Adjusting to Motherhood. Your Questions, Answered.
One of my most asked questions after I became a mom was “How did you adjust to motherhood?” SO many of you have asked me to share my post partum experience and so this momma finally got around to it! I took some of the most common questions I got on @thechutneylife and answered them below ?
Questions on post partum recovery after C-section, Shaan’s schedule, and breastfeeding/formula- will be covered in another post! Keep checking back!
Ok so I’m doing this mainly to pay it forward to all of my amazing mommy followers who shared their experiences with me and helped me feel less crazy and isolated in those first few weeks postpartum. Thank You from the bottom of my heart for sharing your very raw and real stories with me, you provided so much comfort to me- literally have tears in my eyes writing this!
Needless to say with a colicky baby (Baby colic, also known as infantile colic, is defined as episodes of crying for more than three hours a day, for more than three days a week, for three weeks in an otherwise healthy child) my postpartum experience was filled with lots of anxiety, insecurity and over all exhaustion. Some days the only thing that would keep Shaan from crying was bouncing with him on a yoga ball and holding him close to me with my Lille Baby Wrap (not the best thing to do while recovering from a c-section). Anyhow, those first 6-8 weeks were harder than I could have ever imagined but eventually our lives got better as Shaan got better which is why I even have the time to share this post with you!
Disclaimer: If you had a typical newborn experience where the baby just eats sleeps poops all day- then you might find it hard to relate to my experience, or maybe not. All I know is we felt absolutely defeated in those first few weeks being unable to console Shaan but not everyone’s experience is like this! I have had friends with ANGEL babies- lucky bitches (lylas tho <3).
Don’t get me wrong- I am SO SO blessed to have this miracle in my life but it is also OK and VERY NORMAL to be miserable at the same time! Sometimes we feel we have to put on a brave face, be a super mom- and pretend we are SO incredibly blessed to have our bodies cut open, our vaginas ripped a part and our boobs sucked on until they’re sagging down to our belly buttons. I have no desire in portraying a perfect image of myself- I’ve actually become a much more confident mom by doing the complete opposite! The more I keep it real, the more other moms feel comfortable enough to do the same and we all feel a little less coo coo for cocoa puffs!
All the new parents reading this- YOU ARE AMAZING and YOU ARE DOING GREAT! Hang in there, be easy on yourself and know that it will get easier everyday!
Q:What were the biggest adjustments you have had to make after the baby?
Can I just say that EVERYTHING is an adjustment? Adjusting to less sleep, adjusting to body changes (my belly looks like a total war zone), adjusting to a new family dynamic- it’s pretty much ALL an adjustment. However, the two biggest adjustments for me were accepting help (because man, does this make you feel guilty and sometimes not good enough), and managing time wisely.
Accepting help. For a long time I felt like I had to do it all by myself- and that being a tired sleepless mom was the very thing that defined being a GOOD mom- but that is far from the truth. Don’t let anyone judge you for not showering, eating cereal for dinner and having a room so messy that you can’t see the floor. That just means you’re spending more time with your baby, right?! Instead of having anxiety over when everything would get done, I learned to take a deep breath and ASK for help or accept it when it was offered. Sometimes I felt like asking for help meant I wasn’t a good mom because I couldn’t juggle everything myself- but after I accepted the fact that raising a child is not a one woman job- I felt better about asking my MIL to wash the dishes, pick up groceries or having my mom do all of my laundry. They were more than glad to help and I felt so much better having a clean home! Win Win!
TIME, and the lack thereof, was also a major adjustment and something I was always so terrible at managing. I got a planner (real talk- I wasn’t ready to do this closer to the 10 week post partum mark so be easy on yourself) and started scheduling things in f around Shaan’s schedule or based on when I had extra help. I couldn’t just go to the grocery store 4x a week now, I needed to make sure everything I did- I did efficiently. Staying organized and having a game plan is so so important so try to plan in advance as much as you can!
Here are some tips to help you manage time:
- Put the baby in a safe place like a bouncer, or wrap him in a baby carrier so you can be hands free and get stuff done. Shaan loves watching me make dinner so instead of making dinner while he naps, I put him in the bouncer on the kitchen floor and let him watch me cook!
- Get a planner, or a simple note pad and keep a running list of everything you need to get done and leave it in plain sight! If i put it in my phone- I almost never end up looking at it again. Highlight the important stuff and cross off as you go.
- Set reminders in your phone! “Start Dinner”, “Wind down”, “take vitamins”. Literally whatever you need to take care of YOU.
- Amazon is your friend! Groceries, diapers, toys- prime membership is worth every damn penny! Check out my favorite baby stuff on My Amazon Page.
Q: How did you deal with visitors while you were adjusting?
My husband and I talked about this before I gave birth- and I’m so glad we did! I had him write down exactly who to call and who could come to the hospital. As far as visitors, besides immediate family, I didn’t want to rob our parents of sharing this special moment with their siblings (our aunts and uncles) so we were ok with a little bit of extended family also visiting. Our parents made sure everyone else didn’t linger too long- plus when they saw how many times I needed people to leave the room, so I could try to breastfeed- or walk to the bathroom and not flash everyone with my lady parts- they got the memo that we should probably have visitors wait until we get home!
If you can’t say no, then just lay in bed with your robe, no bra, pretend to sleep – and do what you gotta do so your parents and in laws get the hint- you’re not prepared for visitors!
