That’s because no one seems to tell us what it’s actually like. How exhausting it actually is. How little time we actually have for ourselves (am I the only one who failed to realise that a baby needs to be watched every second of the day?). How it might be 2pm and we still haven’t showered, had breakfast or lunch, and there are no signs of baby ever going to sleep. Or how it might be 2am and we’re struggling to stay awake to comfort a crying baby who seems to have days and nights confused.
To any mums who may feel exhausted, frazzled and completely overwhelmed, don’t worry, you are definitely not the only one. I’m pretty sure most other mums have felt the same at some point in their lives, if not on a regular basis. Just ask them. But this won’t last forever, so hang in there.
In the meantime, here are a few tips and reminders that will hopefully help get you through this wonderful but trying time.
- Pray. This is the best approach to any problem. The Bible tells us over and over again how important prayer is. Whether you’re physically or mentally overwhelmed, God will equip you with the ability to get through any trials you may face.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. — Philippians 4:6 (NIV)
- Accept help from others, if possible. Whether it’s the offer of cooking a meal or holding the baby, accept help when you can. This doesn’t just extend to physical help; also accept emotional support, if possible. Accept a friendly ear to vent or a shoulder to cry on. Or just a hug, if that’s all you need. If you don’t have family or friends close by, there are plenty of communities around that will help; local Early Childhood Health Centres have mothers groups, as do local churches.
- Take care of yourself. Eat well and often. Rest when you get a chance. Change out of your PJs once in awhile. Drink some tea. Have a warm bath or shower. Don’t be a hero and neglect yourself, you won’t be doing anyone — especially your baby — any favours by wearing yourself out and getting sick. So take care of yourself and by doing so, you’ll also be taking care of your family.
- Don’t neglect your relationship. Yes, it may be your only chance to put away the laundry or wash the dishes for the day, but it may also be your only chance for the day to have some quality time with your husband. We tend to put our children first (and rightly so) but we can’t forget about nurturing our marriages do we don’t isolate ourselves from our husbands (who may also be struggling to adjust to his new role as a parent).
- Watch your temper. When you’re tired and your brain is a bit fuzzy, you may find yourself highly irritable and likely to snap at those around you. But will that really achieve anything? It’ll most likely do the opposite and leave you feeling regretful; another negative emotion you don’t need. The best thing to do is take a step back from the situation, take a deep breath, and do something to calm down (tea? bath? chocolate?). It’s okay to leave a crying baby in his cot for a few minutes while you calm down. In fact, you may find that once you’ve calmed down it may just be that little bit easier to calm your baby down as well.
My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. — James 1:19-20 (NIV)
- Try to be patient. Babies are brand new to this world. They need to learn how to do absolutely everything. It’s easy to get frustrated if breastfeeding just isn’t working or if baby just wants to be held… All. Day. Long. Babies spend nine months in the womb close to their mummy’s heart so sometimes they might just need their mummy to hold them tight to feel safe in the world.
- Manage your expectations. It can be easy to feel overwhelmed when you’re expecting one thing to happen and it just doesn’t. If you expect to get a restful night and you don’t, it’s easy to get frustrated and disappointed. Babies are unpredictable (in case you haven’t already noticed) so it’s best to take each day as it comes.
- Get some fresh air and a change of scenery. Sitting on the couch feeding baby 24/7 can make even the biggest couch potato a little stir crazy (guilty, as charged). Step outside for a few minutes, breathe in some fresh air and get some sunlight. Grab a coffee nearby. Or just pop the baby in the pram and stretch your legs. It’s amazing what a difference a change of scenery can make to help you feel more like a person and less like a human milk bottle.
- Cherish each moment. Even though days and nights may seem long, babies are only babies for such a short period of time and these moments are precious moments you’ll never experience again. So try to savour each feeding session and nappy change… Before you know it, you’ll have a chaotic toddler running around, then a teenager that’s too cool for school (and his mummy), then an adult with a life (and possibly a kid) of his own. Cherish each moment, even the difficult ones, because they won’t last.
- Remember that this, too, shall pass. Now this seems like a terrible thing to say, that this time will ‘pass’. After all, shouldn’t you be cherishing every precious moment with your baby? Well, yes. But just like the good times won’t last, the ‘bad’ times won’t either. It will get easier for you. After all, babies grow up. There will be less sleepless nights, less nappy changes, less vomit. They will sleep through the night and one day so will you.
- Don’t forget to be grateful. It’s easy to forget about gratitude when your eyes feel like they’re about to fall out and you’re covered in all sorts of bodily fluids, courtesy of your little bundle of joy. But next time you feel like crying in frustration, cry out to God and say thank you instead. There are a countless number of people out there spending thousands of dollars and many sleepless nights for a chance to wake up to a baby of their own. Or parents who stay awake every night grieving the loss of their children and would give up all the sleep in the world to get them back. You are one of the lucky ones. It may feel like you’re having a rough time now but it could be much, much worse. So hold your darlings tight and thank God for your blessings.
Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. — 1 Thessalonians 5:18 (NIV)