So you have a baby and you’re a bit miserable?
Totally understandable by anyone who has had a baby. Contrary to nappy commercials, senile old women and giggling baby clips on YouTube, parenting a tiny human is a stressful endeavour for any sane individual and can take a toll on even the most rock-solid relationship.
First of all, you are probably unrecognisable to yourself. Brains and bodies are completely discombobulated by pregnancy and birth. And don’t forget the sleep deprivation (as if you could!).
Secondly, the postpartum phase is probably be the least romantic time of your life. Bleeding, dripping, crying. Name an orifice and there is some kind of semi-viscous fluid leaking out of it. Gross.
Furthermore, the mismatch between how fathers and mothers (or any two individuals) adjust to parenthood and sleep deprivation is criminal and evolutionarily unjust. Parents change and grow and cope with stress in such differing ways. Frankly, it’s wildly optimistic that society encourages us to even try to co-parent in the first few weeks.
You have my sympathy. Also, my unsolicited advice to get less miserable …
7 cures for a mildly miserable mother
1. Don’t weigh yourself more than once a week
Or, even better, once a month. Get off the scales and hide them under the bathroom sink. Numbers won’t tell you if you’re feeling stronger, beautiful or more like yourself. That number is not where your value lies.
(Also, you’ve just had a baby! CREATED LIFE INSIDE OF YOU. And now you’re sustaining life for you plus one. A needy, needy one which requires some extra energy stores and snacking. Nine months to run your body down, nine months to recover. At least.)
2. Schedule a break
A standing date takes the pressure of asking for help off. Have an extended family member, your co-parent, a mummy friend trade or a babysitter planned for the same 2 hours each week.
For me- it was roller derby. Non-negotiable, once a week and, as an added bonus, coincided with skipping a bad time (Oops, bed time. Freudian type-o). For me, the break made the other six bedtimes precious and enjoyable rather than stressful or monotonous. Or at least stressful and monotonous was more manageable with scheduled respite in sight.
3. Trust your co-parent
Yes, you are am amazing parent. Yes, only you know the exact feed-pat-cuddle-burp combo. Leave a list of instructions and then leave the house. You let this guy knock you up, let him learn how to parent the kid. But if you don’t trust him to do this, that lack of belief alone is enough to undermine your whole relationship. And if he pairs the red socks with the pink track pants AND the silk birthday party dress from Auntie Carol – leave it.*
*Pick your battles – it doesn’t fecking matter. The kid is dressed. No right and wrong here. Fashion is a matter of opinion – don’t disregard your co-parent’s opinion.
4. Feed your brain
Give yourself something to think and talk about that isn’t poo.
Early days, mental alone time might be reading a magazine in a cafe but after the newborn fog lifts, I need something a bit more stimulating. Reading is often too challenging for me when sleep deprived; podcasts and audio books are the way forward.
5. Draw some boundaries
‘No’ is a word to be learned.
Sleep deprivation can easily translate into rage. When people are pissing you off: say no. However, offering people a time limit will make you more reasonable and less bitchy. You know, if you care about that sort of thing – maintaining positive relationships with others… blah blah blah).
Situation A: So, are thinking about a 3rd child?
Instinctive Response: “WHAT? ARE YOU INSANE? If you think we’re on top of the other two, THEN YOU’RE NOT DOING ENOUGH TO HELP because I am barely afloat.”
Boundaries and Time-Limit Response: “This discussion is tabled until the baby is at least 6 months old.”
Situation B: I don’t want my grandchildren to be labelled. When are you going to get married?
Instinctive Response: NONE OF YOUR FECKING BUSINESS. And if we do, you’re not invited!
Boundaries and Time-Limit Response: [Insert partner’s name here] and I have talked about making a plan once the youngest can walk and talk and not spit up on a beautiful dress. You and I can discuss it after we’ve made a decision.
Outside if you can. Vitamin D and nature both have healing properties (clearly, my English Lit degree makes me a medical expert). Your heart will leap up when you behold a rainbow in the sky, just like William Wordsworth. If poetry isn’t scientific proof, I don’t know what is.
And babies like being outside. Strollers and front packs were made to help you move. And you probably dropped close to a grand on yours, so go get your money’s worth. Move yourself. Aim for 20 minutes a day – manageable but meaningful!
7. Lower your expectations
You can do this. Feed the kid(s), hold the kid(s), try to keep the kid(s) warm and dry. That’s it. You can do that. Just don’t try to do too much else today.
Ultimately, being miserable will eventually leak toxic sludge into your relationships, affecting your partner and children.
Be a mother, not a martyr!