The Best Friend’s Guide to Newborns

by Leonie Dawson on January 28, 2011

Hola sweet spunkarellas

This was written in dribs & drabs while Little Mermaid was still a newborn… it’s only now that I’m able to put it all together to share… I’ve also added extra ones that I know now… I so hope it will be helpful to all new mama goddesses out there… and those who love them…

I am typing this to you on my iPod with Little Mermaid asleep in my arms. It is 10am, and I haven’t slept since 2am, and we haven’t had much sleep in the last 48 hours… But here I am, tip tapping you a-way a love letter.

I want to share some of the big lessons and challenges I have found in new mamahood. I can only hope this helps other new mama goddesses out there…

I want to put a caveat around this sharing though:
I like to look on the bright side. Leonie is a mermaid Pollyanna. What I want to share here though isn’t totally lollipops though. I want to share this for new mamas so they know they are not alone. SO if you are pregnacious and are already feeling nervous about being a mama, maybe read this once you are there & are needing it. One step at a beautiful time!

Away we go!

1.

People will tell you becoming a parent is hard, and taking care of a newborn is harder. And I didn’t really get it, until I found myself sobbing over the bathroom sink at 1am. Some days are easy, and I start feeling like maybe just maybe I have it worked out. On the hard days, I want to run but there is no way I can. On the hard days I tell Chris that as much as I said I wanted four kids, as much as I love Little Mermaid, there is no way I am doing this again. On the hard days, parenting kicks my ass, over and over. The thing I most want to say to new mamas (and to me) is: it’s okay to feel this way. You are a good person. You are doing the best you can. And yes, it is enough, and it will be enough.

2.

Things change every day. You can’t really expect much of a pattern. You can hope for it. You can high five your sweet self when lil one sleeps for five hours. But it is probably easier to not expect things to be a certain way. Each moment only once! Some things will work somedays, other days they won’t. And that’s okay. Keep taking deep breaths and trying new things.

3.

As soon as she was born, something was born inside me. A fierce mama protector bear. Yesterday my sweetie was carrying Ostara to our car from the shops, looking crazy adorable. I could see all the women around staring at this big bear of a hunk in a grey tee carrying this tiny little pink bundle of baby… *happy sigh*
… annnnnnyways, now I’ve had that moment, as we were walking, we crossed the road (at a crossing). A car drove up, & I wasn’t sure it would stop. A calm little thought said in my head “just step between the car and ostara… That way if it doesn’t stop, they will have to get through you before they get her.”
And of course the car did stop (as if they would dare take on a big hunk carrying a tiny baby AND a protective bear hippy beside them!) but still… These new thoughts – actually not thoughts – they are INSTINCTS – made me smile. I love this strong spirited daughter of mine.

4.

Every single mama, father and baby is different. We are all doing the best we can. Let’s cultivate a judgement-free zone. I read somewhere this morning (at 3am) that we were the perfect parents until we had children. That made me laugh so hard that I nearly woke up Chris who was trying to get a little sleep for the night. My goodness, I really WAS the perfect parent before I was one. I remember the first time Ostara cried on the second day of her life, and I felt a bit heartbroken… That somehow I couldn’t keep her world so pure that she didn’t need to cry. That was the moment I started shedding my Perfect Parent Cloak.

5.

You do get initiated into a new tribe when you become parents. You look at other parents like “ohhhhhhh I get it now! I hear you sister!” Today at the supermarket, Ostara started crying so I picked her up and carried her, and she promptly fell asleep.

So Chris pushed the pram & we used that as a trolley instead, filling it with spinach leaves and bananas and gluten free bread and dog food. And we passed another pram-trolley family, and we grinned at each other, and stopped to coo at each other’s bundles, and talk about newborn life.

Instant friends… Something that wouldn’t have happened before then.

6.

Be good to your partner. Be good to each other. I once read that a baby is like throwing a grenade into a marriage. Surely not, I thought. But that’s all I could think of as I snipped away at him, tired and cranky. I was so jealous that his life hadn’t changed like mine had. That for the most part, I had the lion’s share of the caring task what with breastfeeding a zillion hours a day. And I was heartbroken that this was something he couldn’t really, really understand. He didn’t know what mamahood was about – he knew what daddahood was, sure, but mamahood?

I was going through an immense transformation – and the man who is part of every part of my journey, who gets me, who understands everything – he could only look on at the transformation.

I was weary and exhausted and aching to go back to my old life. And I’m sure my love was at times too.

We argued a lot those first few months.

Things got better… but they got harder before they got better, too.

