (sometimes she even ceased crying for a few minutes. Heaven!)
Believe me, I learned much more over a variety of subjects regarding newborns. I figured I'd pick just one to share for this post.
Now it's YOUR TURN. I REALLY want to hear from you parents out there. Leave a comment on this post sharing your Newborn Experiences: Pick one aspect, pick several aspects, share a funny story, give some advice, relay something you learned, leave a helpful list, give some encouragement. Or all of that.
I truly believe we can learn from, and be encouraged by, one another.
That's why I love community.
Looking forward to reading your comments. And I hope the comments come in handy for other parents seeking some wisdom as well!
Stop back next week for a new topic!