This post originally appeared on The Traveling Circus on August of 2010. The lessons remain unchanged.
As my baby girl (who’s almost eight!) slept in the recovery room after having her tonsils and adenoids removed, I jumped at the opportunity to just stare at her beautiful face. She was so quiet and still and it has been a very, very long time since I was able to just drink her in. It felt just like when she was an infant and I held her inches from my own cheek to trace her tiny face with my finger. I’d marvel at her button nose and thank the gods that she inherited her father’s gorgeously full lips. I’d worry when her baby brow furrowed, hoping she was too young for dreams to cause that wrinkle. I can’t count the hours I spent just staring at her. I can tell you it wasn’t enough.
Our dear friends just brought their first baby home this week. She too is a gorgeous girl with a perfect face. I hope they are staring at her…a lot. I hope they are doing all the things we didn’t do enough of with our first. Like:
- Taking all the time they can to just marvel at their newest family member. Don’t worry about where you should be or what you could be doing or the mounting pile of laundry or dirty dishes in the sink. There will be plenty of time for those things later. This time of quiet and stillness and purity will disappear before you know it. Drink it in. Soak up her perfectness and hold her close as long as you are allowed.
- Accept help. If someone asks what you need, tell them. There should be no pride in new parenting. People want to help and you need it. I remember my sister-in-law showing up at my house with her arms full of grocery bags days after we came home with the baby. I had told her we “were fine”. She knew better. I had no idea what was in those bags at the time because she unloaded and put their contents away before I could see. I will tell you this; I enjoyed the donuts, and lunch meat. When I needed breast pads for nursing, Pedialite for my tiny puker or the box of maxi-pads that I had NO IDEA I’d need, they were there in my bathroom thanks to the magic of my sister-in-law. So, ask for help, or at least accept it when it comes. You’ll all be better off for it.
- Go easy on yourself. This time is magical but it is also overwhelming and terrifying and often those two emotions stand front and center. I will repeat what my pediatrician told me that saved my life (and possibly my little girl’s too). She said, “there’s nothing you can do in the first three months that is more important than loving that baby. You aren’t setting any behavior precedents in the first three months so don’t worry yet.” What does that mean? Don’t listen to what anyone says about crying babies or sleeping babies or feeding babies. Just love that baby. Pick her up when she cries. Let her sleep on your chest. Get sleep when you can, however you can and don’t worry about anything for the next few months except survival for all.
- And really, stare at that face as often as you can. It changes in an instant.
P.S. Looking for more parenting guidance and tips for self-care? Check out From Chaos to Calm a guided training to help you feel better in this tough season.