Eden is one month old! I feel like this is something to celebrate. We have survived! Slowly, we’re digging ourselves out of the newborn haze. I will not deny it: the past month has been hard. I feel the distance growing between Isabel and me, and spending so much time in constant contact with another human being leaves me feeling drained by the end of our long long days.
And then, there are the days that never seem to end, dragging on through the night, punctuated by Isabel’s calls for daddy – she doesn’t call for me anymore, knowing I’m not going to come – and Eden’s noisy sleep sounds, squeals and grunts and rattly, slightly congested breathing. No. This month hasn’t been easy.
But, there are a few things that have made it easier, and in an effort to be useful, I thought I’d share those things.
Swaddles, specifically ones that help you wrap those little arms in. Eden sleeps so much better when she’s well swaddled, especially if I want her to sleep in her crib.
A swing for Eden. For a week or two we tried to put her down in the bassinet of her playpen whenever she slept and we felt like we needed a break. But, after her first two days of life, Eden made it pretty clear that she is not fond of lying on her back. We set up her swing instead, and she’ll sleep there, contentedly, for an hour or two, which gives me a much needed break. The swing is, however, much more easily accessible to Isabel than the playpen, which has caused some issues.
A comfortable carrier. We use a Boba 3G, which doesn’t require an infant insert, and instead folds to the size of a newborn. I also DIYed a ring sling, but I have yet to figure out how to make it comfy enough for long periods of wearing. Eden spends hours cuddled up against my chest, morning, afternoon, evening. It puts her to sleep pretty much every time I tuck her into it, and it’s helped a lot with my ability to bond with her, while spending time chasing a slightly wild toddler who has started to occasionally act out.
(While it’s been phenomenal from a practical standpoint, helping us get through our days, carrying Eden has also been surprisingly difficult. I am rarely not touching someone. By the end of the day, when Isabel finally goes to bed, and I am craving a break, Eden is often just getting started. There are no breaks.)
A tablet. I debated including this one because I don’t love the idea of toddlers and excessive screen time. But ultimately, I’m not sure I would have made it through this past month without our iPad. Having a tablet really helped get us through the first hard couple weeks. Handing the iPad to Isabel allowed me to spend the time I needed nursing Eden, changing Eden, bouncing Eden, cuddling Eden. We are now starting to cut down her screen time as I have developed new coping strategies, but in those first days, it was invaluable.
A library. For books and storytime and a first effort to return to real life. Reading is one of the few things I can do with Isabel while nursing Eden, so we do a lot of it. We go to the library weekly, hang out at storytime, and then grab a stack of 10-15 books off the shelves for our weekly reading. My toddler loves books and, as Eden wedges herself between Isabel and I, it’s one of the ways I have found to maintain and grow my relationship with my firstborn. We snuggle and read, and for a little while, our little world feels very full and warm.
A cozy couch. A stack of books would be useless without a comfy place to cuddle up with them.
Playgroups. I am fortunate to have a wide range of free playgroup options in the area for Isabel. If you’re in Ontario, you probably have them too, through the Ontario Early Years program. These programs have allowed Isabel to get out among other children, burn some energy, and maintain a sense of routine, which makes everyone’s lives easier. We do storytime at the library on Monday, coffee break at our local church on Wednesday (a break for me too!), a playgroup at a different local church on Thursday, and nature play at the conservation area on Fridays.
Enough counter space for all the dirty dishes.
Just leave them. Seriously. Snuggle your baby. Take a nap. Have a shower. Build a train track with your toddler. Go for a walk. Do them later when you have more energy, or when they really start to drive you nuts. Dishes can always wait.
Ultimately, be gentle with yourself. Do what you have to do and know that every hard thing you’re going through during the first few days and weeks will not last and things will get better.