A new favorite quote of mine is, “Confidence is what you have before you understand the situation.” And man oh man, does that apply to my parenting experience!
Before baby, my idea of parenting looked something like this GIF:
Pregnancy was the stressful part. Once the baby was here?
“I’ve got this,” I said to JHubbs.
Then Bdubbs came and flipped my world upside down. Everything was hard. I was bad at everything. It felt more like this:
I had to regroup. We had to get through. So, here’s how we survived life with a newborn (with fun updates from this year when we welcomed baby #2!):
Don’t roll your eyes like I would have done a few years ago. Since Bdubb’s birthday, my life has been a Hail Mary. Crying? Hail Mary. Finally eating a hot dinner? Hail Mary. Bdubb’s woke up every 2 hours last night? Hail Mary. Bdubb’s slept 14 hours last night? You get the picture. Prayer balances everything out and makes everything doable, even more so during the “life with a newborn” phase.
In fact, that’s probably God’s purpose in giving me Bdubb’s: I have never turned so quickly or so frequently to Jesus for any and everything. It’s second nature now. And that’s one short step closer to being able to do all things through Christ or knowing Christ deeply. I hope I can get there.
And that’s another thing. Surviving the newborn phase is a phase. I would forget that so often, usually at 4AM, and freak out. But then I’d read another wonderful blog post by Lisa Hensley or my mom would visit and save the day and I’d remember that I heard — whispered on the wind somewhere — that this is a phase. And phases pass. Prayer tides you over until you can remember again.
Note from 2018: This has been harder to do lately because I’m feeling really disconnected from my church and my church community. Stress really isolates you, and that’s not something that’ got better before we started the new round of newborn. More often than not, the early days with a newborn feel more like a punishment than anything else. Yikes! As the dust has settled, that’s on the mend; we’ve returned to our first church in town in an effort to have more regularity in where we go each weekend.
Remembering everyone gets hosed
The secular message about marriage is that it’s a tug-of-war between you getting what you want and your spouse getting what your spouse wants. So, if your spouse gets something good, it probably means you’re missing out, and vice versa. (This is called a scarcity mindset and it’s toxic, but that’s a blog post for another day).
For me, it helped to realize that we were both getting hosed in the newborn phase all the time. So, by the end of the newborn phase, if JHubbs took an extra-long shower (from my perspective), and I was starting to get annoyed, I could say to myself, “He gets up at the crack of dawn and is so patient with this baby, goes to work all day, and then comes home and is patient some more… a long shower is the least of what he deserves!”
Yes, pregnancy and birth took a bigger physical toll on me, and I acted like it, but it’s really important to remember the toll it takes on the spouse who has to stand by and watch it all go on with just as little control and heaps more guilt about not being able to “save the day.”
When I had a meltdown and physically couldn’t do what needed to be done (my feeding “shift,” getting up to do something, holding the baby), JHubbs always took the hit and went above and beyond. Our contributions weren’t the same, but we both got hosed (in a good way? Haha…).
(And if you really want to feel bad… go read a message board about other moms complaining about their spouses. There are some really, really sad stories out there about dads slacking off. If the “worst” thing JHubbs does is take a long shower before he does all this other work, he’s literally in the running for Dad of the Year compared to some of the things I’ve read.)
Note from 2018: This time around, we’re just as selfish! Fortunately, there’s a lot more laughing. Except in very rare situations, we can make fun of how miserable, selfish, and unreasonable we’re being. Especially when I’m asking for the moon when it comes to chores and when Jhubbs is taking his sweet time getting the toddler ready to go somewhere. It was much easier this time around to remember that this isn’t easy on anyone, and Jhubb’s tiredness is just as legitimate as my tiredness.
Say hello to “Good Enough”
It’s such a common new mom thing to say, but on my SAHM days I really I feel like I do nothing all day. And then every day, there it is, 5PM swoops in, I’m out of my mind exhausted, and it’s time set it up to do it all over again.
(Yes, I know, I keep the baby alive, but you know what I mean.)
The first two weeks of Bdubb’s life, I had no choice but to let go of my standards around the house and my general productivity because I was descending into madness with the hormonal stuff and c-section recovery. But once I got most of my functionality back, I started to try to have a clean house again and cook again and I would just go crazy every day feeling like everything sucked and would never get better.
Now, I can peacefully look at a pile of crap on the table and say, “That’s good enough for tonight. Goodnight.”
Don’t get me wrong. I’m an extra sensitive type, and the organization of my environment determines a good portion of how good I feel (as we learned from moving into a townhouse, hating it, and buying out our lease to move back to a nicer apartment building). But sleep determines even more. So, I choose sleep whenever I can now, and I say hello to “good enough.”
I’m still torn between the excellent advice “Go to bed with a clean kitchen,” and “Start one load of laundry every day” versus “Let go of all expectations and sleep,” but I suppose I determine that on a case-by-case basis. It’s typically worth 5 minutes at night to tidy up the kitchen and turn the laundry before I go to bed, but I still leave little odds and ends laying out more often than I would have pre-Bdubbs.
What I’m really looking forward to is slowly culling our belongings even more so there’s just not anything that can be laying around the house in the first place… but I’ll admit babies do need some things that I’m just going to have to deal with (our BabyBjorn bouncer seat has been priceless, and his wrap needs to be in a central location to grab it, etc). But we’ve got loads ready for Goodwill and for the local Pregnancy Resource Center, and thinking about doing more gets me excited.
Note from 2018: It took a long time, but I did get to do most of the de-cluttering I wanted! It got to the point where every room in the house just felt crappy. For example, in our bedroom, we had stuffed a desk (where I used to work before getting a co-working membership) and it was dripping with papers and clutter 24/7.
One day I read Joshua Becker’s The Minimalist Home (the full course is here) and simply had had enough! I moved the desk to be our dining table, broke down the old dining table and moved it into the closet, and scrounged up 5-6 bags of things to donate. I immediately felt more peaceful and like I was sleeping in a hotel every night! I also sorted and stored some of Bdubbs toys, and it’s way easier to keep our main living space looking clean (he also began playing with our toys more when there was less to choose from).
The first few weeks of Lbubbs has lead to even more craziness (a toddler restricted to indoors activity quickly becomes a thing-tornado), but having a smaller place with fewer “things” really pays off when it takes us 15 minutes to get the house looking beautiful again.
If it works, it works
This is my parenthood homage to the “If it fits, I sits” cat. With Bdubbs, we landing on things that “worked” but didn’t really work for us. Like, he could sleep for a few hours if you held him, but then we were left literally holding the baby 24/7 and taking shifts, like 9-1AM and 2AM-6AM. With Lbubs, we found stuff that works for him AND for us, and we do it. Like, he takes basically all of his day naps on the washer with the dryer turned on in 60 minute cycles). And we’re keeping it going. (Pediatrician approved, of course).