Here’s my advice about babies & relationships:

Let go of frustrations as much as you can. Find the gentlest, easiest way possible for you and your love. Parenthood is not a sprint towards perfection. It is a long marathon of love.

And get counselling. Get support when you need it. There’s Relationships Australia. Or the Breastfeeding Helpline. There’s authentic parenting coaching by phone. Just anything – anything you can get to support and help you and your love navigate this transformation is a good, needed thing. Everything will be okay, dearest.

7.

There is a learning curve to everything.

I thought cloth diapering and baby wearing would be so so easy. Guess what? It came with a massive learning curve and it didn’t always work for us.

So I let go of my idea of how perfectly things would work, and got a pram and a box of disposables to support us in the meantime.

The more I get into this mamahood gig, the more I realise that the pram or the no-pram, the cloth or the disposables – it doesn’t frigging matter. What matters is what works for you and your family. I really ding dang mean that.

Be gentle sweetness. Do what you can to be gentle with you. These things take time.

8.

Sleep whenever you ding dang can.

Up until Ostara was four or five months old… actually, even longer… I went to bed when she did: 6pm. Because somewhere in that 12 hours of night, I would scrape together enough hours of sleep for it to be enough. I gave up having a night life for a long while. I gave up trying to be a normal person. I went to bed when baby did. I’m convinced it helped me heal from birth and kept me sane and strong when I needed to be.

9.

The Four Month Couch Rule.

So peeps don’t tell you this, but I will:

When you have a babe, pretty much schedule in that you’ll be sitting on the couch breastfeeding & holding a baby for four months.

And you’ll forget soon after that that it really didn’t take that long, and when you ask your mum, they’ll have no idea that it happened, but yup, it pretty much does.

Breastfeeding takes a ginormous amount of time. It rocks but OMG! The TIME! I remember days when I would be breastfeeding for over 15 hours in a 24 hour period.

I remember attempting to drive 15 minutes in the car, and having to pull over twice for breastfeeding top-ups (whether she really needed food or just the comfort of it is beside da point: she wanted boob.)

A long, long amount of time is occupied in boob feeding.

Make it as gentle & kind for you as possible. Watch movies! Read books! Buy yourself a Kindle or an iTouch.

Hunky love bought me an iTouch a week or two after she was born when I realised full arms meant no laptop.

And I was really angsty about it, telling him just how much I should be meditating or staring into her eyes or being au naturel for every moment I held her.

Dude, not even the Buddha did that. He just did forty days under a tree! Not four months!

Anyways, my love gently broke it to me:

Honey, I hear what you’re saying. But I’d much rather you be sane than be the idea of the perfect parent.

And he was right. As he so very often is.

My little iTouch has been my reading book & radio station & meditation CD player & reach out and connect to the world. I am incredibly grateful for it.

Whatever you can do to make it easy and gentle and happy and sane for yourself during this time is a good good thing.

10.

Give your partners the space to become parents.

I ran in the moment she cried in order to settle her. I didn’t leave her side for a long, long time. And I criticised the heck out of my partner for not being the exact parent I wanted him to be.

Can I tell you:

It was not helpful to me. It was not helpful to him. It was not helpful to the formation of our little family.

In fact, it sucked a lot.

What helped?

Giving him the time and the space and the opportunity to learn how to settle her himself. And become the Dad he wanted to be. For those two to bond together.

And ding dang, it definitely helped me to have a bit of time and space where I wasn’t on duty.

I like what my friend Pixie wrote about this:

Also, at the very good advice of an elder years ago, I threw my husband to the wolves early on, having to trust he would figure out what to do -which he survived, of course,  allowing me to escape the demanding clutches of pudgy fingers now and again. The condition is that I can’t critique the job he does if I’m going to claim solitude. It works brilliantly. I don’t care if they eat popsicles for every meal and ride the dogs into town bareback. What I do know is that I have to get away and recharge or I will freak the hell out. Letting go gets easier as I practice it.

11.

You will heal.

Every week gets easier. Every month gets easier.

You will get stronger. You will find a new way.

Give yourself the support you need. Get help. Talk it out. Be kind and gentle to yourself, dearest heart.

You are doing the hugest job on the planet.

I honour you. I admire you. I am in awe of you. I am stunned at how much love, work, time and energy you pour into your children. You really are incredible.

You are so so so so loved.

You are doing an amazing job.

I believe in you.

I’m sending you all the love from the moon and back… wrapped in the soft arms of Quan Yin to hold you gently.

Love, love, love,