There is A LOT of gear out there to make life with a new baby easier. Some of it actually comes it handy, most of it just fills your house with crap. I researched all the different products and read all the books and asked all the “experts” and narrowed our list down to a few essentials. We wanted to keep it simple, knowing as she grows we’ll learn what she likes.
But I’m learning there are a few essentials needed for a new baby that money can’t buy. You can have all the best baby gear in the world, but without these five things, life with baby is going to be a whole lot more challenging than it has to be.
Below is a list of 5 things I think every new parent should have in order to survive the newborn phase (and every phase thereafter).
This one is a no-brainer. But you’d be surprised how quickly it flies out the window when you’re sleep deprived. I found that I had a lot more patience with the baby than I was expecting. But I think I made up for it by having almost zero patience for everyone and everything else. I was blowing up and breaking down all the time. When I spilled my breastmilk (an actual tragedy worth crying over, but still), when the dog would bark at the UPS guy and wake the baby, when the kids would jump on the bed as I was trying to nurse.
But in those moments, I’m learning to just take a deep breath and be patient. I’m seeing that, with time, everything works out. Now I can spill a little breastmilk without having a full mental breakdown because I know I have more in the freezer (and more in my boobs). The baby doesn’t always wake up when the dog barks, and if she does I know what to do. The boys are getting more used to having a baby around and are learning to act appropriately around her. With time, we’re all finding our groove. Like I wrote in this post, patience is a practice, not a virtue.
A SENSE OF HUMOR
HAHAHA! Sorry, I have to laugh at this one because it is soooo much easier said that done. But I promise you, it’ll make life with a baby a whole lot easier. I’ll give you an example. The other day while we were eating dinner as a family, I had the baby in her swing. She was being quiet and watching her mobile go around. It was a really sweet moment. When I was done with dinner, I scooped her up and bounced her on my hip. Then I saw the dog was sniffing around her swing. Come to find out she had a giant poop explosion all over the seat, all over herself and now all over me!
At first I was able to laugh about it when the boys were grossed out and running away. It wasn’t until my husband joined them that I got annoyed. I basically had three little boys screaming about how gross it was to be covered in shit as I was there, covered in shit, trying to clean this writhing baby all by myself. Looking back, it would have been a lot easier to just let them have their fun and maybe even join them by making a big gross joke out of it. But in the moment I just couldn’t find my sense of humor.
You have to laugh at this stuff. I spend most of my day covered in someone else’s bodily fluids while she screams at me. Plus, I look like a manic zombie with a squishy belly who lives in the same pair of pajamas and doesn’t bathe. Like, if you can’t laugh at that…you’re just going to cry.
I am eternally grateful for the tribe of women I have been able to surround myself with since having this baby. But before I got pregnant, I didn’t have many friends down here. I have a big group of close girlfriends, most I’ve known since elementary school, but they have all moved away. One has a baby and a couple were pregnant at the same time as me. So it was great to have them there, albeit virtually.
But it truly takes a village to do this thing. That’s not just a trite saying, it’s a downright fact of life. When I got pregnant, my therapist recomended a prenatal yoga class for me to take. She said her friends took it and are still close with all the ladies they met and have playdates with their kids all the time. That souded like a dream! But I was still recovering from my depression and it was hard to find the motivation. It wasn’t until my therapist made it my “homework” that I felt I had an obligtion to sign up. And that was the single best decision I made throughout my entire pregancy.
The first few classes were a bit awkward for me. Every class started with a group circle time, where we’d go around and talk about whatever was going on with us. I hadn’t been around so many other women in a social setting like that in a long time. At first, I didn’t know how to act. I’m usually so social and friendly, it comes naturally. But after dealing with depression, I just didn’t remember how to be myself. But I dedicated myself to going every week, and eventually I got my groove back.
Not only did I get to practice yoga every week for my entire pregnancy, but I’m now a part of a tribe of super moms that I can turn to for everything. Every milestone, every question, every fear, every frustration. There’s no need for context. We’re all doing this thing together. We all get it. And we’re all there for each other. THAT is an invaluable asset as a new mom.
I can be a bit rigid when it comes to how I like things done. I like order and structure and organization. Anyone who has ever had a kid knows how quickly those concepts become foriegn once you have a baby.
While I was pregnant, I tried to read as much as I could to try and have an idea of what it’d be like. I wanted to set myself up for success with a system I could thrive in. Through some trial and error, I finally feel like I’m settling into a good place with the baby. Our days have a very loose structure, and when that structure deviates I am able to go with the flow (most of the time).
I forgot where I read this (#mombrain), but in order to have flexibility you need to have some sort of structure. It’s like stretching a rubber band. You can stretch it and conform it to make it look different, but it always comes back to the same shape. That’s because that initial shape is where it started from. That’s how I look at my baby’s “schedule”. I’m putting in the effort to have a baseline of structure now, so that when time comes for us to start really deviating and getting even more flexible, we both have something to bounce back to. You just can’t be flexible if you have nowhere you’re flexing from.
Above all else, you need to be forgiving. With baby, with your spouse, with your other kids .But most importantly, you need to be forgiving with yourself. You just did the most miraculous thing I can think of. Growing a life and enduring the labor and delivery and having your whole entire world changed in an instant. It’s enough to make anyone a little nutty.
I’ve had my fair share of meltdowns. And I’ve learned to just let them come and go. I let out a good cry, I try talking it out with my husband to get it out of my head, or I’ll write about it here. It doesn’t take long to bring myself back to reality and drown in gratitude for everything I have. All I have to do is look down at her face and its like the wind (and any trace of sadness/fear/frustration/guilt) is knocked out of me. I look at her and I remember that I have to be the best version of myself. For her. Because that’s what she deserves. So I let out a deep breath, forgive the meltdown, and move on.
I know these things can be hard to come by when you’re hormonal, sleep deprived and covered in spit up. But trust me, the more you try to keep them around the happier you’ll be.
What I’ve noticed is that if I can keep a positive attitude when facing the hard stuff, it helps me store those memories better. Our brain automatically tries to forget the negative stuff. Like the messes and the fights and the scary moments. But I want to remember as much of this as I possibily can. So if I can face it with a smile, I’ll hopefully store more of it in my brain to remember later. Later when she’s bigger and needs me less.