Seven tips to help you ride the postpartum roller coaster
The weeks after your baby’s birth are like one big roller-coaster ride, with thrilling highs, plenty of lows, and tons of unexpected twists and turns. You’ll be amazed, terrified, overjoyed, confused, lonely—and everything in between. It’s a time of great change—and change, even when it’s wonderful, can be overwhelming.
You can’t hit the brakes on your postpartum roller coaster, but you can definitely slow it down and make the ride a little smoother. From little practical adjustments to more profound changes in perspective, there is a lot you can do to preserve your sanity while caring for a newborn. Step number one? Read this list. Now, how easy was that?
- Take it one day at a time. There are times in your life when it’s really important to think long-term, but right after you have a baby is not one of them. At a time when so much is in flux, letting your mind venture too far in the future will only lead to trouble. Plan one day at a time—or when that’s too tough, one hour at a time. In a few months, things will calm down (we promise!), and you can contemplate your future then.
- Sneak in sleep. There’s no way to stay sane if you’re totally exhausted, so make sleep your first priority. Get creative about sneaking in extra sleep—at night or during the day. Maybe that means asking a friend to sleep over and take a night shift, maybe it means letting your baby sleep in the bouncy seat, or maybe it means having your guest watch the baby while you nap. Remember: even a short nap can be incredibly refreshing and make all the difference in your day.
- Get out of the house. Leaving the house with a newborn can seem intimidating at first, but you’ll be shocked at how good it feels to be out in the world, with the wind in your hair and the sun on your face. Exercise is a known mood raiser, and though you won’t be able to pull off a full workout, you can easily take a walk or a jog behind a stroller. Bonus perk? The change of scenery will probably boost the baby’s mood, too!
- Join a single-parent support group. The best way to cope with the loneliness and anxiety that can creep in is to talk to other moms in the same boat. Join a local support group or an online one, such as Parents Without Partners and, of course, ESME’s Sisters section! These connections not only help emotionally but also serve as lifesavers when it comes to practical questions, such as which stroller you should buy or how to deal with diaper rash.
- Put friends and family to work. A baby brings visitors from near and far, which offers you much-needed adult conversation and lots of potential help. Take full advantage! Resist the urge to be the perfect host who tends to her guests’ every need, and let them tend to yours instead. When friends and family ask if there’s anything they can do, say yes! Ask them to fold laundry, load the dishwasher, bring dinner, or hold the baby while you shower or nap.
- Get rid of guilt. Even before your baby is born, you will likely be visited by the big, bad bother of Mommy Guilt. All mothers, single or married, are susceptible to guilt, and all can agree it’s a colossal waste of time and energy. Every mother, every baby, every family is unique, with different needs and abilities. Let yourself off the hook from the get-go; know that you are trying your best, and decide that that is always good enough.
- Give yourself little treats. In addition to taking care of your basic physical needs—eating, sleeping, bathing—you need to attend to your emotional needs, too. You probably won’t have the time or money to spend an afternoon at the spa, but you can indulge in little treats every day. Whether it’s eating your favorite chocolate bar, doing a sun salute, reading a new book, or watching reality TV, say yes to your little pleasures—guilty or not. A little treat can go a long way to making you feel like you again.
And, remember: though some days (and nights!) can feel endless, the truly tough part of the postpartum period lasts only a matter of weeks. Before you know it, your baby will be sleeping and laughing and blowing kisses, and you’ll wonder where the time went.
Image via Shutterstock.com
Nicole C. Kear, is the author of Now I See You: A Memoir, recently published by St. Martin’s Press. Kear, who lives in New York City, is also an editor, speaker, and mother of three.
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