Hello, Oy! readers. Long time no see. In case you haven’t noticed, I’ve been a bit radio silent for the past…nine months or so. The past many months have been transformative for me, going through nine months of pregnancy (and a bonus two weeks…yay for late babies…not) and the birth of our beautiful little boy almost three weeks ago.
Every time I’d sit down to write a post for Oy!, my pregnancy brain would kick in, and I couldn’t string two words together properly. Or if I could, they would be all about pregnancy, and the inner superstitious Jew in me couldn’t wrap my head around discussing my pregnancy in such a public forum, G-d forbid something bad should happen.
So now I’m back, and my slightly sleep-deprived brain and I have been reflecting on my first few posts I wrote for Oy! over three years ago. My very first post was all about things I wish people would have told me when I first moved to Chicago. I feel that it’s only appropriate, as I rejoin the Oy! Team facing another transitional point in my life, to revisit that post and share a new version: four things I wish someone had told me about parenthood before I came home from the hospital with a little human completely reliant on me to survive and yet unable to use his words to tell me what he needs…
1) It’s okay to ask for help. I have always been someone who is fiercely independent and who thought she had everything under control. Before having the baby, I grocery shopped in bulk, I pre-made a bunch of food that I froze, I lined up care for our dog – I thought I had come up with everything. And for that first week, when I had my husband home from work, and my mom in from Cleveland, we had everything under control. And then my parents left. And David went back to work. And we had eaten through the stockpile. And David worked late so despite having a noon dog walker, I had to maneuver outside with the dog and the baby at 6 pm.
So when people ask what they can do, don’t act brave and say, “Oh we’re doing great.” Be honest. Ask your friends to come by with dinner, to swing by and walk the dog after work, to stop at the pharmacy and pick up your prescription, whatever you need. They wouldn’t offer if they didn’t care for you enough to help you with what you need.
2) It’s okay to let some things go. No one cares if you make your bed or if you fold your laundry right away. When your friends visit your place to meet the baby, they will only think about how cute your baby is, not how dusty your coffee table is or how baby stuff has somehow taken over your living room.
3) Make sure to maintain contact with your friends and communicate regularly with grownups. It is amazing how, when taking care of a newborn, you can blink your eyes, and the whole day has flown by: you have not left your house, you have only spoken in baby sing-song nonsense to calm a crying infant, you have not bathed or brushed your teeth, and you are dog-tired. By the time your husband gets home, you want to throw the baby at him and run. While it seems like more work, it is better for your mental health to get dressed and go for a walk, even if it’s just around the block. Even better, make a date with another friend with a baby so you can interact with someone else who is home during the day and knows what you’re going through.
In the same theme, when you have a new baby at home, oftentimes your friends will want to give you your space and not call, for fear of waking you from a nap or disturbing you in your new routine with baby. For some people, that is what they need. If you’re like me, and instead began to miss your pre-baby pals, don’t be afraid to pick up the phone yourself. Your friends will be happy to hear from you, and I’m sure they’ll understand if you have to get off the phone when the baby starts hollering.
4) Know that it gets better every day. You’ll start to feel human again soon. You will figure out, slowly but surely, why your baby is screaming his head off and how to talk him off the ledge. Breastfeeding won’t always be so painful. You will master the art of schlepping a diaper bag and a baby in a car seat and somehow steering the car to the pediatrician, the grocery store or Target.
While I’m only a few weeks deep into this new part of my life, and I haven’t always figured out how to heed my own advice, I’m excited to keep learning and growing in this new role, and I hope that all of you Oy! readers enjoying coming along for the ride.