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the haas machine: Surviving the 4th trimester

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Surviving the 4th trimester

As I sit here & type one-handed with my 3 month & 1 day-old baby girl, I have a lot to be thankful for. I can't believe how quickly 3 months have gone, nor how satisfying it has been. Life with a newborn has, of course, had its rough times (like the night that Ruby cried almost non-stop from 1am-3am), but even those times have been special (once they are over, of course).

I recently had a dear friend visit Ruby & me at our home. As a newish mom (she has a 2-year old & is expecting another little one in December), we shared some struggles & challenges that we've faced, realizing that not many parents truthfully share how hard this thing is! It inspired me to put my thoughts down for 2 reasons: 1) so that it might encourage any new parents & 2) so if we ever have more children, I can remember what the first 3 months were really like & plan accordingly. Obviously every babe & mama are different, but here are a few juicy handfuls of things I've learned in my crazy 3 months of mamahood:

  1. During pregnancy get stellar care.The best thing I did for me & my baby was to get awesome prenatal care with someone we completely trusted. We chose the home birth route because that fit us so well. We were able to meet with our midwife often, but she was not just our midwife, she became a friend. I looked forward to our visits & totally trusted her advice, opinions, & expertise. I can't imagine not having this kind of relationship with someone who oversees the birth of our child. She challenged & encouraged me to eat super well, rest, exercise, & enjoy the magical time of growing a human being inside of me (!!!) & I know that has contributed to the health & happiness of our little Ruby!
  2. Prepare like the dickens for after birth & not just with baby junk.One of the best pieces of advice I got was to get people around us who would help out after Ruby was born... & by help I don't mean people who would hold Ruby while I did laundry, but people who would do those chores for us. For weeks (& even still) we've had people cook, clean, walk Hartley, do laundry, & run errands for us so that we could spend a lot of time bonding as a family of 3. Those moments were completely priceless & the simple act of getting a free, hot, home-cooked meal was out-of-this-world amazing! Make sure you have people around you who will really, really take care of you. I don't know what we would have done if we didn't have this (actually I do know- we would have eaten lots of Toppers & lived in a filthy house with a cranky dog).
  3. Ditch the books & listen to your instincts. OK, so I did read a lot, but sometimes I wish that I didn't. I believe that God has created parents with instincts to know how to meet their babies needs & that sometimes that takes time, trial & error, & prayer to get it right, & that's OK. I find that a lot of pregnancy/newborn books are centered on fear & that's not how we want to parent. I've learned infinitely more by trying different things, talking to other parents, & seeking God's direction than I have from reading a book. It's been quite the experience to get to know Ruby & how she communicates her needs & just about the time we figure something out, it changes, so we've had to be super flexible. There have been many times where Ruby was crying & we had no idea what to do. My first thoughts weren't "what did that one chapter say about crying babies" but they were prayers & cries out to God. One night, as Ruby was faithfully crying for hours on end, I started crying as well because I couldn't console her & that hurt. It seemed like I couldn't do anything to help. All I could do was hold her, rock her, & sing to her & eventually she stopped crying. They always (eventually) stop crying. After time, we've learned that she needs extra burping or that she likes to cuddle after waking up for awhile before getting changed or that she doesn't like baths so we better make them quick & we have learned all that from experience, not books.
  4. Find ways to still invest in your relationship with your partner & parent with someone who can totally be there for you (or you might fall apart).Props to all you single parents out there... I literally don't know how you do it! After John had to go back to work, it was so hard for me. The simple fact was that I was so dependent on him & other people to help meet my basic needs & that was really hard for me. There have been many times, still, where he has come home & I'm covered in sweat, puke, & sometimes poo, & all I want to do is shower. Just shower! And John has always been faithful to play with Ruby & withstand her fussiness while spending a few moments away from mama, which leads me to another challenge: it's the best & worst thing to be the only one to be able to comfort your baby. It's only been the last couple of weeks that Ruby has been OK with spending more than 5 minutes with John & I'm so thankful for their own bonding time. I have had to learn to let John console her in his own way & realize that we do that differently & that is good thing. Because we're a team, that adds strength to our parenting! And when Ruby won't let me out of her sight without crying, John is there to get me another glass of water, or food, or sit with me, or, clean the kitchen up after I destroy it, like he's doing now. I couldn't do this without him, nor would I ever want to! So it's so important to still find little ways to invest in each other... like we still have a weekly date night, it just looks a lot different. We figure that we better invest in our relationship or our family will be out of sorts!
  5. Let your body heal in its own time.This has been, by far, the hardest thing about being a new mom for me. I have friends who have had babies & were able to do normal things just weeks after birth. You know, normal things like walk, go up stairs, make toast, get out of the house. Although I do not regret not leaving the house until over 2 weeks after Ruby's birth (or the basement for that matter), the following weeks were really hard for me because my body took (& is taking) a long time to adjust. I've really had to learn how to not compare my birth experience/after birth body with anyone else's & be OK with my own healing in its own time. Let's just say that it's really made me dependent on Jesus & our community a whole bunch. During pregnancy there's (rightfully) so much attention & time spent on the arrival of a sweet new baby. And if you're lucky, you take some great baby classes, teaching you how to adjust to life with a newborn. But I've had few conversations with woman, talking about the lasting pain after having a baby. Now I will say that I've had quite the experience, but I know there's ladies out there who have had just as hard of a time as I have & I think that it's important to talk about that (& not just the horrors of labor).
I'm so thankful for the experiences we've had, even the super hard moments. There are countless things that I'm learning about myself now that I'm a mom & I'm trying to really enjoy those things, instead of being repulsed by then. But I'm making a promise right now to never wear mom jeans, because I also believe that just because I'm a new mom doesn't mean that I now have to look frazzled & frumpy :)
Ruby Sofia Haas just moments old, born at home on July 26th at 7:56am

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