My husband is one of those involved dads: the kind that cooks dinners, washes laundry, drives to lessons and plans fun outings. I knew this yet never was able to let go and travel without my children. Sure, my older kids had gone on a few vacations without me before but I had never been the one to leave and I had never left the youngest for more than 24 hours to attend a birth. My kids were getting older, they had a four day weekend and I had recently found part of my birth family (I was adopted at 3 months) so I decided to take flight for a five day trip.
I nervously packed, drove to the airport and promptly freaked out the whole flight as I imagined my entire family missing me to the point of tears and tantrums. Guess what? Everybody survived perfectly fine without me, and sitting alone in my hotel room, I thought back to those early postpartum days when I refused help. I knew my children best and could do it all by myself, thank you very much. I had those fussy babies you hear about and silently think to yourself, “Thank goodness those aren’t my kids!”- allergies, ear infections, colic, reflux and more plagued us for over a year each time. I was insistent on staying up with them all night as they howled. We never had much luck with bottles and outings without babies were brief as I would rush home before the next feed was due. I had horrible postpartum depression after the birth of my twins yet didn’t tell anyone until I was failing all of my college classes. I started thinking about what I wish I would have been able to tell myself in those early days and while we are done having kids, maybe you will find these thoughts helpful.
1)When people offer to help, accept! We are so used to declining assistance but take family and friends up on their offers. Let them hold the baby while you take a shower. Let them bring meals and snacks. When they ask what you need, be honest.
2) Consider a postpartum doula. I exhausted myself nursing and getting my twins to sleep every night. My youngest was up until 2 AM most nights. A postpartum doula would have been able to settle the babies back down after a nursing session and would have allowed me to nap during the day.
3) Pay attention to your basic self-care needs. You certainly don’t need to shower and wash your hair every day during those early postpartum days but brushing your teeth, eating and drinking are essential. The laundry will still be dirty tomorrow.
4) Take it one day at a time. Never quit something on your worst day- get a baseline and then make a decision. Your baby has no idea how to sleep without your body gently rocking him or herself to sleep. Breastfeeding is a totally new skill that may take some time to master. Even pooping is brand new! Seek out the wisdom of those who have already gone through the baby stage.
5) Give yourself some grace. Parenting is HARD. There is really no one right way to do almost anything and it is all a learning experience. You will look back on the early days and both delight and cringe at your decisions. That’s ok!