|Dance, baby, dance|
But I've been feeling nostalgic already, so let me relate what I learned in this first six weeks. Here are 10 things to do in the first weeks after baby comes.
1. Heal. This is #1 and above #2 for a reason. Whether you had a c-section like me or had a vaginal birth, your body has some physical healing to do. Add to that what one friend called a hormonal hangover and a lot of powerful emotions and you've got a lot of working on yourself to do. And while someone else can lend a helping hand with baby, no one can take a nap for you, hydrate for you, take medications for you, or shower for you. This goes for mental health, too--take the Edinburgh post-partum depression test, which was given to me at every doctor's appointment, mine or baby's, and before I left the hospital, and seek healing mentally and emotionally, too. The active effort you put into healing will pay dividends, not just for you, but for baby, so listen carefully to your doctor and do whatever it takes to heal. Step #1: Prioritize healing your body and mind.
2. Take care of baby. Duh. But while it's easy in theory (feed, change, hold, repeat), it does take some patience sometimes. Other times, it's kind of a delight. I weirdly love changing baby's diaper and gauging the amount and shade of baby poop. Maybe it's because she was borderline on the jaundice scale, but I always think, "Good job, baby, get those bilirubins out!" Step #2: Attend to baby's needs.
Okay, those two, frankly, take up 90% of your time in those first six weeks, but they're also kind of no-brainers, so here's on to the other bits.
3. Say no. Knowing that we were having a baby in flu season, we agreed with our pediatrician about creating a "cocoon" of just a few vaccinated people around our baby. This gave us permission ("Doctor says...sorry!") to say no. No to more than one visitor a day, no to work or church duties, no to cleaning the house... Having a new baby is a big deal and you can control the demands on your time and access to the baby. It's kind of a perfect excuse. Step #3: Say no to anything you don't want to do.
4. Say yes. On the other hand, the baby is also great excuse for saying yes, especially to people who offer to do something for you. Not only did we accept food from the people at church, but when my mom offered to help organize my pre-pregnancy and/or post-natal wardrobe, I jumped on it. In fact, prep yourself for the idea that people want to help you and come up with a list ahead of time of things that would be helpful for you, ideally that play into others' strengths. My mother-in-law loves gardening, so I called on her to help me catch up on nine-months' neglect of the yard. My parents love long walks, so I asked them to the dog out with them. Step #4: Say yes to anything you do want.
5. Introduce baby into your life. Make some cozy memories with baby joining you on things you like. My husband cuddled up to baby and played the new Spiderman video game. My mother-in-law and I took baby on her first outing to a garden center. Find ways to introduce baby into the things that are important to you. If your hobby is ice luge, I'm not saying you should strap a helmet on her and toss her down a mountain, but you could watch YouTube highlights together. Step #5: Begin to build family traditions and memories, even if you're the only one who remembers them.
6. Capture the moments. As first time parents, we took (take) a lot of pictures with our cell phones, but we also hired a photographer to take some glamour shots for the mantle piece. I'm glad we have nice pictures, but with baby, it's really been those candid cell pictures, especially the ones in the hospital, that are priceless. An early attempt at a smile, a few seconds of hiccup video--these are really precious because they are so fleeting. I'm shocked how quickly our baby went from an eye-rolling, mouth-lulling hot water bottle, to a rounded-out baby capable of eye contact and moving her head. I also have kept up a journal on my phone, using talk-to-text to dictate while I breastfeed or carry baby. I have a formal baby book, but it forms my thoughts into a strict template that doesn't line up with my priorities (why keep a log of head circumference? why do I have to list the celebrities currently popular? Where can I put footprints?). For photographs and journaling, make your own candid impressions, Step #6: Enlist your smartphone in protecting memories by taking pictures and/or keeping a journal.
7. Take care of business. You may think your mind is a sleep-deprived mush, but you can draw on some support to make sure that you do all the paperwork of baby. Besides just the regular birth certificate and social security card stuff, I would highly recommend reviewing baby's insurance to make sure you like the plan, making baby a beneficiary on your financial accounts, and opening a 529b college fund. There's something very satisfying about setting baby up. Step #7: Set up baby's financial and legal security.
8. Don't suffer through "almost good enough." The footed jammies I loved when I was pregant and registered for in a half dozen patterns--the feet are too tight, making it difficult to get baby's splayed toes through. I thought I could deal with it, taking a little longer to get her dressed, until it was the middle of the night and I had just changed her diaper and now she was thoroughly awake as I tried to jam her feet it. So, I grabbed a pair of scissors and cut the feet out of the pajamas right there. Sure, maybe my daughter will have a repressed memory of me standing over her cradle with scissors, but now both our lives are easier. Step #8: Do what it takes to have what you need.
9. Prepare to leave. Whether you just want to go out for a date night or you're going back to work, take the time to set you, your baby and your caretaker up for success. Decide what you do and don't need the caretaker to do while you're gone, prepare a bottle and steel your mind to be away from baby. I haven't had to have a paid sitter yet, but as I'm interviewing them, I'm grateful I'm figuring this out now rather than last minute. Step #9: Put time and attention into preparing for the time when you're away from baby.
10. Slow down and enjoy it. It's a cliche, maybe, but between multitasking, checklisting, and getting a little too eager for baby's next stage, it can be hard to stop and smell the newborn. Every step goes fast--you only have a dozen days with the umbilical cord, a couple days in the hospital, and you only hold your baby for the first time once. Step #10: Hold on to these moments as they come.