What a wild ride!
Motherhood is amazing, in all ways. I'm amazed at the love I've got for this little human. I'm amazed at how efficiently he grows and how intuitively he seeks out comfort, and how my body wants to intuitively respond. I'm amazed at all the different ways one can raise a baby, the thousands of different decisions to make - big and small - and that at the end of their "babyhood" they'll all end up playing and exploring together in the same world as they grow up.
Friends and family graciously advised me on all sorts of newborn and new mama topics, and I sponged it all up so that I could use evidence-based recommendations and reminders to chill out when the time came for it.
Anyhow, in my new mom amazement, I wanted so badly to come up with a read for new moms and moms-to-be on what saved my sanity these past few months, and what I could've used a bit more of to make the rough days and nights smoother.
Here are my six must-have or must-do's after baby arrives. If postpartum plans are not in your future, share with your new mom friends and have a read yourself to see how best you can possibly support them!
Number ONE: Food!
Now I love to eat, (career decision case and point,) but I was NOT prepared for the voracious animal within that is post-partum recovery hunger. I was, however, prepared with a ton of snacks, and an army of beautiful friends who would help make more snacks and meals when the time came for it. My favourites were these thumbprint almond cookies from Oh She Glows, and my perfect peanut butter protein bars... so much so that I now connect the smell and taste of peanut butter and chocolate to newborn baby bliss. Every night my dear husband/nurse/chef/daddy extraordinaire knew he needed to stock me up for those 3 AM nursing snack attacks, and a giant bottle of water.
I made six weeks worth of snacks, which lasted about three weeks since instead of one per day I usually took two servings to be satisfied.
You can never have enough of this. (I think sometimes we can have too much self-love and dip into selfishness, but forgiving yourself is big for being able to give and receive love in a healthy way!) I was warned about the onslaught of mom guilt that would accompany every single decision and even guilt for the second-guessing of that decision. My biggest helpers offered me more "how are you, really"s than I thought I needed at first because I rode the hormonal highs for a long time, but it was helpful to know my village surrounded me if even I needed to vent. Thanks especially to grandma, husband, and a few best friends who checked in and prayed regularly. I learned to never underestimate the power of doing less when embarking on big life change - present-moment living is so special!
Three: recommended doo-dads.
I waited to purchase a few items that were selective to what baby Rafi and I needed, but a few things were absolutely essential and I'd recommend them - yes, without being one of those mommy bloggers who make money off of you purchasing the product.
Car seat (Well, I can't not put this on here!)
Baby sleeping spot (We ended up not using our pack and play for anything but changing and baby corralling, and have just been "Safe Seven" bedsharing with little Raf, but be prepared to have a baby sleeping spot that you believe will, combined, give you the least anxiety and baby the most comfort.)
Nipple cream (Make a homemade version from a few ingredients like cacao butter, coconut oil, beeswax, and essential oils - Pinterest it up!). A must for softening up your baby-feeders even before baby arrives, and getting the skin used to stretch and suction.
Nipple shield ($14, at most grocers). Essential for those first few weeks that the girls are toughening up for some baby nourishment. YOU WILL LOSE THESE, get two if you end up needing them.
Washable breast pads ($20 for a pack, various online brands). Serves dually as a baby face protector for those little ones who scratch their faces while nursing. How awkward is breastfeeding? Said no one, ever, to me... but it should be said!
A few good nursing tops, long sleeve and short sleeve. Until you get the hang of discreetly (or not!) nursing baby in public, when/if you and baby deem it necessary.
Two or three "survival packs" set up at various stations around the house, ie. small baskets or boxes to include essentials you'd rather not search the house for. Examples of survival pack items: wipes or cloths, burp cloths, menstrual pads, nursing pads, water bottle, healthy snacks like granola bars, pens and papers, phone charger, a book to read, baby and adult nail clippers, diapers and diaper cream.
Baby swing or gentle rocker (around $40 and up, used or from baby department store) - somewhat optional, but saved my back and arms from having to haul Rafi around all the live long day.
Baby carrying wrap (varying prices - get one gently used as they're wildly overpriced) for that yummy skin to skin time that you'll need to soak up to get connected with baby even more!
Four: your village.
I attended (and helped to host) a helpful workshop at Fit Your Life in Edmonton for moms-to-be, and one of the sessions involved a post-partum doula who offered a suggestion to make a list of various helpful hands who would not hesitate to offer assistance to you and baby in various ways. Example: Who can you text or call to make you laugh? Who has offered to bring over a meal? Who can you call or text at 3 AM for urgent advice or settling you out of a panic? Who can you call to vent? Who can you call to cuddle baby while you do some chores or errands (or vice versa)?
I pride myself in the special talents of bringing healthy and delicious snacks and meals to my new mom friends. (Just say the word, girl!) Other in your circle might be good prospects for hand-me-downs, running to the drugstore for you, or calling up for advice! The coolest thing is that you are in charge of this group - you get to recruit your own village for your baby (unless you actually do live in a tiny village), and you must be sure of yourself in commanding authority if village gets to be too crowded. This new family time is so beautiful to share with immediate family, but know there are many around you who'd love to be of help!
Five: a gentle and forgiving workout plan.
Even if you don't get to it by month 5, have a plan to engage in some light exercise like walking, gentle hill hiking, mall-strolling, yoga, or moderate-intensity weight training. Wait for the OK from your GP, OBGYN, Midwife, or Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist, of course. The point here is to engage in normal, sustainable exercise, both planned out segments throughout the week and some non-exercise daily activity. It will help keep your mood and energy levels up to keep moving, at least gently to start, and encourage your body to stay limber with all that baby carrying and awkward nursing-hold positions.
Six: a ready-for-anything attitude.
The one thing about preparing for motherhood that rings true among all my friends and family is that YOU CAN'T PREPARE FOR EVERYTHING! Go forth with a grateful heart and a flexible plan! When the choice presents itself to cry, or to laugh, LAUGH! And don't forget to celebrate all the little and big milestones along the way.