Friday, October 29, 2010

Mother's Little Helper: Six essentials for the first six weeks

One of my soon-to-be mommy friends asked me today what items are essential for a new baby, so that she could build a registry for her excited family. I started drafting a list of the key pieces for caring for a new little one, but got sidelined thinking about what was important to have for taking care of a new mommy.

And so I offer the following list to other mums to be, or friends and family of mums to be, as suggestions for how to stay comfortable, happy and sane in the first six weeks.

1. Moby Wrap
I read a lot of product reviews about baby carriers while I was pregnant. I didn't think of baby wearing as a particularly political or unique parenting technique (I hadn't heard of Attachment Parenting at that time), I just thought it was natural to wear your baby throughout the day - a hands free way to snuggle all day long! A Slate magazine review found the Moby Wrap to be the best and that was all the convincing I needed.

When it arrived I was pretty nervous about it, since it is basically just a long sheet of cotton with no pre-formed structure or design. But learning to tie it was easy, and just a few attempts at arranging had Ollie cuddling up in it within four days of his birth. For the first four months of his life it was the only surefire way to put him to sleep, to make sure I could eat a meal, and to calm him down when he seemed a little too excited about his new life on earth.

Although I don't use it so much now that my little guy is almost twenty pounds (I favor the Ergo these days), I seriously cannot say enough good things about this item. If you are my off-internet friend and you're having a baby, don't bother buying one, because I'm getting you one as a shower gift.

2. One comfortable but not ugly, wrap sweater (in my case, the Savasana Wrap)
If you look through our photos from Ollie's first weeks at home, you'll notice two things: 1) He is one of the cutest newborns you will ever see, and 2) I am wearing the same Lululemon sweater in every single picture.

Everyone tells you that you shouldn't expect to go back to looking not-pregnant right after giving birth. In fact, they all advise that you'll appear 5-6 months along for the first little while after your bundle of joy arrives. This is true. What they forget to mention is that the clothes you were wearing when you were 5-6 months pregnant will not be appropriate.

Think about it: when you are five months pregnant, you are just starting to show, and the faintest whisper of a bump is thrilling to display, so your wardrobe is built to showcase it. Fast forward five more months and the residual bump is back to the same size, but not necessarily your favorite part (your favorite part should be your boobs... huge!). Plus, you'll be feeling like a hot mess 99% of the time. Picking out one loose, cosy, comfy but also technically stylish item is smart. This lulu item was on lots of women around my neighborhood, looking yoga-casual in tights and high boots and messy ponytails. So I rocked the same look, but with a little secret underneath ;)

3. Padsicles.
This is serious. And not for the faint of heart or weak of stomach, so stop reading if you aren't pregnant, or have never been pregnant (and probably if you aren't the right sex to be pregnant).
Postpartum recovery is no joke. And although there are lots of great new-mommy hormones to help lift you through the experience - and you will not believe how powerful they are, you will have at least a little physical discomfort, and quite a bit of it will be focused in the southern hemisphere.

Before I gave birth, I heeded the advice of my birthing class instructor and bought a package of maxi pads, poured 2 tbsp of witch hazel over the center of them, re-wrapped them and put them in the freezer. I know that this sounds like a crazy thing to keep in the freezer but believe me the cool, comforting sensation on swollen bits is NOT crazy at all. Doubt me if you want, but make a few just in case.

4. Frozen food
Everyone told us to stock our freezer with meals for the first months after baby came into our lives, and I was very glad that I actually took this advice to heart.

In the month before I was due to deliver, I prepared a variety of dinners (mostly of the casserole variety), and froze them neatly in aluminum foil packets tucked inside of ziplock freezer bags, with cooking instructions pasted across the front. My mum also contributed some very tasty offerings, and we took full advantage of our local produce delivery service, thereby guaranteeing fresh fruits and salads, even arranging for them to drop milk at our door once a week.

When Ollie was almost three months old, Chris and I had the happy realization that we hadn't had to cook since the day he was born, and that extra time to play/cuddle/sleep was so incredible!

One related tip: muffins are awesome for the early days of baby. Easy to make, tasty, and freezable, they are the perfect thing to pull out each morning for breakfast, or as you sit down to nurse, or just when you realize that you haven't eaten for 12 hours on a Tuesday afternoon.

5. Diaper stations
New babies poop all the time. And new mommies are super diligent about keeping diapers clean. But they are also really tired. It seems lazy, but having a little diaper changing station, with everything you need for a full diaper change (including a spare onesie and sleeper in case of a number three) on each floor of your home or in each major area that you spend time in, is really nice. You might think your house is too small to bother with one but seriously, some days walking the ten steps from the couch to the bedroom for the seventh time in four hours is just too exhausting to comprehend.

6. An open mind
OK, this is a cop-out because I couldn't think of a sixth item that can be purchased/made. But that's the key really, and probably the most important thing to remember. You might not find the preceeding five things to be essential like I did, or you might have a list that is three times as long as this of "must haves".

I think the best thing is to know that your needs are your own and your instincts are good. I didn't think I wanted to bedshare, but I soon realized it was the only way for me to get any sleep at all. I thought I wanted total privacy in the early days of being a mum, but I found that I craved life as usual, with lots of visitors coming and going for dinners and walks and coffee because it helped me feel normal. You can't know for sure what you'll want or how the experience of becoming a mother is going to go, and that's exciting, so just get used to the idea now that everything from this point forward is a ride you're on and that you're going to love!

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