The early months home with a new baby aren’t usually the easiest time in a new parent’s life. Whether it’s the sleep disruption (theirs, yours), the crying jags (theirs, yours), and the diaper messes (hopefully only theirs), it can feel overwhelming, even in the best of times. Add in a global pandemic and things are even harder.
In our Facebook Group, I asked some of our more seasoned parents — with babies 6 to 12 months old — what they’d say to a newbie to help them see the light at the end of the tunnel. These are conversations we’re used to having in the big, sunny, 4th floor Playroom at the 14th Street Y, where the newest parents come in with their babies swaddled and the parents of older babies spread out all over the room, connecting, making friends, and learning from each other. While we’ve had to adjust where we’re having these conversations, the connections and lessons are just as valuable.
“The first two months felt like one really long day,” said Meg. She wanted new parents to know that “the cycle *will* end. Your baby will learn day from night and act accordingly. You will eventually sleep more than 3 hours at a time. You will have a schedule and it will feel like a miracle.”
Sandrine also felt that hearing it would get better helped: A friend had told her that “you start to find your stride around 6 weeks and at 3 months you’re like we got this. It gave me optimism and something to look forward to that wasn’t forever away.”
Juliette agreed, adding that when the initial phase is past, “you won’t remember much of it; my husband and I were just laughing about how he wanted to buy a separate stroller for the apartment so that he could rock her to sleep.”
Meanwhile, what to do before you get past the neonatal chaos? Beth advises: “listen to your baby, rather than subscribe any particular idea of how it is all supposed to go, including about sleep . . . it’s a good time to let go of the news for a while and just be in a cocoon at home.” Meg agrees, suggesting that now is the time for “curling up on the sofa and doing what it takes to survive.” Juliette adds that it may be a good idea to “stop Googling stuff.”
All these parents came through the earliest cycle of parenthood before COVID-19, and as you see, none of them found it a cakewalk. It’s easy, with a little distance, to say “it will get better” or to discourage Googling, but I can remember these very moms during their first weeks when they were the ones who needed the reassurance. They came through it with time, and with kind friends, and with some small pleasures like a good shower or a nice cup of tea. It doesn’t ever become easy, but some companionship helps it feel, like Sandrine said, like we got this.
Everyone deserves to have some companions on the parenthood trail, and a few folks leading them through. While we can’t all be physically together for that right now, you can join the tribe of parents at our New Moms’ Open Hangouts every week on Tuesdays and Fridays, and on our Facebook group. In no time, you’ll be the one reassuring the next round of newcomers!