Also, its 2019- it’s quite OK to say “We’re not ready for visitors just yet.”
TIP: We left a HUGE bottle of hand sanitizer in plain sight and were not shy about asking people to use it or wash their hands before they touched the baby. You are the only voice your baby has- use it. Shaan was born during flu season and we had no shame in asking EVERYONE to wash their hands before touching the baby.
Q: Do you get time to yourself?
Long gone are the days of waking up at 9 am, having an Instagram worthy breakfast with avocado toast, freshly squeezed juice and a side of berries! Most days I make a quick cup of coffee and door dash a very basic egg and cheese sandwich, scarf it down fast as possible, and then get back to the baby. “Me Time” is different than before but I make sure I carve out time to take care of myself.
Having a baby is physically exhausting- I already have such bad posture and hunching over this baby all day has made it worse- so for me- scheduling a massage whenever I can is a little gift to myself! Once or twice a month I head over to Zanya Spa & Salon for a massage, pedicure or facial and it feels SO DAMN GOOD. Honestly, even filling up gas or running to Target in those early weeks can feel so good!
I had to learn that Shaan would be JUST FINE if I left him for a few hours – and it was hard at first but it got easier. Everytime I left the house I was anxious but I came back feeling so so much better.
On a daily basis, I try my best to wind down once Shaan goes to sleep! I’m usually too damn tired in the evnings to run a luxurious bath or read one of the million books I keep buying- so my little “me time” ritual involves wearing some matching pajamas (I don’t know why but this makes me feel good), lotioning up my tired feet with Visha Skin Care Bump Cream(Use code “CHUTNEY10” for a discount), gliding Sunday Riley Tidal Cream (extremely hydrating) all over my face and then getting into bed ( I keep all these things on my night stand-to make it easier)! Make your “me time” whatever you want- as long as it brings you a little joy – that’s all ya need!
Q: Who helps you with Shaan?
I am lucky enough to have in laws who live across the street and provide meals when I don’t feel like cooking and I also have two younger cousins who practically spend their entire summer break at my house! It’s a paid gig– so it’s worth their time and they can make a little cash before they go back to school in the fall. If you have some younger cousins- offer them a little summer work! They can grocery shop, prep, organize your closet, run errands- basically whatever you are comfortable with them doing for you!
On top of all that help- we were desperate in the early weeks of Shaan’s life when he was completely inconsolable and we hired a part time nanny who specializes in newborn care. It took a huge load off of us because she helped get him on a schedule, got him sleeping through the night and was just a wealth of information in caring for Shaan.
Obviously, hiring anyone can be extremely taxing on your personal finances and if you don’t have any family around and really need some help- look in local Facebook mom and babysitter groups in your area , you’ll be surprised at how many college students are home during the summer and many of them are in early childhood education which means they have their clearances and certifications! Many of them are known as “mothers helpers.” You dont have to sign over your child to them, but can use them for little tasks around the house or to run errands for you!
Q: How did you deal with in laws? Any tips for making that dynamic work and having them respect boundaries?
I mention all the time that my in laws are incredibly respectful of our space and privacy but I understand this is not the dynamic for many families.
South Asian women have the toughest damn time with Mother in Laws- and it needs to end! Usually, it’s because we feel we cannot openly express ourselves and are taught by our own moms that we have to “please” our in laws. My number one piece of advice is to speak up and know that you can TOTALLY do so respectfully. Speaking up doesn’t have to mean “talking back.” As uncomfortable as it may be for you to tell your MIL how you do or don’t want something done, remember that you are the only voice your baby has. It might mean dealing with a few awkward moments but you HAVE to lay the ground rules early so it sets the tone as to what you will and will not tolerate as a parent. There really is no magic trick to making this easier- you just have to take a deep breath and say what you gotta say!
There were many times in the early weeks both of my moms were hell bent on doing a ton of things to help make Shaan feel better. They wanted me to try multiple types of gripe water (even though I tried a ton and they didn’t help), they didn’t want me to bathe him at night (Indians should only shower in the morning) and they insisted on putting him in one of those indian swings for sleep (tried it three times and nope- didn’t work!). As a first time mom with zero experience, it was hard to say no because I really had no basis for my decision. However, after a while I had enough and had to start saying no. I didn’t even bother giving an excuse- I just started saying “No I don’t want to do that.” It was liberating, reduced so much of my anxiety and allowed me to really be the mom that my Shaan needed. My moms would huff and puff and roll their eyes but eventually they’d forget and go back to loving and doting on their grandson!
If you have a particularly terrible relationship with your MIL- this is the time to work on it as hard as it may be! As much as you correct her or ask her to do something your way in a given day- also be sure to commend her on the things she’s doing right for her grandchild. Just a few comments like, “Aww you love playing with your Ba don’t you baby!?” or “Did you miss your Ba? Can you tell her you love her?” Grandparents love their grandbabies and just want to feel involved, important, and useful. Take a deep breath and try to cut them some slack and let them help. Teach them how to change diapers, prepare their bottles, basically anything that can help you!
Also- husbands REALLY REALLY need to step up and be your voice if you’re having a tough time. It’s hard enough dealing with so many emotions that the last thing you want to do is deal with your mother in law and any stressful situations. If you can’t bring yourself to say anything- your partner needs to step in!