If this is your first child, you may wonder what all the fuss is about caring for a teeny baby. After all, you're a modern, independent woman who's been working out of the house or spending her weekends rock climbing. Really, how difficult can caring for a baby be?
Very. Depending on whether you've had a vaginal birth or a cesarean delivery, you will be back home only two to four days after delivery. Your body will be sore, you won't be sleeping, your hormones will be running riot, your breasts will be so engorged that they feel like a pair of cement blocks strapped to your chest, and your mood swings will be active throughout the day. Factor in feedings every 2 or 3 hours, diapering a dozen times a day, a mountain of laundry, and no chance to take a shower or get to the grocery store by yourself, and you're looking at hard days ahead.
In the United States, people often measure accomplishments by what they are able to check off a "to do" list; after your baby is born, you'll be lucky to microwave dinner. Even if this is a second or third child and you think you know the drill, every baby is different. This one could be a crier, or your toddler may suddenly regress and become the stick-to-your-leg kid now that he has a little competitor for your attention.
This is not the time to wing it solo. The best thing you can do for your new baby is arrange the support you'll need so that you can take care of him. Accept that you're human and don't be afraid to ask for help.
Start by making a list of all the things you'll need to do when you come home with your new baby. Who?s going to manage the housework? The cooking, grocery shopping, yard work, bill paying, dry cleaners? Who can watch the baby so that you can grab a shower, take a nap, or get back to your walking routines to ease your body back into your favorite jeans? Who?s going to give you breastfeeding tips to help your baby latch on? Who will keep you company on those days when you?re feeling so isolated you want to scream?
Make a list with your partner of what you think you'll need, not just for the first week after baby comes home but for the first year. Then make a companion list of your support network. Include family, friends, babysitters, and professional organizations like La Leche League or temporary nanny and housekeeping services. You may want to be at home alone with your baby for the first week or so, especially if your partner can stay home from work too. That will give you both a chance to get to know your baby without interference. After that, you'll want to tap into your support network, so start communicating with everyone on your list about the hopes or expectations you have regarding their involvement. Be very clear about what you want -- and very grateful -- and come up with a plan for your post-delivery life that will allow you and your baby to sail through your first months more smoothly.
Originally published in You & Your Baby: Pregnancy.
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