When I had my first baby, I imagined going home wouldn't be too much different than how I'd left it. Naive, right? Yeah. In retrospect, I see all those things I thought I had to do during my first month postpartum were completely unnecessary. I should've just focused on my baby, recovery, and said "nope" to the rest. It's definitely easier said than done, though, and even when in the thick of all the new baby hysteria. With the way society and the media portray bringing home baby, there was a standard I wanted to meet and exceed. Anything less and I felt I was failing.
Needless to say, I failed often. It wasn't possible to come home from the hospital and do all the usual things I'd done before, because things just weren't the same. It's a hard reality to accept. I wanted to be a great mother and partner while getting back my pre-baby figure and still managing enough sleep to tackle my daily to-do lists. If only I could go back to tell my pre-baby self to just let go, it wouldn't have been such an uphill battle when I tried to maintain so many things that could've waited a bit.
When I had my youngest, though, I knew better. It was like my second chance to right all those past postpartum wrongs that led to a build up of anxiety and depression. No mother is perfect, but listen up: you don't have to do so much after delivery. Here are some things I thought I had to do when really, I should've used all that energy on my new baby and my mental health.
Keep A Clean House
I seriously imagined I'd stick to the old checklist of things once I brought the baby home. Nope. Turns out, babies require a lot of time and energy. Making sure the laundry was done or messes got picked up only stressed me out on those days I was lacking for sleep and sanity.
Here's the thing: you (aka one of the best things to help a new mom) an actually let most of this slide! In the grand scheme, you can recruit help or get to it later but, for now, take care of you and baby. That's it.
Sleep When The Baby Sleeps
In the first few days, I did do this because I was exhausted. Eventually, I had to tackle work or bills or whatever it was so sleeping when the baby sleeps wasn't practical, especially once my partner went back to work. This meant if something needed to be done, I'd have to do it or it wasn't going to happen.
Oh, man did I try. Breastfeeding, for me, was one of the hardest things I've ever attempted. Some are too anxious (me) and can't take the pressure (also me). I appreciated all the advice and help — especially that of the lactation consultant — but it wasn't in the cards. My daughter was put on formula and at 10 now, she's just fine.
Leave The House
I thought I was supposed to get back out there and, you know, do things. Go to the store, the bank, walk around the park. I didn't feel like doing any of it and began to resent all of it. Postpartum should be spent only doing what's necessary: making sure my baby is fed, changed, and happy, and actually, that applies to me, too.
Get Back Into Pre-Baby Shape
Hell no. I wish I'd have shucked this thought the moment I had it because it's so unrealistic. I'd gained a lot of weight — mostly water — and my health wasn't great. The pressure to get back a pre-baby bod is ridiculous! Who does that really? I tried to add gentle exercise moves each day but in the end, I decided it could wait until I was fully recovered.
Show Off My Baby
Along with feeling like I was supposed to be out doing whatever, I also thought I had to take my infant everywhere so family and friends could hold her. What I know now, after two kids, is, make them come to you.
Return To Pre-Baby Me
My body isn't the only thing that changed after baby. The thing about having a baby is, you have no idea how you're going to feel physically or emotionally afterwards. It changed me inside and out. Even though I felt the need to return to the woman I was before my daughter entered the world, I couldn't. I tried but I was fighting a battle I wouldn't win because the truth is, we aren't who we were before babies. Yeah, some parts of us, maybe, but motherhood changes us in such a fundamental way, we're like a version of our old selves, but elevated. If only I'd known not to fight it, maybe I'd have come into my own a little sooner and we'd all have been better for it.