Sleepless Adventures: Tips for #NewbornLife

The third trimester is full of all sorts of challenges and preparations, yet somehow most of these preparations involve the labor and delivery of the baby, while all preparations for the baby itself are limited to buying diapers and onesies and putting together the crib. Those things are important, of course, but they don't hold a candle to the self-preparation that you and your husband need to go through for the newborn phase.

I wish someone had prepared me a bit for life with a newborn. Terms like, "You won't be getting any sleep!" and "Give yourself grace!" are so completely vague. They make sense now that I'm in it, of course. But as a means of mental preparation they did nothing to help me.

When I was in my third trimester, I had a lot of people telling me to rest and get sleep while I still could. Which was a bit ironic, considering that was also the time I was having trouble sleeping (being uncomfortably large around the middle and having to pee every ten minutes is not the best combination).

They laughed, so I laughed, and ignored said advice. You can't store up sleep. What is the point of telling me to "get sleep now"?

(Although, think about how amazing it would be if you could save up sleep. Store all of your childhood naps and use their energy for cramming in college or dealing with a newborn. Right now, that is definitely the super-power I would choose.)

I wish I would have done the opposite. As tired as I was pregnant, I still felt good enough to go on hikes and do art and have fun. I had time for anything I wanted. Being a new mom changes everything. I am not simply living life anymore; I am in survival mode. Everything becomes a hurdle to overcome - from taking out the trash to making dinner to maintaining personal hygiene. One of the things I miss the most is the ease of being outside. Especially since fall is my absolute favorite season.

With hindsight, here is my advice for preparation. This is for those third trimester women about to be first time moms. Living with a newborn does not "come naturally." You survive, the baby survives, and you figure out how to be a mom. But the process will take everything you've got. 

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1. Start building your #MomSquad. You're going to have a zillion questions at all hours of the day and night. Have baby books and Google handy. Most importantly, connect with as many mom friends as possible so that you know you can call, text, or email them ANYTIME for their priceless advice/reassurance. Be sure to talk to your own mom as well! Things may have been totally different in her generation, but she is still a wealth of knowledge. 

2. Do practical, physical preparations. If you're not sure where to start, you can head on over to My Ultimate Third Trimester List. Try to stay relaxed, get some light exercise, read up on babies...lots of little things. Talk with your husband about the things you're learning - even if he doesn't seem interested, he will log the info away for later. And speaking of husbands...

3. Spend time with your husband. It doesn't need to be extravagant or well-planned or a "baby-moon." But make it a point to enjoy his company. Do things for him. Have sex. Go on cute dates. Talk to him instead of playing with your phone. Do things you both love to do, like hiking or playing video games or what have you. Why? Because in a few weeks, he's going to be trying to take care of you and all you will be able to think about is your baby. I hate to say it, but you will likely be an emotional, stressed out, milky hot mess for at least three weeks. Probably more like six weeks. Yay fourth trimester. (It's a thing. Look it up.)

4. Go out with your friends. You're huge, you can't drink, and you have to be within ten feet of the loo at all times. But you can relax without listening for your baby's cries. You can wear cute things (even while pregnant) without the fear of your boobs leaking all over the place. So have fun and be a friend while you still have the time, energy, and mental capacity for it. 

5. Do what you love. Just because you're going to be home all the time with a newborn, does not mean that you will actually have that little luxury we call time. Everything that can fall through the cracks, will. Thus I am sitting at Starbucks on a Saturday afternoon to write this post while my husband and 5.5-week-old daughter (hopefully) survive at home. My husband has been an incredible help, allowing me to disappear for a bit on weekends. I do things like wear headphones while clothes shopping. Sitting in the sun. Driving with windows down and loud music, pretending that I am not a mom. It's freeing. Motherhood is beautiful and rewarding, yes. But sometimes you can feel a bit trapped, simply because the change from who you were before is so drastic. So take some time today and just do something that makes you happy. And make sure your phone and the TV are turned off (you'll get enough of those when you're stuck on the couch breastfeeding).

6. Trust your Mommy Brain. No matter how many baby books you read, once that baby is in your arms, all of that information will fly right out of your head and you will feel completely incapable of keeping that little human alive. Don't panic. You have amazing motherly instincts that help you learn about and grow closer to your baby. Think I'm wrong? Watch your husband flounder next to you, asking you questions, using twelve wipes in one diaper change, holding the baby as she cries and looking at you with something akin to fear, asking, "What now?" Part of that is because you're with the baby all day and he barely gets to see her. But the bigger part of it is that you're the mom. You connected with her while she was growing in your womb. You held her first. And if you're breastfeeding, you provide all of her sustenance. So give yourself some credit and go with your gut. You're the best mother that baby is going to have because you are her one and only mom.

6. Remember that you and your baby are figuring out this new stuff at the same time. You will figure it out. Together, and with time. Even though it seems impossible figure out why the baby is crying - again. Even though your boobs hurt. Even though you want to give up, stop being a mom for a day, crawl into a hole and sleep for a month. You keep going. Because once you're a mom, there's no going back. You are that baby's world...and it's time to start being a grown-up.

7. Listen to this song. It keeps cropping up in my head when I'm holding her in the middle of the night, just wanting to sleep. When I'm the only one who can calm her down. When I get to the end of the day and realize that I did "nothing." These newborn days will be hard. But you will also miss them when they're gone, and a new struggle settles in. 

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Your baby will be the most perfect, beautiful thing in your eyes. Your love for this tiny human will astound you with its capacity. But that child will test you till your frustration turns to anger and your patience is in shreds on the floor. You will realize that you are an utterly selfish being. It's an ugly thing to see in yourself. I've taken to chanting, "Mummy loves you," over and over again. It's my mantra to keep me sane and remind myself that as upset as I will ever be, I will always love her. That's what matters. It's an incredible picture of the love God has for us every second of every day.

So if you're still pregnant (or single or married without kids) and you have enough energy, then do yourself a favor and don't just sleep. Get outside. Go play. Be productive. Enjoy life. Spend a few moments alone in the silence, before those times become nothing more than blissful memories.

P.S. I promise I am still enjoying life, still trying to get outside, interact with other people. Sleep just takes precedence a good deal of the time.

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