Sep 27, 2017
Before I had a baby, I had always thought of myself as a capable person. I could change my car battery, program my DVR, and navigate my way around all five boroughs of New York City without getting lost or mugged. But after my daughter Nina was born, my can-do attitude went out the window. Normally confident, I couldn't imagine how I would care for a new baby and what I was supposed to do with her all day long. I dreaded seeing the door close as my husband hurried to catch the train to work every morning. I wondered if flinging myself at his feet would stop him from leaving me alone for 10 hours with my lovely but oh-so-dependent baby. I loved Nina and we had our blissful moments together, but I was frightened by the responsibility and daunted by the drudgery of caring for her all the time, and overwhelmed by the newness of it all.
No one ever tells you what daily life will be like with a newborn. If they did, they wouldn't be able to look you in the eye because the truth isn't pretty. Imagine this: All those wonderful family members and friends who helped you out right after the birth have now returned to their own lives. You're fatigued beyond belief. Breast milk drips all over your clothes, but you can barely remember to bathe. Basic tasks like eating or deciding what to wear seem to take too much effort. Armed with little or no previous experience, you're now responsible for the care, nourishment, safety, and stimulation of a new baby. No wonder new moms feel overwhelmed. But know this: You will not be the first mom to feel this way, and you will figure things out. While that may be cold comfort during the early days, it's a start. To help shorten the learning curve, here are some tips on how to cope in the first few weeks, from moms who've been there:
Get out of the house
"I didn't know what to do with myself or the baby," says Mollie Hart, mother of 7-year-old Nick. "The day just went on and on." To make the long stretch of time seem more manageable, Hart took short walks with Nick at least once a day. The change of scenery and fresh air were good for her and the baby.
Set attainable goals
"I told myself that I had to take a shower every day, and I did," says Holly Hanke, mother of 18-month-old Evan. She put her baby in a bouncy seat, strapped him in safely, and brought him into the bathroom, leaving the door ajar to let out the steam, while she showered. "Every other part of my life was out of control. Taking a hot shower not only let me regain some control over my day, but it helped me fight sleep deprivation and eased some of the postpartum aches and pains," she says.
Join a mother's group
A mother's group is something you can pencil into your calendar and count on. "It gave structure to my week," says Hart, who joined one 10 days after giving birth. "I needed it sooner rather than later." You can find a group through your pediatrician or hospital. If no group is formally meeting in your area, start your own. Or go online and create a group with other BabyCenter moms.
Downscale your priorities
Dawn Ham-Kucharski was a self-confessed neat freak before she gave birth to her son, Alex, now 15 months old. But even the energetic Ham-Kucharski, who says she always managed to clean her house every day even while working full-time as a lecturer, had to cry "uncle" in the first six weeks of her son's life. Instead of trying to keep up with her previous high standards, she revised her definition of clean and ignored dusty surfaces and dirty laundry longer than she normally would have before the baby.