Four weeks after my daughter was born, I had never known a love as fierce and all-consuming as the love I had for her. But I was also exhausted, and feeling unsteady. Those early days — full of the lack of sleep and the crazy hormones — had me running on empty.
Although the newborn stage is short in the grand scheme of life, it can feel unending when you’re living in it. The constant needs of a newborn, the wacky sleep schedule, the high emotions — they are intense, intense things. Thankfully, I made it through, and I would say that I was even able to thrive during those early days with Ella, although it felt different than I thought it would.
So, while I’m not a perfect parent by any stretch of the imagination, or even a long-time parent, here are my four how-tos for thriving in those first weeks and months of motherhood.
1. Set attainable goals.
Prior to having a child, I had been used to accomplishing lots of things every day. I achieved at work, I developed friendships, I cooked meals and washed clothes and bought groceries. But now, I had two goals: keep Ella alive, and keep myself alive. Ella’s needs, although high, were straightforward: milk, sleep, touch. For me to stay alive was very different. I needed food, yes, and I desperately needed sleep. Friends brought meals and family watched Ella while I napped. But I also needed hope — which leads to my second goal.
2. Take a few minutes for yourself everyday.
Even if it’s short, even if it doesn’t look like it used to. My emotional lifeline in those early weeks was dependent upon me getting a few moments to think, reflect, and pray every day. Some days, even getting fifteen minutes alone felt like a battle, and then I would sit and read and journal my prayers through tears or drooping eyelids. Sometimes I just turned on music; sometimes I read. But I needed several moments every day where I wasn’t responsible for this new person in order to internally re-charge. Take that time for yourself; it isn’t selfish, it’s necessary.
3. Ask for help — and then receive it.
For those of us who are used to being self-sufficient, this can be hard. But I realized, quickly enough, that if my husband and I were going to eat real food, someone else was going to have to cook it. I learned to receive the meals my friends offered to bring over with gratefulness. When my mom or sister offered to come over and watch my daughter so that I could nap, I ran to my bed as quickly as I could. When I didn’t know what to do, I called my girlfriends who were veteran moms and got their advice.
If you don’t have a strong community around you yet, ask for help from other moms in your larger circles; they all know what you’re going through. If you need to, hire help: a babysitter for a couple of hours, someone to clean the house or do the laundry. No one can go this newborn road alone.
4. Give up trying to have it all together.
Maybe you’ve already arrived at this place; until I had a child, I didn’t realize I had been trying so hard to look put together on the outside. But during most of those early days, I had milk running down my shirt, tears on my face, and a house that looked like three monkeys had torn it apart. Yet, I still had friends over because I needed adult conversation; I let them love me in my mess.
As I kept my goals reachable, kept getting time alone, and kept asking for help, we were able to not just survive those early months, but thrive in them. Ella grew and started to smile and roll and sleep. That sleep, combined with my growing ability to relax, to not have it all together, and to trust my gut as a new mom all led to a solid start to her little life.
It wasn’t easy and it wasn’t always pretty, but it was all incredibly worth it.
Are you a new mom? A seasoned mom? What advice can you add to this list?
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Image via Sara Tasker