One of my best friends is getting ready to have her first baby. Her little girl is due in less than four weeks and- you did hear girl, right? Because we have boys and I’m really excited to snuggle this darling!- and we’ve had several conversations about finding normal after having a baby.
Justin and I always say that it would be easier to bring home a fourth baby (and no, that’s not an announcement) than to go back and have the first one. Because normal leaves. All of a sudden there’s another person. A tiny, helpless, crying person lives in your home and it’s your job to figure out what they need and provide it. I don’t want to be the Negative Nellie about babies; I love babies. But they change life.
After each of my babies I worried that I would never find normal again. That I wouldn’t feel normal again. That the baby would never go to sleep at bedtime and let us have our normal evenings. That I wouldn’t be able to get everyone up and ready and out the door like normal. I think it’s a common fear, especially if you have friends who are honest with you about having children.
Sometimes normal leaves. I always feel like hyperventilating when it happens.
I don’t think that’s everyone’s reaction but I’m a routine-oriented person. Certain parts of my routine make me feel at home and while I’m not adverse to change I do have adverse reactions to it at the beginning. If you like your normal it can be scary to let it go.
It takes a while to find solid footing after adding a baby to your family. After transitioning through pregnancy, the stress that accompanies pregnancy for me, and birth and recovery, I finally start to feel like a person again. Oh, hey, there’s Lisa somewhere in there. It’s not that life goes back to the old normal; it’s that you find a new normal. After you do it for a while it becomes normal to have a tiny baby. After you do it for a while you find your footing in feeding this child and presenting both of you in public and wrapping your head around this identity of “mom” that you also wear now.
It’s not just been having the babies for us. I always hesitate to compare Micah’s arrival to anyone having a baby. He almost died and spent a month in the NICU, receiving a rare disease diagnosis. That’s not your average story and obviously that affected our transition. But normal left, y’all.
Even what I thought was going to be normal about motherhood left. I was left holding pieces of a story that I didn’t expect wondering how they would all fit together, wondering how life would turn back into anything like what I had before.
It didn’t. It’s still a good life. But that transition took months because I didn’t know some of the things I know now about transitions, especially transitions that involve that many hormones. There’s a lot I would go back and do over about Micah’s first year of life.
What does help is to place new markers in your life. As soon as I get past week one or two with a new baby I start building back a routine. Oh, look, morning coffee. Hey, I always read a few pages of this book while I feed the baby before bed. This is when I call my mom, fold the load of baby clothes, go to lunch with a friend, push the stroller (and baby!) around the block.
I did this with babies two and three. I took a nap when I could (which gets vastly more complicated with multiple children), I wore comfortable clothes and didn’t worry about the scale- I grew a person. That needs to sink in. When things felt off (and I just love that vague description but that’s how it felt) I reminded myself that I was holding a three-week-old and things would settle back down. I put flowers on the kitchen table, walked outside in the sunshine, held adult conversations with my husband, tinkered around on the piano for a few minutes.
I built a life around this new routine and I mourned the old one occasionally. The life where I didn’t need to worry about feeding schedules and diaper blowouts. The life where we could go grab a waffle at midnight if the urge struck us. A life where I slept for more than two hours at a time. But I realized we were building something new.
Build back a new life, a new routine. You like to paint, decorate your house, cook? Do that once or twice a week while the baby naps. Ask a friend to keep the four-week-old and go eat Mexican with your husband. Sleep until the baby wakes up and wear that child while you play your favorite music and cook your favorite breakfast. Stay off Facebook- you do know that everyone else will be doing something that you can’t in this season of life, right? Don’t even go there.
Maybe it feels like what you had before was torn down. Don’t wait on it to come back. Build something new.