Hacking the Newborn Haze
I am no professional and can only speak for myself, but one of the most harmful expectations I had set on myself is that I would have an innate nurturing instinct and a warm glow of infinite love as I gaze upon my newborn baby and start tending to her needs. I love my child to bits, let me tell you, but those first few weeks for me were just a haze of painkillers and trying to figure out how to breastfeed for me, interspersed with some moments of gazing upon this perfect little creature but feeling strangely disconnected. I felt ashamed that I wasn’t feeling that famous gush of love that all the mom-fluencers speak about on their pages. Instead all I seemed to feel was only a bone-deep exhaustion. It took me a while to realise that the journey to heal myself, physically and mentally, and to focus on the things important to me would be instrumental to me being a good mom.
Here are my tips for hacking the newborn haze:
This means basically listing down what you want to be able to do in this time, in your preferred order of importance. Some examples of things you may list are rest and recovery, breastfeeding, tending to the newborn, psychological adjustment of older child and many more. The possibilities are fully customisable and infinite.
Focus most of your time and energy on the higher priority objectives, while only attempting the less important items when your time and energy permit. You can review these objectives whenever you need to do focus more or less on any one item.
Have a dedicated evening shower, or breakfast on your own, without too much external stimuli to recharge your mental state. This activity can be anything really that relaxes you. Even a 10 minute full break would help.
Do not hesitate to ask for help with specific activities from family and friends when you need it. While the frustration can be overwhelming, it is important to remember that our loved ones cannot read our minds and would be more than happy to take some of the load off of us. We do NOT have to do it all ourselves.
Understand that there will be good days and bad days and see it as a holistic journey instead of a race to a destination, destination being the “Perfect Parent-dom.” Give yourself the space to feel stressed and anxious when you need to. Acknowledge and respect your feelings as all your feelings are valid. Allow yourself room to learn and to grow and know intuitively that you are getting better at this, whether you realise it or not.
For example, my child being exclusively breastfed was something that was very important to me. And I let this take over my entire being. I would cry from the stress of latching her constantly while my breasts felt like they were deflating by the hour. I would then obsess over the amount of milk I was able to express, as it seemed like such a measly amount. This went on to affect my relationships with everyone around me as I seethed with the resentment that only I could breastfeed. But then a turning point came about and I realised that being this way would mean my child’s entire infancy would forever be remembered by this bitterness.
So I let my husband and family look after her other needs such as keeping her entertained, getting her to sleep and cleaning her up while I focused purely on breastfeeding and pumping. I would like to interject here that I was very blessed indeed with the support system I had which is why I was able to do this. Not everyone may be able to do this but the principle of spending your precious energy only on the most important things to you are still valid! Things that were lower on my priority list however, were following confinement rules strictly, keeping the house neat and clean, and losing weight. Therefore, almost no energy was dispensed on cleaning up or on restricting my diet or trying to exercise. I allowed myself time to get to this eventually. My evening showers were also blissfully long and peaceful and served as my self-allocated me time. Finally, I spoke to my loved ones and told them that breastfeeding during the baby’s witching hours was causing me too much anxiety (her witching hours were between 10pm and 1am every night). And therefore, after 9pm I would not latch, and only pump my breastmilk for her consumption. Once I felt recharged, and she was rested too, I resumed with latching her for her middle of the night feeds. Practicing all of the above meant that I was finally free to enjoy motherhood, and specifically breastfeeding in my case. This could really apply to any aspect of parenting that is stressing you out.
At the end of the day, coming to terms with the fact that my unrealistic expectations were the key factor in causing my shame and anxiety was what turned it around for me. I was able to be kinder to myself, focus on developing one skill at a time and battle my baby blues. I do hope this works for you too!
Signing off with lots of love,