I have a 9-week old child. Someday I’ll get around to writing my fantastic labor story in which everyone is so interested. But while I have this quiet moment, I would like to share with you much more pertinent information that I have realized in the last 2 months.
Everyone has advice about how to deal with a newborn. But all newborns are different, and so is every parent. Do what works for you. The advice I heard the most was “sleep when the baby sleeps” and accept help from others as far as letting them cook or tidy up for you while you are dealing with the baby. I went into the postpartum period with this is mind, and it added so much pressure.
I could not sleep when the baby was sleeping. I layed awake every time, too anxious about when I would have to rouse myself and feed her, anxious about sleeping alone, (for my partner did not even try to nap), anxious about the state of our home.
I hated, HATED letting other people touch my stuff. I did not want them touching my dirty laundry, looking at my unmade bed, or bleaching my coffee-stained sink (also, FUMES! NEWBORN! STOP!).
Then I read some advice, and I am sharing it with you because it is not stated enough: basically, YOU DO YOU. If you can sleep when the baby sleeps, that is awesome! You should do that! If you are like me and stress out over other people seeing your laundry, have them hold the baby while you do your laundry, or do it while the baby sleeps. The first few weeks of parenting are about figuring out your new life, not letting other people tell you what to do.
When people ask how they can help, be honest. If you want a load of laundry thrown in, tell them. If you want them to bring a cheeseburger, say so. If you just need to not hold the baby for half an hour, ask them to hold the baby.
That being said,
I truly appreciated my in-laws hanging out at my house the first few days we were home. They would have been so much harder had Nick and I been alone, trying to figure out how and what to cook, how and when to react to baby’s crying, how and when to sleep, etc. But after the first few days, I needed them out like a damned spot. I am a very independent person and I could not abide another night of brisket, no matter how well my MIL makes it. (I am a vegetarian. My parents are Polish; my in-laws are Armenian. Nobody understands me.)
Our families and friends were very generous with food. Everyone we knew sent over snacks and meals so we didn’t have to cook. It was awesome. There was an endless supply of pastries I could pound in the middle of the night after breastfeeding (PS, I was hungrier than I’ve been in my entire life).
My advice to new parents is: take as much time off work as you can to figure out your new family. My partner took his full 6-week family bonding leave from work. It was awesome. Some of my friends were OK with their partners taking only 2 weeks and 4 weeks off. I honestly do not know how they stayed together; I could not have gotten through without Nick being there with me. And I didn’t even have any postpartum depression issues (phew, because I was fully expecting them)!
Basically, I am writing this to encourage new parents to pick the advice that works for them. Parenting advice is like free stuff at a convention; just because its plentiful doesn’t mean you have to take it.
My boss of all people gave me the most empowering advice: You are the best parent for your child.
So don’t worry about what your parents, friends, and acquaintances tell you to do or not do. Please, go ahead and get some (expert) opinions and do what works for YOU and YOUR family. You’ll have a much happier life as a result.