In August of 2014, I joined an exclusive club. The initiation period was a lengthy nine(ish) months in which I studied, trained and prepared. I counted down to D-day (delivery day). Yes, I was becoming a mother after many years of waiting, and I wanted to be prepared. I rejoined that club on April 1 of this year, and—once again—I counted down the days and made the preparations I thought I needed to make to add another darling bundle of joy to the mix.
Sure, I had read countless books and articles on baby’s development, staying fit while pregnant, developing a successful nursing relationship, which stroller/carseat/bouncer/carrier was the best choice. I had apps that updated me on the progress of my “little pumpkin” week by week. We took our series of birthing classes. My husband and I had our nursery ready, diapers and wipes in the caddy, our hospital bags packed and poised at the bedroom door.
And all of that preparation helped.
But, one thing I wasn’t quite ready for was feeling like I was no longer myself after I delivered our beautiful daughter (and then our equally beautiful son) and we brought her home from the hospital. My books and apps hadn’t told me that little tidbit. Not only did I feel like the only time I got to hold the baby was when she (or he) needed to eat, but I felt like I was losing track of who I was. I was no longer Michelle. I was Olivia’s Mom. And then Nathan’s Mom. Don’t get me wrong—it’s a title I wear proudly. But I missed being Michelle.
In the interest of assisting other new moms, here are five ways that you can keep your own identity (and sanity) after bringing home baby.
1. Ask for help.
Yes. I know you don’t normally need help with anything. You can do it all yourself, and it’s a good thing, too, because no one else can do it quite right. But when it comes to a newborn, having reinforcements around will help you keep your sanity. If your sister offers to watch junior so you can shower, say yes. Your neighbor wants to bring dinner? Reply, “How does 5 p.m. sound?” Mom and mother-in-law are arguing because both want to spend time with their new grandbaby? Even better—now you can squeeze in two naps today. If they offer, say yes. And if they don’t—ask. It’s worth it.
2. Use paper plates.
I love the environment as much as the next person. But when you’re weaning yourself off the mega-dose of ibuprofen, your boobs are leaking, and you aren’t sure the last time you showered (even though you were peed on today – at least, you think that was today), the last thing you want to do is stand at the kitchen sink and wash dishes. If you can’t handle the thought of throwing away (or recycling) plates, see #1 and ask someone to step in and do dishes for you.
3. Have a drink.
Slow down, lady! It doesn’t have to be alcohol. (But it can be. Yes—even if you’re nursing. Just time it right, or pump and dump.) It can be your favorite caramel ribbon crunch frappuccino. Or a Diet Coke. Or a glass of pinot. Whatever you liked to drink before, have one. It will help you feel more like yourself.
4. Figure out a way to shower.
Being clean makes everything better. Or at least seem better. When you smell like shampoo instead of spit-up, everyone wins.
5. Leave the house. In real clothes. With lip gloss.
If you’re anything like me, when you’re on maternity leave you will savor the time at home when you can just cuddle your babe and stare at her beautiful, perfect little lips as she snoozes peacefully. All of that cuddle/stare/snooze time is pure bliss for about two or three weeks. Come week four, you might start feeling a little cabin fever. Especially if the help you recruited has gone home, your significant other is back at work, and you’re home alone all day, every day with your bundle of joy. Go for a walk. Go grab coffee. Go to Target. Take off the yoga pants and nursing cami, put on your maternity jeans, slap on some lip gloss, and go out in public. It helps you feel like you are still a part of the world.
Even with these tips, you will still feel overwhelmed. You won’t get everything done. Your house won’t be clean. You’ll feel like your body cannot possibly hold all of the love that is coursing through it. You will cry. Maybe every day—maybe multiple times a day because of the intense love you feel. Being a parent is hard. Cherish the time you get to spend with your sweet pea. Everyone says it—and you won’t realize how true it is until you experience it—but time flies. Pay attention to the little moments. Take pictures. Snuggle close. And be thankful to have the best title around: Mommy.