The first month of a new baby’s life is probably the most intense time in the lives of that baby’s parents. The physical toll on the mother’s body, the acclimation of other siblings, and the logistics that need to be planned (huge party just eight days after a baby boy is born, anyone?) swallow up that first month so that there is little energy left for reflection. My newborn baby, Ezra, just hit the one-month mark, and all of these things are true. However, a few realizations have been ruminating around my head, and since I’m nursing anyway, I’ll take the opportunity to share four lessons learned after a month with Baby No. 4.
1. Amazingly, things can still be new the fourth time around. The wonder of caring for a new baby does not cease to amaze: It is rare, precious, and like new, even if you’ve done it three times before. I’m not sure if it’s the sleep deprivation, the time that passes between children, or the development of older kids that distances them from infancy so much that it is hard to imagine they were ever that small–but holding that tiny, vulnerable body; nourishing this little life with your own body; and feeling overwhelmed that you can love someone you just met this much seems like a cloudy memory from a dream that has suddenly become lucid.
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I’m surprised that there are still new lessons to learn. My labor with Ezra was completely different from my former birthing experiences. Expecting to give birth a few hours after my contractions began, as was the case with my other kids, I was blindsided by a labor of over 24 hours with Ezra. It was as if he was making a point, reminding me that each child is different, in unexpected ways.
2. Don’t weigh yourself. Why did it take four kids for me to realize that if I weigh myself only a few weeks after I have a baby, I’m not going to like the number I see? Whether it’s 15, 20, or 25 pounds that need to go, when you see that number, losing the weight becomes a premature focus.
This time around, I am being kind to, and patient with, my body, which is at the place it should be now. Avoiding the scale has taken my mind off of the weight that I need to eventually lose and has allowed me to focus on the few precious weeks I have with Ezra and my other kids before returning to work.
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3. Don’t be stingy with getting the help you need. I learned this one the hard way. Because the change happens incrementally, I didn’t really realize how much laundry six people create and how much additional clutter needs to be put away. Attempting to do it all, or even do it most, only made me exhausted and short-tempered with less time to spend with my kids. Being a martyr saves some money, but there is a real cost to your quality of life.
4. A baby brings out the best in people. Each time I’ve been a mom in baby-stage, I’ve been grateful for the kindness of strangers who helped carry a stroller up the stairs in the subway, or who volunteer to carry packages out of a store so I can push a stroller.
This time around, I’ve been out a lot early on, because the things I need to do with and for my other kids (not surprisingly) continue. I enjoy watching strangers peek into my stroller and suddenly transform into some other baby’s mom, or grandfather, or new aunt, as seeing my little one spurs them to produce pictures on their phones and talk about the baby in their lives. As always, I am appreciative of the kindness they show, but it also became clear to me that they are glad that a newborn baby became a small part of their day. I feel gratified that their interaction with my baby reminds them about what’s sweet and precious in life.